Dahabshiil (meaning "Gold smelter") was founded in 1970 by Mohamed Said Duale, a Somali entrepreneur based in Burao, the capital city of Togdheer province in the modern-day Somaliland region.
Initially a general trading enterprise, the firm began specialising in remittance broking during the 1970s, when many Somali males from northern Somalia migrated to the Gulf States for work. This resulted in a growing demand for services to transfer money from those migrant workers back to their families.
Because of foreign exchange controls imposed by the Somali government at the time, most of the funds were transferred via a trade-based system known as Franco Valuta (FV); the latter process involved the import of goods, proceeds from the sale of which were sent to migrants’ families. These transactions formed the bulk of Dahabshiil’s business throughout the 1980s.
With the Somali Civil War fast approaching, the Duale family were among the hundreds of thousands who retreated to the Somali-inhabited Ogaden region in neighbouring Ethiopia. The business in Somalia collapsed, but Duale was able to draw on an extensive network of contacts in the Gulf to re-establish the venture, setting up a small office in Ethiopia to serve displaced Somali communities there and in Djibouti.
In 1989, Dahabshiil opened its first office in London, where a number of Somalis had arrived during the war. The UK arm was managed by Mohammed Duale’s son, Abdirashid Duale, who began to expand the business as the Somali population in the UK grew.
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