Getting Somaliland's youth back to work through skills training

Aafi working on his computer. Dustin Barter/Oxfam

By AbdiAziz Adani

“It’s very frustrating for me and other youth to be unemployed. Everyone expects us to grow up and provide for our family. If youth can’t get a job and can’t provide for the family, we are not respected and not seen as adults” explains Aafi Abdirahman, a young graduate from Shaqodoon’s Hargabits Academy, an Oxfam partner.

Youth make up approximately 70% of Somaliland’s population of 3-4 million, where they face youth unemployment rates hovering around 65%. Lack of work often leads to negative coping mechanisms, such as drug abuse, risky migration, and even violent conflict. Inability to access skills and education is a core barrier to employment or starting a business. For Aafi, the situation was particularly bleak. Some months we couldn’t afford the electricity, other months we couldn’t pay for water. It creates many problems for us. I always hoped when I was younger that I could support my family because all of my family’s money went on food.

Skills for employment

Through the Oxfam’s Work in Progress programme, the Hargabits academy is reducing youth unemployment by offering free ICT and marketable digital skills, and improving linkages to workplaces, particularly for marginalized youth in Somaliland, where intense, recurring droughts are devastating rural communities and causing mass rural to urban migration for survival.

Living in Hargeisa with his family of eight, Aafi faced many uncertainties about his future after finishing secondary school. “My family doesn’t have much money, so university wasn’t really possible, so I thought about alternatives to reach my dreams,” says Aafi.

Hargabits offered him digital skills training where he learned the basics of IT, Photoshop and video editing courses. The course was designed in different levels including theory and hands-on activities. “I did the morning courses and then spent the afternoons learning more from the teachers and other senior people. I graduated after nine months from Hargabits,” Aafi added.

After finishing the course, Aafi started his first job as a teacher’s assistant with Hargabits and recently joined another company as a graphic designer.

Since getting the job, I’ve been able to cover the extra costs for my family, such as water and electricity bills, and also paying the costs for one sibling’s school. My family now has a lot more respect for me. I have established a very close relationship with my father and relations with friends have improved. Many people aren’t working. I am one of the few people working and able to support my family and be independent. It has really helped me psychologically and motivates me for work as well,” Aafi explains confidently.

Funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Work in Progress programme addresses youth unemployment in Somaliland (and Egypt and Nigeria) through technical skills training, linking youth to the job market and funding innovative startups.