By Mohamed Ubo

Somaliland is sitting on a gold mine that needs to be tapped to break the cycle of extreme poverty—and that is the youth who accounts for 70% of the population. Do we educate, inform, engage, empower and employ the youth to be innovative, creative and productive citizens? Why unemployment is highest among the educated youth—is it education policy or economic policy? Remember, there are hundreds of discussions and debates for youth employment every year but most of them turn to be symbolic and don’t induce meaningful changes—then how we can move from shop-talk set-ups to real life scenarios? How live-able retirement benefits are achieved to get older generation out of the workforce? Youth can take a prominent role in shaping the economic, social and political trajectory in the global digital economy to achieve development miracles.

How the worrisome youth unemployment and the Somaliland success story of democracy, peace and political stability are reconciled? As youth are the main drivers and engine of growth, how they can take the lead in driving the strategies, policies and programs intended for the youth? Most African countries spotlight better education policy but better economic policy employs youth—as that creates new businesses. How more of our youth can live above the internationally defined poverty threshold—US$2 per day? Due to recurrent droughts, the influx of youth from rural to urban settings worsens the rising unemployment in big cities. As such questions ignite the minds and hearts of the government and the youth to get a surviving and thriving community.

The idea being that Somaliland is sitting on a gold mine seems abstract to most of us but youth are windows of opportunities. It is unacceptable with such an impressive pool of youth to be idle and unemployed—World Bank considers youth unemployment to be a form of social exclusion. The government can create decent employment opportunities for the young people. We know that healthy, educated, productive and fully engaged young people can greatly contribute the national growth and breaking the cycle of poverty.  Thus policies of job creation need to be considerably accelerated and the narratives of the election campaigns must be matched with practical steps.

In the era of Fourth Industrial Revaluation (4IR): the evolution of robotics, 3-D printing, artificial intelligent and “Internet-of-things”, is projected to disturb youth jobs. Thus youth can play a prominent role in shaping the nation—youth should be energetic, engaged, talented and productive, that will bring a drastic reduction of extreme poverty. Why many youths study other fields while the market for instance demands agriculture and engineering—constantly there are mismatches between the skills and the market demands. Why our education system focuses on getting employed rather than entrepreneurialism? That will set the stage for youth to be inclusive and play a key role in the economy and brings forth innovative ideas and novel solutions to youth pressing challenges. Youths are cited as the engine of the East Asian economic miracles.


The Worrisome youth unemployment and the Somaliland success story need in synchronization and this can be achieved through aggressive programs and policies that tap the untapped youth potentials. For example, the introduction of programs for youth empowerment and youth employment through business plan competitions would be crucial. A World Bank survey  showed that about 40% of those who join rebel movements are motivated by unemployment. For instance the waves of events in the Arab Spring have shown that poverty and unemployment bring forth political instability. Youth unemployment poses a threat to development and peaceful co-existence. But once educated, empowered and employed, youth will be more productive and also be resilient in the face of economic and societal challenges—then both society and the economy will thrive. An African proverb says “a child that we refuse to build today will end up selling the house that we may build tomorrow.”


For instance – Some countries introduced youth employment fund programs. In Senegal, the President launched a program to create 30,000 jobs for a year and possibly 300,000 jobs in the next three years. Similarly, Ghana created national youth service and empowerment programs to train graduates with the needed skills to find jobs. Mauritius developed a plan to encourage technical and vocational education for young people to respond to market demands. Zambia introduced a national youth policy and a youth enterprise fund to stimulate job creation. The Nigerian government introduced a skills acquisition and enterprise development program as a component of the existing national youth service corps; it also introduced a business plan competition.

Similarly, Somaliland president announced the “Somaliland youth development fund” (SYDF). Congratulations Mr. President Bihi – this is a wakeup call for youth to be creative! However, in order to succeed, before initiating, the best practices of other countries should be studied and researched wisely and that taps finding the real entrepreneurs with high energy, creativity and talents. Mostly in Africa, these policies fail due to lack of ideas and tools on how to roll out in practice—and also youth organizations and informal sector are ignored as 80% of workers in Africa  are in the informal sector. Thus, this Youth Development Fund should have good governance principles—participatory, effective, efficient responsive, accountable, transparent and inclusive.


There should also be elements of inclusion – the situation of unemployed women and girls remains chronic. Young women are at a disadvantage in finding jobs than young men as they have less accessibility to the job market. Let’s all have what Nelson Mandela said: “an Africa where there is work, bread, water, salt and a dignified livelihood for all.’  Thus women demand much government attention to empower, educate and employ with practical solutions, ensuring that more women are included in the labor force. Hence, there should be from unemployment hallways into real life scenarios to achieve positive outcomes. Like equity and inclusion, youth employment should be a cross-cutting and high priority in every sector, across the regions and across the economy.


Therefore, as youth unemployment is a global phenomenon, a competent government can create a conducive business environment for youth—government should set up an economic policy along with sustainable economic infrastructure that puts employment first. And apart from the prerequisite foundational, transferable and technical skills, the government must shape a system of society under which people creatively operate for the reason that (un)employment is a consequence of a system. Albert Einstein said: “The system determines what can be discovered”. There is no one-size-fits-all approach for the youth unemployment conundrum but a multifaceted approach is highly recommended. Hence, if this delicate matter is not adequately and timely addressed with rapid social and economic transformation in place—both society and the economy will cease to thrive.