Daunting Somali youth unemployment needs urgent solution

“Please hire Me” read a billboard Abukar Ahmed Hussein posted in the city after desperate search for a job for two years. Photo: Abdirahman A. Issa

By Abdirahman A. Issa

Somali youth face immense challenges getting employment even as thousands are offloaded into the job market every year from universities and other institutions of higher learning across the country.

According to a UN report, 70% of the population in Somalia is under 30 years old and the youth unemployment rate is approximately 67%, which is the highest in the world. Every year, thousands of youth graduate from local universities without any foreseeable future for securing employment. Job prospects are dim and depressing.

Radical departure

In the past few weeks, a phenomenon of a Somali young man, who posted his picture and contact information on a billboard in Mogadishu went viral on social media. Abukar Ahmed Hussein graduated two years ago from a local university in Mogadishu with a degree in information technology. Hussein has applied for numerous jobs for the past two years but to no avail.

His billboard posting was a radical departure from how people normally look for work. Perhaps, it was a desperate attempt to be noticed from a crowded field of job seekers in a market stingy with employment opportunities. Whatever his motivation was or the odd technique he employed, it paid off. Hussein got job offers from several companies. What once was a stale, bleak job market suddenly opened up for him, became promising and real. He finally settled for one: Astan TV.

What saved the day for this young job seeker was a combination of several factors. First, he broke the traditional method of job application. Second, he was not afraid to try a new approach for applying for a job. Third, his message on social media propelled him to an unexpecting level—the attention of companies who otherwise would never have noticed him. Unfortunately, Hussein’s story, while unique, is not the norm for many Somali youth.

Employability skills

Lack of employment opportunities has forced thousands of youth to immigrate to Europe, risking their lives and leading some to perish in the high seas. The youth face an array of barriers—lack of quality education, work experience, relevant work-related skills, employability skills, and merit-based recruitment process.

Somali universities do not prepare students for the job market. These institutions have no academic and career development centers and hence produce graduates who cannot write a simple resume and a cover letter. The federal government promised to create two thousand jobs for the youth, but it turned out to be nothing but an empty promise. Nepotism is still rampant in the government and the only way one can secure employment is through connection to elders, businessman and politicians. There is no merit-based system in the government that guarantees a fair employment opportunity for all and eliminates the middle person.

Youth Employment Strategy

The government should come up with a national Youth Employment Strategy that aims at creating decent jobs for young people to reach their full potential. The strategy should include skills development initiatives, placement mechanisms and youth entrepreneurship development. The private and public sector should create an internships program that provides training, mentoring, and coaching to recent graduates to get hands-on experience and facilitate their entry into meaningful employment.

In a nutshell, Somali youth are valuable resource and both public and private sectors have responsibility to provide jobs to ensure the Somali youth are able to contribute to the development of their country. The exodus of youth to neighboring countries and Europe will continue until employment opportunities are created.

An unemployed youth is not only a burden to the society, but he/she is vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups in a country like Somalia, which is still recovering from the aftermath of civil war.  Moreover, the young people are the cornerstone in the development and the well-being of the country and therefore their employment issue must be tackled urgently.

The author can be reached via cadced99@gmail.coom or  @AbdirihmanIssa

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