May 15, 2012
The return of Somali expatriates has contributed to flourishing businesses and a revival of local economies and education in the country.
Local officials and experts say this influx of Somalis from the diaspora is a sign of improving security conditions in the country.
"I was a cab driver in Minnesota for five years, but I decided to come back to Mogadishu," said Ahmed Abdullahi, 37, who returned a few months ago from the United States. "The liberation of Mogadishu from rebels has given me hope to come back home."
"At the beginning, I was worried about coming back to Mogadishu because I was told that Mogadishu is a very dangerous place. People would talk about murder and a large-scale absence of security, but the expulsion of al-Shabaab from Mogadishu gave me hope," he told Sabahi.
Abdullahi said that when he returned, he found the capital to be very different than what he had been told. "It was no longer that dangerous place that people would talk about," he said. "I found the residents of Mogadishu struggling for a better future. Also, the affects of fighting are slowly disappearing from the city. I am happy to be back in Mogadishu and I think that life here is better than anywhere else."
Abdullahi said he is thinking of moving his children back to Mogadishu so they can learn the language and experience Somali culture.
Since al-Shabaab was expelled from Mogadishu last year, the number of Somalis returning from abroad seems to be rising as normalcy returns to everyday life.
Mahmoud Omar, 48, returned to Mogadishu at the end of last year after living in Britain for many years.
He told Sabahi that returning Somali expatriates bring with them a wealth of experience, savings and skills they acquired while living abroad. This allows them to play a role in the reconstruction efforts in the country.
"Indeed, some have already started various projects, such as commercial banks and small factories, while others have been involved in developmental projects, such as building schools and hospitals," he said.
Omar called on Somali businessmen living abroad to return and take part in reconstruction efforts. "Nations are built by their own citizens and the rebuilding of this country is the responsibility of each and every Somali citizen, at home and abroad," he said.
Malyuun Hassan, 36, returned to Mogadishu after living for 14 years in Bristol, United Kingdom.
"I have come back to Mogadishu because I felt homesick," she told Sabahi. "Leaving our friends behind and being away from home are things we sorely missed while living abroad. We missed a lot of the friendly faces, memorable places and old friends, and of course, the favourable climate in Somalia. For those reasons, I decided to come back home upon hearing that there have been huge improvements in the security conditions."
Hassan said several of her friends in Bristol are packing their suitcases to return home if the security situation continues to improve.
Abdirazaq Mohammed, a businessman who recently returned from Kenya, said he and several of his colleagues decided to build a large hotel in Mogadishu.
"My colleagues and I had businesses in Nairobi, but we decided to come to Mogadishu after hearing that conditions here have changed," he said. "We are not thinking about profit and loss, but rather feel that we have a national duty to take part in the reconstruction of this country."
"After several years of destruction, hopes are high that prosperity will soon come back to Mogadishu," he said, noting that there is a construction boom in Mogadishu, as people have returned to rebuild their homes.
Economics professor Abdullahi Farah said expatriates have a wealth of skills, qualifications and capital they gained while living abroad.
"Somalis returning from the diaspora can play a large role in reviving the local economy as well as stimulating education in the country," Farah told Sabahi. "Expatriates are able to invest in the country and play a role in building vital institutions and infrastructure that the country so desperately needs."
Farah said the diaspora community has been able to accomplish a lot in Somalia over the past 20 years.
"They were essential in rescue efforts by sending aid to affected people in areas where rescue agencies were unable to reach," he said. "They were a true lifeline for this country, as they played a significant role in development efforts and participated in rehabilitating the country's infrastructure, which was heavily damaged. They built schools, hospitals and even universities."
"This country has been destroyed by us Somalis, and so we have to work together to rebuild it, because no one else will do it for us," Farah said.
Somali government spokesperson Abdirahman Omar Osman said security improvements are the main factor for Somali expatriates' return.
"The Transitional Federal Government has made huge efforts to reinstate stability, the rule of law and discipline in the country," he told Sabahi. "Today, Mogadishu is a secure place and huge efforts are under way to rebuild this city."
Osman said the government has put in place the right circumstances for expatriates to come back to their homeland and take part in its reconstruction. He said Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohammed Ali has travelled to Europe, the United States and neighbouring countries to encourage the diaspora to return.
Some Somalis who have returned, especially those with graduate degrees, have chosen to become involved in politics, while others have opted to involve themselves in investment and education opportunities.
Hussain Abdulqadir, a businessman who returned from Canada this year, says there are huge opportunities for all members of the Somali diaspora to return home and set up investment projects.
"I am currently thinking of setting up investment projects in Mogadishu," he told Sabahi. "I am in the process of exploring the possibility of building a water purifying plant after observing how residents suffer from clean water shortages."
"Investment brings peace and stability to the country because it creates jobs for young, unemployed people who might be tempted to take up recruitment offers from militants," Abdulqadir said. "We have to show the world that Somalia is no longer a place for war and destruction and that there is another side to life here."
Abdulqadir said investment projects by Somali expatriates would also encourage foreign investment. "If there is security and stability in the country, local and foreign investment will naturally follow. Investors are simply waiting for the return of stability," he said.
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