High time Somalia’s diplomats donned the sales hut

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By: Liban Obsiye

Senior Adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Investment Promotion

Somalia is turning the corner, and as it does, the Federal Government has set its sights on making the country an investment destination for the world’s businesses and entrepreneurs.

The leadership of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) is working hard to communicate that to the world.

While aid has taken Somalia this far, it cannot complete the greater task of creating the wealth and opportunities that the nation needs to realise its full potential, given its vast resources, both in land and at sea.

Somalia has great untapped assets that many local and foreign investors are interested in. As the country stabilises, there will be lucrative opportunities to provide services and goods, not only to its people, but also to the region.

Somalia has the longest coast in Africa, one of the leading livestock industries in the world, expansive arable lands and a young and increasingly educated population among other positive attributes. It is no wonder investors are actively seeking further knowledge and advice about investing in Somalia.

Today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Investment Promotion and its Diplomats stationed across the globe alongside Commercial Attaches from the Ministry of Commerce are tasked with selling to the world, the new story of Somalia’s investment vision and aspirations.

For too long, especially during the near 25-year period of conflicts, Somali Diplomats focused on asking for aid and assistance. Today, they have the opportunity to present win-win economic opportunities for their hosting nations and interested international investors.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Investment Promotion, in partnership with other relevant Ministries, has put together a national investment document and another highlighting Investment Priority Projects to showcase what Somalia offers to the world. Furthermore, for the first time, the latter document aims to match investment projects directly with investors, which is a sign of increasing confidence, commitment and capacity on the part of the FGS.

However, the documents mentioned do not sell themselves. Ideas and innovations need excellent salespersons to make them attractive.

Somalia’s strategic location and its young population, are the magnet that will attract investors

Somali Diplomats understand the importance of the investment-led development of their country. They are proud of their nation’s current progress. Those I have spoken to express faith that the country’s abundant natural resources, its strategic location and its young population, are the magnet that will attract investors.

Diplomacy is a patient art of pleasantries and interests. These skills must be combined with business acumen and good salesmanship to bring investors to Somalia’s shores.

The job of marketing the country is made easier for the Somali Diplomats and Commercial Attaches in Embassies by the flexibility of the FGS and the wide range of incentives it is willing to offer to investors under the recently (2015) passed Investment law by parliament.

To fully promote investing in Somalia, Diplomats must travel the length of the countries they are stationed in, seeking to educate investors about opportunities and connecting them to the relevant Government departments for further assistance.

The FGS itself must host investment workshops, seminars and conferences across the world to educate and secure investors for immediate opportunities, which in some cases only require minimal initial capital investment.

Marketing and branding Somalia as a beautiful and resource-rich nation as it is, is still difficult at times given the remaining security risks. However, the FGS Diplomats across the world need to work together on all fronts to make investment in the country a reality. This is the only viable way Somalia and its people will realise the potential of their land and nation to empower themselves while offering great opportunities for profit and progress to investors too.