Somalia’s Startup Ecosystem Overview

The country of more than 16 million is a coastal country in the horn of Africa, enjoying a strategic location near some of the busiest shipping routes in the world. Close proximity to the Middle East and South Asia makes the region ideal for global businesses wanting to expand.

With stability restored after the presidential elections of 2012, Somalia has been working towards restoring itself as a regional hub for commerce, transportation, trade and industry. Somalia has several opportunities resulting from the growing use of digital technologies, rapid urbanization, planned investments in sectors such as energy, ports, education and health that can support economic growth and job creation. According to The World Bank, the government of Somalia is also committed to institutional reforms and reengagement with the region, including opportunities to rebuild human capital and chart a pathway toward economic resilience and growth.

Somalia is a good example of innovation flourishing under tough socio-economic circumstances. It is inspiring to see how the public sector and local entrepreneurs have worked hard to foster high-quality innovations aimed at solving some of the country’s biggest problems. Very few would imagine that Somalia, with its challenging situation, could have such a growing and vibrant startup ecosystem.

A lot of investment has been poured into renewable energy in Somalia, which has cultivated a steady growth in the sector. According to a recent study by the African Development Bank, Somalia has the highest resource potential of any African nation for onshore wind power and could generate between 30,000 to 45,000 MW. Solar power could potentially generate an excess of 2,000 kWh/m2.

A new emerging sector is Service As A Service (SAAS). With this new wave has come a thriving startup ecosystem. These startups are improving services delivery across a number of other industries like transport, food, health and education.

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Notable startups

OGOW: An electronic medical records and practice management system designed specifically for hospitals and clinics in Somalia

Gulivery: Provides third-party delivery services that let businesses focus on their services as it covers the delivery logistics.

SECCCO: Has brought clean, low-cost and sustainable renewable energy which has created tangible social and economic impact and improved the lives of thousands of Somalia people through energy solutions installed in households, businesses, health centres, hospitals, schools, community centres and to light the streets of Somali towns.

SolarGen: A renewable energy and water solution provider within the region. They focus on the distribution of solar products and engineering, procurement and construction of world-class projects for their clients.

SoPay: An all-in-one mobile money solution based across the whole of Somalia that allows users to transfer, pay utility bills, make online payments and request money.

WAAFI: An app that combines mobile money, communication and productivity.

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Accelerator and initiatives

Somalia has many incubators and accelerators that help support its startup ecosystem with funding and opportunities. The country also benefits from initiatives aimed at promoting investment in different industries by aid agencies and non-profits. Here are the most important accelerators and initiatives in Somalia.

Sominvest – The Investment Promotion Office (SOMINVEST) helps to promote foreign direct investment, rebrand Somalia and advocates for improved investment policies.

Women Business Accelerator Program: offers essential business skills training and funds female-owned startups.

Somali Technology Association Centre – an IT Hub that was founded in 2018 by a group of young educated Somalis based in Mogadishu. It was created out of UNDP’s Future Ready bootcamp and has created a startup that offers tech training as a service.

HarHub Business Incubation: HarHub was established in 2018 to support early-stage startups to grow and expand through unique services. Harhub Entrepreneurship and Incubation programs aim to help youth to launch their business ideas by providing them with entrepreneurship training, incubation services, mentorship, coaching, technical assistance to become self-employed.

iRise – an innovation hub in Mogadishu with the aim of building and empowering young entrepreneurs. It offers creative workspaces as well as fully furnished office spaces to help startups innovate and network. IITE Institute incubator provides mentorship, working space, hands-on support, and resources to help SIMAD University students’ startup projects.

Innovate Ventures – is a leading Somali startup accelerator and early-stage startup fund. Their innovative accelerator program is a three-month intensive incubator that provides entrepreneurs support and investment opportunities.

Startup Mogadishu: is a six-month skill-building program backed by the U.S Embassy that will nurture and produce the next tech founders in Somalia.

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Ecosystem organizations

Response Innovation Lab – Foster partnerships that develop, pilot and scale innovations that overcome context-specific problems or barriers to the delivery of aid and community recovery.

Somali Resilience Innovation Lab – An interagency partnership offering effective innovations to enhance the impact of humanitarian and development interventions to improve the resilience of the Somali people.

Institute of Innovation, Tech, & Entrepreneurship: serves as a hub for nurturing innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship education in Somalia. It provides project-based learning, workshops, and problem-solving case-study competitions to boost local innovations and creativity.

Shuraako: a program of One Earth Future (OEF), has been operating throughout the Somali region since 2012 with offices in Hargeisa, Garowe, and Mogadishu. Shuraako, which means “partnership” in Somali, works in conflict-affected areas and underserved small and medium enterprise (SME) markets to develop a more resilient and responsible private sector. We connect entrepreneurs with impact capital to foster economic growth, create jobs, and promote stability and peace.

The Work in Progress! Alliance: is focused on unlocking the economic potential of young women and men in Somalia. The project aims to enable them to generate sustainable and living incomes – by finding regular employment or starting enterprises. Alliance partners include Oxfam, VC4Africa and Butterfly Works.

SIMAD iLab: A hub for nurturing innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship education in Somalia.

The Next Economy (TNE): empowers youth in Somalia, Nigeria, Mali to unleash their talents, and hone the skills they need for a successful career in a job or as an entrepreneur.

The Somali Women Entrepreneurs Association: is an online-to-offline (O2O) business platform that connects, inspires and empowers Somali women entrepreneurs and future entrepreneurs to build incredibly successful businesses.

Main Strengths of the Somalia Startup Ecosystem
    • Presence of accelerators and funds to support startups
    • Several non-profits and ecosystem organizations provide training to entrepreneurs
    • Proactive government policy favoring small businesses and startups
    • Investment in renewable energy in Somalia has created opportunities for the sector and a skilled workforce

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