Abdigani Diriye: A one-time asylum seeker from Somalia becomes Global Innovator

On many occasions, Somalia has been described as a failed state due to incessant war, poverty and terrorism which have ravaged the country, for years. However, a Somali-born icon, Abdigani Diriye, is on a mission to change this dark narrative.

As a result of the long-drawn civil war, Diriye, now 33, relocated from Somalia to the United Kingdom at the age of 5 in the 1980s. While staying with his family, he got asylum and was able to continue with his studies.

Abdigani Diriye

Diriye is among the honorees in the 2017 roll call of 35 Innovators Under 35, released on  August 16 by the MIT Technology Review. The list which is published annually, recognizes people below 35 years whose innovations are shaping the future and making the world a better place.

Diriye, a computer scientist and manager at IBM Research-Africa in Nairobi leads the team’s financial services research group. He made the list for his work which focuses on using technologies to ease financial services in Africa. With his team, he developed a credit-scoring system which allows Africans to access micro-loans for needs such as paying for medical emergencies or funding a small business, through cellphone apps

The recognition also includes Diriye’s efforts through Innovate Ventures, an organisation he co-founded in 2012 to support, mentor and help grow tech startups in the Somali region. Last year, Innovate Ventures, in partnership with Oxfam, VC4Africa and Telesom, a Somali telecommunication company, ran a 10-week accelerator for ten Somali startups and the best four got $15,000 funding, according to a publication on the website of MIT Technology Review.

A recent interview published by Okay Africa reveals how much love Diriye has for Somalia and his passion to contribute to the growth and development of the war-torn country. “A big part of my work has been to change the perception and narrative around Somalia and Somaliland to a more positive outlook,” he said.

“There is a lot of innovation in areas like technology that’s happening there (and on the continent as a whole) and this opportunity should hopefully shed more light on this and challenge how people view and see innovation and technology in failed states.”

He is also part of 10 Africans among the 21 TED Global fellows selected to speak at the annual GlobalTED conference holding in Arusha, Tanzania from August 27 to August 30, 2017.

In 2003, Diriye had a first degree in Computers and Mathematics at the Queen Mary University of London. He had his masters in Advanced Computing at the Kings College London in 2006 and he got a PhD in Computer Science from University College London, in 2012.

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Deji Aroloye91 Posts

    a graduate of Linguistics and a staff writer at Outrepreneurs, Deji's forte includes tech, startups and innovations. Years back, Deji wrote on Entertainment and Lifestyle for a tabloid. If he wasn't a writer, Deji would be a photographer or teacher.


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