A new nonprofit venture is helping young Somalis get online and into work. Shaqodoon (which means ‘jobseeker’ in Somali) is a product of the USAID-funded Somali Youth Livelihood Program, headquartered in the Somaliland regional capital of Hargeisa, which aims to train and educate local people into a thinning workforce. Since beginning last December, the project has helped 6,000 people find work. The program expects to reach a capacity of 17,000.
Shaqodoon InfoMatch is the project’s web, SMS and voice-based wing, which allows young people to search for jobs and apply immediately. Abdirahim Osman, 25, is one of the site’s beneficiaries. He registered for an accounting role at Tayo, one of the country’s leading print firms. “One week later I received a call from Tayo asking me to come in for an interview,” he says.
“Thanks to Shaqodoon, I filled in a simple registration form, that was surprisingly in Somali, and subscribed to the SMS job alert service,” adds Osman. “I received an SMS on my mobile from 777 (the Shaqodoon SMS number) as soon as the job was posted. I attended the interview and was shortlisted for the job. Thankfully I came on top. I am now working as an accountant for Tayo Printing and very happy with my new job.”
In addition to InfoMatch, Shaqodoon is connecting with Somali businesses to encourage a spirit of entrepreneurship, that is slowly returning after decades of dictatorship, civil war and terror.
Diaspora members are returning to found everything from taxi services to TV stations. But unemployment remains a big problem in the east African state. A 2012 UN report revealed that 67 percent of 14 to 29-year-olds are out of work. For women the rate is even higher at 71 percent. Over 60 percent of young people told the authors of the report they wanted to leave Somalia. Others have been enticed into terror cells such as Al Shabaab, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, which still wreaks havoc on the region. Somalia’s main export is goats.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has been widely commended for combating Somalia’s many problems since his inauguration in 2012. But life expectancy remains low at 52, and the country still leans heavily on $1.1 billion of foreign aid. However investment is increasing, thanks to events such as the Somali Investment Summit, a conference being held in Dubai on the 6th and 7th of April. Leaders in politics, business and journalism are converging on the UAE to press for optimism in Somali economics that is desperately needed for progress.
Shaqodoon was the brainchild of Education Development Centre workers, who felt that Somali youths were still not being given the opportunities they needed – despite comprising over 70 percent of the country’s 10.2 million people. It hopes that by using cell phone and web-based technologies it can help thousands more people like Abdirashid find work. “I would like to recommend to any jobseekers to take advantage of Shaqodoon’s services as it is the quickest way to get employed,” he says.