Abdirahman Mohamed Abdi, 21, who is deaf, runs a thriving online retail business employing 15 young people. He is supporting his parents and also paying fees for his two younger brothers in a local primary school.
His online shop, called Deaf Boy Online, operates from the Somaliland capital Hargeisa, advertising the products of various partner companies online and handling sales and local deliveries door-to-door.
Abdirahman, a third year social science student at Alfa university in Hargeisa, started the business two years ago. He had been searching for jobs for four years in local companies and hotels and believes that whilst he had the required skills he was discriminated against due to his disability.
His first foray into business was selling some shoes given to him by his mother that were too small for him for $13 by advertising on WhatsApp. Now, one of his biggest challenges is being able to meet the orders and having to refund customers when items are out of stock.
“My biggest hope in the near future is to open my own warehouse, where I can store my own products,” he said.
When he was starting up, Abdirahman depended on his mother and siblings helping out by handling customer inquiries. However, since opening an office in Hargeisa in 2021 he has taken on a full sales and marketing team, with seven staff handling orders and deliveries in Hargeisa and a further eight staff working remotely from other towns in Somaliland.
Mahad Mohamed Ahmed is one of the company’s two employees who are deaf. He delivers orders earning a monthly salary of $150. This enables him to help his parents who have no regular source of income.
“I divide my salary into two; I give part of it to my parents and use the rest to buy the things I need, such as clothes. The salary doesn’t offset all my needs, but I am happy with it,” he said.
Mahad, who is not married yet, noted that deaf people generally find it hard to get any type of job due to discrimination, even in the unskilled labour market.
Samsam Ismail Dirir, who joined Deaf Boy Online in December 2021, is part of the marketing team, working on a sales commission basis.
As a student her job enables her to pay her university fees. She told Radio Ergo that there is lack of employment opportunities in Hargeisa and is happy to have found a decent job.
Internal communication was a challenge at first, Samsam said, until she and other newcomers to the team became comfortable using text messages when Abdirahman is not there in person and able to lip-read.