The upcoming investment conference on Somalia to take place in Nairobi will offer a rare window into business opportunities available for rebuilding Somalia, organisers and sponsors say. Set for May 28th and 29th at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, the Somali Reconstruction and Investment Conference and Exhibition will be the first private sector led meeting on investing in Somalia.
The investment conference will bring together policymakers and development organisations, and will focus on fostering interactions, networking, business opportunities and future engagements, organisers said.
“Somalia cannot recover on its own. It needs partners,”
Somalia’s Ambassador to Kenya Mohammed Ali Nur said. “The conference will be a rare opportunity for those seeking to contribute to the development of Somalia and the East African region in general. With the improved security situation, Somalia is ready for investment, and no one can really afford to overlook the potential.”
The conference, endorsed by the Somali federal government’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, seeks to attract multinational, regional and local investors willing to invest capital and resources into Somalia, Nur told Sabahi. The Somali government is banking on investors making commitments at the conference, he said. These would serve as a springboard for Somalia’s full economic recovery and independence, Nur said, adding that there are opportunities in mining, oil exploration, banking, water, food security, hospitality and general reconstruction.
Thousands of Somalis who left during the country’s civil wars and al-Shabaab’s reign have returned home to help with national reconstruction, the ambassador said. “To fast-track development and recoup two decades wasted on instability, Somalia is now open to the world for investment,” Nur said.
Eyeing prospects in Somalia
Conference organiser HanVard Africa is expecting more than 150 participants from international organisations and multilateral agencies, representatives from agencies promoting African investment, international business leaders, government officials and journalists to attend the conference.
Delegates to the conference pay a $500 (42,200 Kenyan shillings) registration fee and $2,500 (212,000 Kenyan shillings) for an exhibition booth, said HanVard Africa chief executive officer Hassan Noor.
By Wednesday (May 22nd), the conference had attracted 22 sponsors and registered 55 exhibitors and delegates, Noor told Sabahi.
The conference’s objective is to showcase the opportunities and build confidence both regionally and internationally in reconstructing and investing in Somalia, Noor said.
It also seeks to address challenges and promote reforms needed for spurring business and investment opportunities in Somalia, he said. Investors will also learn about appropriate frameworks for doing business and increase economic growth in the country.
“For more than 20 years, the outside world has known only the pictures of war, death, famine and diseases,” Noor said. “The investment conference offers us an opportunity to showcase the other side [of Somalia and] of the business potential of the country.”
Job opportunities for unemployed youth
Investing in Somalia could help reduce the country’s insecurity in the long term, said Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Executive Secretary Ambassador Mahboub Maalim.
Economic instability and a lack of job opportunities have contributed to youths joining terrorist groups like al-Shabaab, he said.
“Investment in Somalia and exploring the country’s potential will provide employment opportunities and consequently keep youths busy [and] away from roving recruits seeking idle youths,” Maalim said, adding that the benefit of improved security will reverberate throughout East Africa and the rest of the world.
Two decades of violence in Somalia resulted in a complete breakdown of law and order, said Ibrahim Rashid Ahmed, a Nairobi-based development consultant and former adviser on Somalia to former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
“The situation made Somalia one of the most difficult places to do business and succeed,” he said. “Nevertheless, Somalis’ tenacity, aptitude for business and drive to succeed [amid] adversity kept the flames of business alive.”
This is an opportunity for the world to join because Somalia will definitely become an economic powerhouse in less than 10 years, Ahmed said.
“You get favours and good will from the people if you are with them at the hour of need, and there cannot be a better time than now,” Ahmed said.
Suresh Aggarwal, director of Athi River Steel Plant Limited, one of the conference sponsors, said Somalia offers an opportunity for Kenyan businesses to expand their operations beyond Kenya’s borders.
“Somalia is Kenya’s neighbour and the best way to help is to provide job opportunities for the Somali people through investment,” he said. “There are concerns [about] security, but in every investment there are risks. We have faith that the Federal Republic of Somalia will overcome the threats.”
Second investment conference scheduled in mid-June
A second conference on investment, security and infrastructure in Somalia will also take place at the Laico Regency Hotel in Nairobi on June 17th.
The conference will bring together officials from the Somali federal government, Puntland regional administration and business leaders, according to a press release from Amsas Management Consulting, which will be hosting the conference.
The conference will address several investment sectors, including agriculture and livestock, oil and gas, mining, telecommunications, security, banking and financial services, and infrastructure.
“Investors will be given a hands-on approach to the challenges and opportunities facing Somalia and what the investments climate is like in post-recovery Somalia,” the press release said.
The conference will be opened by IGAD’s Maalim. Delegates from IGAD’s member states will pay $250 (21,100 Kenyan shillings) to attend and international delegates will pay $1,250 (105,000 Kenyan shillings).