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Five Somali startups to watch out for in 2020

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Somalia is defined by a complex mix of challenges and opportunities and was once described as the world’s most dangerous country.

Despite political instability and economic struggles, people in Somalia are using technology to solve their problems.

Each year, the Somali youth create new startups determined to resolve local problems.

The Frontier highlights five startups to watch out for in 2020 and beyond.

Gulivery

Gulivery- a door-to-door delivery service. Its founder, Deeq Mohamed, says he got the idea after moving with his wife from London to the northwestern city of Hargeisa and noticed that many of the things they bought for their home couldn’t be delivered.

While hanging out with friends, he also noticed their families would ask them to buy foodstuff they would otherwise have ordered themselves.

Gulivery provides third party delivery services for restaurants, groceries, shops & e-commerce platforms. The service enables individuals and small businesses to trade and connect with the drivers to request on-demand or scheduled delivery.

The startup was first launched in Hargeisa, the capital of breakaway Somaliland, before it expanded to Mogadishu in February 2018. Its founders are Deeq Hassan and his wife Sado Baroot, who started the delivery service after returning to the country from London. There were no delivery companies or e-commerce in Somalia but Deeq and his wife took advantage of the gap in the market and came up with the idea of developing a delivery app.

Most Somalis depend on traditional taxis, donkey-carts or Indian-styled three-wheeler rickshaws, mostly used in Mogadishu, to deliver commodities from markets to their homes. The hiring of taxis is an expensive affair and sometimes, you do not get exactly what you ordered.

Go!

The Go! app promises affordable and convenient options in the city’s bustling transport sector.

The e-hailing service is starting out with 20 motorcycles, allowing customers to order their rides online or hail them on the street after identifying the drivers with their yellow helmet and bikes.

The platform was launched by Gulivery, a delivery startup that provides third-party door-to-door services.

The motor-taxi service makes the company the first in Somalia to venture into and digitise the motorcycle business.

While Uber-style taxi apps have existed before, those firms only used cars.

The increase in digital transportation options comes as life in Mogadishu regains a semblance of normalcy after decades of war. That has led to increased traffic in the city. The city also has a fragmented transportation system, with three-wheeled motorized tuk-tuk and hundreds of dilapidated buses servicing a fast-growing population that currently stands at almost three million people.

Getting around African cities like Mogadishu can be demanding given the poor infrastructure, insufficient street addresses, the absence of reliable public transportation, and increasing urbanization that is fueling congestion. As such, motorcycle taxis have grown over the last few years.

Saami Online

Saamionline is a Somali e-commerce company established in August 2014 in Hargiesa, it is one-stop shop that provides consumer-to-consumer, business-to-consumer and business-to-business.

Saami Online, a one-stop shop that sells and delivers everything from books and cosmetics to clothing and home appliances.

Since the founder didn’t have the funds to buy the goods at first, he had to show product owners that he could take their wares and deliver them to customers away from major cities.

Clients were mostly inquiring about electronics and phones, so Saami started serving underserved cities in Somalia including Kismayo and Adado, and then went as far eastern Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Samawat Energy

Samawat Energy is a female-founded renewable energy company that provides affordable, off-grid, solar home solutions to residents in Somalia through the use of a micro-leasing, rent-to-own system.

The discourse around gender and energy often focuses on women as under-served end-users. Samawat Energy sees women as vital actors within the energy sector at large.

The company does not only focus on electrifying communities, but empowering women within those communities to be more efficient in their household duties, make further gains in education, enter the workforce, and start businesses.

Not only will this provide opportunities for those often disenfranchised, but it will also help accelerate economic growth in Somalia.

Zapi

Zapi is an online payment system built on top of Telesom’s Zaad mobile payment service that will allow businesses to setup their websites to process payments. Zapi’s instant payments verification solution hopes to fill the missing link necessary to make running an e-commerce business in Somaliland as simple as it would be anywhere else in the world.

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People and Organisations

Meet the young CEO who is revolutionising Kenya’s private security industry

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Is your career path pegged on your childhood experiences? Does this sound silly? Wait, don’t make your conclusion yet until we get to hear from Siyad Abdigedi, the founder and CEO of Guardeum Security Services Company.

Sometimes our childhood experiences and the exposure life take us through as a child has a great impact in our career choice.

The above statement has never gotten a better meaning without hearing from the 32-year old CEO. In an interview with Siyad Abdigedi, he gives us a glimpse of how his life experiences has greatly influenced him to join the military and later the private security sector.

In a visit to his vast office located at view park towers, the young CEO narrates how his life growing up in a volatile border town in northeast Kenya has shaped his career path.

I was born and raised in Mandera. Mandera is a beautiful town situated at the Horn of Kenya, bordering both Ethiopia and Somalia,” Siyad told The Frontier.

As a child, life in Mandera was not all roses; the Shifta movement in the 90’s, the influx of illegal immigrants and guns were just but a few reasons that made life hard,” he says.

The situation was very harsh and volatile, all that the residents were yearning for was security and protection, he adds.

As a child, Siyad could still graphically remember how his younger siblings and him would all cling onto their mother’s legs as loud bangs of explosions rented the air. Some nights they would spend under the beds to avoid stray bullets.

In Buula Hawa, the neighboring town in Somalia, each year started with a war and ended with a war, and due to its proximity, Mandera has always suffered collateral damages.

All siyad wanted was to be in a position that allowed him to provide protection to his family and people, and this saw him join the military years later.

Siyad, an alumnus of Makindu High School, joined the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) in 2007, and in just 10 years of service, he rose to the rank of sergeant. He also served in several UN peace keeping missions. After 13 years in the military, Siyad decided to call it quits.

“It was an interesting career…I really enjoyed being in the Kenya Air Force, it was 13 years behind the gun and now it is time to pursue my ambition,” he said.

“After all change is as good as rest.”

Siyad Abdigedi in his office at View Park Towers

Siyad always wanted to join the corporate world. In 2018, he registered Guardeum security Limited which has since joined Kenya private security industry association.

Just two years in the market, Guardeum is already doing business with some of the leading companies in the country.

Despite being from a humble background, Siyad somehow managed to beat the odds. He has a degree in criminology and Security Studies from Egerton university and MBA in Strategic Management from Mount Kenya University.

“Most of my school fees were paid for by my wife Sophia by the way,” he says, a broad smile on his face.

“I owe her a lot.”

Siyad is a firm believer that work experience matters. He has spent more time in the security sector and have been through battle fields. He believes security background gives credibility to the work he does now.

“I am making sure the 13 years’ experience in the military won’t go down the drain,” he vowed.

Guardeum Security Services has a vision to provide security solutions, protection and investigations in Kenya and abroad while promoting a business culture founded on dedication, development, effectiveness, innovation, respect, team work and trust.

His extensive operational and command experience in areas such as counter terrorism, VIP protection and training elite units makes Guardeum a uniquely experienced company.

“Driven by passion, I grew up knowing I needed to give protection and I would do what it takes to do that,” he says, again with a smile.

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People and Organisations

Meet the little-known Somali who ‘secretly’ funded the Mau Mau that fought for Kenya’s independence

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Mau Mau, a major nationalist revolutionary movement that originally sought to reclaim land that the British settlers had taken away from them in the 1950s. The group would eventually contribute to Kenya’s independence. Pic credit: Daily Nation
   

Mohamed Hassan has been described as one of the freedom fighters of Kenya who funded the nationalist movement Kenya African Union (KAU) and the Mau Mau, a major nationalist revolutionary movement that originally sought to reclaim land that the British settlers had taken away from them in the 1950s. The group would eventually contribute to Kenya’s independence.

Despite his enormous contributions, when discussing the history of Kenya’s struggle for independence, Hassan is usually ignored and this is mainly because he is Somali.

According to historians, Somalis in Kenya, who are over 3 million currently, were largely ‘ostracised’ after Kenya gained independence. This was caused by the Shifta War that followed a desire by the Somalis to join the larger Somalia.

the British government refused and the Kenyan government, since 1963, has held on to the borders. Somali nationalists seeking secession from Kenya eventually took arms against the Kenyan government, and even though the war was over by July 1967, it has influenced Kenya-Somalia relations till date.

That is perhaps why the story of Somali businessman and freedom fighter Hassan has been hardly discussed until recently when a full report on him by Kenyan media Daily Nation emerged.

According to the report, Hassan, who was in the famous 1946 picture of Jomo Kenyatta with top officials of the KAU, was a heavy financier of Kenyatta, and probably the only Somali detained during the Mau Mau war.

Mohammed Hassan is seated (far right) with other KAU leaders in this 1946 photo. Pic credit: Daily Nation

Largely targeted by the colonial government, he lost all his businesses and properties in the process of his fight towards an independent Kenya, but his story remained buried until now.

Born in 1922, Hassan was only 16 when he had to take over his father’s business after the latter’s death. Around this time, Hassan was the only Muslim student in Alliance High School, but his education was interrupted by the father’s death and the World War II.

A Swedish entrepreneur subsequently gave him land on which he built a shop in Juja, a town in Kiambu County. This shop would ultimately be the meeting point of Mau Mau guerrillas at the start of the crackdown.

Meanwhile, Hassan’s schoolmates in Alliance were made up of individuals who would become nationalist leaders and activists. Hassan would eventually find himself at the centre of the freedom struggle among his peers, the Daily Nation report said. His shop in Juja also thrived following the tens of settlers who had settled in the area, including the famous U.S. steel billionaire Sir William Northrup McMillan.

“Because of its location, especially in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the shopping complex offered restaurant and butchery services and had three entrances: one for the European settlers, one for Asians and Arabs, and another for Africans. It also had a petrol pump and records say it was one of the best-lit areas in Juja,” writes the Daily Nation.

Hassan’s shop was also frequented by Kenyatta and his supporters in the 1940s and 50s, while he was campaigning to strengthen KAU as a nationalist movement. According to the Daily Nation report, Kenyatta, who would become Kenya’s first president, had once visited the shop to get some money, and Hassan would eventually become one of Kenyatta’s financial supporters.

But when the State of Emergency was declared in Kenya in 1952 due to the Mau Mau rebellion against British colonial rule and incarceration of thousands of Kenyans, Hassan’s shop was ordered to be closed as he was seen to be supporting the Mau Mau secretly.

“All persons who are members of the Kikuyu, Embu or Meru tribe from being or remaining in … the block of stone shops known as Juja dukas on LR 255/1/2 on the main Nairobi-Thika Road,” read a colonial order issued against Hassan’s property in July 1954.

That same year, Hassan was arrested by the colonial government and charged, but later acquitted of possessing a firearm without a valid license. He would later make attempts to get back his shop that was forcibly taken away from loyalists and other traders during the crackdown on the Mau Mau in the 1950s.

Hassan’s several attempts to get back his shop and renew his license failed after he was described by as authorities as a “bloody Mau Mau.” The Somali businessman was compelled to close the shop and it was occupied by some Indian traders after independence.

In 2017, when Hassan’s daughter, Amina Mohammed was asked by the Daily Nation whether the family owned the shop, she replied: “We don’t know whether we still own it. But my mother (now deceased) used to tell me that the shop, as it is today, was the way it was left by my father.”

Today, Hassan’s shop, which is currently one of the remaining pillars of Kenya’s independence struggle, is rotting away.

Despite being a structure that contains the history of the freedom movement and inter-race relations in colonial Kenya, as well as, the story of the place of the Somali community in the freedom struggle, it has been ignored by authorities.

Hassan died in Nairobi in 1977 – dejected. Many Somalis in Kenya have also, till date, been treated with suspicion following their links to Islamist extremism, particularly the terror group al Shabaab based in Somalia.

 

This article first appeared on Face2FaceAfrica. 

 

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People and Organisations

Profile: Who is Hassan Ali Khaire?

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Somali parliament voted to remove Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre from office on July 25.

Lawmakers supported the ouster of Khayre to 170-8, according to Speaker Mohamed Mursal Abdirahman.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo is required to name a new premier in 30 days, but is expected to do so in days to move the country forward. Meanwhile, Mahdi Guled, the deputy premier, will act as a prime minister.

Khayre was appointed as prime minister on February 23, 2017 and approved by parliament on March 1, with 231 lawmakers endorsing his selection.

He was born in the central Somalia town of Jacar in Galgaduud province in 1968. He attended both primary and secondary schools in Mogadishu. At the onset of the civil war, Khaire moved as a refugee to Norway in 1991, where he enrolled at the University of Oslo in 1994. He is a dual citizen of Norway and Somalia.

He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Oslo in political science and an MBA from Edinburgh Business School.

In 2002, he joined the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and served in various senior roles including area manager, country director, and, eventually, Regional Director for the Horn of Africa.

In 2013, he joined Soma Oil & Gas as Executive Director for Africa, where he served until his appointment as premier.

In June 2012, when Khaire served as regional director for the NRC, an NRC caravan was attacked in northeastern Kenya, one of the drivers was killed and several others were wounded, and six workers   – a Norwegian, a Canadian, a Pakistani and a Filipino – were kidnapped.

Khaire has been under investigation for corruption when working for the British company Soma Oil, but the investigation was dropped because of lack of evidence.

On 23 February 2017, Khayre announced his resignation from Soma Oil & Gas.

Before becoming prime minister, Khaire never held a public office, although over the course of his career he has worked with a range of high-level executives and government officials in various capacities.

As prime minister, Khayre vowed to tackle corruption by prosecuting individuals involved, regardless of their position, however, no senior official was prosecuted for corruption.

During his tenure, Somalia achieved so much: debt relief, security sector reform, payment of civil servants and the military, among others.

Khayre is likely to run for president in the upcoming election.

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