2013 Jim Burman 100x150After more than two decades of war, there are glimmers of hope in Somalia.  Gains by UN-backed troops against the Al-Shabaab rebel group and the selection of a former human rights activist as the new president last year have created a sense that there may be a window of opportunity to move the country towards a more peaceful and prosperous future.
Since the nation’s dictator fell from power in 1991, the country has been without a central government.   In the vacuum that followed, fighting between warlords left vast swaths of the country’s people displaced and impoverished while a privileged few profited from the war economy.  With a semblance of security returning, it seems possible that a new order might begin to prevail and bring benefits to a widening circle of Somalis.
A key to any sustained recovery will be increasing opportunities for all Somalis to participate in the rebuilding of their country through paid employment.  Among those seeking to generate jobs and increase prosperity in Somalia is an organization based outside of Denver, Colorado, called Shuraako.  The group, whose name means partnerships in Somali, aims to boost employment-generating investments in the nation.
While the Somali people have shown remarkable economic resilience and ingenuity during the last two decades, there are significant challenges as the country seeks to re-integrate economically with the world.  The informal, often innovative, arrangements that have served the people during these times of turmoil may need to be modified if Somalia hopes to attract investment and increase trade.
Among its different activities, Shuraako hopes to serve as a resource for those seeking to navigate this transition towards international economic norms.  In support of this work, I have been researching land tenure practices in Somalia as well as international financial regulations and their impact on the country.   These first few weeks have been intellectually very engaging and I’ve enjoyed getting to know my cosmopolitan group of colleagues.  Overall, I hope my work this summer will contribute in some small way to helping Somalia seize this chance to head in a new direction.