Faisal Kiber used to be an estate agent in Wembley, now he is a camel herder: “Over there, I worried about the letters, council tax, electricity bills, water bills. [In London] you worry about daily life… here no one is going to send you letters!”
North of war-ravaged Somalia, in the region of Somaliland which declared independence in 1991, they have managed to rebuild. Though not internationally recognized the region has its own political system and a successful private business sector – encouraging a building boom that is bringing jobs and opportunities.
Yemen’s descent into chaos brings boat-loads of refugees across the Gulf of Aden – with 5,000 arriving in the past two months alone. Entrepreneurial Ethiopians are migrating to take advantage of the opportunities, happy to do jobs like hairdressing which most Somalis won’t consider.
Migrants are coming for the same reason that many Somali’s now leave, to seek work for their families in Hargeisa. Many are now returning home, having witnessed the harsh realities of migrating to Europe.
Adam, one Somali who recently returned from London says there are more opportunities here. “There’s a big gap in the market because there are no skilled workers here,” he says.
Camel-herder Faisal appreciates the quality of life in Somaliland, compared to his memories of London, saying: “You can’t compare the nomadic way of life, it’s stress-free.”
Despite the booming economy, the younger generation continues to leave, seduced by the idea of Europe they imagine through social media’s selective lens. The challenge for the country to convince its young to stay.
Jamal Osman is a multi-award winning journalist and filmmaker specializing in sub-Saharan Africa. He has been working with ITN/Channel 4 News since 2008. Jamal has scooped interviews with Somali pirates, the al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group, Al-Shabab, exposed the illegal trade in UN food aid and told the struggles of Somali athletes training for the Olympics.