Thursday, July 18, 2024
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The Impact of the Somali Diaspora in the West on Somalia: A Combination of Goodwill and Malice

Dr. Adam Aw Hirsi, (Ph.D)

The Glimpse

The Somali diaspora, dispersed across the globe as a result of conflict and economic instability in their homeland, wields a considerable influence in shaping the socio-economic landscape of Somalia. This article delves into the opportunities and challenges that this diaspora community, especially those based in the West (Western Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand,) bring to the Somalis who remain in Somalia.

Somali Diaspora

Through a personal evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of their involvement, the objective of this opinion piece is to provide a thorough portrayal of the impact of the Somali diaspora in the West on Somalia.

The Narrative

The Somali diaspora in the West, estimated to be a little less than a million individuals dispersed across various regions, constitutes a heterogeneous community characterized by a range of influence and resources. Their link to Somalia, encompassing cultural heritage, socio-political, and economic ties, presents a complex landscape of potential advantages and challenges for the local population in Somalia, my country.

This unscientific opinion piece seeks to casually unpack the multifaceted nature of this association, examining how the actions and initiatives of the diaspora can concurrently deliver benefits and pose risks to their fellow compatriots residing in Somalia.

The Goodwill

One of the key opportunities that the Somali diaspora presents to Somalia is through financial remittances. As reported by the World Bank, remittances sent by the diaspora constitute a substantial portion of the country’s GDP, offering vital assistance to families and communities facing challenges. This financial support plays a pivotal role in bolstering the economy, uplifting livelihoods, and fostering resilience among vulnerable populations in Somalia.

Furthermore, the active involvement of the Somali diaspora in investing in domestic enterprises acts as a powerful driver for catalyzing economic expansion and fostering the creation of the rare job opportunities for the local population in Somalia. Infusing capital into businesses and startups, the diaspora not only fuels entrepreneurial endeavors but also contributes to the overall growth and diversification of the economy. This influx of investment enhances market competitiveness, encourages production, and supports the development of sustainable enterprises, ultimately leading to a positive impact on an already dismal employment levels and economic resilience within the country.

The cultural influence of the diaspora serves as a significant force in the preservation of Somali traditions and values amidst the ever-evolving global landscape. Through various artistic expressions, musical endeavors, and language preservation efforts, the diaspora plays a vital role in championing and upholding the rich tapestry of Somali identity, fostering a deep sense of unity among Somalis across the world. For instance, the sharing of Somali language, cultural traditions, and societal standards, coupled with the recognition of significant events such as Somalia’s Independence Day on July 1st, is embraced with gratitude, scholarly interest, and lively festivities worldwide. These activities strengthen the mutual heritage and bonds that connect the Somali diaspora.

Moreover, within the Somali diaspora, there exists a passionate cohort committed to serving as a vital conduit linking Somalia to the international community. These individuals tirelessly advocate for the interests of their homeland while also working diligently to shine a spotlight on the multifaceted challenges confronting Somalia. Through their unwavering dedication and proactive engagement, they play a pivotal role in elevating the international visibility of Somalia, drawing attention to critical issues such as humanitarian crises, political developments, and socio-economic realities.

The Malice

Despite the numerous benefits brought by the Somali diaspora, there are also inherent threats that must be acknowledged. One major concern is brain drain, where almost all skilled professionals and academics have left the country decades ago in search of safety, employment and better opportunities abroad, resulting in a loss of human capital crucial for national reconciliation and development. This talent drain has hindered progress in critical sectors such as healthcare, education and governance.

Upon closer examination, it becomes apparent that the Somali diaspora, while also serving as a valuable link between Somalia and the global community, pose disproportionate risks by perpetuating clan conflicts within the nation. In a close examination, a vocal fraction of diaspora members have been detected to disseminate divisive, extremist, and unrealistic narratives that propagate hatred and widen rifts among various clans in Somalia. Worse yet, the financial support provided by this element of busybodies, more often than not with detrimental intentions or misguided motivations, has been observed exacerbating existing tensions and fueling clan-based violence across different regions of Somalia.

These actions by certain members of the diaspora not only escalate inter-clan animosities but also impede efforts towards peace-building and reconciliation within the country. Through transmitting inflammatory rhetoric and bolstering extremist factions, these individuals contribute to a cycle of conflict, instability, and unrest that undermines the social cohesion and stability of Somalia. Moreover, individuals falling into this category not only perpetuate clan conflicts within the Somali diaspora but also actively misuse and abuse popular social media platforms such as X Spaces, Facebook Live, and YouTube to spread misinformation, incite inter-clan tensions, and promote discord among their audiences.

In the realm of X Spaces (Twitter), these individuals often exploit the platform to disseminate false narratives, fabrications, and divisive rhetoric that serve to manipulate and inflame sentiments within their immediate social circles. Their actions are driven by a desire for personal recognition and influence within these closed networks, creating echo chambers where their words hold disproportionate sway and feed into a cycle of misinformation and hostility.

On the other hand, platforms like Facebook Live and YouTube are utilized by individuals in this category to reach wider audiences beyond their immediate circles, employing sensationalist content and provocative messaging to attract viewership and cultivate a following. Capitalizing on sensationalism, they generate engagement and ad revenue, with their activities primarily driven by self-interest and the pursuit of financial gain. Through these online channels, they project a distorted narrative that prioritizes personal visibility and profit over the broader welfare of the community, exacerbating clan divisions and perpetuating conflict dynamics within the Somali diaspora.

Furthermore, the deliberate segmentation of Somali diaspora communities along imagined clan structures and sub-religious lines within their host countries has not only reinforced existing divisions within those specific communities but has also spilled over and exacerbated fragmentation and discord in Somalia. This segmentation, defined by clan affiliations and sectarian distinctions within Islam, has created distinct factions with varying interests and loyalties that often clash and compete, perpetuating deep-rooted conflicts and impeding progress towards national unity and reconciliation in Somalia. The diaspora’s financial resources and influence wielded from abroad further exacerbate these divisions, as they often provide material support and patronage to their respective clan or religious affiliations in Somalia. This external backing enables these factions to consolidate unwarranted power, assert undue influence, and pursue their own selfish agendas at the expense of broader national interests.

As a result, the inherent rivalries and tensions among disparate diaspora groups reverberate within Somali society, fueling inter-clan conflicts, political fragmentation, and social discord that hinder the country’s ability to heal past wounds and forge a cohesive national identity. The repercussions of this diaspora-driven fragmentation are palpable, manifesting in societal polarization, institutional dysfunction, and stunted progress towards sustainable peace and development in Somalia. Perpetuating clan-based politics and exacerbating sectarian divides, the diaspora’s impact on the homeland has deepened historical grievances, obstructed reconciliation efforts, and prolonged cycles of violence and instability.

Furthermore, the returning of certain under-educated or criminally-inclined members of the Western diaspora to Somalia, driven by aspirations for positions of authority and quick enrichment, presents a formidable obstacle to the nation’s advancement. These individuals, lacking the necessary expertise and awareness of international and local dynamics, are ill-equipped to navigate the complexities of governance, often resorting to erratic and detrimental behaviors that fuel corruption, insecurity, environmental degradation, mismanagement, and institutional decay.

The return of this group to Somalia has introduced a disruptive element characterized by opportunism, self-interest, and a disregard for ethical governance practices. Focused on personal gain rather than the public good, these repatriates frequently engage in exploitative practices, rent-seeking behaviors, and illicit schemes that erode the fabric of society and undermine public trust in state institutions. Their actions not only squander resources and impede progress but also perpetuate a culture of impunity, where accountability and transparency are sacrificed at the altar of self-aggrandizement and short-term profit.

This very influx of individuals lacking formal qualifications or a genuine commitment to national development has had detrimental repercussions on the country’s socio-economic fabric and governance structures. Occupying positions of power without the requisite skills or ethical grounding, they have perpetuated a cycle of maladministration, malfeasance, and venality that hinders the realization of sustainable growth and stability in Somalia.

The Nutshell

In essence, the Somali diaspora residing in the West emerges as a dynamic and diverse entity that has the dual capacity to uplift and hinder the Somali people in Somalia. As a repository of resources, expertise, and transnational connections, the diaspora offers a valuable reservoir of support and knowledge that can catalyze sustainable development and progress in the country. However, this potential must be harnessed judiciously, as the diaspora’s engagement also carries inherent risks and complexities that demand careful navigation and management.

The Needful

To capitalize on the diaspora’s transformative potential, Somalia must adopt a strategic approach that harnesses their skills, networks, and financial capital while mitigating the potential pitfalls of fragmentation, discord, and mismanagement that can arise from unchecked involvement. In discerning the difference between the law-abiding, skilled, and well-meaning diaspora members and their disruptive, criminally inclined counterparts, Somalia can utilize the expertise of the former to advance sustainable growth, innovation, and positive change.

Through effectively engaging the constructive diaspora and guarding against the negative influences of the disruptive faction, Somalia can leverage the collective skills and resources of the diaspora to address challenges and promote national development goals while mitigating risks and fostering good governance.

Central to this is the crucial need for policymakers and stakeholders to comprehend the diaspora’s dynamics, interests, and aspirations. This involves recognizing their diverse backgrounds and motivations and customizing strategies towards both sides of the Western Somali diaspora coin. Recognizing the multifaceted nature of the Somalia diaspora in the West and crafting inclusive strategies that prioritize the national interest and prosperity, policymakers and stakeholders can enable Somalia to unlock the full potential of its transnational community and forge a path towards lasting stability and prosperity.

[Midigtayda iyo bidixdu, waa laba mataanoode,
Midi waa martida soora, iyo maata daaddihise,
Midina waa mindiyo xiirayiyo, mur iyo deebaaqe,

My two hands, right and left, are like twins, 
One feeds strangers and guests; sustains, guides the weak,    
The other is a sharp cutting knife, as poisonous as myrrh,
 â€” Qaasim.

Dr. Adam Aw Hirsi, (Ph.D), is the director of Foresight for Practical Solutions. He can be followed on đť•Ź: @JustAwHirsi

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