Somali diaspora have a bigger role, experts say


The estimated two million Somalis in the Diaspora could have a positive impact in peace-building and development in the homeland, using their huge economic and social capital, said Jabril Abdulle, the executive director of the Mogadishu-based Center for Research and Dialogue.

Speaking to dozens of Somali community leaders in Minnesota on September 3, Abdulle said the Diaspora community is already playing an instrumental role in many aspects of the life in Somalia, but a unified and organized front is necessary to make a lasting impact.

“When you send more than $1.5 billion dollars in remittances annually, and when 20 percent of the members of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) are expatriates who returned to their homeland, you wield a considerable influence,” he said addressing the crowd. “It’s time for you to capitalize on that.”

Abdulle was part of a two-member team traveling across Europe and North America to assess the community’s engagement in the homeland, and to submit recommendations to the international community. He was accompanied by Mohamed Bashir, a senior officer with CARE Somalia/South Sudan.

Bashir, whose responsibility includes much of Somalia, said he was dismayed with Diaspora’s invisible but significant role in the homeland.

“It’s time for you to be visible,” he said. “You need to make your work systematic.”

‘Brain Drain’

Majority of Somalia’s elite left the country—and continue to leave the protracted conflict—said Abdulle. As a result, the makeup of the Somali population has shifted noticeably since the war began in 1991, he said.

“That’s why I believe that there’s a direct connection between the violence and the brain drain,” he lamented. “All those who would have helped halt the cycle of violence are either gone or being killed—it’s a nightmare.”

Even under such conditions, members of the Diaspora are opening universities, hospitals and telecommunication companies, according to Abdulle.

‘Limited Collaboration’

One of the main concerns for Bashir and Abdulle is that there’s a limited collaboration between the Diaspora and international nonprofit organization on developmental projects. Bashir said donor communities would like to explore the possibility of helping with developmental projects, if the Diaspora can make a commitment.

“Donors are reluctant to provide financial support without clear commitment,” he said.

Still, another wrinkle is that the Diaspora is waiting the locals to repair problems in Somalia, said Abdulle, and the locals are yearning for the Diaspora to return to help with peace-building and reconstruction.

“So you’ve a mutual expectation: Each is waiting the other to make the first move,” Abdulle said. “Realistically speaking, the Diaspora is in the position to make the move first.”

Bashir and Abdulle are heading to the Washington metropolitan area and Toronto before they go back to the Horn of Africa and write their final recommendations.