The Ministry of Information, Culture & Tourism of the Federal Government of Somalia with the support of the World Bank launched strategic communications initiative and held two days workshop to focus on the latest Multi-Partner Fund progress report (MPF), showing development of fifteen Somali projects. The aim of the two-day workshop on 22nd and 23rd of August 2017 was to make our civil servants, our media and our civil society understand and communicate how the Somali Government is managing its own funds and its own reforms.
The workshop was opened by the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, H.E. Abdirahman Omar Osman (Eng. Yarisow), Abdullahi Hamud, State Minister, Office of the Prime Minister and Ahmed Ainte, Director of Aid Coordination Unit. Attending from the WB were Puteri Watson, Senior Operations Officer & MPF Manager and Matthias Mayr, Program Officer, Somalia.
Minister Eng. Yarisow, in his opening remarks said “I hugely thank the World Bank for their understanding on the importance of strategic communications in order to reach out to public, so that Somali citizens will be better informed to analyse, to provide feedback, comments and to hold accountable to government institutions for implementing projects and service delivery. The excellent work of our civil servants needs to be known by our people, and this workshop signals a move towards communicating these Government efforts more effectively to our citizens. “
The emphasis of the two days workshop was Somali ownership and leadership to the use of the country systems to implement reforms, fighting corruption, improving security and boosting economic growth.
One of the key supporters of these reforms is the World Bank through the Multi Partner Fund, or MPF. The main benefit of the Government’s work with MPF is that all the reforms are designed and implemented by the Government through country systems, such as the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Planning, and Office of the Prime Minister.
The main objectives of the Government’s work, which is supported by the World Bank are to:
• Strengthen Somali institutions (to fight corruption and promote professionalism and transparency)
• Create jobs and investment opportunities
• Improve infrastructure
This far in the Government’s work, supported by the World Bank, we have seen the Government’s ability to pay salaries regularly, create a system where the entire budget for Somalia is available online, and rehabilitate infrastructure all over Somalia
Minister Eng. Yarisow concluded his remarks and said “It was of significant benefit to hold these events within the Ministry of Information, both to illustrate the FGS/WB partnership that was part of the discussion in the workshops and in particular because The Ministry of Information is the appropriate institution in which to discuss Government/World Bank communications. The workshops were productive and have increased understanding, coordination and future cooperation among the focal points of the MPF-supported Government projects and Somali media and civil society.”
Forget shop signs, Somalia’s businesses are using quirky graffiti to lure customers
If you visit any major city or town in Somalia, chances are that you will come across the colorful artworks that dot the walls of both private and public establishments.
These painted signs are the work of skillful artists, who in broad brushstrokes, advertise the goods and services offered at different business outlets. These include the availability of electronic appliances, vehicle spare parts, beauty products, foodstuff and beverages, and the sometimes graphically-drawn dental, medical, or circumcision services. Other illustrations warn visitors not to carry guns, pistols, or knives into premises like hospitals, restaurants, and government offices.
The hand-drawn signs gained popularity in Somalia after the collapse of the central government in 1991. Artists who couldn’t sell their paintings after the breakout of the civil war offered their talent to local businesses. Economic stagnation in rural areas also pushed many Somalis with low literacy levels into urban areas—forcing many businesses to visually depict what they sell to people who couldn’t read.
For the literate, written text still features in these artworks. Many illustrations are written in Somali and sometimes in Arabic, which are both the official languages of Somalia. English, oftentimes with grammatical or spelling errors, is also used, with the occasional words like ‘shop,’ ‘welcome,’ or ‘stop’ complementing the Somali words.
Some worry that the signs may not be appreciated for their artistic quality. Philipp Schütz, a photographer who is working on a book of fine art photography that seeks to preserve the sign paintings across Somalia, fears they will eventually be overtaken by printed signs. “These paintings are all very detailed, well-composed, vibrant, and captivating,” Schütz says. The different methods that different artists use to sketch, he says, are “unique and intriguing” and should be cataloged for future reference.
Somalia has had a long history of art—the ancient Las Geel cave paintings in the northern region of Somaliland, discovered in 2002, show a society with high regard for artistic expression. Artists, who have sat out the war in other countries, are returning, painting billboards about diverse issues like justice, human rights, and rejecting extremism. Contemporary Somali artwork was collected for the first time since the war began in a book published in 2014 by Imago Mundi, commissioned by the Italian billionaire Luciano Benetton. Titled Somalia: Art of Hope, the book shows how art has thrived despite difficulties faced by artists.
Abdulmalik Mabellini, one of the book’s curators, says the Somali government and foreign donors need to create structures that can expose artists’ work. “Somali artists need not only financial support but also avenues and galleries in which they can expose their talent. The government also needs to help shift the mentality of art and its place in society.”
For mural artists like Muawiye Hussein Sidow, whose signs are featured in tea shops and supermarkets across the capital Mogadishu, the drawings are becoming more than just his daily source of income. “I have become an art teacher,” Sidow recently told Reuters. “There are many artists whom I taught how to make pictures.”