The loudest message sent by voters in the recent election was a concern over jobs. The Trump campaign focused on blue collar jobs (and white) and broke down the blue wall. Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, was interviewed this week,…“the Democratic Party betrayed its working-man roots, just as Hillary Clinton betrayed the longtime Clinton connection — Bill Clinton’s connection — to the working man. “The Clinton strength,” he says, “was to play to people without a college education. High school people. That’s how you win elections.” And, likewise, the Republican party would come to betray its working-man constituency forged under Reagan. In sum, the working man was betrayed by the establishment.”CBS News summed it up this way…“The falloff in her share of the black vote was entirely due to black men.”
The issue of jobs is a global threat issue. In the Middle East, the unemployed are a breeding ground for terrorist groups. This is also true for highly vulnerable populations, especially refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs). Ultimately, without employment opportunities both here and abroad, there will be no world peace or security. Social enterprises create new jobs and business opportunities, all the while reaping social benefits. They must be viewed as part of the solution.
We will always need the profound work of humanitarian assistance organizations for acute situations. However, the focus should turn towards social entrepreneurship for long-term business-based solutions. My colleague, John Kohler, summed it up recently in a devexImpact article, “By now, there’s enough evidence in impact investing to see the benefits of applying money and building markets to foster entrepreneurship and prosperity from within underserved communities around the world. Unfortunately, evidence also shows that the last 60 years of foreign aid has yielded scant long-term results, apart from things like disaster relief, where foreign aid is crucial.”
Let’s take a closer look at the nexus of social entrepreneurship and global security. After the attack at Garissa University killing 148 college students in April of 2015, Kenyan officials announced in May of this year the closure of Dadaab Refugee Camp. For most of its’ almost 25 year history (what? how long?), Dadaab held the title of largest refugee camp with over 500,000 (primarily Somali) inhabitants. That’s more populous than Atlanta or Kansas City. Kenyan officials claimed Dadaab was a breeding ground for the Somali extremist group, al-Shabab, who planned the Garissa attack. The deadline for the camp closure was slated for the end of this month. With 17 days to spare the Kenyan government recently extended its self-imposed deadline.
The master plan is to give each Somali family $200 when they leave camp. Upon arrival in Somalia, each family will receive $200 monthly for 6 months. Fearing an imminent closure, some Somalis attempted a return home, only to be rejected at the border. The Somali government claimed they did not have the necessary provisions to care for the large numbers they were experiencing. The problem? Somalia is already home to 1.2 billion internally displaced people. According to General Mohamed Warsmae Darwish, an Interior Minister…”We need our people to come back, but the problem is how they can stay here, get a livelihood and how we can support them… . People have no toilets, no shelter, no water, no education, no medicine – how can they cope?”Currently, al-Shabab has a military presence of 7,000 to 9,000. Under the master plan, within 6 months of Dadaab’s closure, al-Shabab will have 100,000s of fresh recruits.
Mohamid Ali Abdi, 28 years old, returned to Somalia 8 months ago. He is quite possibly the best spokesperson for employment as a means to global security. In a BBC report, Mohamid, now a car mechanic, states …”When I left Dadaab it was my decision – there was a little bit of pushing – but I always wanted to come back to my country,” he said. “It’s very possible that if the young men coming back from Dadaab are not given help by the government or aid agencies they could be recruited into al-Shabab.”
Per a former recruit from the slums of Nairobi who was paid $1,000 to join Al Shabab,… “If I had had a job, I would not have gone there,” he says. Once recruited, he was asked to bomb a local market in Nairobi. He ultimately escaped al-Shabab. The market was bombed on May 16th, 2014 killing 12 people.
In another Nairobi slum, Mwanaisha tells the story of her 14-year old son leaving home. After 2 months she received a call from him confirming the fact that he was fighting for al-Shabab. Per Mwanaisha, “I don’t know if he is dead or alive… . He had no means of making money here,” she says. “The recruiters offered him money.”
In my last post I talked about a nonprofit’s kryptonite….compassion fatigue. Twice last year the UNHCR had to temporarily reduce food rations in Dadaab by 30%. That was 30% below daily recommended calorie intake levels. The UNHCR is not getting its’ due funding, nor is the government of Kenya. We are compassionate human beings, but we also fatigue.
Social enterprises improve living conditions, create jobs and business opportunities, and provide for a more dignified way of life. I mentor a social enterprise that provides 24/7 off-grid electricity (solar and biomass) to rural villages in India. Its’ CEO told me the first thing he notices when villages become electrified, small businesses spring up starting with small cafes that are open day and night. We must rethink assistance so that it is both sustainable and transformational. There is a way forward, a way together. And it is through the use of social enterprises, both here and abroad.
Photo: AFP. Suspected young al-Shabab fighters captured by Somalia’s troops.