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Diaspora’s Connection In Somaliland’s Reconstruction
Hargeysa, Somaliland, February 19, 2006 – For the 15 years Somaliland has been ‘independent’, the international community has given her a wide berth.
Ordinarily one would expect that this war-ravaged Horn of Africa nation to be on its knees in terms of infrastructure, security, and other essentials.
But this is not the case — at least not in Hargeysa, the capital of the breakaway Republic of Somaliland.
Beautiful residential houses and hotels have been constructed and many more are being put up from the rubble the city was reduced to in 1988 at the height of a popular uprising against the dictatorial regime of Siyad Barre.
During the war, Hargeysa, Berbera and other major towns of the then northern Somalia were flattened by the Barre regime.
During a visit to Hargeysa, The Sunday Standard met with one Jamal Ali Hussein, a director with Citibank, Nairobi, who was spending his vacation in his homeland.
In the past two years, Hussein has spent over $300,000 in constructing two palatial homes in the Hargeysa.
Hussein, the son of Gen Ali Hussein, a former commander with SNM, holds an MBA from Harvard University, USA. He is originally from Somaliland and is one of the many Somalilanders who have not forgotten their roots and their investments are improving the fortunes of their country.
But why did he invest in his native land yet he already holds a US passport and can afford to live anywhere in the US: "It was a vote of confidence in my motherland. You must realize it is very difficult for one to totally cut links with his past, which is what Hargeysa represents to me.
"As a banker always concerned about returns, I carried out a risk assessment and realized I could recoup my investments in Hargeysa within a short period of time unlike in other parts of the world. Here, investment returns, especially in housing and the service industry, are in the region of 30 per cent annually, perhaps the highest in the world," said Hussein.
Somaliland is home to the legendary Isaak clan whose business prowess is known all over eastern Africa and Middle East. For instance, members of the clan who came to Kenya during World War I, established business empires that have survived the test of time. They are also in Uganda and Tanzania.
Back home, their kin are the main entrepreneurs who sometimes bankroll their government to pay salaries of civil servants and security forces.
"The business community is very patriotic. They have confidence in the rule of law and that is why they bail out the government. They know that if soldiers are not paid on time, laxity could crop up and jeopardize the business environment. In short they also invest in security and peace," said Hussein.
Source: The Standard, February 19, 2006