The Somaliland Apprentice Program Illustrates Need for Business Cultural Reform
Business to flourish needs creativity and innovations. Somaliland private sector plays crucial role and underwent huge progress in last two decades since the communist regime of Siad Barre was ousted. The peace and political stability offered opportunity to initiate businesses. Despite huge challenges including absence of financial banking, the businesses are working hard.
The majority of businesses in Somaliland are started by one person. Based on the traditional system of clan security, employees are selected on the basis of clan. They are not necessarily from the clan of the owner of the business, but the candidate shall be known and shall have clan leader or respected clansman guarantee. This was understandable when the governance of the country was weak in early 1990s.
In last ten years students have been graduating from local and outside universities. The knowledge increased. The professionals who are independent faced challenge in getting jobs in the private sector which the culture of nepotism and collectivity became deeply rooted. Hence the highly educated graduates join the international NGOs and UN agencies.
The educational gap is now lagging the businesses behind. Knowledge is important for successful business. The professionals to join the business sector, the owners of the businesses need to change and accept that the time to impress knowledge has come.
Recently I applied a program which we were told to be transparent and fair. The program was advertised by Somcable Company, an internet provider. The idea was that the most creative person to win. I and other colleagues passed the first stage of the competition. The second phase was competed by three groups of three people each. The assignment was to raise donation where the group with the most numbers will win. Only one group has to win.
Unfortunately, the organizers changed the rules and decided to refuse to count some of the donations we were able to raise. We insisted that the beauty and trust of the competition was the respect of the rules. We withdrew when the laws were infringed. Somcable is a new company that has a monopoly to provide fiber optic internet in Somaliland. As a big company, I thought it does not need to play the old business norms in Somaliland. Unfortunately, I was very wrong.
One thing I learnt from the process is the fact that there is a long way to go before our private sector decides to abandon nepotism. Fair business employment competitions will encourage creativity. Therefore, it is vital to increase the awareness of the business community so that they respect the laws and use knowledge in their work. That will be beneficial to them and to the country as well.
It is the responsibility of the learned people and the government to convince the business community to utilize knowledge in order to boost the economy of the country. If the educated people do not have access in helping the businesses in the country, the economy will lack the required human resources who may prefer to work for NGOs or go overseas.
Jama Ahmed Jama