Romans Onyango is the site engineer at one of Mogadishu’s luxury apartment buildings under construction.
While there are no official numbers, the Kenyan national is one of the many foreign workers attracted to the Somali capital by lucrative contracts.
“There are so many Kenyans coming here — people from all over Africa: Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, everywhere,” he says.
In the past two years, African Union troops have pushed out warlords and al-Shabab militants, allowing for elections and the first real government in decades.
With some stability returning, Mogadishu, once referred to as the “ghost city,” is getting a facelift with a building boom and even traffic jams.
With development on the upswing, the on-rush of foreign laborers isn’t sitting well with some locals.
“Most of the Mogadishu youths are not happy with the increase of foreign staff,” says Mogadishu resident Abdinur Mohamed. “The government should create a law that dictates at least 80% of the staff in all sectors of the economy to be from the local community”.
According to Mohamed, it’s a sentiment shared by most young Somalis, many of whom were unable to secure the necessary qualifications or training due to the country’s ongoing conflict. Even recent graduates are facing few job prospects, and some are demanding limited-duration work permits foreign experts.
“There is nothing wrong with bringing foreign expertise, but let them stay for a specific period, like a year,” says Mohamed. “Within that year, let them train Somali staff so that they may be able to take up these roles in the future.”
While government officials have vowed new initiatives designed to create new opportunities for young Somalis, Mohamed and others like him can only hope the once-lawless nation’s newfound stability will help them build a better life.