I have always been deeply connected to Somalia, my homeland, and I am also very connected to Utah State University, where I earned both a master’s degree in range science in 1991 and a Ph.D. in economics in 2001. My thesis was an optimal dynamic control model for livestock in central Somalia.
I met my wife, Habiba Nur, at Utah State, where she also was a student from Somalia, and we were married at the Student Union Center. I had to be in Somalia at the time of the wedding, and so her father stood in as my proxy in our Islamic wedding, and then we were reunited when I returned.
We have three children, a 19-year-old daughter, Mayran A. Mohamed, who is a freshman at Utah State, a 15-year-old daughter, Ladan, and a 13-year-old son, Lidan. I have taught at Weber State and at the University of Phoenix, as well as working for a number of years in the private sector and for the State Health Department of Utah.
Over the years, I had always stayed in touch with a man who grew up very near me in Somalia, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali. For years, we both dreamed of a better future for our country, as it struggled, with the civil war in 1991, with the radical Islamist group al Shabaab, with Somali pirates, with drought and the destruction of the country’s infrastructure.
Mr. Ali became Prime Minister of Somalia in June 2011, and I applied for the position of Minister of Finance, to which I was appointed in July 2011. I now oversee 500 employees in the Finance Ministry, with an annual budget of $98 million.
We are at a critical time in the history of this nation—a country that famously lies along the ancient Silk Road trade route, stretching from southern Europe through Arabia, Somalia, Egypt, Persia, India, and Java until it reached China. Since the second millennium BC, Somalia traded with Egypt and Greece, exporting short-horned cattle, incense, ebony, gold, ivory, and animal skins.
Today we are working very hard to take back control of the land from rebel groups. In July 2011 we controlled just one street in the capital city of Mogadishu, and now in mid-2012, we’ve liberated 80 percent of the city and most of the surrounding country.
The people have lost trust in al Shabaab, which has deprived them of all services, schools, and infrastructure. We need to reestablish trust with the people, to provide social services, schools, and to undertake other development projects. International help is needed for this. Our financial system needs to be built on strong accountability and transparency.
We’ve made a lot of progress, and our main task now is to move from the transitional government to a permanent government, and to secure international legitimacy. We are following a four-step roadmap to stability:
We brought together the elders of the clans, members of the Somali diaspora, young people, women—a cross-section of society to debate elements of the constitution, which was rectified in the Assembly in early July 2012. Then the Assembly selected 550 members of Parliament, half of them new. The Parliament chose a speaker, a president, a prime minister, and cabinet.
Right now the whole world is waking up and helping Somalia, after 20 years of struggles. People like Ban Ki Moon and Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey are helping us move forward.
Finally, we need our stability, services, and infrastructure to develop so far that they are irreversible.
That’s economics 101.