High Youth Population is Somalia’s Greatest Asset – Bazi Bussuri Sheikh


By Bazi Bussuri Sheikh

The greatest asset Somalia has is its high youth population. Sociologists describe youth energy as “Fuel”; it can create a disaster if you lit fire on it. Or it drives you or produces something if placed in a car or machinery. It is how we nurture our youth that can turn them into an asset or a liability.

It is our duty to channel the energy of our youth to the development of our nation, not the destruction. Today Somali youth speak from the point of view of economic marginalization, political injustice, subjugation and exclusion. The Somali civil war itself was partially an outcome of the structural marginalisation of the youth and this problem is still existent and got worse.

The deepest urge in human nature is “the desire to be important”. Psychologist say it is as almost as deep as the desire for food or sleep. For young Somalis, in search for avenues for influence in society, self-affirmation and recognition, joining Al-Shabaab group was attractive and empowering option.

Negativity consumed our youth and this was exacerbated by the negative media that reinforces their negative evaluation of the conflict. However, today many young men are leaving the group and re-marginalisation and not re-integration is the natural outcome awaiting ex-combatants.

Re-integration remains a buzzword used by NGOs and politicians, but the social realities are totally different. Challenging Al-Shabaab must involve recognising and transcending into the social world of the Somali youth.

In order to address these thorny challenges beyond insurgency requires collective effort from all Somalis everywhere “Shinida markay is qabataa, malabkeeda la helaa”. The human cost of the continued failure is unbearable and it is the ordinary citizens who are bleeding and paying the price of such myopia. The Somali conflict today has reached a point where no one side is getting any closer to achieving its goals and no one is happy with the situation (It is un-winnable).

The best approach to the problem is as prescribed by Somali Ancestors “Mindi calool gashay maxay u gashay lama yiraahdo, sideen u daaweynaa baa la yiraahdaa”. Otherwise, we become hostage to our emotions and will be consumed with fixing the blame.

We need to collectively (Diaspora, Business community, Government and educational institution) address the issue of economic marginalization affecting our youth.

For Instance:

The government and we have tendency to support a zero-tolerance policies against Shabab, evidence shows such policies costs a lots of money and results are questionable. Using force alone is like using Aspirin to cure a brain tumour, it may relieve the pain but not provide the cure to brain tumour. We really need long-term commitment to dialogue and reconciliation and re-frame the problem to open up a completely new set of solutions (Social reform).

The main problem is that people underestimate the costs of continuing the conflict, and overestimate their chances of winning. Therefore, the Government should not abandon its pursuit of peace via dialogue and reconciliation, it is never easy and often one-step forward two steps back.

Business Community

Large Businesses in Somalia. To encourage those capable youth enter into business start-up and offer Interest free loans. To hold seminars that reduces their fear into entering the trade sector. Most of the youth have the belief that you have to be born to be a businessperson. In addition, the universities teach you how to work for a company and not prepare you for the tough entrepreneurial world.

The only way the Somali youth can achieve this by getting an inspiration from a successful Somali Businessperson. For example, organising motivational seminar by those succeeded in business to inspire our youth “not to fear” from the waves of the Business environment. Large corporations can organise such programs.

Diaspora Community

Somali Diaspora especially the youth must interact with the Somali youth that remained in the country. This can create a knowledge transfer between the two groups. For example, there are many Diasporas that have business ideas who need help with understanding ways to implement it in Somalia.

The youth in Somalia can complement this and help their brothers and sister to Somalinise the imported business idea from abroad. Similar things happened, when the successful campaign to write and read the Somali language was taking place. We imported the Latin-alphabet and put Somali flavour in it to create the Somali Alphabet.

Diaspora youth working positively with those youth that remained in the country would have reduced the negative tension and the gulf of incomprehension that currently exists between the two groups. In reality, their visions are complementary in their strength and weaknesses. Combined they may achieve advances which neither could alone.

External Actors

External actors in the Somali conflict that have continually chosen to place their economic, geostrategic and security interest above their declared human principles need to revisit their policies and use their power differently. It is counterproductive and will be a lesson many governments drunk or sunk on their power will unfortunately learn too late.

Lip Service to big words such as “African Solution to African Problem” carries little weight against the defence of political, economic and geostrategic interests. It is time to critically re-examine those failed policy choices as the human cost of continued failing is escalating by the day.

We (Somalis) are our own enemy

It is easier to blame others, but such blame does not empower us. It keeps us stuck in a place we don’t want to, because we don’t want to make the temporary, but painful decision, to be responsible for the outcome of own country’s happiness.

Our situation can be best described by the sayings of our Somali ancestors “Waranka kan kugu dhufta iyo kan kugu dhaq-dhaqaajiya ama lig liga Keebaa daran”. We Somalis hit ourselves with the arrow; the external enemies are hurting us only with the same arrow. We need to remove the arrow we inflicted on ourselves, so that the external enemies become empty handed. It’s time to be true to our greatest self and stop blaming others.

Bazi Bussuri Sheikh