Small & Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) as well as start-ups in the world need favorable environments to work in for sustained national growth and global prosperity. And Somalia is not an exception.

For small businesses and start-ups to thrive and prosper, a combination of supportive policies and accommodative environment is a must. Small businesses should be supported with encouraging regulations, trusted with sound investments and protected from both external and internal predatory corporations. If they are awarded with those privileges, they are ready and able to help back and boost the economy.

In Somalia, all those amenities are out of reach. With little government efforts and hostile environments, SMEs and start-ups are finding very hard to sustain in markets. The very policies that would act as bedrock for their prosperity are almost non-existent. Small businesses constantly face barriers to market entry and competitive disadvantages. They have limited access to capital investments and encounter fierce challenges in resources mobilizations.That reality has, in many facets, hindered the economic development of Somalia.

To address that issue and initiate a conversation, the Institute of Innovation, Tech & Entrepreneurship (IITE Institute) has, on November 17th, 2020, hosted a Roundtable Discussion on how to best create favourable environment that is conducive for MSMEs in Somalia. IITE Institute has invited the Ministry of Commerce & Industry of Somalia, Businessmen and Women,Start-ups, Small & Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), Banks, Conglomerates, Youth, Members of the Academia and all relevant stakeholders from the Civil Society Groups to the event for a colourful discussion with diverse perspectives. As a result, the roundtable discussion has paved the way for a relevant conversation on the actualities at the ground, and even proposed solutions and strategies to create a viable and conducive environment for small businesses.

A panel discussion at the roundtable has, in particularly, conversed and dissected about the reality in hand and how to best collaborate in order to create the right and favourable conditions for small businesses in Somalia to thrive and prosper. Among the panellists in the roundtable panel discussion were Sayid Ali Joolaal, CEO of Enza Home Somalia, Amal Dirie, CEO of Beydan, Mohamed Addow, Deputy Director of iRise Hub, and Ibrahim Isse, Director of SMEs & Corporates at the Ministry of Commerce & Industry of Somalia. 

Panelists

The panellists have, in detail, discussed about the challenges and even suggested thoughtful alternatives to the Government and the relative stakeholders. Mohamed Adow, Deputy Director of iRise Hub, highlighted that start-ups, after being incubated and trained, face mounting challenges in resources mobilization and that has, as a result, contributed to many business being out of markets. Coming from a background of business incubation and acceleration, Adow has emphasized the importance of setting up coordination mechanisms among government layers for start-ups and SMEs to have smooth and sound ecosystem. Amal Dirie, CEO of Beydan, on the same agenda, underlined the need for reduced fees and taxes by the government. Amal has also noted down the significance of having sound and direct capital investments and cash loans from banks in Somalia.

Sayid Ali Joolaal, CEO of Enza Home Somalia, on the issue, has underscored what is like to bring big brands to Somalia. “Though Somalia ranks low in Ease of Doing Business, Somali entrepreneurs do still have to take risks and bring big brands in Somalia,” he explained. Ibrahim Isse, Director of SMEs & Corporates at the Ministry of Commerce & Industry of Somalia, on the panel, has discussed the Ministry’s commitment in passing and enacting laws in support of SMEs. Ibrahim has referenced the establishment SMEs Department at the Ministry of Commerce & Industry of Somalia as an example as well as the under-process SMEs Policy at the ministry.

“Though Somalia ranks low in Ease of Doing Business, Somali entrepreneurs do still have to take risks and bring big brands in Somalia”

Sayid Ali Joolaal, CEO of Enza Home Somalia

Apart from the panel discussion, the keynote speeches and closing remarks at the event have all attested to the importance of having conducive environments for small businesses in Somalia to flourish. Abdishakur Afrah, Head of Corporate, SMEs & Retail of Premier Bank Somalia, has addressed about the vital role banks can play in creating favourable conditions for small businesses.

At the end of the event, a Declaration addressed to the Somali Government, Banks, Somali Chamber of Commerce, Development Agencies and the Academia was issued and read. The declaration conveyed and highlighted the important points and messages at the Roundtable Discussion. It has called for every stakeholder to take a lead in streamlining current trends for a sustained and developed ecosystem for small businesses in Somalia.

H.E Khalif Abdi Omar, Minister of Commerce & Industry of Somalia on Closing Remarks

The Minister of Commerce & Industry of Somalia, H.E Khalif Abdi Omar, on closing remarks at the event, have reiterated the Government’s commitment in spearheading efforts to formulate policies and procedures to help the small businesses to thrive. H.E Khalif has, on the final say, pledged to consider the important points discussed at the event and at the same time do the necessary actions to enable a supportive environment for SMEs.

The Roundtable Discussion has initiated a relevant discussion on the issue, spearheaded an important conversation on what small businesses in Somalia are lacking and has, most importantly, produced and suggested alternative solutions and strategies to challenge the status quo.

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Mohamed Shidane

Mohamed Shidane is the Partnership Builder for The Next Economy at IITE Institute.

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