Fursad Fund and the revival of Somali sufficiency

Screengrab from Fursad Fund page.

Screengrab from Fursad Fund page.

Since fleeing the civil war in Somalia as a child in the early 1990s, I have lived most of my life in Europe. I heard about Somalia only through the prism of western media, which portrayed the country in a very negative light. The media primarily focused on piracy operations in Puntland, the terrorism activities in south central Somalia, and insinuated that the country was economically stagnant save for the remittance sent by the Somali diaspora.

I therefore had very low expectations when I visited Somalia. I had expected the worst. My outlook, however, changed before even alighting from the plane. I got a glimpse of the beautiful scenery that the country offered and the surprisingly improved infrastructure. On the road from the airport to the place where I stayed, I saw a different side of Somalia, one that is not shared widely. Even though the signs of war are still visible, people moved about their daily lives normally — living, working, building a new vision out of the rubbles. Many Somalis from the Somali diaspora have also been coming back home, helping rebuild the country and creating jobs.

One initiative that exemplified this progress is the Fursad Fund. The fund calls itself Somalia’s first independent trust fund. It is solely funded and managed by Somalis for Somalis. Their idea is to collect donations from 5,000 Somalis paying one dollar a day. The aim of this project is to create job opportunities, support entrepreneurial start-ups, and provide education and infrastructure for the disadvantaged communities in Somalia.

This idea intrigued me, and I decided to pay a visit to the Fursad Fund offices in Mogadishu. According to the team, they have “raised almost $40,000” from Somalis, with at least 80 percent of the donations coming from inside Somalia. This dispelled the notion that Somalis are always on the receiving end of donations. They proved that they could be deeq bixiyaal, donors, who have the will to build roads, schools and hospitals. This is not to mention that the campaign was initially limited to Mogadishu and the Benadir region.

“The thing with our people is, when we achieve a little bit of peace, we create wonders,”Deeq Mohamed, Fursad Fund executive director, told me. “We have seen an example of this in Hargeisa, where this wave started from and moved on to Garowe and now [is found] all over south central Somalia.”

Fund Fund is currently managed by a board directors that consists of ten people. The group comes together from diverse backgrounds, and are selected based on public recognition and merit. Fursad Fund has yet to implement any projects, but has announced key priority areas for money allocation. Forty percent of the funds will be spent on creating employment for women, forty percent in youth projects, and twenty percent for people with disabilities. Within a five-year period, Fursad Fund aims to create over 50,000 job opportunities for these groups.

Fursad Fund’s initiative also highlighted a level of self-sufficiency known in Somali as iskaa wax u qabso, meaning helping oneself, or taking the initiative to rebuild one’s nation or country by oneself. This was buttressed with Somalis on social media, who closely followed and contributed to the campaign, and urged those in leadership roles not to misuse public funds.

Yet, despite this historic progress, the issue of insecurity across the country hinders the benefits of public efforts like Fursad Fund. Even when new jobs are created, there’s the danger that some of the beneficiaries wouldn’t be able to take full advantage of these options. This is where the Somali government needs to step in so as to support the progress and development of such critical programs.

Young people in Somalia are coming up with creative ideas and new ways of tackling some of the problems facing the country. Somalis are taking the initiative to do something for themselves, instead of waiting for the world. This demonstrates that many people are committed to ensure a better prospect, a better tomorrow. The return of those in the diaspora in masses underscores this commitment. There’s a dire need to build educational, health, political and economic institutions that will contribute to the economic growth of the country and the well-being of the Somali people.

One of the things that convinced me to stay in Mogadishu longer than I planned was the desire showcased by enthusiastic young people here. To rebuild a city and a country still fragile from years of conflict will not happen overnight. However long it might take, I want to be part of this wave, and to take part in the rebuilding of my country. Projects like Fursad Fund contribute to making that dream a reality.

Growing up I always assumed I would return to Somalia to make a difference and to reconnect with my roots. I think the time to fulfil that duty has come.

Miski Kulan holds an master’s degree in Social Worker and Human Rights from Gothenburg University. Miski lives in Manchester and is currently based in Mogadishu.

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