"This is the time to go back," explains Somali diaspora member Dr. Ali. "There is a huge brain-drain in Somalia and the country is suffering from a lack of human capital."
It is for this very reason that Dr. Ali, an Associate Professor of Economics at Niagara University in New York, wishes to take a year sabbatical beginning August 2010 to return to Somalia with QUESTS-MIDA. While in Somalia, if given a chance, Dr. Ali plans to work with the Ministry of Finance on public finance management or with the Ministry of Planning on development related issues including data analysis. He is also in conversation with East Africa University and other universities in Puntland to explore teaching opportunities.
Forty-four year old Dr. Ali, originally from central Somalia, lives in New York with his four children and his wife, who is a professor of economics at New York State University in Buffalo. According to Dr. Ali, he came to the United States for the first time in 1986 to obtain his Master's Degree in Economics from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. He had completed his undergraduate studies in Mogadishu and won a scholarship to study in the United States through the African Graduate Fellowship Program. Upon arrival, Dr. Ali had no trouble adjusting to life in the U.S., "I was a student, I just had fun!" he says.
After receiving his Master's Degree, Dr. Ali returned to Somalia as a government employee, only to return back to the U.S. within a year. He explains, "Unfortunately, Somalia was going through a very hard time, so I left in June of 1989 and came back here to the U.S." Dr. Ali then earned a Master's Degree in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, a Certificate in Taxation from Harvard University Law School and a Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. After completing his studies, he worked for the Virginia State Government before returning to academia as a professor at Niagara University in 2003.
In addition to his life in the U.S., Dr. Ali states, "I am always engaged with Somalia." The majority of Dr. Ali's family members still reside in Somalia and he has been back many times to visit as well as to contribute to the country's development. In 2005 and 2006 Dr. Ali worked as a consultant on the World Bank/United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Joint Needs Assessment for Somalia. He returned again in 2008 with UNDP QUESTS and taught at Puntland State University.
"My intention is to help and to give back," says Dr. Ali. He encourages other members of the Somali diaspora to do the same. He explains, "You can have a good life in the U.S. and never leave, but the question in life is how you make a difference. If I can change just one life for the better, then I have done my work on Earth. What is it they say? To whom much is given much is expected!"