The 3rd Somaliland Annual Diaspora Conference opened on Tuesday, 2nd, August at the Mansoor Hotel, Hargeisa.This year’s theme is ‘experiences of the Diaspora and the situation at home’. Primary issues to be discussed, according to the conference manifest, would span over recognition of the homeland, investment opportunities and the development of investment corridors, proper utilization of Diaspora human and material resources and the introduction of experiences gained to homeland in order to, primarily, create more and more employment opportunities for the burgeoning youthful workforces in Somaliland.
The two days Diaspora Conference under the theme “Experiences of the Diaspora & the Situation at Home” was jointly organized by Somaliland Diaspora Agency (SDA) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation.
The conference brought together academic professionals and intellectuals from Somaliland Diaspora communities worldwide as well as investors and entrepreneurs of diaspora individuals and groups and locals with successful business backgrounds, catalysts, business support organizations, national and international development partners, prominent persons, cultural icons, educationalists, researchers and key government ministries to discuss a variety of important topics regarding the ways to successfully engage the diaspora in the homeland development, identify the vital challenges impeding diaspora participation in investment and the national development agenda and at the same time come up with recommendations for responsive measures in the sector and the migration development in general.
Hon. Ahmed Aden Ismail (Ahmed Kayse), the deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation speaking during the opening of the 3rd Somaliland Annual Diaspora Conference said, ’During the two days Diaspora Conference, participants shall engage in a variety of engagement platforms: plenary, panel discussions, break-out sessions and a themed exhibition.
“Contributions of the Somaliland Diaspora have long been noted as quite significant to the Somaliland economy and to development Somalilander’s in the Diaspora have for decades been resourceful in the reconstruction, peace restoration, state building, economic investment, democratization process and/or the political transition by advocating for the good governance and strengthening the country’s democracy,’ He added.
The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation further stated, “We have as of recent initiated a campaign meant to boost diaspora to get involved in the development in all major cities of the nation and contribute to the formulation of the country development plans so as to create more jobs which will in hence stop our youth from Tahrib , at the same time i would like to urge urged Somalilanders in the diaspora to form strong associations which will not only assist the Government in engaging them but also help them lobby for the national interests and recognition no matter their political affiliations.
Mr. Abdi Abdullahi Hirsi, the chairman of Somaliland Diaspora Agency (SLDA)speaking during the opening ceremony of the two days 3rd Annual Diaspora Conference said, “Since its inception Somaliland Diaspora Agency has accomplished much both locally and international, the National Diaspora Agency bill is ready and currently awaits cabinet approval.
“We shall in the course of the conference discuss the role of the diaspora in enhancing economic growth in the country such as ways of creating incentives, opportunities for investment, and creating pathways for human resources capabilities for Somalilander’s living in the diaspora so as to better enable them to contribute to the overall national development’, he said.
Mr. Hersi revealed that 2016 was a record year for Diaspora Somalilandeers returning home on visits of varied lengths.
“Compared to last year’s 19 000 returnees, we have on record 29 960 Somalilanders on visit to their home country in 2016,” he said.
Furthermore, he added, the Somalilanders Diaspora communities broke another record this year by celebrating the 25th anniversary of the restoration of Somaliland independence in over 35 capital cities around the world.
Mohamed Kahin Abdi, First Deputy Chairman of the ruling Kulmiye party, urged unity.
“In the eyes of the world, we are one. Differences of opinion or political thinking,” he said “must not show in the Diaspora. We need to challenge the world as one to concede our right to self determination and the re-assertion of our independence”.
Hon. Hussein Abdi Dualeh, the Minister of Energy and Minerals speaking during the event said, “The Diaspora community has through the years contributed to the nation’s economic growth, social, political, cultural developments and recognition.
“Somalilander’s living in the Diaspora should invest more in the country and utilize their foreign acquired expertise’s and knowledge in developmental projects and also come up with new strategies for seeking national recognition,’ he added.Hussein Deyr, Minister of Commerce, pointed out how indispensable Diaspora input was to the country.
“The leaders of this government are a good example of how much we can contribute back to the homeland: in experiences, in new outlooks, in setting up businesses and cottage factories, in contributing to management and leadership and in, above all, showing the world how committed we all are in the quest of international recognition for our reclaimed sovereignty,” he said.Dr. Ahmed Hassan Ahmed, Head of the visiting IGAD delegation addressing the conference, “Thanked Somaliland government for inviting to the conference IGAD and understanding of diaspora role in the member states and its recommendation or/and area of concerns.; Dr. Ahmed also highlighted the significant role and contribution of the diaspora to homeland development in the investment, economic growth, technology advancement etc.
On the other hand, Dr. Girum Hailu Advisor/Consultant to IGAD, speaking during the conference highlighted the point that IGAD has been actively engaged in managing migration in the region IGAD Health and Social Development Program and its mandate- IGAD Regional Migration Policy, IGAD Intervention on Migration and Development- the engagement of Diaspora in development in the homeland and IGAD Migration and Development policy- IGAD RCCE – A Model and Best Practice in the region. The delegation also shared its accomplishments in the region in regard to investments or innovative technology contributed by the Diaspora.
The IGAD representative also showcased the organizations policies, programs and strategies and table of all their delegate information.
Members of the Somaliland National Recognition Committees among them Dr. Edna Aden and Eng. Faisal Ali Warabe important presentation in regard to the recognition case.
Some of Somaliland ambassadors from Europe including UK, Sweden, Australia as well as chairing bodies and members of the recently established SL Diaspora recognition committees.
Ms Roda Jama, Somaliland representative to Sweden flanked by members of the SL Diaspora Recognition Committee based in Sweden during the conference made a presentation on their recent achievements in lobby and advocacy.
Several members of the diaspora community in presentations at the conference delivered personal and emotional accounts on the challenges the encounter in investing the country.
Conference high points
The opening sessions of the conference were, indeed, much enlivened by keynote speakers such as the Chairman of UCID, Minister Duale of Energy, the honourable Dr. Edna Adan Ismail, and Abdirashid Hassan Mattan of Waddani, among others.
Eng, Faisal Ali Warabe, the leader of UCID, chiding the attendees at one point during his impassioned speech, said “if the Somaliland Diaspora communities do not united for the common good and do not hound their respective hosts to recognize the Republic of Somaliland, we will never be able to reach out to Buuhoodle residents in Somaliland itself, let alone the UN and the outside world”.
That statement drew a roar of applause to mark how apt and true it was.Dr. Edna Adan passionately spoke of how the Diaspora, pooling its resources with their compatriots at home, can significantly sell Somaliland recognition to the world, build hospitals, educational institutions, start industrial ventures and make Somaliland shine out more if they went at it in earnest.
By way of example, Dr. Edna showed the participants three evocative pictures.
The first was of the remnants of a maternity hospital that the dictatorial, military regime of Siyad Barre blew up with landmines in the late 80s to deny mothers and children of essential health care.The second was a ward of the Hargeisa Group Hospital at the time residents started to cautiously filter back to a city in shambles in 1991.The third showed a child on the hips of his mother. The child, on the outset, looks happy and carefree at this early, tender age. But, then, you see him looking out reflectively at the horizon.
“This child,” Dr. Edna said “is wondering if he would get useful education, adequate health services, employment, security and a future that puts at equal par with other children in the developed world”.Hussein Abdi Duale, on his part, touched a dark point in the future of Diaspora contributions in the form of remittances which are used for families’ support, business start-ups, health matters and for paying tuition fees.
“I am wondering if we had prepared our kids to keep up remittances we send back home,” he said. “Children are not as strongly atached to home as we are. It is up to us to keep that cord living and attached in them,” he said.Abdirashid Hassan Mattan of Waddani, unilike many of his Waddani Party colleagues, drew up the Erigavo-Burao road as an example of constructive, vital cooperation between government, the Diaspora, the business community and Somalilanders at home.
“We thank you,” he said “on the pivotal role you have played in the construction of the daunting Erigavo-Burao road. Any one who has used it before can appreciate the life-saving difference it had made – now that it is nearing completion,” he responsibly pointed out.
Attending this year’s conference numerous Somaliland born diaspora based professional them among doctors, consultants, entrepreneurs, leaders of different business companies and cooperatives, members of different Diaspora community committees including UK, Scandinavian countries, Germany, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Canada, USA, Switzerland, Australia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, UAE and other Arab countries – among them were representatives from the main umbrella of Somaliland Society in Europe (SSE) who are delivered different presentations in the conference.
Among the participants of the conference were members of the business fraternity comprising of local and international entrepreneurs, investors, business support groups drawn from the private sector – or both national and international development actors included Somaliland Women Entrepreneurs Association (SWEA) together with all the member women entrepreneurs under its umbrella, Somaliland Women in Business Association, Somaliland Fair Fishing Company which recently signed a huge investment project with EU and Dahabshiil Group, Somcable, Shaqadoon, Digaale Energy, Edna Aden Hospital, Shuraako, Buubaal Dental Hospital, Spark, IOM, DRC, DAI, Somaliland Development Fund, Haqsoor for Human Rights and Peace, Somaliland Women Resettlement, Training & Development which particularly showcased their product of Somaliland-made cloths, Digaale Energy, Somcable Co, Auditing firms including Ihsaan, several construction companies, and more other participants and organizations of this kind.