2022 Somaliland-American Conference Memo:
This memo summarizes the Somaliland-American Conference hosted by Somaliland Professionals of America (SLPA) and the Somaliland Mission to the United States held on March 19, 2022.
The aim of the conference was to bring together delegates from Somaliland and stakeholders from the Somaliland diaspora to engage in critical discussions on the political, social and economic development of Somaliland. The conference began with introductory remarks by SLPA, followed by opening remarks by the Somaliland Representative in the United States, Bashir Goth, and a keynote address given by Somaliland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Essa Kayd. Journalist Mona Kosar Abdi served as the conference’s Master of Ceremonies (MC).
Following the opening ceremonies, the conference consisted of five panels with panelists ranging from members of the Somaliland delegation to distinguished leaders in academia, business, and the nonprofit sector. The panels elaborated on Somaliland’s foreign affairs, gender and inclusive politics, healthcare and education, democracy, justice and freedom of speech, and business and economic growth. A theme underpinning the panels was the exploration of opportunities that exist for the Somaliland diaspora to support the country’s development. An overview of each panel is provided below:
1. Dynamics in the Horn of Africa vis-a-vis US & Chinese rivalry and the unique role of Somaliland: The first panel explored Somaliland’s geopolitical environment, honing in on the differences in approaches to diplomacy between superpowers United States and China. Furthermore, it also examined Somaliland’s strategic relationships with the world powers, as well as Somaliland’s interests within the Horn of Africa and globally. Somaliland’s current diplomatic priority is for world powers to recognize its successful and democratic sovereignty. A key takeaway was the message that strategic relationships should lean on similar interests and focus on cultivating mutual benefits to advance that goal.
2. Gender and Inclusive Politics: Ensuring Equitable Representation of Somaliland Women in Politics: The second panel focused on gender and inclusive politics in Somaliland. Some of the ways Somaliland aims to improve women’s political participation include: instituting a quota for women in political positions, establishing a fund to support women in election processes, and empowering women engaged in community work. Obstacles to women’s political involvement persist, such as the need for increased women’s voter registration. The importance of women in the diaspora entering politics within their own countries was also raised as it would benefit the international Somaliland communities.
3. Healthcare and Education Challenges and the Role of the Diaspora: The third panel touched on healthcare and education, identifying the challenges that exist today (e.g., underqualified teachers and curriculum development in education) and highlighting high-impact initiatives taking place in Somaliland and the United States to spark change. An overview of Burco Academy of Science and Technology, a school equipping students with the in-demand skills needed to enter the workforce, was provided in the panel discussion. In addition, Hargeysa Book Fair, an annual cultural event that promotes Somali art, culture, and knowledge production, was discussed. Overviews of non-profit organizations making significant contributions to Somaliland such as Somalilander-American Health Association - SAHA, an organization that aims to build a better healthcare system in Somaliland through supporting greater professionalization, regulation, and ethics, and Amoud Foundation, a charity that implements critical health, food, Somaliland-American Conference Memo water and education projects across Somaliland, were also presented. Amoud Foundation was noted as a sponsor for the conference.
4. Democracy, Justice, and Freedom of Speech: The current party system and future thoughts of elections and Media and Conflict: The fourth panel investigated democracy, justice, and freedom of speech in Somaliland and globally. A focal point of the discussion was Somaliland’s success in sustaining democratic governance, including effective separation of powers and a democratic election process. The panel touched on how freedom of speech and journalism are under attack globally, and how it is important for everyone to educate themselves on identifying fake and legitimate news and be conscious of misinformation.
5. Business and Job Creation: The Ministry of Trade discusses Investment Opportunities in Somaliland: The fifth and final panel explored business development and job creation. From a government standpoint, panelists discussed strides made in advancing intellectual property rights, introducing online business registration and building an infrastructure for e-commerce. Challenges to economic growth include a high unemployment rate and the reliance on foreign imports due to the lack of investment in domestic productive activities in Somaliland. Industry partners focused on how their companies (Telesom, Dahabshiil) contribute to job creation directly and through numerous subsidiary businesses across sectors (e.g., construction, gas, ride-sharing, finance) which also employ thousands, particularly those in marginalized communities. Tapping into the potential of the growing local population and the expansive Somaliland diaspora, which both fuel economic activity in the country, are two key areas for advancing the economy.
The Somaliland-American Conference was a tremendous success. SLPA and the Somaliland Mission to the United States welcomed and hosted the Somaliland delegation, brought together 300+ attendees from the United States and Canada, and engaged Somaliland’s leaders and diverse members of the diaspora in discussions on topics that are key to the country’s development.
Document Written By: Deqa Mohamed
Edited By: Hodan Gudal
On behalf of the SLPA Conference Planning and Logistics Committees, consisting of members:
Chair of Planning and Programming Committee
Chair of Logistics and Operations Committee
SLPa is a 501(c)(3) organization. Donations are deductible to the full extent allowable under IRS regulations.
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