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Social media and the Transnational Everyday: Mobility, Opportunity and Risk in Hargeisa, Somaliland

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Executive summary

• Online and social media connectivity has increased rapidly across cities in the Horn of Africa, particularly amongst younger generations. Taking the post-conflict city of Hargeisa—capital of the de facto independent Republic of Somaliland—as its starting point, this report focuses on how educated young men engage with digital and social media platforms in relation to both ‘outward’ migration and ‘upward’ (socio-economic) mobility.

• Social media platforms are seen by many young men as integral to information-seeking and network-building practices aimed at securing employment or money-generating opportunities, both within and beyond the region.

• Moreover, social media acts as an everyday conduit for globalized Somali media content and worldviews in circulation between young people in the region and the diaspora. This ‘everyday transnationalism’ is shaping their perceptions of life in the diaspora and their attitudes towards mobility-related ideas, risks and opportunities, including migration abroad.

• Although some evidence has suggested that rates of ‘undocumented’ migration (known locally as tahriib) out of Hargeisa may be decreasing, outward migration remains an enticing option for many young people in Somaliland, particularly given persistent and widespread issues of youth unemployment. Here, social media has played a role both in encouraging young people to consider attempting tahriib and in discouraging such aspirations.

• Social media practices and connections present various risks of (transnational) criminal scamming, extortion and misinformation. Such practices seek to take advantage of the social and employment pressures young people in cities such as Hargeisa face by appealing to their aspirations for upward and outward mobility.

• The findings of the research shed light on how digital and social media platforms play into important cross-border dynamics affecting young men in urban centres such as Hargeisa. These dynamics are intertwined with wider issues of social stability and human (im)mobility and have potential policy implications when it comes to young people’s digital literacy and reducing vulnerabilities to various forms of (online) danger.