Job-seeking exploitation in Somalia must come to an end


By Mohamed Adan (Bukhaari)

In Africa we say it does not matter what you know, all that matters is who you know. True to this saying, it is difficult if not possible to get a job as young graduate or qualified person with a lot to offer if you do not have assistance. Everywhere you go the immediate questions are who are you? Where are you from? And who told you to come to us for a job? This may sound a bit awkward in countries where there is equal opportunity based on competency but in Somalia, the experience is that if you do not have a sponsor to get a job, there will be no job unless you are very lucky which is very rare.

Every agency you approach whether it’s private or public the questions mentioned earlier remain the same. Well, we think based on your CV that you can do the job, but since we do not know you, we are afraid you might not pass at the interviewing stage .You better go and bring someone we know so that we may consider hiring you. This approach is hurting young people’s opportunities and life chances.

Looking for a godfather to help you is a real headache because they are hard to find and usually been sought by hundreds of people just like yourself. The godfather is politically connected and active and living or operating from a fancy luxurious hotel which you must first access before even getting an appointment to speak to them. If they are not politically connected to the existing government of the day, they must be threatening enough to their interests to be accommodated. Getting the appointment almost always involves getting the support of a clan elder to push the godfather to even see you, let alone find you work. If you are lucky enough to find an appointment with the godfather, they often make you their last priority and you sit and wait for hours in a place where you do not fit in or can afford anything until the godfather has finished his chitchat with friends.

The few that are close to the godfather big man are traditional   elders and once powerful men whose political career came to a halt when the government they were part of failed to win election as well as clan business leaders. These people are influential enough to influence the godfather because they still maintain certain following that might threaten the godfathers interests and the godfathers cannot afford to lose their privileges or status within the clan or government so they work hard to get their people employment or scholarships.

It is a kind of revolving patronage system whereby various groups with different connections benefit from that patronage system. The big man at the helm will always depend on his clients for support and he will in return give them something to eat or find employment for their friends and relatives so that they can bolster their credentials.

There are ladders to climb before you meet the big man in the government who will either help you get a job or block you all together when he feels like. First you meet the god father through someone he knows and you would give him detailed overview of yourself, your educational background and what you can do. Usually godfathers make things easy and utter promises they will never fulfil, but out of boasting they promise the sky and earth only to end up disappointing the job seeker in the end.

Following the submission of the documents job seekers go back home full of hopes, but that hope and dreams never come to pass. Having no access to the big man, the young job seekers cannot follow up the developments with the big man and would do so through a facilitator who might be unavailable as well. One week since you submitted your papers with big man and it seems things are not moving from his side. He might forget you papers and even have forgotten them where you first met. The facilitator has since disappeared. You end up wallowing in despair. Same with international non-governmental organizations where if you are lucky enough to pass through the various competency based test (Though they might be a lot of back doors too), you have to have a letter from your MP. Again you might not have any access to the MP (and it happens so often) so you need the support of another facilitator who arranges the meeting with MP. This demoralizing system is the beginning of disappointment which makes young people lose hope in politics, government institutions and even, the international partners.

In order to get a job you are forced to go through various challenges and hindrances that might not be the case if there were system in place that ensures youth have the same access as others with more connections and financial clout. The government needs to create a fair system where everyone will have an equal opportunity to contest and prove their ability. There should be a government run national exams for civil service jobs where the top performers are picked like everywhere else in the world today.

This sort of patronage system where a person needs someone to access his rights should cease. Everyone has a right to be employed as longs as they fulfil the criterion for the job and where jobs exist. Godfathers must not exploit the youth for their various selfish interests. Likewise, the private sector needs to stop this sort of “Who do you know” culture that denies the youth the opportunity they deserve and need. It has never been harder to be a young person in Somalia today and the clear injustice and obstacles to finding a job, even where you are qualified, makes the situation worst.

Mohamed Adan (Bukhaari) holds BA in Mass Communications. He can be reached via