Original Research

Managing in a war zone: Somalian managers in the banking and mobile telecommunications sectors

Abdulkadir Noor, John Walsh
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 18 | a1148 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v18i0.1148 | © 2020 Abdulkadir Noor, John Walsh | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 December 2018 | Published: 26 November 2020

About the author(s)

Abdulkadir Noor, Faculty of Social Sciences, Simad University, Mogadishu, Somalia
John Walsh, Department of International Business, School of Business and Management, RMIT University Vietnam, Hanoi, Viet Nam


Orientation: Management studies too often concentrate on supposedly normal market conditions in stable, developed countries. In reality, most forms of management are conducted in more trying circumstances, and this article seeks to expand knowledge of how it takes place under difficult conditions.

Research purpose: This study explored management techniques under wartime conditions exhibited by managers in the banking and mobile telecommunications sectors in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.

Motivation for the study: Somalia is a fragile state that risks failing its people in many ways, including security, food security and basic public services. One means of compensating for these failures is the private sector’s ability to organise not just business but essential public services when the government is unable to do so. This article studied whether that was taking place.

Research approach/design and method: The research was qualitative in nature and featured in-depth, personal interviews with managers and executives in the identified sectors of interest. Respondents were identified through convenience and then purposive snowball sampling techniques.

Main findings: It was found that adaptations to managing in wartime could be divided into three main themes: practical aspects of managing in adversity, coping mechanisms and the ethical issues involved in managing without a government. In general, in the absence of a legitimate ruling power or a form of market regulation, managers reverted to the pre-existing tribal system as a means not just of managing transactions but also to instil trust in those transactions.

Practical/managerial implications: A model is provided for managing under wartime or similarly difficult situations, which might be adapted to other contexts.

Contribution/value-add: This article extends knowledge of how management is conducted in wartime and how managers adapt to adverse conditions.


banking; conflict; mobile telecommunications; resilience; Somalia


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