Somaliland Development Fund: A model of shift to predictable aid flow


The Somaliland Development Fund (SDF) was established in Somaliland in 2013. The SDF has been domestically viewed as the most effective aid modality that Somaliland has experienced over the past twenty-five years, due to two reasons:  first, the SDF was tailored to respond to specific national and regional priorities.

Secondly, the SDF was born through a dialogue among local political actors, civil society and donors who realized that Somaliland development trajectories deserved to be upgraded since the country had much adhered to more liberal principles of civic political engagement, free press, democratic elections and political pluralism.

sdf-250x136Moreover, the SDF development modality demonstrated that other aid development mechanisms were neither predictable nor effective because Somaliland obtains a lot of development assistance from the international community which compared badly to SDF.

Somaliland was neither receipt entity nor was it consulted on strategic directions.  Unlike the Somaliland Development Fund, many of the international partners did not pursue aid effectiveness principles which included mutual accountability, ownership and aid predictability in their interventions.

As a participant observer, I witnessed dialogues between government ministers and donors during the SDF regular steering committee.  They were, indeed, very constructive and productive. Furthermore,  the fact that the civil society was there as observers in the dialogues promoted accountability and transparency of all principal stakeholders as it encouraged the practice of an inclusive policy at all stages.

Hence, the general public came to believe that the international community and donors were now on the right track since the SDF has become operational. The public highly welcomed the SDF as a realistic and rational model of development that enhanced the morale and confidence of the people of Somaliland.

The Somaliland Development Fund widely contributed to Somaliland to improve the infrastructure of the country which was either destroyed by civil strife against the Siad Barre dictatorship or not developed before at all.

In the civil society’s standpoint, the SDF has created an atmosphere where the government ministries learned a lot from this process in terms of the principles of good governance and in deepening the donors’ constant engagement.

In this regard, the Somaliland Development Fund can be attributed to a greater recognition of the international community support to Somaliland’s development trajectory. The New Deal Framework and Somaliland Special Arrangement (SSA) promoted widening the initiative to be imminent, credible and deliverable. It was for the first time that Somaliland felt a greater ownership and tangible progress, in other words, the SDF initiative exposed how traditional aid flow approaches failed to offer any concrete development impact across and how the situation could be saved for better outputs.

In addition, it was in 2011 when Somaliland developed its first National Development Plan (NDP, 2011, 2016). Developing the NDP was, in one hand, a citizens’ development ambition to obtain better services and acceptable livelihoods and, in the other, it was intended to respond to the long-term development frustration of Somaliland to avert millions of dollars spent without any concrete evidence of improving the social needs and answering national priorities.

It is worthy to mention that the NDP was a comprehensive and participatory model of development mechanism that attracted donors and international partners and the respect to refer to it as a tool of development. The NDP has brought the attention of the international community and development partners to Somaliland’s development commitment. The NDP effectively portrayed Somaliland as a plausible partner which reached an acceptable stage of development, that – with or without political recognition – cannot be overlooked for a scale-up of interventions.

Therefore, the Somaliland Development Fund has become a financing mechanism of NDP.  There is no single project contrasted to the SDF yet in Somaliland, considering the SDF’s re-thinking and new development arrangements. There are encouraging signals and a paradigm shift from top down to bottom up. The success and lessons learned from SDF are worthy of duplication by other international partners in order to explore and enlarge the opportunities and management infrastructure of the program.

However, there are some interdependent elements that the international community and donors, as a whole, put much value on and see as indispensable to happen  which the government of Somaliland has to take into account. These include timely elections, predictable and transparent electoral process, free press, peaceful power transfer, respect of human rights and fight against corruption and inequality.

The people of Somaliland strongly believe that those universally adopted principles are identical to domestic values and it is imperative that all political actors abide by them in order to expand the international opportunities and full partnership of the donors’ engagement on the development and democratic process in Somaliland.

Thusthe SDF extensively revived the hope and confidence of the public because many people in Somaliland were suspicious of the true intentions of the international community shifted many  funds to Somalia justifying that Somaliland has much recovered from the destruction of the civil wars. In contrast, the local people view this issues of shifts as deliberate action without considering the DO No Harm Principles. Those viewpoints indicate that the aid flow in Somaliland and Somalia currently is highly politicized and not fair at all.

Eventually, it is necessary that both the Somaliland government and international partners learn from the Somaliland Development Fund how good practices and level of mutual accountability can be continued to further development plans. The SDF can teach us that the recognition of the grass-roots and evidence-based development interventions can make both innovative and quality assurance.

In fact, it is notable that prior to the SDF many projects that were implemented by international partners did not adequately respond to the needs of the society because Somaliland has experienced such ineffective traditional aid which was a top-down development-centric. In contrast, the SDF addressed the whole issue as a bottom-up planning which respected inclusiveness and implementation with oversight and quality control.

The Somaliland government can learn more lessons from SDF, too, because the matter is not only getting more money but the matter is how you manage it effectively and incredible manner. The Somaliland government yearly increases its national budget but it concentrates more recurrent budget rather than increasing the portion of the capital budget for development projects. This is an indication that the government of Somaliland not yet fully implemented the public financial management reforms which were anticipated to improve the revenue generation, planning, and accountability.

The progress made up to date shows that the SDF accomplished more remarkable achievement with very little money of 62million donated by Great Britain, Demark, Netherlands and Norway revealing that the aid flow in Somaliland can be restructured and redefined on the basis of national priorities and locally driving development framework as in the national development plan.

A way forward

Since the Somaliland Development Fund combined with local and international efforts succeeded to overcome many development obstacles that hugely undermined the peoples’ development aspirations. The SDF is attributed as the goodwill of the Aid effectiveness and constructive engagement of the donors.

In the meantime, as far as many Somalilanders are concerned the continuation of the SDF framework and pursuing the second phase is substantial for both creating inclusive sustainable development and reinforcing the principles of ownership, the second phase of the SDF in conjunction with the second national development plan are currently very vital in order to keep the momentum and lessons learned from the past.

There is no doubt that the second phase of the Somaliland Development Fund needs joint funding contributions starting with the government of Somaliland and donors and the contribution of the government in the second phase of the SDF will make a more meaningful image and refresh the moving forward. Donors have already shown good faith in Somaliland to scale up its development aspiration at the macro level.

Finally, the civil society of Somaliland is not pleased to observe the divergent views between the donors and the government of Somaliland over the issue of the House of Representative election postponements. This may adversely affect the successful engagements of the donors that spawned the SDF concept. Differences may, also, overshadow and undermine the longstanding cooperation and development engagement between the donors and Somaliland.

Therefore, I recommend that the way forward can only be realized through mutual cooperation and amicable terms of an agreement between Somaliland and donors.


By Mohamed A Mohamoud (Barawani)

Mohamed is the Executive Director of the Somaliland Non- State Actors Forum (SONSAF)

Email:; Twitter @MohamedBarawani




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