Mogadishu's iRise Hub offers an optimistic, innovative, hi-tech future for Somalia
There are aspects of Somalia that never make the headlines. A tech savvy Somalia. driven by a global diaspora returning home, bringing innovative projects with them. iRise Hub incubator in Mogadishu is one of them.
iRise Hub is a tech incubator for start-ups and a co-working space for young tech entrepreneurs.
A tech hub offers innovators, developers, investors, techies, and startups the working space to share ideas, connect and collaborate with each other
iRise Hub was launched in September this year in the Hodon district of Mogadishu and now houses some 20 young Somalis working on their respective projects.
Ayaan is a Somali who lived in the United States before she decided to move back to Somalia in 2014. She is particularly fond of the atmosphere at iRise’s co-working space :
“Once you are in that space you can really forget the chaos outside and the hustle and bustle of the city. It brings you to a different mindset where you are much more focused.”
Members pay a monthly fee of 25 euros per month. For 85 euros per month, subscribers can use all the facilities the company provides, including a postal address, secretarial services and meeting rooms.
iRise is also opened to investors – both local and international – who may be interested startups incumated at the Hub.
“It is a space where people get extra skills, whether technical or business. We always make sure that before someone joins the space, they will add a value to our tech community,” explains 27-year-old Awil Osman. Osman is iRise Hub's CEO and cofounder along with Abdihakim Ainte.
iRise provides a stable internet connection and uninterrupted electricity, something that is taken for granted in many parts of the world but a rarity in Somalia where power cuts are frequent and where there is only one internet provider with one undersea fibre optic cable connecting the country to the net.
When the fibre optic cable was damaged in June this year, the country went without internet for nearly a month and resulted of losses of 8.4 million euros every day for the fragile national economy.
The monopoly partly explains the high price Somalis pay to access internet. iRise pays 2,100 euros per month for internet access.
“The Somali government just passed the telecommunication bill recently. They have not yet [clarified] the regulations over pricing for this product. Maybe other players will come into the market and stabilise the price,” Osman says.
Osman used to live in Kenya and, as a computer science student, he frequently used the services provided by iHub in Nairobi, an innovation hub and hacker space for the technology community that was started in March 2010 by Erik Hersman a blogger, TED fellow and entrepreneur.
Osman Osman left Kenya to go back to live and work in Somalia and that is when he realised what was missing in Mogadishu.
“Because I learnt the impact [iHub] had in my journey to become an entrepreneur, I realised when I came to Mogadishu that [it] also needs a place like iHub,” Osman says.
The American HBO comedy series Silicon Valley is another source of inspiration. Osman wants to create a place similar to the one set up by TJ Miller, the flamboyant character played by Erlich Bachman.
He wants to open a house where developers can sleep, eat and work and not have to worry about bills.
Until such a “one-stop shop” is established, iRise houses tech-innovators like Mohamed Anoy Ali and his partners. They have been working on a start-up for some time and said that their project has leapt forward since entering iRise.
“We have mentors, experts [here at iRise]. It took us a long time to research and trying to turn our idea into a start-up but [after working with the people] at iRise for two to three days, our idea became something tangible,” says Mohamed Anoy Ali.
A positive image of Somalia
Videos of iRise Hub shows a well-equipped, very modern facility. A stark contrast to the images of violence depicting Somalia.
"The problem is the media that shows the world terrorist attacks. The media doesn’t show the good things that are happening in Mogadishu. It is not only the international media, even the local media [does that]," Osman says.
Images of violence or political conflicts, according to Osman, get more traction than stories about businesses prospering or people having fun at the restaurant