A team led by WorldRemit founder Ismail Ahmed has launched Sahamiye Foundation, a philanthropic organisation focused on using technology and innovation to tackle Somaliland’s most pressing development challenges. Over the next 10 years, Ismail Ahmed’s ambition is to be able to commit $500 million (Ksh50 billion) of his own wealth and investments to Somaliland-focused development programmes.
The Foundation, based in London and Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital, will initially focus on education, healthcare and infrastructure projects across Somaliland. It seeks to help over one million adults and young people acquire literacy skills in the Somali language and double Somaliland’s literacy rate from 45% to 90% by 2023.
The Foundation will support more than 100,000 people to develop technical and vocational skills for employment and entrepreneurship; invest in start-up accelerators and increase levels of health and financial literacy across the country’s population. The Foundation has already unveiled a series of major education programmes:
- Daariz, a free, fun and easy-to-use app that helps people with low literacy skills to learn the Somali language;
- Books for Change, which provides one million low-priced books every year
- Resources for Schools, a suite of digital and print educational resources designed for schools and colleges.
To support Somaliland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to date, Ismail Ahmed and Sahamiye Foundation have donated $1 million worth of PPE and COVID-19 laboratory testing equipment and kit to strengthen the country’s capacity and support healthcare workers across the country.
Situated on the Horn of Africa, Somaliland is home to around 4.5 million people. In the absence of formal recognition, Somaliland has adopted an innovative approach to building its own institutions that are optimised for the specific challenges that the country faces. However, in choosing to move away from traditional solutions offered by the aid sector, Somaliland has received very little development assistance.
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Innovative development finance solutions are required to overcome the barriers that Somaliland faces, going beyond the traditional models of donor funding and towards a more entrepreneurial, scale-up approach that focuses on building capacity, capabilities and skills that will generate solutions to the country’s challenges from within.
Sahamiye Foundation will adopt a start-up philosophy and mindset to invest in programmes that will help to overcome barriers to Somaliland’s growth and development, and to build ‘homegrown’ products and platforms.
Somaliland’s mobile technology infrastructure is considered one of the best in Africa.
Ismail Ahmed, founder of Sahamiye Foundation, said Somaliland has built itself from the ground up, embracing technology and entrepreneurship. “However, Somaliland still faces development challenges that require significant investment to lay the foundations for economic growth, good health and prosperity,” Ahmed said.
Mr Ahmed said there are clear opportunities to make a significant and meaningful impact on the lives of Somaliland’s hopeful, ambitious and entrepreneurial people. “Over the next ten years, my ambition is to commit $500 million of my own wealth and investments to Somaliland-focused development programmes. As we have seen from recent inward investment to Somaliland, the potential multiplier effect is even more compelling.”
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Somaliland’s mobile technology infrastructure is considered one of the best in Africa, making Somaliland closer to a cashless economy than anywhere else in the world. The phenomenal success of mobile money helped accelerate the growth of international remittances, which increased 15% in 2020 to $1.3 billion, according to the central bank of Somaliland.
“When we launched WorldRemit in 2010, Somaliland was our first market. Since then, the market has flourished,” he said. “Interest from international inward investors in Somaliland is increasing and we believe that there is now a real opportunity to help foster the potential for significant economic growth, in a way that benefits communities across the country.”