Under the hot searing sun in Mogadishu, Somalia, customers line up in front of a modest one-room building to place their orders at Hanna Cakes & Sweets. In a separate, but adjacent one-room building, cooks and confectioners are busy making cakes and small bites as sheets of flatbread are placed in the oven. It is lunchtime and the staff are bustling about, serving up a taste of cakes and sweets from the shop that is just a few years old.
At the centre of it all is 29-year-old Moayad Hasan Alnori, a confectioner at the shop. He fled from Syria in 2016 and stayed in Sudan for five years before fleeing to Mogadishu in 2021.
Hanna Cakes & Sweets is one of the few female-owned businesses in the city. It is supported by DRC through the Durable Solutions Programme which offers support for local businesses through grants.
Hanna, the café owner, employed Moayad having received numerous recommendations on his confectionary making skills.
“I gave him the opportunity to showcase his skills once and after that, all doubt in my mind disappeared. His skills are on another level. Everybody loves his cakes. In fact, most of my customers can’t get enough of them,” says Hanna.
Moayad chose to come to Somalia because it is close to Yemen where he has relatives and because most residents here speak Arabic. But also, he describes, because of the warmth and welcoming nature of the Somali people.
“They have treated me as one of their own,” he says.
“It was also the one place I knew of that was welcoming refugees since Somalis also know what it is like to be a refugee.”
The long history and cultural ties between the two regions of the Gulf of Aden have created a brotherhood. Now, Moayad feels right at home in Somalia.
“Hanna is an amazing lady. She took a chance on me and I promised not to disappoint her. She has given me a livelihood, an income, and, most importantly, my dignity,” Moayad says.
“I am making enough savings, and hopefully this year, I can go back and marry the woman of my dreams back home, she has been patient enough and I believe it is the right time.”
The main objective of the Durable Solutions Programme, funded by DANIDA, is to offer financial support to businesses through the provision of business grants. After the release of the first instalment, Hanna purchased all the necessary equipment for her business, including refrigerators, cooking machines, juice machines as well as sitting space.
She has employed three staff, including Moayad, to help run the business. As the café becomes more popular, more people visit them limiting the sitting space, especially in the evenings. They are planning to relocate to a more spacious space.
Conflict and persecution have forced more than 80 million people around the world to flee their homes. Despite their challenges, refugees like Moayad have stepped up to contribute to a stronger, safer, and more vibrant world.