The news of the attack was revealed first on Twitter. On Aug. 2, Mohamed Mohamoud Sheik, 31, an entrepreneur and youth activist, was assaulted by unknown gunmen near the Benadir junction in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. He was later pronounced dead after undergoing surgery at a local hospital. Mohamed’s death dealt the country and its people a big blow. He was a pioneer, a believer in a better Somalia, a passionate advocate for Mogadishu, and a rebel determined to create a better future out of the rubble of a devastating civil war. His story, his work, and his ultimate killing represent the tragic fate of a city struggling between a brutal past, an uncertain present, and the urgent need to redefine its future. In 2012, aged 25, Mohamed came into the limelight when he opened Somalia’s first dry cleaner in decades.
The Florist That Get Killed
Forever curious, he got the idea after noticing businessmen and government officials taking their suits abroad to get them cleaned. A year later, he opened the city’s first flower shop—a much-needed, hopeful, and romantic injection into a nation taking baby steps out of over two decades of war. To boost local businesses, he founded Startup Grind Mogadishu, an affiliate of the Google-powered global startup community aimed at encouraging entrepreneurs. He was also a judge on the Inspire Somalia television show, which gave budding entrepreneurs the chance to pitch and bring their dreams to fruition. Through his actions and ambitious business plans, Mohamed was an exemplar of a buoyant city, showing those in and out what could be done to revive war-torn Somalia. Small city. Big dreams.
Mogadishu is a dense city: 91 square kilometers (35 square miles) with a population of over 2.5 million people, according to urban city index Demographia. With its white and gray architecture hemmed in by the blue horizon of the ocean, it was once described by the renowned Somali author Nuruddin Farah as “one of the prettiest” cities in the world. But the capital and its cosmopolitan culture became unmoored after 1991: after 20 years under the grip of a tyrant, looting militias, marauding tribespeople, and most recently terrorists, left it dispossessed for another three decades. Yet that hasn’t stopped Somalia’s young from struggling to restore their nation. Since 2011, there have been efforts to revive tourism, rebuild the ruins of war, rehabilitate child soldiers, and use technology and innovation as a way to create employment opportunities.
In a conversation that lasted till 1 am, Mohamed spoke about how urban renewal in Mogadishu was less about shiny new apartments and pizza parlors, but about the newfound energy to change lives for the better. There was still a long way to go, he said, but men and women, locals and diaspora, intellectuals and students were all yearning to contribute and heal the city step by step. Mogadishu was on a winning streak. Which is why the salvo of bullets that killed Mohamed—and many, many others—means only one thing: that the visible signs of progress in Somalia were coming at a huge cost. The bullet, not the bulldozer, is Mogadishu’s way of displacing its best and gentrifying its streets. The bullet is there to scare, to stymie progress, to force many to leave and others to cower behind barricades, to declare that entropy is and will remain the norm. Through Mohamed’s loss, Mogadishu has been deprived of one of its best advocates, one who knew that it was more than the sum of its occupants, businesses, and new structures. Mogadishu has lost an icon. And the question now remains: How do you rebuild a capital when “everybody” isn’t there?
Eventually, prices correct. In the oil market, we’ll see more acquisitions. It’s cheaper and easier to grow reserves that way. The buying pressure will lift the price of oil stocks so that the disparity is not so great. In the case of oil, we are also looking at strong odds that the costs of producing a barrel of oil reserves will go up. Now, you’ve probably heard of all the big deep-water oil projects. All the major oil companies are moving farther offshore in their quest for oil. Yes, it is. This is another of the great unknowns. We don’t know how much it will cost at the end of the day to get this oil. We know that it will cost a lot. 2.7 billion over 10 years on just the first phase of a deep-water oil project in the Gulf. That’s one of the more tame projects.