Mogadishu, Somalia, is a vibrant city rich in both industry and conflict, with a population of 1.4 million that is predominantly young. Due to the increasing number of graduates, rising access to technology products and services, a growing culture of entrepreneurship, and an influx of Somali diaspora, the only ingredient missing from the Somali capital has been co-working spaces. Until iRise came along in July of this year.
“There is no support network and institutions that help wantrepreneurs and entrepreneurs with space, networks, skills and the resources they need,” says Awil Osman, founder and CEO of iRise Hub, Somalia’s first co-working space that is yet to launch. In addition to acting as a coworking space, iRise will provide research, incubation and acceleration services for new start-ups in the city.
According to Osman, the name “iRise” was inspired by the #SomaliaRising hashtag, which emerged in 2013 to highlight the stabilization and recovery of the country, which had long been deemed a “failed state.” The hashtag aimed to show the world the resilience of the Somali people and attract tourism and international investors to the country.
“Somalia is an emerging success story, but momentum needs to be sustained,” says Nicholas Kay, former UN special representative to Somalia. The IMF’s Somalia mission chief, Rogerio Zandamela agrees: “If improvement in security continues, the entrepreneurial private sector will continue to be the most dynamic contributor to economic growth,” he says.
Once considered unsafe for commercial airlines, Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle International Airport now receives flights everyday. The impact of renewed economic activity is visible in the capital, where attractive office buildings and residential apartments are replacing bullet-riddled, dilapidated structures. The acceleration of Mogadishu’s economic growth continues to grow thanks to the country’s reliance on livestock, fisheries and a resurgent private sector, which includes telecommunications, construction and money transfer.
“We are [one] of the players that are trying to map Somalia and show that we are no longer a failed state but a promising and beautiful country with human resources; 75 percent of the population is under 35 years old,” Osman tells progrss. “It will create job opportunities and help create local solutions for local problems.”
So far, $50,000 has been spent on inaugurating the space, although raising funds locally and internationally posed a significant challenge to the young entrepreneurs in launching iRise Hub. Osman explains that finding ways to work with the city’s “poor infrastructure” and “expensive bandwidth” was also difficult.
The co-working space is still in an early stage, with Osman and his team still trying to figure out what the tech community in Mogadishu looks like and how they can integrate it into iRise Hub’s tech ecosystem. Even though the iRise Hub brand will remain in the capital, the three men behind iRise Hub are looking to start similar initiatives in other Somali cities with the help of the locals.