Mogadishu, 21 November 2019 – The Mogadishu Tech Summit closed in the Somali capital today amidst words of praise and encouragement from the government and the United Nations, and pledges worth millions of dollars in support of technological advancement in Somalia.
“Somalia has, as you all know, economic, security and environmental challenges. Utilizing the strength of our youth towards the discovery of innovative solutions in science and technology is our best chance to overcome those challenges,” Somalia’s Minister of Planning, Investment and Economic Development, Jamal Hassan, said today in his remarks to the gathering.
The Minister urged more support for technological advancement and innovation. It was a view shared by other speakers, which included the European Union Ambassador to Somalia, Nicolas Berlanga Martines; the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) Resident Coordinator for Somalia, Jocelyn Mason; the Swedish Ambassador to Somalia, Staffan Tillander; and the US Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Brian Neubert.
A participant takes a selfie with her friends at the Mogadishu Tech Summit in Somalia on 21 November 2019. UN Photo / Ilyas Ahmed More than 5000 people attended this year’s Mogadishu Technology Summit. The three-day annual event was the second of its kind and once again brought together Somalis involved in the tech industry and representatives from the government, UN agencies, international partners, investors and financial institutions – some of which pledged millions of dollars in support.
This year, Salaam Bank pledged $5 million for the next three years to be made available to innovators and entrepreneurs, with access to the funds provided through iRise, Somalia’s first-ever technology innovation hub which promotes collaboration between innovators and investors, while also offering resources needed by budding entrepreneurs and startups, such as business training, mentorship, project evaluation and support during the incubation stages of their projects. Last year, Premier Bank injected $1 million into the tech summit, with close to a quarter of that amount already disbursed to emerging innovators and entrepreneurs.
“The main reason why we organized Mogadishu Tech Summit is to bring together innovators, entrepreneurs, social activists and youth around Somalia and also from the diaspora so that they can share their experiences and share how they can actually solve the problems that Somalia is facing through entrepreneurship and social innovations,” said Awil Osman, the Chief Executive Officer of iRise, which organizes the Mogadishu Tech Summit.
Link to SDGs
In his remarks to the event, UNDP’s Mr. Mason referred to its links to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet and are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“The summit is an excellent opportunity for Somalia, Somalia’s people and especially young people to discuss the future of their country and explore new ways to overcome issues like climate change, water scarcity and ultimately achieve the Sustainable Developments Goals through innovation and technology,” he said.
Avis Mulhall, from UNDP’s Somalia Accelerator Lab – one of 60 serving 78 countries by working with national and global partners to find new approaches that fit the complexity of current development challenges – said that Somalia has a bright future thanks to the passions of its innovators.
“There is an entire ecosystem within the NGO space, within the private sector, within the finance sector that wants to see a thriving tech community here in Somalia and particularly Mogadishu. So we are really excited that UNDP is here supporting youth and driving this agenda of technology and innovation forward,” Ms. Mulhall said.
Participants attending the event included tech innovators, developers, government officials, entrepreneurs working in technology, and officials from donor and development agencies. UN Photo / Ilyas Ahmed Innovations presented
Some 40 young innovators exhibited their various technological inventions. A highlight among them was a blood bank mobile App called Hibeeye, which means ‘donor’ in the Somali language.
Abdullahi Alas and his friends were inspired to develop the app after the lethal bomb attack in Mogadishu on 14 October 2017, which killed at least 587 people and ranks as the deadliest ever terrorist bombing in Africa involving the use of improvised explosive devices. Hundreds more were injured in the blast.
“It was clear then that people did not have access to safe blood transfusion, or a blood bank. So we came up with this idea to create something that connects people who want to donate blood to people who are actually in need,” Mr. Alas explained, adding that the app is already in use in Mogadishu.
However, an all-girl team that manufactures beauty products emerged as the winners for the award of the gathering’s best innovation. Their start-up, Sadra Beauty Company, uses locally available raw materials to manufacture lotion, hair and body oil, as well as lip balm.
“We manufacture various lotions. We have one made from a mixture of avocado and cactus and one made from carrots. We also produce lip balm from natural products, which can be used by both men and women,” said the company’s co-founder, Ifra Isse Mohamed.