Like many young people from Somaliland, Hamse Ismail traveled from his home town Hargeisa to take the IELTS English test at the British Council in Nairobi, a requirement for his Chevening Scholarship. The Chevening Scholarship is a UK government-funded postgraduate scholarship awarded to young emerging world leaders. ‘Somaliland isn’t officially recognized which means there are no formal diplomatic offices like an embassy. If you don’t have a British embassy in Hargeisa, you won’t have a British council either, meaning you can’t take the IELTS in Somaliland. And because overseas educational opportunities are rare in Somaliland, the competition is always stiff there’’ said Ismail.
But this is not the first time, Mr. Ismail came to Nairobi. In 2005 he was among 15 students from the post-conflict de facto republic who came to study on a scholarship in various Kenyan universities and colleges. The scholarship was awarded to top students leaving high school nationwide and was funded by the European Union.
After leaving medical college and a brief medical practice, he was involved in a car accident that left him hospitalized for nearly a year in Nairobi. ‘’I tried to be stoic in the face of a looming personal failure and uncertain future’’. But the lengthy hospitalization and recuperating in a wheelchair did not undermine his competitive nature. ‘’ When I left the hospital, I was a changed man. I felt the futility and fragility of life. I lost my unwavering faith in medicine. I saw the limitations of science and human knowledge. A change of career was inevitable’’ Ismail added.
He had joined the NGO sector and ran community development projects in Hargeisa’s most impoverished neighborhoods. He then studied Community Development and Project Management. In 2015, the U.S. State Department selected him as the first Mandela Washington Fellow from Somaliland. As part of the fellowship, he did Civic Leadership at the University of Delaware, United States. The fellowship is the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), a flagship program of President Obama to train and invest in the continent’s next generation of leaders on civic leadership, entrepreneurship and public management. ‘Visiting nearly half a dozen states on the east coast of the United States was a great eye opening and a massive opportunity to meet other young African fellows with exceptional talents. We also had the opportunity to see the state governor, senators, state legislators, civic organizations and even President Obama in a presidential summit in Washington D.C.’’.
His passion for community work was gradually replaced by an interest in entrepreneurship. ‘’I was dismayed by the helpless donor dependence and lack of transparency in the NGO world. I believe youth entrepreneurship is the only way out of the poverty and high youth unemployment in Africa’’ said Ismail. In 2015, he was shortlisted for the 30 under 30 world young innovators in Philadelphia by the Forbes Magazine. In May, 2016, he was shortlisted for the Africa Entrepreneurship Award (AEA) sponsored by BMCE Bank of Africa. His educational innovation involves coming up with a portable solar-powered, educative multimedia kit that enables pastoralist children to continue with their education without physically attending nearby village schools and regardless of climatic or environmental challenges and in areas that even lack electricity and internet connection. ‘’ 43% of Africa’s total land area is either arid, semi-arid or dry sub-humid. Pastoralist children drop out of school as they parents wander around in search for pastures and water sources. But this kit enables them to continue with their education. It is a business idea that I feel very passionately about’’. He said. The final ten winners will be announced in December, 2016 in Casablanca, Morocco where they will equally share a $ 1M prize.
Ismail will now join the University of Bristol, United Kingdom in September, 2016. ‘’Winning these two programs does not make me more talented than my peers but it shows despite coming from such background and undergoing great personal trials and tribulations, you can still rise against enormous odds and have faith in your daily personal struggles’’ Ismail said.
Winning the 2016 Chevening Scholarship makes Mr. Ismail Somaliland’s first dual recipient of these two prestigious programs: the Chevening Scholarship and the Mandela Washington Fellowship.
Contact Hamse Ismail: