From piracy to entrepreneurism: Social reintegration programme turning young Somalis’ lives around

Mohamed Ahmed Jama is considering opening his own business after participating in the Youth at Risk initiative

13 February 2012

At just 27, Bosasso resident Mohamed Ahmed Jama has already spent three years in jail for piracy-related activities. Like many young Somalis, the lure of prosperity associated with piracy outweighed the risks. After his release from prison, Mohamed may have been drawn back into such a life, were it not for his participation in a UNDP-supported reintegration programme.

Initially reluctant, he now credits the programme, which aims to reintegrate at-risk youth back into the community, with giving him the confidence to turn his life around.

"At the initial stage it seemed to be similar to any other humanitarian project, providing only short term opportunities, such as access to food and employment,” he said. “But through the social and legal rehabilitation I feel I have gained skills that I had never had before. I believe now I have a chance for a brighter future since the social skills have been factored in my life and I have socially grown up."

Mohamed Ahmed Jama is one of hundreds of young Somalis who have participated in UNDP’s Youth at Risk initiative, which is part of the Armed Violence Reduction project, since it began in 2011. Conducted in partnership with UNICEF and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the project aims to bring about a change in mindset, behaviour, attitude, opportunities, and interaction with the community in individuals who are currently engaged with criminal and violent activities.

Under the economic integration component of the Youth at Risk initiative, participants receive vocational and skills training, including business entrepreneurship skills, which empower youth to find a job or create their own businesses. 

Mohamed has been attending the afternoon sessions of the skills training three days a week for the last three months. He now has a basic business concept to initiate his own ideas to start his business after he completes the programme – a contrast from the life he once led.

"The course had equipped me to think more on developing my small business plan which I will use to generate income for myself and community,” he said. “My future is brighter than ever and I am a role model to my peer groups especially, to those who did not get this opportunity.”