Somalilanders’ remittance business is booming globally
Thirty years ago, Ismail Ahmed From Somaliland, which was ravaged by war at the time, sneaked into neighboring Djibouti and hid behind dump trucks. His brother works in Saudi Arabia, and he sends him money to cover the cost of a flight to London in order to obtain a scholarship to study economics. “At that time I really realized that remittances are the main source of immigration funds,” he said.
Today, Ahmed is the founder and chairman of London-based Zepz (formerly WorldRemit Group): this is a cross-border digital payment service with more than 11 million users in 150 countries, and in August The valuation in a financing of 5 billion U.S. dollars.
“We are one of the world’s largest independent digital currency transfer companies,” he explained while drinking tea in Hargeisa, his hometown and the capital of self-proclaimed Somaliland.
“Our first remittance channel was from the United Kingdom to Somaliland-this is how we started. Then we went global, for example, today we are among the best in Colombia and the Philippines.”
Ahmed founded the company ten years ago.He funded it with approximately $100,000 in compensation received after blowing the whistle corruption Remittance plan during the work of the United Nations in Nairobi. At that time, he had to pay a fee to the Main Street Bank to remit cash back to Somaliland when he was studying in the UK, so he was already researching more effective cross-border remittance methods.
“Hargeisa was actually built with money transfers, so I have seen money transfers everywhere since I was a kid,” Ahmed explained-noting that Somalis use an honor-based underground money transfer system called Hawala, And then developed into a way for expats Send money back Travel to Somaliland at near zero cost.
Somalis working in other countries—for example, they are highly representative in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya—will give their spare money to merchants who need money to buy stocks. In turn, these merchants would sell their goods in countries designated by Somalis’ money, and give their sales revenue to specific recipients. The close and tribal-based community in Somalia provides enough trust that these transfers will proceed in good faith.
For many years, remittances have also been sent to Somaliland through money transfer shops and kiosks.
However, with the development of mobile money—— Booming in parts of Africa ——The remittance market has entered a new stage. This was demonstrated in August, when Zepz raised $292 million in new financing from equity investors including Farallon Capital and existing shareholders LeapFrog, TCV and Accel. Earlier this year, Zepz was adopted as the company name after WorldRemit acquired Sendwave, a money transfer application focused on the African and Asian markets, for US$500 million.
Ahmed pointed out that the fast-growing digital remittance business enables immigrants to send smaller emergency remittances, which is not possible at cash-based agency locations, “because of the minimum remittance amount and higher minimum fees.”
It turns out that they are vital during the Covid-19 pandemic. “The great success of mobile money and digitalization, especially in Africa, means that when physical locations are closed During lockdown, People are usually able to get funds through their mobile money accounts or bank accounts,” he added. According to the central bank, in Somaliland, which has an economy worth 3.5 billion U.S. dollars, remittances increased from 1.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2019 to 13 in 2020. More than 100 million US dollars.
“We have a mutually supportive community culture and support system,” said Saad Ali Shire, Somaliland’s finance minister. “People who have it give it to their relatives, people who don’t have it, because you need to transfer money. Somalis need to send money wherever they go, and to send money, you need a trustworthy money transfer company.”
Shire has extensive experience in this field, having served as the managing director of Dahabshiil, Africa’s largest remittance provider, in the UK.Dahab Hill Once won a ban on Barclays Bank, After the Bank of England tried to close its account, prompting A sport led by Somali-born British athlete Moffara.
For Somaliland, remittance is Unrecognized national economy, Making small countries a thriving private enterprise.
“Due to family relations, cultural relations, and clan relations, our communities trust each other very much-and Dahabshiil respects this,” said Abdirashid Duale, Dahabshiil’s CEO.
His father, Mohamed Duale, was the “founder” of Somali remittances. He founded Dahabshiil (meaning “goldsmith”) in Burao in 1970.
However, in the early 1990s, the Duale family had to flee the civil war in Somalia when “suddenly, the plane dropped bombs to the left and right”. They travelled with nomadic communities and traveled to Ethiopia. They eventually ended up in the UK and then returned to Somaliland to develop their business.
Today, the business operates in 126 countries, covering banking, energy and telecommunications-as well as the mobile money service e-Dahab.
“Remittances are vital to Somali communities all over the world,” Duale said. “Business is our DNA. People here are very innovative in doing business, investing and remittances.”
Duale said that in addition to remittances from and to other parts of Africa, Dahabshiil also handles most of the remittances from Somalia.
“People always think that money from Western countries is important, but they forget about regional transactions, people buying goods in different parts of Africa, and sending money between the African continent and Middle Eastern countries,” Duale added.