How diaspora is changing the face of Somalia

People walk in the Hamar Weyne market of Mogadishu, on February 12, 2014.
JM LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

New transcontinental research, including work from scholars at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, looks at how the current diaspora will affect the future of Somalia.

Researchers are meeting in Minneapolis this week before they head to Washington, D.C., to present their findings.

There are currently up to 1.5 million Somali refugees worldwide, and an estimated 30,000 of them live in Minnesota. When they fled their war-torn homeland, many hoped and expected to return when things improved — a dream that has become reality for some in the past few months.

Somali migrants around the world, 2013

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The United Nations gathers regular data on international migrants. In the middle of 2013, the U.N. calculated that 1,921,197 native Somalis were living outside their country. (Trouble seeing the map? See a larger version here.)

Countries with the largest Somali migrant populations, according to the United Nations (2013)
• Kenya: 517,666
• Ethiopia: 457,666
• Yemen: 219,888
• Libya: 102,471
• Djibouti: 102,305
• United States: 98, 548
• United Kingdom: 93,181
• Egypt: 43,038
• Saudi Arabia: 26,708
• Netherlands: 25,403

Laura Hammond, a senior lecturer in development studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, wrote about it for The Guardian:

I recently led a team of researchers who were tasked with investigating the role of the Somali diaspora in relief, development and peacebuilding for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). We conducted research in six diaspora cities — Dubai, London, Minneapolis, Nairobi, Oslo and Toronto, as well as in Somaliland, Puntland and south/central Somalia. Three of our six sites in the south were under the control of the Islamist al-Shabaab militia at the time, and three were allied with the transitional federal government.

We found that in all areas, the diaspora was heavily involved in promoting education, healthcare, public infrastructure and private enterprise. In the relatively peaceful north the emphasis was on post-conflict reconstruction and development, whereas in the south the more dire humanitarian picture meant more people were involved in providing life-saving support to their relatives and communities.

We found that, in many areas, people from the diaspora were returning temporarily to provide technical skills, advice and leadership in addition to their financial support. Support came not only from older people, but crucially — and unexpectedly — from young Somalis as well, even people who had been born and raised outside the Horn of Africa.

Researchers join The Daily Circuit to discuss the changing face of Somalia.