Somalia’s economic potential under the spotlight

Somalia's Foreign Minister Abshir Omar Huruse speaks to the media   -  
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Maxim Shipenkov/AP

Somalia’s economic potential has been under the spotlight for the past two days at a gathering of the Somali government, international partners, local entrepreneurs and foreign firms, with the goal of highlighting opportunities for business with international companies. 

"The Somalia Economic Conference marks a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. It is a declaration of our commitment to chart a new course towards economic prosperity and a brighter future for all Somalis – we invite you to join us on this transformative journey to invest in Somalia and to partner with our private sector,” the country’s Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Bare said at the opening on Tuesday.

His views were echoed by the UN Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Somalia, George Conway who said “I look forward to seeing tangible results from this conference, especially new business partnerships that will help trigger economic growth for the country in the long term, that will create jobs and economic opportunities, and which will improve socio-economic conditions for all Somali people.”

Others in attendance included Somalia’s Deputy Prime Minister Salah Jama, and the Italian Ambassador to Somalia, Alberto Vecchi, in addition to representatives from Somali businesses and business associations. 

Somalia is widely considered to have immense economic potential from its agricultural and aquaculture sectors, but insecurity and other challenges, such as the humanitarian crisis stemming from the climate crisis, hampering efforts to achieve this potential.

 According to the World Bank, its Gross Domestic Product is forecast to rebound to 2.8 per cent this year and increase to 3.7 percent next year. 

The Somali Economic Conference was organized by the Federal Government of Somalia’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The event was financed by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) as part of its efforts to increase economic opportunities and job creation in Somalia through the creation of synergies between the Somali and the Italian private sectors. 

“Italian enterprises are recognized as central actors in the Italian system of development cooperation and play an increasingly important role in the effectiveness of AICS’ interventions. Our approach is to promote actions that can effectively lead to co-development and mutual benefits, such as the event we are witnessing today,” the head of AICS’ regional office in Nairobi, Guiseppe Grandi, told the gathering. 

Also involved in the gathering were elements of the Government of Italy, the Somali Chamber of Commerce and Industry, IBS Bank, the European Union Delegation to Somalia and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). 

UNIDO has been working extensively with Somalia’s private sector, primarily with developing local businesses and seeking international partnerships. 

It has noted that the private sector – which has had to face the hardships of insecurity, climate shocks and the COVID-19 pandemic – needs to be better networked with international businesses for its long-term growth. 

In his remarks at the event on Tuesday, the Managing Director of UNIDO’s Directorate for SDG Innovation and Economic Transformation, Berger Gunther, expressed hope that Somali entrepreneurs will take advantage of the conference and the foreign investors from Italy present to strike new business partnerships. 

The Somalia Economic Conference included hosting the 2nd Italy-Somalia Business and Trade Forum on Tuesday, and the 1st Somalia Private Sector Partnership Meet today.

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