Charting familiar waters 20 years on

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By Judy Ogutu

Three years ago, 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 has worked at Oxfam, Danish Refugee Council, Concern Worldwide and International Rescue Committee. During his job postings in the development agencies he held high profile portfolios through which he provided leadership, effected change management, fundraised and also provided guidance on humanitarian affairs. Noor holds a Master of Arts Degree in Human Rights from Makerere University. “I have two backgrounds, since 1992 to 2012, I did development work, charity, supporting local communities in Uganda, Sudan and Somalia,” he revealed during an interview with Somali Investor.

Noor, currently the Chief Executive Officer of Hanvard has interests in the public and private sector. Hanvard is an organization whose major focus is providing solutions, capacities and promoting economic growth and access to wealth creation for people “in this part of Africa.”

The organization and its subsidiaries which are based in the 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, they work with different clients and partners ranging 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 Machakos County to Hargesia municipality.” While recalling his journey towards  becoming a development consultant expert, he was driven by the huge gap currently experienced in the continent. ” The aspect of business is 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 Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) which adds value to the private sector. He points out that the private sector is massive as it needs a lot of development.

In 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 the 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 economic growth, explaining that it is a gateway to integration, prosperity  and for more sustainability and unity in Africa. Looking at the organization’s contribution in Somali is Soltic Africa which was able to reduce fuel wastage in Somalia as they were able to save more than 50 percent of the running costs, in the process allowing them to acquire more equipment with much more confidence.

While referring to the Somali promotion, Noor recalls how they inspired plenty entrepreneurial and investment spirit. The impact realized ranges from local banks being opened, goods being exported and local exporting companies getting their international investors and partners. Since the organization supports capacity building, it has employed lawyers and economists to offer this important service. ” We have created a platform for diasporas to return, but also those work with us in providing some of those capacities, ” he further states.

During the interview, 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 he 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.” Somalia as a country has realized overall progress which provides an opportunity to provide the solutions.

Asked what these opportunities are, Noor explained that they could be in form of social safety nets, social investments funds, social security funds and 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, he observes, is divided in many ways as there are different administrations and different licensing levies charged. ” We 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. We 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, currently 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, skyrocketing cost of energy and skills gap.

However in my own opinion, Somali peninsula has a regional advantage because those solutions can be provided at regional level.”  The country does not also have a payment switch, electronic remittance settlements and also electronic cheque clearance system.” In addition, the country faces specific challenges on service delivery sectors such as financial solutions and direct foreign investment because the investment climate is still undergoing recovery.

Noor is of the opinion that some of these challenges can be tackled 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.