Somali Money Transfer Industry
Funds transfer services have become a large industry in Somalia, with the country now offering some of the most advanced and competitively priced telecommunications and internet services in the world. Estimates of the aggregate value of remittances from the Somali diaspora back to the home country vary. However, a recent study by the United Nations Development Programme suggested a figure of around $1.6 billion, sent largely by emigrants in the US, Europe and the Gulf region. Industry experts estimate that Dahabshiil handles around two thirds of all remittances to Somali-speaking regions.
Most of the Somali money transfer operators (MTOs) are credentialed members of either the Somali Money Transfer Association (SOMTA), an umbrella organisation that regulates the community's money transfer sector, or its predecessor, the Somali Financial Services Association (SFSA). Besides Dahabshiil, Somali MTOs include Qaran Express, Mustaqbal, Amal Express, Kaah Express, Hodan Global, Olympic, Amana Express, Iftin Express and Tawakal Express. A unique feature of these Somali funds transfer companies is that they all charge lower commission fees than their Western counterparts; typically around 5% for sums of up to $1,000, a range encompassing the vast majority of Somali household remittances. For amounts greater than $1,000, Somali MTOs charge commissions of 3% to 4%, significantly lower than Western Union's 7.1% fee and MoneyGram's 7.2% fee for sending similar amounts to Ethiopia. Charges for the remittance of charity funding vary between 0% and 2%.
Accounting for almost a quarter of household income in Somalia, funds remitted by the Somali diaspora have helped to sustain communities in some of the most remote locations in the Horn of Africa. With around 40% of households receiving such assistance from relatives working abroad, remittances have proved significant in promoting private sector activity in telecoms, transport and housing, as well as in basic infrastructure, health and education. It has also been argued that the inflow of such foreign-based capital has helped keep the Somali shilling afloat and offset depreciatory and inflationary pressures.
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