How Dry Cleaning and Taxis Stop Terrorism

MohammedAbdulkadirAliMohamed Abdulkadir Ali was born in Somalia, grew up in Canada and the U.S., and then returned to Somalia after becoming a lawyer.

As told on

“I had left the country because of civil war, but speaking to those men, I found out that they had left because they had no opportunities,” he recalls.

Ali found out it wasn’t just illegal immigration that these young men were involved in, but also terrorist activities. Many of these young men and women ended up joining terrorist groups, such as al-Shabab.

He started the Iftiin Foundation to help youth find jobs and start their own businesses. This means of creating self-reliance among young people gave them a choice — to build a future rather than being brainwashed into terrorism.

Some of the businesses he has witnessed fill voids in Somalian society — and sometimes helped to grow and prosper — include a dry cleaner,  florist, a motorbike taxi business, and a market fruit stand.

In this TED Talk, he explains his journey and how he developed this solution to a big problem:

Iftiin Foundation is a social enterprise that incubates entrepreneurs and social ventures in conflict-affected countries to accelerate peace. Mohamed Abdulkadir Ali founded Iftiin Foundation in 2012 to encourage a culture of change, peace and innovation among entrepreneurs and young leaders in post-conflict countries starting with his native Somalia. He is a Somali-American peace strategist, human rights activist and social entrepreneur. Iftiin, which means “light” in Somali, seeks to support local entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs working in some of the most challenging environments in the world to rise to their true potential and spark changes that will pave the way for peace.

Iftiin Foundation believes that entrepreneurs play an important role in accelerating peace in post-conflict and conflict-affected countries. Across the world, conflict, piracy, terrorism and instability can have complex and varied causes, but in regions saddled with the dangerous combination of a large youth population and chronic unemployment, the risks are magnified. Ultimately, one of the key solutions to achieving stability and long-lasting peace is in the private sector and in entrepreneurship. In fragile communities, where often the private sector provides as much as 90 percent of employment, entrepreneurs are the key drivers of development. Fighting terrorism and eliminating piracy in countries like Somalia should take a multi-pronged approach of which fostering a culture of entrepreneurship, peace innovation and empowering youth is the key to long-term peace and stability.

Iftiin Foundation is committed to collaborating with peers, contributing thought leadership, sharing experiences, and developing and fostering innovative projects that allow a community of changemakers to flourish.

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About Anita Casalina