Entrepreneur Spotlight: Abdirashid Duale
The emergence of a legitimate Government, coupled with an active private sector operating on the ground, is helping Somalia away from its war-tom image, to a country creating new economic and employment opportunities for the its people.
According to Abdirashid Duale, CEO of Dahabshiil, the largest international remittance business in the Horn of Africa, recognition and support from the international community is now imperative for consolidating stability in Somalia and helping its private sector succeed in the reconstruction and development of Somalia.
Duale has worked for Dahabshiil for 20 years since his school days, helping his father Mohamed develop a small family business from Somalia into a global firm that employs more than 2,000 people across 144 countries and one that launched the first ever debit card service in Somalia. He is an expert on Somali businesses and the remittance industry, and is a regular and competent keynote speaker at both international and regional conferences on issues such as remittance, emerging markets and development finance.
He recently spoke at the Political, Security and Reconstruction Conference for Somalia, co-hosted by the Turkish government and United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, in Istanbul, Turkey.
Over 95 per cent of the international organisations in Somalia, including the United Nations, World Health Organisation, World Bank, Oxfam and Save the Children, rely on Dahabshiil to provide payment services for their staff, contractors, government institutions and partner NGOs.
He has established a reputation as an expert in the remittance industry, and has vast experience in all areas of money transfer operations. His network includes associates in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and North America. Duale is trained in international trade and finance, invented and developed the Dahabcard loyalty scheme, and is involved in development schemes in Africa; to which Dahabshiil donate 5 per cent of profits every year.
Over a period of 20 years, Duale has founded new companies in Africa and the Middle East, and has gained a reputation as a regular keynote speaker at both international and regional conferences on issues such as remittance, emerging markets and development finance. TABJ spoke to Duale about the success and outcome of the conference.
TABJ: Hello Mr. Duale. Can you give us an idea how the conference went?
AD: The turn-out was excellent. There were representatives from 50 countries present as well as the World Bank, Africa Development Bank and international and Somali business community. We spoke in great detail about the Somalia political situation and reconstruction and redevelopment of the country; specifically, representatives of different regions were consulted as to how the private sector will help in terms of jobs, peace and topics related to those subjects. We were personally present for the third day of talks when the focus was when was on reconstruction development.
TABJ: What was some of the outcome? How can entrepreneurs help the development of the country?
AD: In certain regions were fighting is a sad reality, jobs and technical training would provide an alternate for people who feel they have no recourse. Reconstruction development is the key for change. All the international institutions I mentioned agree and are eager to work with companies like ours to create investment and jobs.
We will have a follow up meeting with the World Bank to discuss in detail how to implement plans that came out of the conference. The relation will make life easier for business to operate in Somali. Regulations will help international businesses to easily invest in the country, and also Somalian businesses to do more business internationally.
TABJ: What are the main challenges you see Somalia facing in terms of redevelopment?
AD: Historically, before 1991, Somalia had a communist system, so private and public institutions working together was not in the business culture. That has changed. Institutions are now looking to companies to work together on public roads, ports and airports, and are keen to encourage privatization.
TABJ: What, in your opinion, does Somalia offer the business community abroad?
AD: We have a great culture, certainly! Somali also has a lot of raw materials, and natural resources for export. Given the chance to trade with the world, it will create jobs and create peace and all the things we need desperately there.
TABJ: You must find your work in Somali very rewarding.
AD: Yes, absolutely. Recently, Dahabshiil set up a bank to offer banking services to all Somalis, and other communities in the region, such as Ethiopia and Uganda, who also use our services. The Dahabcard launch has been a very successful system. In many places, a debit card is considered a normal thing to have, but in Somalia, it can be a life-saving service. Debit cards and full banking service is extremely useful in the region. Initially, we didn’t know if it would be successful, but when we launched it, it was a local and regional success.
It has been challenging in certain areas, I have to be honest. It involves a lot of travel, but you can be creative and tackle one day at a time. It has been very good for us to test products we think are useful. We also do lot of corporate responsibility projects which help the Somalian community by donating money to schools and hospitals, so that really is what warms our hearts, and the business also helping our community.