The digital economy is a new concept in Somaliland (north Somalia) and the Somali regions. However, we can still find good examples that catch our attention; like zaad mobile money services in Somaliland, the e-commerce business Ari Farm in Somali, and many more e-commerce businesses by local nationals. Local and international non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) have also given great consideration to funding e-commerce business ideas by youth in general and information technology (IT) graduates in particular, e.g., Innovate Ventures in Somaliland. Nevertheless, many of our youth are still missing the skills needed to generate enough economy from the rapidly growing digital world. My blog will mainly discuss online freelancing as a source of digital economy, challenges, solutions and an insight into the future of work in Somaliland.
Nowadays, there are many online freelancing platforms and dozens of online courses that teach how to make online income. One of the biggest freelance portals that is worth mentioning is UpWork, a platform that facilities transactions between employers around the globe and job hunters. This site only approves the profile of skilled and qualified freelancers when they register. Personally, I signed up and had my first job after I took online courses, and honestly the request for skilled workers will restrict Somaliland youth from entering the market.
We can’t compare local job market with the international job markets. Challenges ahead of the Somali youth are quite threatening. We don’t have a payment system that directly transfers money to our local banks. Somali youth are likely to face language barriers. They need training on how they can sell their skills in international job markets. They need to acquire the skills needed to compete for online jobs. On the other hand, companies should also use such sites to create solutions for their business activities.
As a successful online freelancer, I saw the gap between the market supply and the online market demand. As such, I started WeFreelance as an effort to bridge the gap between the local and international job markets. I introduce online freelancing to university graduates despite their faculty, help them write their profile and connect them with clients. There are many things we can do with regard to connecting our youth with international job markets and creating more job opportunities. I think educational institutes should produce qualified students. I think the government should control and monitor the quality of those institutions. I think skills training centers should be opened with high-speed internet and laptops to train and provide a working space for freelancers. Companies can also find solutions to their problems by entering these online markets, or we can attract foreign companies to come to Somaliland threw such portals.
As the job market in Somaliland fails to provide job opportunities to most of university graduates, more graduates will try to start their own freelance business. Those businesses will mainly depend on the internet as the offline business expenses is hard to afford by fresh graduates; as such more enabling environment is needed to boost digital economy activities in the country.
Yasmin Ali Gedi, a Somali national, is a winner of the World Bank Africa 2019 Blog4Dev regional competition.