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Issue 422 -- Feb. 27- Mar 05, 2010
Diaspora: Our Country’s Unprecedented Reconstruction Engine
By Saeed Mohamed Ahmed
I always remember my teacher’s word when I hear the often-said remark, which implies that our national economy’s cornerstone is livestock. Mr. Abdi Ali-my lecturer at the university, while teaching one of the core courses, Development Economics used to ask us about the current cornerstone of our economy. In answering that question by himself, he used to mention that instead of livestock, the cornerstone of Somaliland economy is now the money remittances from abroad.
Referring to the above-mentioned note by our lecturer, it is a fact that most of the population obtain their income from their relatives in abroad. Somaliland nationals in abroad, always referred to as Diaspora, are the primary engine for the nation-building, reconstruction and the economy of Somaliland. Therefore, to my point of view, they are a key factor for this country’s well-being.
Not only Diasporas are unprecedented source of national wellbeing because they send money to their families in Somaliland, but also they made the multinational system, our nation adopted, working as well as sustainable. To describe it more, our political parties particularly the two opposition parties raise their income from the Diasporas contributions. Therefore, without their fund, the opposition parties would not be able to cover their financial needs and stand on their feet. Furthermore, without their assistance including the accommodations, hotel reservations, organizing appointments, escorting, etc, the politicians could not afford to take tours to the European and North American countries and the international organizations based in abroad as well as having talks with officials and government authorities.
It is on the other hand notable that Somaliland Diaspora contributed to the educational and manufacturing initiatives. They launched higher educational centers, light industries and service business projects.
Despite the contributions of the Diaspora, let me look the other side of the coin. There are challenges facing them and perhaps negative effects their living styles could have on Somaliland. As a result, it is substantial to turn the negative effects into positive aspects and sustain their indispensable contributions to the progress. As UNDP report revealed the large amount of money flowing in the Somalis in the horn from their diaspora relatives and friends may stop in the coming two decades. Why!? Because the children of those who currently send the money have a distinct way of thinking and a culture from those of their parents, no family would obtain their income from their relatives in abroad.
There is tale, which I heard of several times. A father staying in Europe who used to send money to his mother in Somalia, once went his home with dismayed face. His children asked him about what happened to him. He informed them that he was told about his mother’s death. Unfortunately, the children instead of getting shock, cheered with pleasure. The father furiously asked them why they do not feel sad about their grandma’s death. Surprisingly, the children told their father that his mother’s death would allow them obtain toys, more clothing, etc, because their grandma’s burden is removed and as a result, their father now can afford to purchase everything for them.
Nevertheless, the attitude of our children born and grown in abroad is different from that of our own. Therefore, what is urgently needed is to foster the national economy by shifting the major economic source from the remittances to local production and utilization of natural resources. This measure can not be practical unless our economy is regulated and formalized. It is also important that diaspora understand the significance of familiarizing their children with the Islamic religion, Somali culture and country’s history.
The other essential thing to be always kept in mind is that diaspora should strive while staying abroad, to acquire knowledge, promote their capacities and come back to their motherland with expertise, vision of patriotism and firm willingness.
I may wrap my article up with saying that diaspora are the engine for the reconstruction of Somaliland, but they may not ever remain to be the engine. An alternative is needed. Diaspora themselves need to develop their lives in abroad from grassroots by strengthening their knowledge and skills, organizing their selves for acquiring high quality education and capital formation and extend their mentalities beyond being ever diaspora visiting their origin country occasionally.
Live long Somaliland including its diaspora who persevered for the livelihood assistance to their people inside the country.
Saeed Mohamed Ahmed
Socio-political youth activist
Based in Hargeysa, Somaliland