Youth Unemployment in Hargeisa: Causes and Consequences

Originally released in April 2017

This research report produced by the interns whose names are listed below is the end product  of  three  month-long  training  on  research  design,  data  collection  and  analysis techniques as well as data dissemination about Youth Unemployment in Hargeisa


The research on youth unemployment in Hargeisa: Causes and consequence presentsthe findings of research on youth unemployment conducted in Hargeisa in March 2017.

The HQRS cohort 2 trainees conducted this research. The  group  of  researchers and  the  Observatory  of  Conflict  and  Violence  Prevention (OCVP)  would  like  to  express  their  sincere  thanks  to  the  participants  of  the  different focus  group  discussions(FGD)and  Key  Informant interviews for their  sacrifice  and commitment to provide the useful information and data regarding youth unemployment in Hargeisa during the course. The  researchers  would  like to  send  their  gratitude  for  his  tireless  organization  and mapping out the participant during the data collection process tov Mr. Abdirashid Aideed, who is the director of planning at the ministry of youth and sports. Final thanks goes to OCVP and Transparency solutions for supporting us in the logistics and the coordination of the different groups and finally space to work on.

Executive Summary

This research report, Youth Unemployment in Hargeisa: Causes and Consequences presents the root causes and consequences of youth unemployment in Hargeisa, Somaliland. The research was conducted for the Ministry of Youth and Sports. A group of research trainees from the High quality Research Support (HQRS) Programme conducted this research. In recent years, the government of Somaliland has struggled with a devastatingly high level of unemployment. Despite this, little effort has been made to understand the causes and consequences of youth unemployment

The research explores the causes and consequences of youth unemployment in Hargeisa. A number of recommendations are subsequently made based on the below findings. This research is presenting the key findings and recommendation on youth unemployment in Hargeisa. It will further explain the different causes as well as the consequences of unemployment on youth.


  1. What are the factors that cause youth unemployment in Hargeisa?
  2. What are the consequences of youth unemployment in Hargeisa?


Hargeisa is the capital city of Somaliland. Somaliland is an independent state, but is not recognized by the international community. Hargeisa has a population of nearly 1.5 million. The country has managed to build a relatively peaceful and stable economy, and overcame a civil war in the last two decades. The majority of the population lives in the rural areas of Somaliland and the country’s main economic source is livestock. Despite the small improvements made in the economic sector, youth unemployment remains a constant and pressing issue for the Somaliland Government.

The youth make up 70% of the total population with an unemployment rate of 65% according to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (Molsa).

Hargeisa, which is the country’s biggest city, has a large number of youth who are struggling to find jobs and remain unemployed. 35% of employed youth work in both public and private sectors of Somaliland. Most of the youth work for private companies, local, and International NGOs in Somaliland

There has been much research in the past regarding the issue of youth unemployment and its effects on the country’s stability, economy and youth migration. However, limited research has been done on the causes and consequences of unemployment in Hargeisa.

In Somaliland, a number of challenges and problems are associated with trying to find employment. As Nail (2001) argues, unemployment is linked to a series of negative health consequences, both physical and psychological which tend to grow disproportionately with the duration of unemployment.

In addition, the unemployment in Somaliland has led many young people to illegally migrate to Europe by crossing through Ethiopia, Sudan, and Libya and on wards to Italy.

Low progression of economy leads to disintegration of families and lack of hope for the youth in the future, along with the organization of gang clubs and disturbance of peace and security of the country

According to an International Labor Organization (ILO) youth unemployment report, Somaliland requested support for the collation of concrete and reliable data on the labor market to serve as an integral element for policy formulation facilitating the development of inclusive growth for employment and hence, there is a clear confusion as to what really causes the increasing unemployment in Hargeisa.


The overall aim of this research is to find out the causes and consequences of youth unemployment in Hargeisa.

To identify the factors that cause youth unemployment in Hargeisa.
To find out the consequences of youth unemployment in Hargeisa.
To provide concrete recommendations and solutions to the Ministry of Youth and Sports.


The National Youth Policy sets the definition of youth in Somaliland as the age range between 15—35 years. 70% of Somaliland’s population is below the age of 30 and out of this proportion, 40% are between the ages of 15 to 29; hence, Somaliland is experiencing a “Youth Bulge” – a situation that if not attended to early, could undermine any gains in peace and stability in the country (SONYO, 2016).

In addition, youth unemployment has a negative impact on the youth’s health and mental wellbeing. According to Abokor (2015), unemployment among young people in Somaliland also leads to reduced levels of happiness and mental health problems. Being employed is important for young people in order to feel accepted by society, thus not having a job can cause economic, cultural and social isolation. Social exclusion, stress and employment worries can cause mental health problems, such as depression.

Moreover, studies have found that youth unemployment is associated with increase in drug and khat use as well as higher levels of crime among young people and sometimes they make physical journeys and also illegal travel because they don’t see hope and they want to come back when their fathers and older people allow retirement (Ubo, 2015)

International Organization for Migration tries to secure internships for unemployed youth in Somaliland

Policy makers, the ministry of sports and culture and other decision makers can use the findings of this research to address the pressing issue of youth unemployment in Hargeisa. In addition, other NGOs and INGOs can use these results to conform the designs of their future programs concerning youth unemployment in Hargeisa.

Finally, future researchers will also use this as source of literature for further research.


This research employed a primarily qualitative approach to research. The respondents were selected from private and public sectors, NGOs, and included both employed and unemployed youth. Age and gender were also given special consideration. A guide to researchers and well-detailed questionnaires were developed, which enabled the collection of data from five KII respondents and four focus group discussions. The data was transcribed and subsequently manually grouped and analyzed.

Data Collection Methods

In order to capture views regarding youth unemployment in Hargeisa, focus group discussions were conducted, where extensive data was gathered. In addition, Key Informant Interview were conducted for the most informed and experienced people in the sphere of youth unemployment. The most informed individuals were interviewed and provided highly relevant data regarding the subject.

Moreover, the respondents were selected from a wide array of backgrounds including private companies, CSOs, government ministries, as well as employed and unemployed youth. The questionnaires were designed in a descriptive way, to enable the respondents to provide as much information as possible in their own words.

For the FGDs, respondents were divided into four categories: a FGD for employed youth, a FGD for representatives from government ministries and agencies, a FGD for unemployed youth, and a FGD for private companies and CSOs

Regarding the key informant interviews, five interviews were conducted with the most knowledgeable people from the following organizations; SONYO youth umbrella, Shaqadoon Organization, Telesom Company, Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Civil Service Commission (CSC)

Causes of Unemployment

Participants in FGD and KII (Key Informant Interviews) Hargeisa all agreed that Hargeisa’s unemployment rate is high.

  • Moreover, the existence of unjust recruitment and the limited employers in the labor market are among the root causes of youth unemployment in Hargeisa.
  • Moreover, respondents revealed a belief that causes of youth unemployment include blue-collar jobs, nepotism, and inadequate local and foreign investment. Apart from that, there are a number of white-collar jobs offered to people from other countries, i.e. Ethiopia, Yemen, Kenya etc.
  • Respondents accordingly mentioned that youth unemployment in Hargeisa comes from a lack of vocational training in schools, urbanization, weak writing skills, and excessive university graduates.
  • It is also suggested that graduates lack creativity in establishing their own businesses to become job creators, rather than job seekers.
  • Furthermore, there are increased concerns about employer preferences, especially international NGOs, who employ people who studied abroad rather than give opportunities to locally-based staff

Consequences of Youth Unemployment

A mosque building in the heart of Hargeisa

Youth unemployment remains the biggest challenge in Somaliland. A large proportion of youth unemployment has triggered illegal migration as well as the creation of urban gangs, which are a threat to the city’s security. Snatching valuable electronics at night and increased theft are currently the biggest security issues in Hargeisa5 brought on by youth unemployment. Additionally, youth unemployment hinders the economic development of the country and hence, it reinforces social Classes lines among the community.

Illegal Migration

Because of unemployment, many youth risk their lives to go overseas

Respondents believe that youth unemployment in Hargeisa encourages youth to migrate from the country and take the dangerous journey from Somaliland to Ethiopia and all the way to Libya and Italy6. Thousands of Somaliland youth migrate from the country to Europe in search of a better life and jobs every year. Unfortunately, only few end up making it to Europe. This does not only give ground for other youths to migrate, but also decreases the country’s labor force. Additionally, it puts a financial burden on the shoulders of the families whose children migrate to Europe, as smugglers demand ransom payment. Additionally, it gives smugglers the opportunity to carry out their smuggling activities in Somaliland, which poses a threat to the stability of the country.

Dependency and Creation of Social Classes

State House Settlement for Internally Displaced People in Hargeisa

The respondents believe that the high level of youth unemployment in Hargeisa has created dependency and an emergence of social classes, which has made the unemployment even worse. Likewise, the dependency itself is a contributing factor of the poor standard of living and increased social problems among families.

Creation of Urban Gangs in the City

In Hargeisa, the police and public are concerned about the increasing number of youth gang groups. These gangs pose a threat to the peace and stability in Hargeisa. They often commit crimes including rape, physical and sexual assault. This occurs as a result of youth unemployment as well as a lack of recreational training centers for the youth to entertain themselves. The gangs who are equipped with and knives commit the violence against women, girls and elderly people at night.

Health Problems and Reduced Level of Confidence and Self-esteem

Being jobless makes easy to resort chewing Qat

Low self-esteem, reduced levels of happiness and lack of hope are immediate consequences of youth unemployment in Hargeisa. There are a number of young people who have committed suicide and many others are at a higher risk of committing suicide after years of rejected job applications. Youth unemployment has resulted in increased family violence, mental and psychological problems. Consequently, youth unemployment also leads to the increase usage of drugs including Khat and other intoxicants.

Ways of Tackling Youth Unemployment in Hargeisa

The appropriate ways of tackling youth unemployment in Hargeisa remain up for discussion. The increasing of number of students graduating each year in the country’s different universities also doubles the unemployment rate in Hargeisa.

Limited job opportunities and a lack of diversification of field of studies have made the situation worse. There are number of recommendations, if considered, which can contribute to the solutions for youth unemployment as highlighted below.

Fighting Corruption to Increase Job Opportunities and Fair Recruitment

There are concerns with the recruitment processes and selection procedure of applicants in Hargeisa. Nepotism and lack of transparency during the recruitment process has been one of the biggest challenges for youth in obtaining jobs10. Making job recruitment fair does not only increase the job opportunities but also encourages inclusivity and decreases youth discouragement. In addition, the effective management of resources is a key solution to the problem. Finally, the fair and just competition among the applicants is not only a good and lasting solution for the country, but also good for companies that need competent applicants.

In Hargeisa, if you don’t have as well a human CV (connection) who can support you through the process its hard to get a job”. Said FGD Participant.

Improving Quality of Higher Education and Establishment of Vocational Training Center

The country’s universities particularly those in Hargeisa, offer the same courses regardless of the market demand and alarming youth unemployment in the country. In addition, the overall quality of higher education in Somaliland is still poor. The lack of diversification of fields of study coupled with the low quality of education and increased number of graduates means the situation continues to deteriorate. The establishment and rehabilitation of the existing but non-functioning vocational training skills centers across the country and the regulation of the country’s higher education can help respond to the situation.

“I chose to study BA in Management because my other friends were also studying. I had no any idea of why to study Management nor interested, but because influence from my peers” Said FGD Participant

Encouragement of Local and Foreign Investment in the Country

In Hargeisa, the major employers are Telesom, Dahabshiil, government, NGOs and other large and SMEs enterprises. However, these are not enough to provide employment opportunity to the large proportion of unemployed youth. Encouraging local businesses to invest in agriculture, fishing and other natural resources of the country, would create job opportunities for the thousands of unemployed youth in Hargeisa and Somaliland at large. In addition, the government needs to attract foreign investors who can invest in the country’s untapped resources.

Youth Encouragement and Behavior Initiatives

Youth encouragement initiatives can play a major role in reducing youth unemployment rates in Hargeisa. The youth depend on their family when they’ve exhausted their job search in Hargeisa. There is a need to educate young people on entrepreneurship skills and encourage them to establish their own businesses. In Hargeisa, most of the youth are ignoring other job opportunities in Hargeisa, which is one of the problems. Programs geared towards changing youth job-hunting behaviors would better serve to change this problematic mindset. In addition, youth need to be mentored, supported and provided pre-counseling before they enter university and after graduation as well.

Obstacles Faced During the Job Seeking Process

Respondents revealed that two main obstacles faced by unemployed during their job seeking process are poor communication and writing skills. As a result, they are unable to write convincing job applications and CVs. In this regard, respondents indicated that youth seeking jobs face unfair job recruitment systems and available opportunities are not merit-based. They expressed that having human CV is more important than a written CV.

“When you encounter a job vacancy, you better search a politician or an elder to take you to the employer and ask this post to be given to you”, one respondent said Furthermore, unemployed youth face having less employers, lack of counseling centers, job access problems and stiff requirements when seeking opportunities. Above all, the nepotism, missing easy to reach public job publicizing places, and lack of information16 are among the numerous difficulties that youth face during their job seeking process.

Socio-Economic Development

Respondents confirmed that unemployment affects socio-economic development in Hargeisa in many different aspects, one of which is the social problems brought on by unemployment. These include family violence, family breakdown, stress, low social cohesion, and suicide.In addition, youth unemployment hinders the economic development of the country. Because of the high level of youth unemployment, the inflation rate rises and GDP goes down and increases the cost of living. Moreover, the excessive use of social media by the large number of unemployed brought, and denying girls education emerges.

Policy Recommendations

There are number of policies recommended by all the participants which can likely bring a reduction of unemployment if implemented. These include; anti-corruption policy, foreign and local investment policy, public sector reform and development and implementation of the national employment strategies.

In addition, the encouragement of non-formal education (vocational training schools) through a national non-formal education policy could produce more skilled young people.


During the entire research and data collection, researchers faced several challenges, including late arrival and absenteeism of the FGD participants, excessive postponement of the interviews by KII interviewee’s, and above all time constraints. The given time for the research was not enough to reach vast areas of Hargeisa as well, which resulted in the data collected being very short.

In addition, many of the respondents were not able to fully understand the questions and as the researchers strived to translate the English-written questions into Somali language, it became impossible because the meaning of the questions might change.

Finally, though this research provides enough information about the causes and consequences of youth unemployment in Hargeisa, it still remains a phenomenon that could be further researched. We recommend broader research on this topic as this research primarily focused on Hargeisa.


Youth unemployment is not only a matter of national concern but also an issue of debate and discussion. Illegal youth migration and creation of smugglers in the country are the result of youth unemployment.

This research presents the root causes of youth unemployment as well as the immediate and long-term consequences of the unemployment rate. Reduced work force in the country and loss of a generation of young people are among the future consequences of the problem.

Concerning the problem, youth unemployment will discourage and reduce the student enrollment and increase illiteracy levels in the country.

Therefore, the high level of youth unemployment coupled with reduced level of income in the community and the prolonged drought in the country, will not only hinder the economic development of the country, but will also have an impact on peace and security as there are now gangs in both Hargeisa and other regions of Somaliland as well.

The government, private sector and other policy-making agencies are urged to consider the recommendations provided in this report and act urgently on this alarming national matter.


  1. Mohamed Abdullahi Guleid
  2. Ahmed Abdullahi Nour
  3. Mohamed Ahmed Mohamoud
  4. Sado Hashi Awad
  5. Hassan Hussein Abdi
  6. Sa’ad Mohamed Haddi
  7. Yusuf Mohamed Hussein
  8. Ubah Rashid Egeh
  9. Hothan Ibrahim Mohame
  10. Sahal Saalah Abdulrahma

Disclaimer: Views and opinions expressed here are those of the author/authors and do not reflect views of Somaliland Intellectuals Institute (SII) and/or its sponsors or partners. SII reserves the right to edit articles before publication. To consider publishing your opinion piece or analysis please email to November 29, 2017