Why hold Social Good Summit Mogadishu?
A fragile peace has emerged in Somalia. As recently as a year ago, insurgents still controlled the capital. But already, new technology is helping open Mogadishu up to the outside world and helping its citizens to expand and grow their businesses in ways never before possible.
Earlier this month, the first presidential elections of the newly formed Somali Federal Government were live streamed to the world, bringing together Somalis both inside the country and in the diaspora to be a part of this momentous event. The live stream was watched by over 300,000 people, and a lively global conversation took place among these viewers over Twitter as votes were counted one by one.
Social media is also rapidly becoming a popular means of communicating and sharing information among Somali youth. According to recent statistics, every single internet user in Somalia has a Facebook account. More than 75 percent of those are under the age of 34. An increasing number of journalists are tweeting and blogging their news, reaching a potential audience of millions and encouraging the world to take notice of the breaking news and emerging trends emanating from a country that for so many decades has only been known for its conflict.
These days, there is a pervading sense of optimism in Mogadishu. Its residents want peace and stability, and they want to be the ones to shape it. From restaurateurs switching over to point-of-sale systems, to entrepreneurs learning online bookkeeping skills and educators teaching using online courses, the rate at which Somalis are using technology to run their organizations more efficiently is gathering momentum.
The finance sector is where some of the greatest innovations are taking place. Money transfer companies are helping remote communities to set up virtual community savings groups that provide individuals and families with small loans when needed. Similarly, mobile phone companies are enabling people – from taxi drivers to market sellers – to transact without having to carry cash. The first commercial banks are opening, transforming the way that people save and spend their money.
The Somali diaspora has a large role to play in this revitalization. Many left Mogadishu as small children in the 1990s and were raised in countries where Internet and new technology shaped their own education. Peace has increasingly opened up Mogadishu, which has been the inspiration for many in the diaspora to return. They bring this knowledge of new technology back with them, and are sharing it with those who didn’t leave and never had access to such education due to the lack of functioning government.
The Somali spirit is tenacious. This drive, coupled with increasing presence and penetration of new technology, is helping innovators and entrepreneurs young and old to transform Mogadishu into a city that is part of today’s connected generation.