Last summer, in Hargeisa, Somaliland, Ahmed Mohamed Abdullah, 22, received a life-changing note—by way of a text message.
A local government internship was available, read the young man who’d never had a job.
“I went straight to the nearest Internet café and applied for the internship,” recalls Abdullah.
He was hired right away and vowed to stop worrying about Somaliland’s political strife. Now, instead of talking politics with his friends in local coffee shops, Abdullah is working for the mayor.
Abdullah was one of the first Somali youth to land an internship through the Souktel JobMatch system, a service that uses text messaging to link young people with potential jobs. A component of EDC’s Somali Youth Livelihood Program, or Shaqodoon, Souktel began in Somaliland this summer.
The exchange is simple: EDC staff, working with partners that include a local media group and universities, identify and enter work opportunities from local employers into the Souktel JobMatch system. Then youth, ages 17 to 30, use their cell phones to update their profiles, receive job match listings, and ultimately log onto the computer to apply for the job. Upon being hired, they work with one of those local partners, who also provides them with training opportunities. In turn, businesses gain access to the JobMatch system online to upload employment opportunities.
In an effort to escape a dangerous political situation, many youth flee Somaliland by boat in search of work. “Often boats capsize or sink before they get to a destination,” says EDC’s Sarah Nogueira Sanca. “Parents lament that Somaliland is losing its young people at sea.”
Shaqodoon gives these young people viable alternatives and reasons to stay in their homeland.
However, Somaliland isn’t the only region Shaqodoon will benefit. Before the year is out, the same opportunity will be made available to youth in the autonomous region of Puntland and to South Central Somalia.
A good match
For youth in South Central Somalia, Shaqodoon offers alternative career options that may prevent them from being recruited into negative activities that have threatened both South Central Somalia and Puntland since the beginning of the Somalia Civil War in the early 1990s.
“It’s important for these young people to land jobs so they build their confidence, find ways to contribute to their nation, and earn a living,” says Nogueira Sanca. “In both Somaliland and Somalia, a much smaller percentage of youth is college educated than was 20 or 30 years ago.”
Between now and 2012, EDC expects 8,000 youth will receive training and gain work experience with local and international organizations through Souktel JobMatch.
Founded in 2005 by Palestinian, Canadian, and American graduate fellows at Harvard University and MIT, Souktel targets conflict and post-conflict zones where there is little Internet access and a high rate of cell phone use. Souktel’s original mission was to improve the unemployment rate among Palestinian youth in the West Bank.
It didn’t take long for the project, which partners with EDC’s Ruwwad project as well as the World Bank, to fulfill its mission. On average, 40 Palestinian youth per month were matched with jobs or internships, which equated to a 75 percent match rate among those in the West Bank using Souktel.
Shaqodoon already seems to be following suit.
“Every morning I look forward to dressing up and going to work,” says Abdullah. “Shaqodoon has given me a morale boost, skills to find a job, and confidence to look for work when my internship is over.”
Originally published on January 29, 2010