Photo by Spiltcocoa Sitting in the foreground, Guled Ibrahim, founder and organizer of SNAPBI, laughs with the speakers.

“Somali Excellence”: This is the term used to describe the September 4th Somali Diaspora Conference which took place at the Sheraton Bloomington Hotel where more than 500 young Somalis from around the world participated in a two-day conference centered on culture and personal development.

“A group of young professionals, including myself, got together and launched SNABPI [Somali North American Business and Professionals Inc.] at the end of 2017 ”, explained the organizer and founder of the event Guled Ibrahim. “We saw the need and we filled the void. Our goal is to bring together the best and brightest Somali American minds here in Minnesota and North America to share knowledge, resources and improve our communities. SNABPI’s leadership includes lawyers, doctors, educators, healthcare professionals, business owners and entrepreneurs.

The conference was hosted by SNABPI, a group that aims to engage and celebrate the next generation of entrepreneurs and professionals in the Somali community. The chapters are located in cities with large Somali communities, including Minneapolis, Columbus and Toronto. SNABPI holds annual events in these cities to facilitate networking and forums aimed at creating a global platform for young Somali professionals to ensure the success of the community as a whole.

People like Neima Abdullahi, Ifrah Hussein and Halima Aden, owner of Twin Cities, have attracted a lot of people. Aden is the model that caught the world’s attention when she became the first hijabi model.

Photo by Spiltcocoa Model Halima Aden attracted many attendees

A chance to connect

The day of the conference was marked by a series of speeches, performances and focus groups. The panels covered several topics, including what it takes to work at a leading tech company, the impact of COVID on healthcare, and empowerment through civic engagement.

Faye Mohamed and Suleka Abdi are friends who arrived at the conference together in search of professional development and inspiration. Faye, an advertising and public relations student, attended the social media panel. “I do content, but I quit. I went to look for inspiration to be able to get back to it, ”she said.

Interested in the tech field, Suleka sat on this panel to learn more about his options after college. “Another panel that I liked was the technical panel because I’m a computer science student so I was able to get a lot of information out of it,” she said.

They both attended a panel titled ‘Understanding Addiction: How to Love Someone in Recovery’, which was run by Alliance Wellness Center, a Bloomington-based treatment center aimed at helping the East African community. . They were touched when they heard from two young men, Abdullahi and Abdirahman, who shared their stories of drug addiction and how the center helped them overcome their addiction.

“That one was very powerful,” Faye said. “It touched me because I have family members who have dealt with drug addiction.”

With her graduation just around the corner, Safiya hoped to find potential connections to the tech industry and walked away with many contacts. “We networked and met a lot of people in the tech industry. We have people who were willing to help us find jobs.

Photo by Spiltcocoa Conference panelists

Promote businesses and connections

The event also served as a platform for many vendors to market themselves to conference attendees and give them a chance to grow their business or organization. Vendors included food companies like Hooyo’s Hands which served baked goods, clothing companies like Cunug Clothing which sells baby clothes, and non-profit organizations like Tusaalo Mentoring which is an organization dedicated to providing mentoring. culturally adapted to young people in East Africa by pairing them with young professionals who share the same background.

Jamal Adam is the Director of Advancement and Assessment at Tusaalo. He shared that the biggest request of the organization of young professionals in the diaspora is to volunteer some of their time. Whether through a mentorship or a workshop, “At the end of the day, when they see themselves as you, someone who is successful and who is able to go the distance, they are more likely. to say okay, I can do that too, ”explained Adam.

He shared that he never had a mentor like him, which made it difficult. Students in the diaspora are struggling academically and Tusaalo hopes that presenting people from the East African community can have an impact on young people.

Another provider at the conference was PaySii, a mobile money transfer app that allows money to be transferred quickly and securely. The company has been around for almost three years, but has recently expanded to North America.

Abdul Suleyman, their CFO, was present at the conference. He highlighted how important remittances are to the global Somali community and how adopting new platforms like PaySii can keep this tradition alive.

“Remittances are something that is needed in our community, especially for people back home. It is an integral part of our community. It has always been the traditional way to send money, ”he said. Somalia received $ 1.4 billion from the diaspora, which supported nearly a quarter of the country’s GDP, according to a World Bank report in 2016.

The event was made possible by a number of sponsors and strategic partners, including the Caspian Group, Sakoy Cleaning Services and Afro Deli whose founder, Abdirahman Khain, has long supported the organization. During the conference, Kahin presented a scholarship to four university students for their community work and academic achievements.

Kahin’s success has been a symbol for Somalis, representing what is possible with hard work while providing an example of how a person in his position can impact the community. He plans to continue his community work with the creation of the Afro Deli Foundation. He hopes to create a $ 200,000 scholarship fund for African students and tap into his network of business owners to make this work possible.

“We are responsible for our community, so we have to give back, and the best way to give back is to get involved,” he said. Several young Somalis approached Kahin and told him that he was an inspiration to them.

“I see this inspiration going far, because I’m sure this child who was inspired by me will inspire others. I want it to be a cycle. We want to spread love and knowledge.

Photo by Spiltcocoa An enthusiastic crowd cheers a speaker. More than 500 Somali Americans attended the second gathering of the conference which brings together Somalis from across the United States and Somalia.

Finding ways to give back

Doing it next was another major theme throughout the conference, as panelists and speakers shared their professional advice with attendees. Yusra Mohamud co-organized the conference. Like many, she discovered SNABPI via social networks and has been a member for two years.

Giving back has been at the heart of her development as a young Somali professional. Mohamud works in commercial banking in Wells Fargo, but outside of her job she teaches financial literacy in public schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul. She also sits on the Board of Directors of the Lake Street Council and is a member of the African Development Center Loans Committee.

“A lot of people want to come home and make a difference, but we just don’t have the opportunity to do it and a lot of people want to come here. SNABPI is therefore bridging the gap, ”she said. “Here we are able to network with people who have never been to Somalia or with people who have just come from Somalia, and we have a lot of professionalism.”

For people like Suleka Abdi, leading by example has been a key goal in inspiring the community. “I feel like being successful is also success for my people, so I just try to work hard and make sure that I am successful and that they can claim me,” Abdi said.

Overall, the idea of ​​retaining Somali identity and culture has been an integral part of promoting a better future. “The people back home are able to see that we’re not just Americanized or lost our culture and just doing our own thing, but no, we work hard and we stay together as a community, especially here. in Minnesota There’s a reason we call ourselves Little Mogadishu, ”Mohamud said with a smile.

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