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Yesilcam overtakes Hollywood and Bollywood in Somalia



Turkish TV series attracts Somali cinema audiences as Ankara’s soft power spreads across the Horn of Africa country.

Mogadishu, Somalia – It used to be Hollywood. Then it became Bollywood. Now Yesilcam, as Turkey calls its film industry, has taken over silverscreens in Somalia.

Turkish soap operas have gained so much popularity that some people have set up makeshift cinemas while others have started businesses of translating the films.

Every evening, Somali families would gather in front of their tv screens to watch them.

Anisa Ali, a 29-year-old mother of two, and her friends are watching Kara Para Ask (Black Money Love), a detective-romance Turkish TV series featuring fictional characters Omer Demir and Elif Denizer.

Ali is glued to the screen, her hands buried inside the grey sofa she is sitting on. She inches forward, lifts her upper body suddenly, only to fall back into the sofa.

It’s as if her favourite football team just missed a crucial chance against an arch-rival. Ali is furious about what’s happening to Demir – her favourite character.

In the scene, as Demir is enjoying his engagament party, the mother of his ex-fiance, who died mysteriously, gate-crashes the event to sabotage it.

“They are full of twists and emotions,” Ali told Al Jazeera. “When we are watching, it’s like we are part of the story. We shout at the characters telling them ‘do this, defend yourself, speak up’ and so on. We participate from our sofas.”

This is the fifth series Ali and her friends have followed in the last five years.

Yesilcam gained traction in the country after Turkey and Somalia renewed relations in 2011. The improvement in ties began during a devastating famine that killed more than 250,000 Somalis.

Turkey showed compassion and provided emergency relief aid, built schools, hospitals and roads, and invested in Somalia where Turkish cinema is seen as an addition to Ankara’s soft power.

And due to a group of translators and voice actors, there is no language barrier for the Somali audience.

Somalis prefer Turkish drama series over Hollywood and Bollywood because they go on for months and provide daily entertainment [Feisal Omar/Reuters]

Small production companies like Fanproj have spotted a gap in the market.

They download Turkish films from the internet, re-edit, add Somali voiceover and sell them to local TV stations as well as uploading them onto their social media accounts.

Somalis prefer Turkish drama series over Hollywood and Bollywood because they go on for months and provide daily entertainment. Actors are mostly Muslims and therefore the Somali audience can relate to many of their stories and they portray realistic characters that are full of twists and turns.

In contrast, Hollywood movies are seen by Somalis as full of violence and littered with nudity while Bollywood cinema is thought of as nothing more than well-groomed male and female actors dancing provocatively.

The team at Fanproj has been working on Kara Para Ask for about a year now. It has been one of their most successful projects and they are determined to build on that.

“Our main focus now is Turkish films,” Mohamed Abdulqadir, a voice actor and translator, said.

“Somalis love Turkish films and they are more interested when it’s aired in Somali language. Our job is to translate for them.”

His manager, Mohamed Abukar, agrees that the demand for Yesilcam is huge.

“Every time we post films online, we receive lots of positive comments on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

“The biggest benefit is that Turkish films are informative. Before we decide which film to translate, we consider the storyline and the benefit for our audiences.” Abukar added.

Somali production companies download Turkish films from the internet and add Somali voiceover before selling to local TV stations [Nuur Mohamed/Al Jazeera]

But not everyone is happy with the takeover by Turkish films.

“As men, our family role is outside [the house], women do the housework and look after the children. They waste so much time watching these series and therefore neglect their husband who needs attention after coming home from work tired,” Abdi Qadir Sheikh, a 29-year-old father-of-two, told Al Jazeera.

“While busy watching the films, they also neglect children. They don’t have time to give them milk and dinner. A child could crawl into the kitchen and burn itself or pour water on itself,” he added.

The country’s religious figures argue that uncensored content is also damaging the fabric of Somali society.

Sheikh Aadan Moallim wants a total ban on Turkish films, arguing that its negative influence is destroying families.

“Women learn how to lie, how to deceive and they meet bad people. That’s against our religion,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Their [the films’] only contribution is to misguide Somalis and cause family breakups. There are women who would stay up all night watching films and won’t listen to their husband – that is haram.” Moallim added.

While Turkish films are becoming part of the daily life for many Somalis in and out of the country, Yesilcam is polarising the Somali society.

“We let them [men] watch their football, they should let us watch our films,” Ali said.

Somali News

Somalis unhappy with new sales tax



The government instituted a five percent sales tax, the first in nearly 30 years, as part of the conditions set by the IMF to relieve Somalia’s debt burden.

Going to a restaurant in Somalia has become more expensive, and customers don’t like it.

They’re angry at the government imposing a five percent sales tax, the first for nearly thirty years.

The tax is a key condition of the International Monetary Fund to relieve Somalia’s debts.

Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow reports from Mogadishu, Somalia.

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Briefing Room

A Child Dies, a Child Lives: Why Somalia Drought Is Not Another Famine



DOLLOW, Somalia (Reuters) – At the height of Somalia’s 2011 famine, Madow Mohamed had to leave her crippled five-year-old son Abdirahman by the side of the road to lead her eight other starving children toward help.
When she returned to search for him, she found only a grave. He was among the 260,000 Somalis who perished.

“You can never forget leaving your child to die,” she says, wiping away tears at the memory seven years later. “It is a hell that does not end.”

This time, the drought has been harsher. Three seasons of rains have failed, instead of two. But none of Mohamed’s other children have died – and the overall death toll, although unknown, is far lower. The United Nations has documented just over 1,000 deaths, mostly from drinking dirty water.


Earlier donor intervention, less interference by a weakened Islamist insurgency, a stronger Somali government and greater access for aid workers have been crucial.

Another reason is that aid agencies are shifting from giving out food to cash – a less wasteful form of aid that donors such as Canada, Europe and Australia have embraced, although the United States still has restrictions on food aid.

The U.S. Congress will debate a move toward cash-based aid this year when lawmakers vote on a new Farm Bill. Christopher Barrett, an expert on food aid at Cornell University, is one of many scholars, politicians and aid agencies demanding reform.

“A conservative estimate is that we sacrifice roughly 40,000 children’s lives annually because of antiquated food aid policies,” he told Congress in November.


In 2011, a few donors gave out cash in Somalia, but the World Food Programme only gave out food. It was often hijacked by warlords or pirates, or rotted under tarpaulins as trucks sat at roadblocks.

Starving families had to trek for days through the desert to reach distribution points. Their route became so littered with children’s corpses it was called “the Road of Death”.

Now, more than 70 percent of WFP aid in Somalia is cash, much of it distributed via mobile phones. More than 50 other charities are also giving out cash: each month Mohamed receives $65 from the Italian aid group Coopi to spend as she wants: milk, medicine, food or school fees.

Cash has many advantages over food aid if markets are functioning. It’s invisible, so less likely to be stolen. It’s mobile so families can move or stay put.
WFP said it gave out $134 million directly to Somali families to spend at local shops last year.

“We … basically gave confidence to the market to stay active,” said Laurent Bukera, head of WFP Somalia.

And money is more efficient than bags of food: in Somalia, cash aid means 80 cents in every $1 goes directly to the family, rather than 60 cents from food aid, said Calum McLean, the cash expert at the European Union’s humanitarian aid department.

Cash might have saved little Abdirahman.

“I could have stayed in my village if I had had cash. There was some food in the markets. It was expensive, but if you had money, there was food to buy,” Mohamed said sadly.


Aid groups have been experimenting with cash for two decades but McLean says the idea took off five years ago as the Syrian civil war propelled millions of refugees into countries with solid banking systems.

Donors have adapted. Six years ago, five percent of the EU’s humanitarian aid budget was cash distributions. Today, it is more than a third.

Most of the initial cost lies in setting up the database and the distribution system. After that, adding more recipients is cheap, McLean said. Amounts can be easily adjusted depending on the level of need or funding.

“Cash distributions also becomes cheaper the larger scale you do it,” he said.

Most U.S. international food assistance is delivered by USAID’s Food for Peace Office, which had a budget of $3.6 billion in 2017.

Just under half those funds came through U.S. Farm Bill Title II appropriations, which stipulate that most food must be bought from American farmers. The U.S. Cargo Preference Act requires that half of this be shipped on U.S.-flagged vessels.

Despite these restrictions, Food for Peace increased cash and voucher programs from 3 percent of the budget in 2011 to 20 percent last year.

But sourcing food aid in the United States is expensive and wasteful, said Barrett, who oversaw a study that found buying grain close to an emergency was half the price and 14 weeks faster. Arguments that food aid supported U.S. farmers or mariners were largely false, he said.


Aid groups use different systems to distribute cash, but most assess families, then register them in a biometric database, usually via fingerprints. Cash is distributed using bank cards or mobile phones or as vouchers.

Some charities place no restrictions on the cash; others, like WFP, stipulate it can only be spent at certain shops with registered shopkeepers.

In Dollow, the dusty town on the Ethiopian border where Mohamed lives with her surviving children, families say the cash has transformed their lives.

Gacalo Aden Hashi, a young mother whose name means “sweetheart”, remembers trudging past two dead children in 2011 on her way to get help. A third was alive but dying, she said, and her weakened family had to press on.

When she arrived at the camp, men were stealing food aid to give to their families, she said.

“Men were punching each other in line every time at food distributions,” she said. “Sometimes you would be sitting and suddenly your food would be taken by some strong young man.”

Now, she says, no one can steal her money – Coopi uses a system that requires a PIN to withdraw money. Most of her cash goes on food but with a group of other women she saved enough to open a small stall.

“The cash may end, but this business will not,” she said.


Cash won’t work everywhere. In South Sudan, where famine briefly hit two counties last year, the civil war shut markets, forcing aid agencies to bring in food by plane and truck.

Sending cash to areas hit by earthquakes would drive up prices. But in a drought, where livelihoods have collapsed but infrastructure is intact, cash transfers are ideal, experts say.

Some problems remain. There’s often little co-ordination among donors – for instance, there are seven separate databases in Somalia, said McLean, and monthly stipends can vary widely.

In Uganda, authorities are investigating reports of fraud after the government used its own biometric registration system for refugees.

And if there’s no clean water or health service available, then refugees can’t spend money buying water or medicine.

But most scholars agree that switching to more cash aid would save more lives, a 2016 briefing paper by the Congressional Research Service concluded.

(Additional reporting by George Obulutsa; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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Anglo-Turkish Genel Energy might starting drilling in Somaliland in 2019 -CEO



LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) – Kurdistan-focused Genel Energy might start drilling in Somaliland next year, Chief Executive Murat Ozgul said on Thursday, as the group reported 2017 results broadly in line with expectations.

“For the long term, I really like (our) Somaliland exploration assets. It’s giving me a sense of Kurdistan 15 years ago,” Ozgul said in a phone interview. “In 2019 we may be (starting) the drilling activities.”

Chief Financial Officer Esa Ikaheimonen said Genel will focus spending money from its $162 million cash pile on its existing assets in Kurdistan but added: “You might see us finding opportunities… somewhere outside Kurdistan.”

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