September 29, 2014

SPARK IGNITE: Business is Booming Back Home

Khaalid Hassan grew up in the Netherlands as a Somali. He worked in Dutch private and public sectors while also dedicating his time to the Somali community in Delft. Feeling a moral responsibility to contribute locally to his people, Khalid decided to move back to Somali where he became a Country Manager for SPARK. Khalid says that while his country is one the most underdeveloped in the world, “business is booming.”

Can you explain the type of work you are now doing for Spark as a country representative?
SPARK recently started the Migrant Entrepreneurship project in six countries, among them is Somalia. With this programme SPARK aims to find and train migrants in the Netherlands with a good business idea and entrepreneurial potential. In the Somali context, this program is very relevant and offers great potential for migrants. In Somalia the Diaspora has played a significant role in the development of the country and how entrepreneurs from the Diaspora can even become an engine of growth for the country.

Why did you decide to go back and do this type of work there instead of in the Netherlands?
The Somali region in the Horn of Africa is by far the most underdeveloped region in the World, facing many tremendous challenges like civil war, famine, climate change, water shortages, etc. I think those of us who grew up in countries like the Netherlands, were very fortunate and were less affected by the three decades of conflict and suffering. Because we are regarded as outsiders, people who have lived abroad for a long time and were on the sideline from all internal strives, I think we are in a better position to see the common good and think outside the box and thus have a moral responsibility to try to contribute to the development of our people.

Are there other Dutch Somali Diaspora members who also went back and started businesses, how are they progressing?
There are many Dutch-Somali’s who came back and started their own business. I would estimate that there are around 100-150 Dutch Somali Entrepreneurs here and this number is increasing by day. Many of them are very successful and are well known entrepreneurs. They often employ experiences and ideas they gained in the Netherlands and many import goods and products from the Netherlands, like milk powder, agricultural equipments, tractors, etc.

How do you see the Somali private sector developing (outlook coming years)?
The region is definitely at an economic turning point. Significant progress has been made in peace- and state-building. The more stable regions of Somaliland and Puntland are areas that enjoy relative peace and stability have established functioning governance structures and favorable business environments that have facilitated foreign investment in sectors including natural resources, oil exploration, livestock, import and export, telecommunications, financial sector and more. But there are also significant operational challenges to working with businesses in Somalia. Security remains a concern in some regions of South-Central, lack of coherent governance system; the financial industry is not linked with the international formal financial institutions, and more.

You went back few times, what kind of changes in the private sector are you seeing during the last few years?
The economy is growing, business is booming and the number of opportunities is increasing depending on the region, regional governance and level of security.

This interview was conducted by DutchSom as part of a monthly series on Somali private sector professionals. DutchSom is one of our partners for SPARK’s Migrant Entrepreneurship project. If you are currently located in the Netherlands and interested to learn more about what it takes to start a business in your home country, take a look at our upcoming training opportunities.