Somaliland’s story is unlike any other in the developing world. The autonomous region has built a peaceful democracy without any assistance from the international community. International development agencies are nowhere to be found, foreign aid pours into its neighbors but skips over Somaliland. These challenging circumstances have forced the people of Somaliland to build their country from the ground up. The private sector is the only mechanism for economic and social growth – early investors have established successful businesses despite their lack of access to any credit. However, economic and social needs are vast; Firestarter sees immense opportunities to provide profitable products and services across all sectors.
Energy bills are too high!
Energy is the biggest barrier to development in Somaliland. At $1 per kWh, diesel generators are insufficient to provide for the country’s commercial and residential energy needs. Wherever we went, we asked businesses to show us their energy bills. Again and again, entrepreneurs told us that their energy bills were preventing them from growing their businesses. Manufacturing is cost prohibitive, small business owners are unable to keep the lights on; it is the glass ceiling for development in Somaliland.
The fishing industry and renewable energy unlock massive potential
In the past few years, a small group of fishermen along the coast have embarked on an impressive mission to build their industry. With the help of FairFishing, a Danish NGO, they have made steady progress towards providing domestic supply of fish to the people of Somaliland. Fish is abundant in the Gulf of Aden, and these small-scale operations are the tip of a massive iceberg. In time, Somaliland’s coast could be an important source of food not only for their own country, but for all of East Africa.
But fishing requires energy – lots of it actually. Cold storage requires an immense energy load that the country’s supply is unable to manage. We spoke to fish salesmen in the capital, and they’re feeling the pain of those energy bills. They cannot afford to keep their freezers and refrigerators plugged in all day, so they’re freezing fish at night and letting it thaw throughout the day. Not only does this reduce the quality of fish, but it scares off many consumers from purchasing what they rightfully consider to be an unsanitary product.
Luckily, the sun beats down on Somaliland – we have the burns to prove it. By using solar-powered refrigeration, and providing consumers with coolers and ice packs, we can make fresh fish accessible at a cheaper price than goat – the most common source of protein. Fish is a relatively new product in the market, so we’re hiring female entrepreneurs to sell it to their communities. We have partnerships on the ground with influential businessmen, cohorts of female entrepreneurs, and smart young people with a drive to make this a success. Firestarter’s Community Fish Sales Initiative has the opportunity to provide more secure demand for fishermen, employment for female entrepreneurs, and a healthy protein alternative to the people of Somaliland. Not only that, but this is a profitable business opportunity that can be self-sustaining within its first year of operation.
We need your help to make it happen
Crowdfunding is a big piece of our fundraising efforts, and will cover important aspects of our pilot project. With the funds we raise, we will hire and train saleswomen, purchase a truck for the drive from the coast to the capital, and do some marketing for our launch. This is the first of many investments we plan to make in Somaliland. Within the next few years, Firestarter will bring in the best business models and technologies the development community has to offer. We are building connections between investors across the world, businesses and consumers in Somaliland, and the best development minds across East Africa. With your help, we will ensure that Somaliland does not have to go it alone any longer. Join us in Somaliland’s journey, and participate in a new kind of relationship with the developing world.
Who We Support
A portion of the profits from Firestarter’s community fish sales project will support organizations in Somaliland who are rapidly improving the country’s education and health outcomes. ABAARSO a premier middle and high school in the Horn of Africa. Founded by Jonathan Starr, Abaarso’s alumni have gone on to attend universities such as Harvard, MIT, Wesleyan, Michigan State, and more. The Edna Adan Hospital is one of the best medical providers in the region; people from all over the Horn travel to Edna Adan for medical care. In order to fulfill the social outcomes Firestarter’s work seeks, support for these organizations is an integral part of the project’s mission.