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Alumnus Named Prime Minister of African Nation

By Jason Jacks on June 23, 2011

Map of Somalia courtesy of U.S. State Department

The new number two man in Somalia is a graduate of Mason.

According to an assortment of news outlets from around the world, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, PhD Economics ’00, has been named prime minister of the eastern African nation, placing him one spot below the war-torn country’s president, Sheik Sharif Ahmed.

So, who is Ali?

Currently, he is on sabbatical as an associate professor of economics at Niagara University outside Buffalo, a position he has held since 2003, according to the school’s website.

A native of Somalia, Ali has a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University and a master’s in economics from Vanderbilt University. Before moving to upstate New York, he was a research and forecast manager for the Commonwealth of Virginia. His research interests include economic growth and development, international trade, public finance, and public choice.

While at Mason, Ali took a graduate-level microeconomics course taught by Walter Williams, who Ali lists as a reference on his curriculum vitae.

Williams, who is Mason’s John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics, says he has kept in contact with Ali since he graduated from Mason. “I am impressed with his progress,” Williams says of Ali. “He knows what to do about Somalia’s problems but I doubt whether, through no fault of his own, he’ll be able to pull it off. But I wish him luck, and he’ll need it.”

In Somalia, Ali will replace Mohamed Abdulahi Mohamed, a fellow Somali-American who stepped down as prime minister on June 19 under a cloud of controversy.

“Somalia is in a difficult situation, there is an economic crisis and insecurity,” Ali said, according to a report by Reuters. “I hope I will succeed in overcoming all these problems. I urge the entire government and Somalis to help me achieve this.”

Ali has been part of the Somalian government since January as deputy prime minister and minister of Planning and International Cooperation. His appointment to prime minister was announced at a ceremony in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, on June 23.

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