UN-backed innovation challenge opens in Somalia


 A UN-backed innovation camp is underway in Mogadishu with 55 young Somali men and women brainstorming on best business ideas to improve the dairy industry.

A statement from the UN Development Program (UNDP) issued on Wednesday said participants in the first ever “Innovate for Somalia” will develop specific solutions to dairy industry challenges, which will then be reviewed, fine-tuned and developed into a business model.

UNDP Somalia Country Director, George Conway, congratulated the government on its leadership in making the event happen.

“These kinds of processes must involve broad collaboration between the Federal Government, between civil society and between the private sector, to bring us all together and think through what we can do differently,” Conway said.

“We need new thinking, new approaches to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and we rely on the youth of Somalia to articulate, bright, smart, new ideas that are bankable, that can create employment, that can help to reduce poverty in your country,” he added.

The social innovation event being run by two ministries is part of a series of innovation camps which will be held across Somalia and which will give young Somalis between the ages of 19 and 30 a chance to come up with innovative solutions to address development challenges in Somalia.

According to the UNDP, such business ideas or prototypes might be the establishment of a new company, a new NGO, or expanding the work of existing organizations with a scale-up plan.

“The core idea is that Somali challenges are tackled with Somali solutions, implemented by Somali people, and are locally owned and driven,” the UNDP said.

The innovation camps aim to support the government in implementing its National Development Plan, by using innovation to turn development challenges into serious social and economic ventures.

Abdi Dirshe, Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Planning, Investment and Economic Development, welcomed the young people to the event on behalf of the Somali Federal Government.

“This initiative will greatly contribute to the recovery and development of Somalia. We want to benefit from the skills and innovation of the Somali youth to address the challenges that are affecting our country,” he said.

The event, which will conclude with a finale on Oct. 9 with the young people forming teams to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges and win support for their idea.

The successful team who enter the UNDP incubation program will receive further mentoring and support to develop their business idea into a viable product or enterprise, and will go into a shortlist to receive financial support for th