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BEAUTY IN THE MIDDLE OF MOGADISHU

Deeqa Luul opened cosmetics shops and a salon in Mogadishu, and her efforts are bearing fruit

Deeqa Luul is beautiful, brave and cautious. At the first mention of an interview, she cocks her head and asks every possible question about why her, why now, why this magazine and a host of other whys. Satisfied with the responses, she leans back on her black leather seat and says, “You’ll have to come back tomorrow. This is an ambush.” Luul speaks softly but very firmly. It is clear that she measures and means every word that comes out of her mouth.

Having lived and done business in London, she using her experience there to set the trends in the beauty industry in Somalia, bringing quality service and sophistication to a market that is just finding its footing. Luul, however, doesn’t sound like a Londoner, although she lived there, studied there, set up her first beauty shop there and still calls the place home. She sounds every bit a Somali woman.

“The first business venture I opened in Mogadishu was a cosmetics shop; Asli Pure Care. The door to my premises opened in 2013.” Luul does not light up like many people do when they talk about their first business venture. Asli Pure Care Somalia was opened two years after Asli Pure Care London opened shop. It may have not have been her first, but she definitely remembers what she found when she came to Mogadishu. “I had US$18,000 for my capital investment. This industry was opening up so I joined the few beauticians that had already set up. I got a place, and set up shop,” she recalls.

Running the business was not a big deal, even though she had to do a lot of running between London, Mogadishu and Nairobi, where she also has a shop. Come 2015, she decided to add a salon and two shops in Mogadishu. The beauty salon that runs under the same brand name came with its own challenges.

“I had to import every equipment and machine that I use in my salon. When the salon was ready, I realized that I had a much bigger problem. There were no local skilled female workers whom I could hire. So I had to assemble a team of women, train them on everything from how to do proper facials to how to handle the machines, and offer them certificates. Some of these ladies now work for me while others went to work in some other salons within Mogadishu.” Luul is aware of the existence of competition, but she has tapped on the power of advertising to market her company.

“I’ am sure that 90 per cent of women in Mogadishu know about Asli Pure Care given our advertisement on TV,” she says confidently. She, however, believes that her business stands apart from the others. “I have the latest machines. That is one thing I can count on to set me apart from the rest. And every one of the machines is imported and top quality. The way I go about my businesses is at the most professional level,” says the beautician whose under-graduate degree was in Public Health from the West London University. She later studied beauty.

Her salon has all the marks of a well run business. The said equipment for hair dressing and the massage beds are all in pristine condition. Most of her clients are young or middle aged women.

About being a female entrepreneur in Somalia, she says it comes with challenges, although not gender specific.

“I had to import my equipment. If a man was doing the same business, he would have done that too. And the public respects our work, so I really see no hindrances to doing business as a woman in Somalia today. Forget the cultural roles talk for a while. I’m married and my husband supports me fully. And if I’m not wrong, nearly 60 per cent of women who live in Mogadishu are entrepreneurs or they are working in some form of business.” Her worry at the moment is about how to keep growing her business in Somalia and meet the needs of her clients.

At 34 years and with branches in Nairobi, London, Hargeisa in Somalia, Jigjiga in Ethiopia and one more in Djibouti, she must be doing something right. Her supreme business philosophy is taking “calculated risks”. The destruction of the health sector, lack of water and poor nutrition has made Somalia one of the countries with the highest child mortality rates in the world.

Reports by the UN indicate that one out of 10 children die before seeing their first birthday, and one in 12 mothers die out of pregnancy complications. The construction of the hospital is therefore an important step in addressing, health care, one of the most critical needs in the country. “Children were dying from easily preventable diseases and infections. Diarrhoea and simple neonatal disorders led to the deaths of many children here and we thought maybe we should do something about that,” says Citil.

The hospital, whose construction started in 2012, will be ready in the next three months or so. Its construction should have ended a while back, were it not for political instability. When fully operational, the hospital will employ both local and international doctors. It will have a medical laboratory, a surgical theatre, a delivery room and an incubation unit. Apart from subsidised drugs, the hospital will offer mobile health clinics that will move around Somalia to provide free medical consultation. There will also be eye surgery collaborations between the hospital and National Eye Centre, where specialists will be flown in from Turkey to treat eye problems.

The dire health situation in Somalia suggests that the country needs more such facilities. Citil concurs, but maintains that starting with Mogadishu is important due to the high population.

“All efforts are puling towards offering international standards of full medical care to the mothers and children in this country, starting with those in Mogadishu. If need be, we will move to other areas in the health sector that require our assistance. For now, it is mothers and children that are on our minds,” he explains. So will it be free? Not really. Citil observes that although the hospital is a donation from the Turkish people to the people of Somalia, they will have to charge a subsidised fee for both drugs and doctors’ consultation. The money raised will be used to run the hospital.

Unicef Somalia reports that “while comprehensive information is not available, it is believed that the leading causes of infant and child mortality are illnesses such as pneumonia (24 per cent), diarrhoea (19 per cent), and measles (12 per cent) and neonatal disorders (17 per cent).”

The health care scheme of the country has weakened over time due to political and economic changes. As the government’s institutional capacity strengthens and security improves, many private investors are now shifting their focus to quality and specialised care.

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