Dutch non-government organisation (NGO) Spark and partners have launched the Africa House business incubator and entrepreneurship development centre in Gargeisa, Somalia, the first such project in the Somali regions.
Africa House was launched in collaboration with partners the Cheetah Group, SMART, Collert Consultancy, the Fayo Foundation and the Horn Resource Centre.
Hargeisa is the capital of Somaliland, an autonomous region in northwestern Somalia, and the new Spark incubator is aimed at developing entrepreneurship through training, mentoring, and access to in-house services such as secretarial, administrative and office space.
Africa House – which was officially opened earlier this week – also provides a business incubation service which aims to help lower the operating costs of startup businesses.
“The Horn of Africa is one the regions in Africa at an economic turning point. In Somalia – a country marked by long periods of conflict and where great challenges still remain – it is possible to discern a growing optimism,” Spark said.
“Despite more than 20 years of civil war, Somalia has a remarkably strong private sector, particularly in trade, money transfer, telecommunications, and livestock spheres. This is no small achievement, given that remittances alone are estimated at between US$1billion and US$2 billion a year in Somalia – and this figure does not even take into account the vital role the diaspora plays in providing basic services such as healthcare, education and water, as well as infrastructure and enterprise.”
SPARK was founded in the 1990s in order to empower young people to lead their post-conflict societies into prosperity, developing higher education and entrepreneurship. It already has African operations in the likes of Burundi, Mali, Rwanda and South Sudan.
The Africa House initiative is part of the Migrant Diaspora Entrepreneurship Programme, which aims to support entrepreneurship amongst the Somali diaspora in the Netherlands and the European Union (EU) by enabling individuals to set up businesses in their country of origin, thereby creating jobs and contributing to economic growth.
Spark said Somalia has seen significant progress in state building and economic recovery, helped by donors.
“The more stable regions of Somaliland and Puntland, which enjoy relative peace and stability, have established functioning governance structures and favourable business environments that have facilitated investment in sectors including livestock, import and export, telecommunications, remittances and more,” the NGO said.
“Yet, aid agencies have failed to engage systematically the Somali private sector and diaspora entrepreneurs in their work. These areas are now ready for support to private sector development, investment, and economic policy development.”