By Judy Ogutu
ThreeÂ years ago,Â Mr Hassan Noor hanged his boots from a sector where he had given 20 years of his life. To an outsider, this may appear to have been a closed chapter, but to the technocrat, it opened a whole new territory. Noor has worked in the development world offering solutions to challenges facing the poor and underprivileged.
He understands development matters like the back of his hand. He hasÂ worked at Oxfam, Danish Refugee Council, Concern Worldwide and International Rescue Committee. DuringÂ his jobÂ postings in the development agencies he held high profile portfolios through which heÂ providedÂ leadership, effectedÂ change management, fundraisedÂ and also providedÂ guidance on humanitarian affairs. Noor holds a Master of Arts Degree in Human Rights from Makerere University.Â “I have two backgrounds, since 1992 to 2012, I did development work, charity,Â supporting local communities in Uganda, Sudan and Somalia,” he revealedÂ during an interview with Somali Investor.
Noor, currently theÂ Chief Executive Officer of HanvardÂ has interests in the public and private sector. Hanvard is an organization whoseÂ major focus is providing solutions, capacities and promoting economic growth and access to wealth creation for people “in thisÂ part of Africa.”
The organization and its subsidiariesÂ which are basedÂ in theÂ Eastern Africa region has interests in engineering, consulting business, financial services, asset management and investments. In a nutshell, Noor describes it thus: It’s a pioneering establishment keen on sustaining economic growth.”
Noor is driven by keen interest in the well being of people living within the society. He says as an organization,Â they work with different clients andÂ partners rangingÂ from international consulting firms to global organizations such as World Bank Group. Asked about the impact the organization has had for instance in Somalia he responds: ” We provide solutions and support to local municipalities.” Our subsidiary company, Soltic Africa operates from MachakosÂ County to Hargesia municipality.” While recalling his journey towards Â becomingÂ a developmentÂ consultant expert, he was driven by theÂ huge gap currently experienced in the continent. ” The aspect of business isÂ in the blood of Somali people, ” he says in jest.
When it comes to asset management, there is need to provide support in the transport sector in Eastern Africa, Djibouti and DarÂ Es Salaam (Tanzania)Â which adds value to the private sector. He points out that the private sector is massive as itÂ needs a lot of development.
InÂ the year 2013, Noor says they organized the first Somali reconstruction investment conference while in 2014 they organized the Somali producers conference. ” Those were some of the investment promotion activities that we held. I’m very keen on theÂ economic drive principally because I believe the economy brings people together despite differences in tribes or clans or regions or countries.”
Noor is out to seek economicÂ growth, explaining that itÂ is a gateway toÂ integration, prosperity Â andÂ for more sustainability and unity in Africa. Looking at the organization’sÂ contribution in Somali is Soltic Africa whichÂ was able to reduce fuel wastageÂ in Somalia as they were able to save more than 50 percent of the running costs, in the processÂ allowingÂ them to acquire more equipment with much more confidence.
While referring to the Somali promotion, NoorÂ recallsÂ how they inspired plenty entrepreneurial and investment spirit. The impact realizedÂ ranges from local banks being opened, goods beingÂ exported andÂ local exporting companies gettingÂ their international investors and partners. Since the organization supports capacity building, it has employed lawyers andÂ economists to offer this important service. ” We have created a platform for diasporas to return, but also thoseÂ work with us in providing some of those capacities, ” he further states.
During the interview,Â Noor revealed that as Hanvard they were working towards rolling out a unique social investment platform. When Somali Investor inquired the reason behind choosing the unique platform heÂ responded by saying:
“We realized that Hanvard has fantastic relationship among international and regional business establishment that can contribute towards creating wealth.
Hanvard has great trust and diversity across regions and States of Somalia.”Â Somalia as aÂ country has realizedÂ overall progress whichÂ provides an opportunity to provide the solutions.
Asked what these opportunities are,Â Noor explained thatÂ they could be in form of social safety nets, social investments funds, social security funds andÂ diaspora investment platforms. “Our future focus is to provide direct access for economic growth for the people and linking them with the Global Economic Infrastructure.”
All these developments and brilliant ideas are not without challenges. Somalia, heÂ observes, is divided in many ways as there are different administrationsÂ and different licensing levies charged. ” WeÂ have to do registration in every region as opposed to just doing one registration.
Another challenge investors in Somalia face is banking and international access to financial services.Â WeÂ are trying to support and work with local and regional office to come up with a solution ,” he said. He expressed hope that sometime in the year 2016, there will be one or two collaborations which will contribute towards opening up direct financial services with global connectivities. According to him, currentlyÂ in Somalia, Small and Medium Entreprises (SMEs) face a lot of challenge and in the process they fail. One of Hanvard’s largest segments of clients are SMEs. ” We provide solutions which means facing multiple challenges. Investors also grapple with limited access to credit facilities, skyrocketingÂ cost of energy and skills gap.
However in my own opinion, Somali peninsula has a regional advantage because those solutions can be providedÂ at regional level.” Â The country does not also have a payment switch, electronic remittance settlements and also electronic cheque clearance system.” In addition, theÂ country faces specific challenges on service delivery sectors such as financial solutions andÂ direct foreign investment because the investment climate is still undergoingÂ recovery.
Noor is of the opinion thatÂ some of these challenges can be tackledÂ by engaging countries which neighbour Somalia. Within East Africa for instance, there is already an existing large skills base that can plug into the skills gap.