The government of Somaliland, a self-proclaimed republic in the Horn of Africa, has announced a new strategy to curb the current high unemployment rate in the country. However, the strategy is mainly focused on a youth internship programme, and some observers are doubtful whether the initiative will yield substantial benefits.
The current government has made several proposals in the past in an effort to reverse the negative employment trend, which has been a burden to economic growth of the region for decades.
A statement by the World Bank in 2017 said: “the region has a dynamic and highly entrepreneurial private sector, contributing to over 90% of GDP.”
When it comes to employment issues, a major dilemma for the government is that thousands of young people graduate from the many local universities very year and few have jobs to go to.
Around 70% of Somaliland’s population is below 30 years of age. The unemployment rate stands at 80%, and affects young people in particular. Unemployment has led many young people in the country to take the risk to migrate illegally to Europe in search of better living conditions.
Somaliland president, Muse Bihi Abdi, hosted a 2 day conference on ‘National Employment Creation’ in Hargeisa on August 29th. The theme of the conference was “Employment First”, and was it was organised by relevant government ministries, in collaboration with a number of international funding agencies and the Somaliland National Youth Umbrella (Sonyo), with financial support from the European Union (EU).
Based on the conference recommendations, the Minister of Employment and Social Affairs, Hinda Jama Gaani, released a declaration on Tuesday, September 4th. The first point in the declaration was that a job which can be performed by a local person may not be held by a foreign national.
The conference stressed the strengthening of networking between the investors, private companies and job-creation institutions for the sake of employment creation for youth groups.
Among the other important points in the post-conference communiqué was the upgrading of young people’s participation in work relating to national resources, mainly in the fishing, livestock, agriculture and mineral sectors of the economy.
The Ministry of Employment Creation and Social Affairs will undertake statistics on the number of private employees in the country according to the communiqué.
Recently, the Civil Service Commission, in collaboration with other agencies, has conducted a head-count statistics programme on ‘actual government employees’, with financial support from the World Bank.
After a long vetting process, the Commission has finally removed more than 1,200 ‘fake employees’ from the government payroll list, which indicates corrupt practices.
“As to curbing youth unemployment, the government will introduce a ‘national internship’ programme,” said president Muse Bihi Abdi on 27th August. “In January 2019, the first 1,000 [young people] will be gathered and deployed into a camp, where they will be provided with different professional skills training. They will be selected from the graduates of different [local] universities.”
The president made this announcement at the graduation ceremony of the 19th student cohort from the University of Hargeisa, the biggest higher education public institution in Somaliland. The president further stated that his government had already deposited an amount of $200,000 as first instalment into a ‘Youth Employment Fund’ account run by Sonyo.
Ahmed Jama, a 24-year-old graduate fresh from the University of Hargeisa has welcomed the latest announcement made by the government, and the national internship programme in particular. “I think, it’s one step forward in the right direction,” Ahmed told 7Dnews.
Nevertheless, there are several technical issues that clearly need to be addressed, with other challenges ahead. The main issue is that an internship programme cannot really be considered as an employment creation opportunity, said Yasin Alase, a lecturer at the University of Hargeisa. “Rather, it’s just used for a certain government to benefit from young people during the military era in particular…Therefore, in this modern world, I think such programme is not easy to implement,” Yassin told 7Dnews.
He further stated that the government’s new announcements need more clarification for the public. “The amount of money deposited is far from what is needed to achieve set goals for youth employment creation,” he said.
In Somaliland, when it comes to employment creation, successive governments have always made a lot of promises, but so far little has materialised from their endeavours over the past two decades.