Abukar Omarsson poses for a photos Bashir Issa Ali, Governor of the Central Bank of Somalia. Photo: Camilla Petra

At the Heart of the Somali Economy – Introducing Monetary Policy From Within

The diaspora’s commitment to rebuilding Somalia’s economy seems unshakeable. One of these persons, sitting across from me on a sunny afternoon in Nairobi, is Abukar Omarsson – a Swedish Somali diaspora who has spent the last two years of his life living and working in Mogadishu. He is the least to say a sharp and inspiring man, whose optimism in re-building Somalia’s battered economy is contagious and triggers much admiration, both among his fellow Somalis as well as members of the international community.

Abukar Omarsson has just completed his assignment as a participant of the Swedish Government funded Migration for Development in Africa (MIDA) Programme, managed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Somalia. It provides capacity building and technical skills support to the government of Somalia, through the deployment of diaspora experts to improve institutional performance in critical sectors, including public financial management. Abukar Omarsson was first deployed for a year at the Ministry of Finance and the following year at the Central Bank of Somalia – a resilient institution that has endured decades of civil war and through it all managed to keep the Somali shilling alive.

A stunning bright blue building, at the heart of Mogadishu town, the Central Bank of Somalia is at the centerpiece of international attention, in regard to its efforts to restore a viable economy, including the launch of the new Somali shilling and the strengthening of financial institutions. “It is easy to become absorbed by the challenges, but my approach has instead been to focus on the solutions,” says Abukar, in an upbeat voice.

Born and raised in Mogadishu, Abukar ventured abroad only after the completion of his high school. After a brief transit of a year and a half as a student in Italy, he arrived in Sweden, where he began studying national economy. Having worked for several years in research and advisory positions on labour market policy and public financial management for the government of Sweden, Abukar recalls feeling the wish to pay tribute to his home country by contributing the wealth of experience he had acquired as a diaspora in Sweden. The MIDA programme presented itself as the perfect opportunity. Abukar did not hesitate to seize it.

In the capacity of senior analyst for the CBS, one of the most ambitious undertakings that Abukar has been working towards is a national currency reform strategy. This introduces a new, legitimate Somali Shilling and abolishes the counterfeit shillings currently circulating in the market. “A new currency represents an important symbol of national unity,” Abukar explains. “Restoring the public confidence in the currency is not just a pre-condition for conducting monetary policy, but also for conducive economic growth, which is urgently needed.”

Abukar also developed a strategic plan for the CBS, spanning the period between 2017 and 2020; carried out research on fiscal and monetary policies; and contributed to the development of macro-economic, monetary and exchange rate policies. “Much of the decision-making and actual work happens behind closed doors,” he explains. “What is really important is therefore to take the time to build relationships with your co-workers. Without this, you cannot have an impact. Early on when beginning my assignment with the Ministry of Finance, I made the decision to come to the office every single day at 7 am, despite the fragile security situation and the fact that at the time I had neither an office space nor any office equipment to work with. This allowed me to sit with the staff, get to know them better, and build relationships of trust that allowed me to exercise some influence and become someone senior Somali policy-makers would listen to.”

Abukar confirms there has been significant progress towards revitalizing the Somali economy in the past five years. The fruits of his hard work can serve as inspiration for his co-workers at the Bank and for other Somali diaspora that still feel they have a contribution to bring to the table.

For more information please contact Yuko Tomita, IOM Somalia, Tel: + 254 715 990 600, Email: iomsomaliapsu@iom.int 

Abukar Omarsson attending IOM training in Djibouti, Hotel Akacia. Photo: Camilla Petra