Silatech has signed a collaboration agreement with Kaah Express, one of the largest money transfer businesses serving the Somali community worldwide, and American Refugee Committee (ARC), an international NGO fighting poverty and unemployment through humanitarian relief work, youth employment and small business development programmes.
The move is in line with Silatech’s efforts to develop innovative job creation and enterprise development solutions for youth across the 22 countries of the Arab world.
Silatech, Kaah Express and ARC will jointly design and introduce a new microfinance services programme with the objective of providing financial access and stimulating economic development within Somalia.
The project has been given a recent boost when Kaah Express was selected as the winner of a development grant by the African Enterprise Challenge Fund, a multi-donor initiative aimed at stimulating new and innovative business ideas among the private sector in Africa.
With assistance from Silatech and the ARC, Kaah Express will offer a diversified set of microfinance services, including enterprise credit and savings accounts, with a priority focus on low-income youth and women in both urban and rural areas in Somalia. These services will be provided through Kaah Express’s existing national network of branches and hundreds of local agents.
Given that Somalia faces some of the lowest levels of access to formal financial services in the world, the vast majority of users of these services will be the
The new services will seek to combine financial provisions with the offering of a robust package of financial education, life skills and enterprise development training to improve the ability of Kaah’s clients to make informed and measured decisions about their financial needs.
Given the increasingly positive outlook of Somalia and the relative stability in many parts of the country, the partners see a strong window of opportunity for the introduction of these new services.
“This commitment signals our goal to become the first large-scale, commercially-viable microfinance provider in Somalia. In light of poor socio-economic conditions and limited economic opportunities, the link between unemployment and conflict in Somalia remains significant despite the recent progress we have seen. There is a dire need to tackle these challenges through new and innovative solutions, and the time for that is now,” said Kaah Express CEO Hassan Awad.
On the partnership, Silatech director of microenterprise Justin Sykes said: “In a country where the penetration of formal financial services is in single figures and youth unemployment is above 70%, the provision of microfinance services through this potentially game-changing approach will provide Somalis with the resources to help them create sustainable self-employment and business creation opportunities.”
“Silatech has worked on providing similar services to unbanked but entrepreneurial youth in 10 countries around the Mena region through its partnerships with financial institutions, NGOs, businesses and various youth-serving organisations, with very promising results so far. This comes at a very critical time, with the Arab world experiencing a shortage of employment opportunities for young people, and with the private sector unable to grow fast enough,” added Sykes.
Daniel Wordsworth, the ARC CEO, said: “For the ARC, the introduction of sustainable financial services offers an excellent complement to the humanitarian and development work that we are carrying out on the ground in Somalia, particularly as we are witnessing the shift from dependence to self-reliance in many communities as they start to feel safer and more hopeful for the first time in a generation.”
“Furthermore, given the strong and active partnership the ARC has with the Somali diaspora, we see significant opportunities to mobilise their support for this exciting project through the provision of investment, business training or simply advice to youth and women who want to start small business projects back in Somalia,” he added.