I recently spent three days in Hargeisa, Somaliland. An eye-opening experience, as much as one that strengthens my conviction that World Bank Group is doing the right thing by engaging in this fragile country.
Somaliland is business unusual. Imagine among others, sitting in a mandatory security brief and specifying your blood type straight off the plane, going to meetings in armored cars, wearing the hijab – a veil worn by Muslim women in the presence of adult males – scheduling meetings around prayers and the time of Iftar, the evening meal when Muslims end their daily fast during Ramadan.
The business environment in Somaliland is characterized by a fragile state, poor public service delivery, a weak legal and regulatory regime, inefficient and costly trade logistics, and a fragmented private sector with limited structured engagement with the government. Although the private sector accounts for more than 90 percent of GDP (an anomaly in Africa), it has poor access to finance and lacks an organized voice.
During my mission, I met with key Ministers, entrepreneurs and development partners and discussed the challenges and opportunities linked to the ongoing economic development agenda, notably the development of infrastructure and the energy sector. The exchanges highlighted how the World Bank Group’s program in Somaliland is laying a foundation to create job opportunities and to accelerate the pace of economic development by fostering business reforms and SME engagement. In this light, the set-up of a high-level taskforce – reporting directly to the President – to implement Doing Business reforms compiled in a Doing Business memo, is a milestone and a strong sign of client buy-in. That is always crucial for the World Bank Group’s programs to reach their objectives.
Last, I participated in the presentation of the pilot Reform Champion Program, which aims to develop the capacity of government officials and some representatives of the private sector to implement key reforms that will address constraints to economic growth and development. The project is expected to help trained reform champions implement at least five reforms to improve government-to-business services by July 2016.
Hats off to our team in Somaliland: Catherine, Fred, Kalton, Laura, Patrick, Cemile, Svetlana, Michael, Dobromir, Jade, Suhail and Najeeb. They are writing the story of how the World Bank Group helps reduce poverty and promote shared prosperity – where it is most needed. And a very special word of thanks to Bella and Hugh, who support our work for the CMU. I witnessed first-hand the transformational nature of our work in fragile countries and the hard work of our teams.
There are signs of positive change in Somaliland, and World Bank Group programs are part of it.
Our portfolio in Somaliland includes:
The Somali Private Sector Development Re-Engagement Project Phase II (recently completed, except for a small port component) funded by DfID, DANIDA, and the World Bank’s State and Peacebuilding Fund. It includes financial sector development; an investment climate reform program that supports the One-Stop-Shop and the rewriting of the Companies Act; value chain support in fisheries and gums and resins; Public Private Partnerships for the Berbera Port and solid waste management; and a $13 million matching grant program.
The $30 million Somali Core Economic Institutions and Opportunities, which be launched later this year, is a hybrid Bank and recipient-executed program funded by the Somalia Multi Partner Fund and co-led by the Trade and Competitiveness and the Finance and Markets Global Practices. SCORE covers financial sector development; an investment climate reform program; technical assistance for the port sector; a catalytic fund; and an MSME service center. It will cover Somaliland, Puntland and South Central Somalia.
The Somali Investment Climate Reform Program (SICRP), primarily funded by DANIDA and IFC. The program works to implement critical investment climate reforms and to build a robust policy dialogue in order to contribute to increased investments and economic growth. SICRP supports the establishment of a structured dialogue platform around the business environment and the priority areas identified by investors.
Our work in Somaliland truly offers the opportunity to fully integrate World Bank and IFC programs and to strengthen collaboration with other Global Practices – namely, Energy and Transport.