The Dutch-Somaliland diaspora plays a crucial role in empowering the youth of Somaliland for a brighter future. During a recent visit by the Dutch Ambassador for Youth, Education, and Work, various events were held to engage with local youth and diplomats. From the graduation ceremony of the Somaliland Democracy Academy to meetings with local Ministers, the focus was on how the diaspora can contribute to the development and empowerment of the youth in Somaliland. Let’s delve deeper into the impact of this diaspora engagement on the youth of Somaliland.

Below is an article published by Youth at Heart

Between February 25 and 29, the Dutch Ambassador for Youth, Education, and Work visited Somaliland. Here, he spoke with and listened to, local youth and diplomats in a series of events. Amongst others: the graduation ceremony of the first cohort of the Somaliland Democracy Academy; conversation with the Dutch-Somaliland diaspora; and in meetings with local ministers.

Somaliland: Challenges and Opportunities

Somaliland, just like almost any other African country, has a youth population of well over 70%. It has a lively and communicative Dutch-Somaliland diaspora, whom establish companies and economic opportunities in response to the challenges facing the country. The potential role of youth in Somaliland is significant, but it’s also evident that some major challenges persist.

Dutch-Somaliland Diaspora Engagement To Empower Youth For A Brighter Future.
Sharing a meal during one of the visits in Hargeisa.

For example, education and work opportunities for youth are prominent concerns in Somaliland. Access to quality education remains limited due to conflict, displacement, and inadequate infrastructure; affecting rural and conflict-affected regions the most. As such, over 66% of the youth population is unable to get proper and inclusive education.

Lack of education leads to disproportionately high youth unemployment rates, which are currently estimated at 80%. Meaningful employment in the countries’ current situation is hard to come by, which contributes to the economic instability and social unrest in the region.

Many turn to the informal economy, engaging in activities such as small-scale trade and agriculture, which, while providing income, lack security and opportunities for skill development. Still, it’s undeniable that the potential of youth in Somalia is promising, which was also reflected in the Ambassadors’ trip.

Safe Spaces for Youth

The trip started in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital, where the Ambassador met with different young people, youth-led civil society organizations, and a youth umbrella organization. The excitement to support youth-led organizations was remarkable, as well as the willingness to engage youth voices in policy making.

Still, in order to engage with these voices, they need to be taken seriously; which is still one of the problems that youth face. To let their voice be heard, it was told, more safe spaces needed to be provided to allow for collective strategy and action.

Dutch-Somaliland Diaspora Engagement To Empower Youth For A Brighter Future.
The Ambassador gave a speech during the graduation ceremony of the Somaliland Democracy Academy.

One of these safe spaces was actually inaugurated during the trip by the Ambassador together with the Minister of Youth and Sports of Somaliland. The Berbera Youth Center in the port town of Berbera was the subject of this particular inauguration and part of the wider Dalbile Youth Initiative. This UNFPA-led initiative has financed 101 startups, supported four youth-led social enterprise grants, and now established 3 youth centers which provide vocational and literacy skills, health care, and leisure activities to 1200 youth.

Supporting Democracy

Another exciting event was the graduation ceremony of the first cohort of the Somaliland Democracy Academy. Here, the Ambassador had the opportunity to congratulate the graduates and converse with them on democracy and meaningful political participation for youth.

The Democracy Academy, an initiative realized through the support of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, brings participants closer to political decision-makers and elders, enlarging their network and expanding their knowledge. Through networking and linking events, the participants are enabled to share their ideas on policy and legislation, giving the elders and decision-makers valuable insight into youth perspectives.

Dutch-Somaliland Diaspora Engagement To Empower Youth For A Brighter Future.
The ambassador is in conversation with youth at a local youth center.

Dutch-Somaliland Diaspora Voices

As indicated earlier, the relationship between the Netherlands and Somaliland is good. This is partly due to an active and vocal Dutch-Somaliland diaspora in the Netherlands and a lively Dutch-Somaliland business community in Somaliland.

The Dutch-Somaliland diaspora has been a strong ally in the work that the Netherlands has been doing across Somaliland. Collaborating with the diaspora presents an invaluable opportunity to leverage their expertise, networks, and resources in addressing youth unemployment and fostering sustainable economic empowerment initiatives.

Whilst there is no structured trade and investment cooperation between the Netherlands and Somaliland, studies carried out by the EU Delegation in Kenya reveal that the Netherlands leads in the number of EU companies’ investments in Somaliland. Many of these companies were established by the Dutch Diaspora.

For example, Nasir Ali, a Dutch diaspora, and his team at Youth Economic Empowerment & Leadership (YEEL) have been working with youth, providing training and start-up business investments to young and female entrepreneurs in Hargeisa. Conversations with these entrepreneurs learned that, in other circumstances, they would never have been able to achieve what they did.

Meaningful Youth Participation for the Future

The Ambassador’s trip to Somaliland showed a vibrant and energetic youth population, with many initiatives contributing to their flourishment. The strong ties between the Netherlands and Somaliland show promise for future relations between the two countries; a future where meaningful youth participation in professional and political life is prioritized in the face of the countries’ challenges.