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Somalia's economic potential highlighted at Mogadishu conference

31 May 2023

Somalia conference 2023

MOGADISHU – Somalia’s economic potential has been under the spotlight at a gathering of Somali government representatives, international partners, local entrepreneurs and foreign firms.

Somalia is widely considered to have immense economic potential from its agricultural and aquaculture sectors, but with 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% this year and increase to 3.7% next year.

“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 conference opening on 30 May.

“To our international partners, I urge you to see beyond the challenges that Somalia has faced in the past,” he added. “Look at the immense opportunities that await you here. Invest in our industries, transfer your technology and expertise, and be a catalyst for change.”

The Somali Economic Conference was organized by the Federal Government of Somalia’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry and 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.

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, Gunther Beger, Managing Director of UNIDO’s Directorate for SDG Innovation and Economic Transformation, expressed his hope that Somali entrepreneurs will take advantage of the conference and the presence of foreign investors from Italy to strike new business partnerships.

“Somalia is rapidly re-emerging as an economic actor of critical and strategical relevance in the Horn of Africa region. Its private sector, despite all odds, has been adaptive resilient over the years to the numerous internal and external shocks the country has had to endure,” Beger said in a video message.

He added that the time had come to expose Somalia’s private sector markets as a destination for business trade and investment, noting that “events like the one we are opening today should definitely contribute to this objective.”

A key aspect of the UN’s support for the development of Somalia’s economic potential has been the Productive Sectors Development Programme (PSDP), a UN flagship programme – implemented by UNIDO together with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) – to support sustainable development through partnerships between government and the private sector.

George Conway, the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, told participants,“Initiatives like this conference, and programs like the PDSP, have contributed to a paradigm shift towards longer-term sustainable development solutions, where the private sector clearly has a critical role to play. This includes through promoting entrepreneurship, supporting micro-, medium- and small- enterprises, facilitating access to finance, and unlocking investments.”

The sentiments expressed by guest speakers at the event were echoed among the hundreds of attendees from Somalia’s business sector, with many of them highlighting the need for help to modernize the country’s technologies in important sectors with huge growth potential, such as construction, fisheries, livestock and agriculture.

“Somalia is ready for business. We have oil, a long untapped coastline full of fish, and arable land. The world is welcome to invest in Somalia,” said Deqa Mohamed Salah, an entrepreneur who runs a cosmetics business.

“This conference is very important for my business because it has given me an opportunity to meet many clients from Somalia and outside the country – I am glad I attended this event,” said Shukri Mohamed Bashir, another entrepreneur.

The Somalia Economic Conference also hosted the Second Italy-Somalia Business and Trade Forum, and the  First Somalia Private Sector Partnership Meet.

Source: United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia