Somaliland is an autonomous region in the north of Somalia that gained independence in 1991. Since then, it has been struggling with high unemployment rates and poverty.
The Somaliland Business Fund provides grants to private sector individuals or companies that have innovative plans for development in agriculture, livestock, fisheries, manufacturing and green energy. It is part of a bigger development plan for Somaliland called the Somalia Private Sector Development Re-engagement Project. The $29 million project is funded by the World Bank State and Peacebuilding Fund.
Since 2012, the SBF has awarded 10.5 million dollars in grants and $10 million in matching funds. Dr. Isail Ali is one recipient of SBF’s matching fund grant. He left his position as an orthopedic surgeon in Somaliland’s capital and purchased land in the countryside. It had been Dr. Ali’s dream to lead a quiet life in the country as a camel farmer.
He won a matching grant of $49,000 because of his inventive techniques for water conservation and food production. In four short years, his original herd of seven camels had transformed into the Saafi Camel Milk Dairy. Dr. Ali now employs fifteen laborers to help during the busy seasons.
Dr. Ali’s story represents the way the fund is not only encouraging entrepreneurs from the private sector to provide for themselves, but to also provide jobs for others.
Qani Abdi Alin started Dheeman Tailoring and Fashions using money from the SBF. Her business has now become an $180,000 company, exporting designs to countries across Africa and the Middle East. She employs six tailors.
“Hard work and determination are especially important for women wanting to succeed in a man’s world,” Alin says, providing an example for other budding female entrepreneurs.
The homepage of the SBF website features the slogan “Building a Better Future.” Since Somaliland broke away from Somalia, the region has been struggling. Somali military dictator, Siad Barre, did not let the region go easily and tens of thousands of people were killed during the secession process.
Somaliland is not internationally recognized as a state, despite having its own government, police force and currency.
The SBF and its promise of a better future might be what the region needs, but only time will tell.
– Julianne O’Connor