The first ever Somaliland Investment Forum-Hargeisa (SIF Hargeisa) was hosted by Shuraako, a program of the One Earth Future Foundation (OEF), in partnership with the Somaliland Ministry of Trade & Investment September 19 – 21, 2016.
More than 300 stakeholders, including entrepreneurs, investors, financial institutions, policymakers, donors, and thought leaders, convened to discuss ways to strengthen private sector development and investment in Somaliland. The forum showcased a receptive climate to investment demonstrated by discussions of the Somaliland National Development Plan, the Somaliland National Vision 2030, and the launch of two new impact funds.
Keynote speaker, Dr. Mohamed Samater, shared his experience and opinions of Somaliland’s economy, and encouraged the private sector to work with policymakers to ensure effective policies and laws are in place that will further strengthen the private sector. Mr. Mohamed Awale, Director of Planning at the Somaliland Ministry of Trade & Investment, noted that “the conference occurred at a time when the Somaliland Government is holding its biggest negotiation with a foreign company to manage the Berbera Port. The public’s awareness of foreign investment is heightened and there is interest to learn about best practices. The dialogue at the Forum was extremely relevant to this discussion. Strategically, it was a timely event. It was also important to the Somaliland Government to have open dialogue with the general public and receive feedback.”
Getting Over Finance Challenges
Access to finance for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) is still considered to be one of Somaliland’s greatest challenges, particularly for marginalized business owners such as women and youth. Innovative financial products are beginning to enter the market by way of microcredit, impact funds, and seed capital matching programs. One such financial instrument was announced at the Forum. The Powering Progress Fund is a renewable energy impact fund of USD 750,000 formed in collaboration between Dahabshil Bank International, the Arsenault Family Foundation, and Shuraako. The Fund seeks to create positive economic impact through Sharia compliant investments in renewable energy technology used for MSME projects or business activities. For more information about this Fund, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Business Development Service project, Work in Progress! was also announced. The project will offer tailored business development services to ten selected SMEs with strong potential for employing women and youth in Somaliland each year for the next three years. For more information about Work in Progress! visit http://shuraako.org/entrepreneurs/work-in-progress.
Other highlights included Shuraako presenting findings and recommendations for harnessing the investment power of diaspora. Shuraako’s recently released report on Somali diaspora investment identifies these opportunities. Somaliland government officials held a panel to discuss the Berbera Port development in a transparent fashion, and encouraged audience input. Donors are committing considerable resources to address needs in markets, sectors, and business investment. Experts led sector-specific sessions on economic development initiatives in areas including renewable energy, fisheries, agriculture & livestock, manufacturing & food processing, youth entrepreneurship, and best practices in early-stage investing.
Pitch Ring Demonstrates Positive Business Climate Taking Shape
The SIF Hargeisa provided an important platform for expert-led dialogue on Somaliland’s economy and private sector development. Representatives from a number of Somaliland government ministries presented their strategy for supporting Somaliland’s economy and specific economic sectors. The event culminated in a Pitch Ring on the third day where pre-selected entrepreneurs pitched to investors, demonstrating the positive climate taking shape in Somaliland as the private sector continues to grow and an appetite for investment intensifies.
At the closing of the Forum, Somaliland’s private sector was invited to provide critical feedback on the formation of the Somaliland National Development Plan II and support Somaliland’s National Vision 2030. Policymakers should listen to the call from private sector businesses and investors to enforce the existing laws and change or create new laws to provide needed protections to investment.
To learn more about the event, watch session recordings, see photos, and learn from speaker presentations visit: http://shuraako.org/forums/sif/hargeisa/2016.