How one former Minnesotan is modernizing government — in the Somali state of Puntland

By Ibrahim Hirsi

For the better part of the 2000s, Yasin Jama spent most of his free time with friends at Starbucks coffee shops in Minneapolis, contemplating what he could do for Somalia, especially the semi-autonomous northeastern state of Puntland from which he hails. At the time, Jama served as a medical laboratory technician for various hospitals — including HealthPartners, Park Nicollet Clinic and Fairview Hospital — in the Twin Cities metro area.

But what kept him up at night in those years wasn’t necessarily testing and recording blood samples. It was the urge to improve Puntland, which was founded in 1998 and has since enjoyed relative peace and tranquility, while also seeing dramatic economic growth, political development and waves of returnees from North America, Europe and Australia.

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