One man’s plan to stop terrorist recruiting: Stop ‘waithood’

Human rights activist Mohamed Ali links terrorism and youth unemployment in a TED Talk. (TED)

How can one quash the appeal of joining terror groups in Somalia and other conflict zones? Somali-American Mohamed Ali just might have found the answer: entrepreneurship.

“I believe entrepreneurship can be the most powerful tool against waithood [a situation in which youth wait for a future],” said Ali in a TED Talk. Entrepreneurship “empowers young people to be the creators of the very economic opportunities they are so desperately seeking.” Ali discussed how entrepreneurship in Somalia offers a livelihood to youth who, faced with few opportunities, might otherwise join terror groups for financial gain.

More than two-thirds of Somalia’s population is under age 30, and they are a prime target of terrorist recruiters. According to the 2012 U.N. Somalia Human Development Report, 67 percent of Somali youth are unemployed. This fuels Ali’s work.

Ali holds a law degree from Boston College. He started the Iftiin Foundation in 2012 “to encourage a culture of change, peace and innovation among entrepreneurs and young leaders in post-conflict countries.”

In 2013, the Iftiin Foundation, in partnership with the State Department, held a Generation Change Summit in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. The 90 local youth who attended the summit participated in workshops about social entrepreneurship, where a startup seeks to make profits while solving a pressing social problem.

“All of you … here today are the hope of Somalia’s future,” Ali said at the summit. “You certainly have what it takes to transform Somalia.”