Dadaab, as many people who have not been there can assume, doesn’t have just one market, almost every camp has at least one or two markets. Although the shops in the markets might be poor in terms of infrastructure or general outlook of the building structures, it is laden with beautiful scenes of booming businesses and the drive to achieve, an epitome of a real market in any other part of the world. By the way, many business people in the camps can afford to build complex commercial buildings but don’t want to do so because of the temporary nature of the refugee situation in the camps- people are constantly and eagerly looking forward to opportunities to go to better places which may take longer time or never even come to materialize.
When you observe the variety of business activities in the markets and the overwhelming interactions among customers and business people, you will be amazed by how people are not constrained by the harsh conditions in the camps and the feeling of being a refugee, a realization that people are only refugees by name but not by status.
Apart from businesses, many people regularly go to the market to lessen their stress level, listen to words of wisdom from elders in designated meeting areas and tea restaurants, to get updated on local as well as regional news and politics, and finally just to pass time for people who are idle at home. On average, most people at least go to the market once in every day.
As the Somali proverb goes “give me a little space, I will create more”, support from family members or relatives who get resettled in the First World countries acts as a head start to some businessmen in the camps. After that it is through determination, dedication and patience that gets them going in a business environment where local government regulations restrict entry of goods in to the camps, especially from Somalia. They struggle to achieve and strive to succeed. As Somalis are always termed as “business society”, there are plenty of role models, for an aspirant, who have transformed small retail shops into very large wholesale businesses despite all the odds.