Mini-Series: Impact Istanbul features conference highlights, round-ups, interviews, Q&A’s, and speaker profiles. It is part of our International Business Forum 2013 live coverage. This time, a look at Somalia and inclusive business. Somalia’s conflict-ridden past may pave the way for a new future of business in the country.
The room was already buzzing with post-conference networking and occasional serefe’s (cheers’), as we Student Reporters entered the International Business Forum’s official Ottoman-style dinner.
A man stretched over the table to properly greet us as we sat down, and we soon learned his name; Abdi Dorre, Managing Director of the Somali Chamber of Commerce. The night quickly filled with discussions on the special relationship between Somalia and Turkey. Turkey has very recently and quickly become one of the most important international partners for the troubled country sitting on Africa’s horn, which is one of the reasons explaining Dorre’s presence at the conference.
Somalia’s two-decade long civil war did not exactly make the country an attractive place to do business – let alone any mention of inclusive business. However, since mid-2011 the situation has changed rapidly. There are an increasing number of international companies operating there, and a majority of them are Turkish. The general sentiment towards the Turkish investments is positive in Mogadishu, according to Dorre.
“Except for us, the Turkish are the only white collar workers that can walk through the city,” Dorre admits, speculating that it may have something to do with their shared Islamic background.
Turkish firms are mostly focusing on sectors of construction, engineering and private schooling, Dorre says, adding, “[the Turkish] are actually starting a private university in Mogadishu.” Education is expensive in Somalia, and only available for those with money – certainly not an inclusive industry.
As for other inclusive or green businesses in Somalia, there are “nil”- none – Dorre says.
However, the conference has already brought him numerous ideas that he says he will pitch to the local private sector when he returns.
“The market is ready,” he says, adding that the concept of sustainability is most beneficial in post-conflict and emerging countries, when things are being built from scratch once again.
At the International Business Forum, the importance of the government’s role as a facilitator has been repeated in seminar after seminar. In Somalia, however, the government’s role is still limited. There is taxation and legislation, but only in theory – not so much in practice. However Dorre is convinced that inclusive businesses can emerge from the private sector alone. He believes in the powers of free markets and the good will of people. “Somalia”, he says, “is free market Mecca.”