I left Somalia in the mid seventies and though at the time, both public and private institutions seemed intact and functioned right, one could see all the glaring signs of a failing state and the imminent collapse of the nation was clearly visible.
Unfortunately, Somali webmasters and news editors rarely reach out others and few if any mention even the noblest achievements of others because they happen to belong to other clans. And sadly, most editors, knowingly or unknowingly propagate the stories of their clans even if their stories are biased and distorted. Sadly, many dwell in delusion and false self-esteem!
So, today, I am posting the following short story in the websites to call all to understand that great achievements do NOT belong to a clan or clans. Rather, they belong to all and deserve to get the attention of all. And certainly, many show the resiliency of the Somali people despite current hardships.
The fall of the Somali nation did not start, as many think, in the mid eighties. It started much earlier and only reached its climax in early 1991 when the military regime actually collapsed and President General Siad Barre was ousted of power.
For instance, at the time, corruption was rampant; cost of living was rising rapidly; inflation was running out of control, equality under the law was extremely flawed. And sadly access to financial sources was HUGELY favored toward those close to the ruling clan when it was, unceremoniously denied to others.
Unfortunately, since all government financial institutions lacked the necessary checks and balances and the required transparency and accountability to maintain a healthy business growth, the whole nation’s resources were squandered by few who lacked the necessary management skills and the country went totally bankrupt. And sorry the once thriving private business sector was completely eliminated.
So, the revolutionary government that once enshrined fairness as its goal, the nation that inspired nationalism, fanned patriotism and captured the hearts and minds of the public, became a hoax. So, the Irishman of Africa, who devoted all his time and sacrificed all his resources for the unification of all Somalis under the blue flag one day, at whatever cost, lost faith in the system and was ready to dismantle all the foundations of nationhood.
And soon, tribalism, the omnipotent, demon of the African in general and the Somalis in particular devoured the last bits and pieces poor Somalia.
Fortunately, out of the ashes of the Somali nation, grew progressive entrepreneurs whose time tested institutions, are today taking long strides toward their business gains and are in the process helping all Somalis by connecting the Diaspora, the saviors of the public, millions of who live everywhere in this global village, to their loved ones who would otherwise perish.
Back in 1976 when I left Somalia, for instance, all banking institutions were owned by the government and so was the national carrier, the Somali Airlines, both major important institutions. But because of favoritism, nepotism, wide-spread corruption practices, poor management and lack of accountability and transparency, services in both were very poor and charges were extremely too high, all a recipe for disaster and failure.
For instance, in those days, a round-trip ticket from the oil-rich Arabian states where hundreds of thousands of Somalis whose remittances actually could and should have been regarded as the backbone of the national economy and accordingly honored, was Dirhms 4,000 or US $1,100. That is three times what it costs today despite the huge fuel and other cost increases over the decades, thanks to Daallo Airlines…an airline fleet owned and operated by world class business people who are willing to listen to their customer concerns ready to improve if and when necessary!
Therefore, Daallo Airlines, I dare say is a Messiah sent to make a difference for Somalis everywhere because back in the days of Somalia, Somali Airlines, dropped its passengers only in the Capital city of Mogadishu and one had to fight tooth and nail to fly to even the other major city of Hargeisa let alone to other towns. Yet passengers paid full tickets to home. In fact, stories are rife that, one had to bribe airline officials to fly him/her to his/her final destination. And it was not uncommon that you spend all your vacation in the Capital city without reaching your final destination to see your loved ones and you call yourself the lucky if you got your seat reserved on your return date!
Today, on the contrary, Daallo Airlines can take you next to your village in all over Somali states and beyond provided it is economical and it is safe to land there. And to those of you who may have doubts as to the validity of this statement, I challenge you to have ENOUGH passengers ready and it is a bet Daallo Airlines will land you next to your sweet home.
Another institution that deserves to share the Nobel Prize with Daallo Airlines is Dahabshiil whose money transfer service is truly amazing and in fact beyond imagination.
For instance, back in the heydays of Somalia, Somalis who worked overseas could send money to their loves ones by using only the Somali national bank that was run by heartless and corrupt people. Rumor has it that, it was not uncommon that they had manipulated the price of your hard currency and often gave you worthless Somali shilling bags of which would hardly buy you a lunch.
Additionally, the exchange rate of the bank was archaic, put in place decades earlier. And should you hide your hard currency and change it at the black market where it was worth hundreds of times higher, corrupt and merciless officials somehow found you and put you in the jail.
On the other hand, if the business people or those leaving the country who were required to buy their tickets using only hard currency, wanted to buy the bank’s hard currency, it would cost them hundreds of times more if at all they were given a chance to buy.
I was working in Arabia in the late seventies. And in 1979, I decided to bring my mother to the hajj...the journey of a life time for Muslims, for one reason because, for her, that was the greatest gift I could ever give her. And for the other, I wanted to go to USA for higher studies and so, I thought I might never see her again as she was getting old.
The hajj season was to fall in October. So, six months before time, to insure that she had all her documents, I sent enough money to my friends in Hargeisa so that they could prepare her all the documents as well as the air ticket she needed. However, despite hard work of my friends, my mom almost missed the opportunity she had waited for years. Fortunately, after they failed to secure a reservation for her, they had to take a chance by smuggling the hard currency to Djibouti where they bought her the airline ticket to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. This was how hopeless the Somalia banking institution was.
Today, decades later, despite the death of Somalia, despite the demise of all its banking institutions, you can send money as a hard currency to your loved ones thanks to Dahabshiil… the modern money transfer guru open every country in this global village. And your family and friends can have your remittance in U.S. dollar or in any other major currency they may ask for. And don’t you forget that Dahabshiil was voted as world’s best money transfer institution!
And another amazing part of the story is that within a maximum of two days, Dahabshiil sends you the familiar confirmation message of:” Hello, the money you sent to so and so has been collected. It is a pleasure to serve you!”
So, had Dahabshiil been operating in 1979, I could send my mom’s money to Dilla, my small home town which is only few kilometers from my farm! Or had Daallo Airline been operational in 1979, I could send an actual ticket to Dilla, or Daallo Airlines would probably even knock the door of our home to deliver it!
Now, my dear readers, trust me this story is valid. So, shouldn’t vote Daallo Airlines and Dahabshiil as the favorite candidates to get the Nobel Prize for public service?