Page last updated at 17:09 GMT, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Somalis get first-ever debit card

Dahabshiil CEO Abdirashid Duale
The firm says Somalis have the same needs as British or Americans

A money-transfer company has made a piece of banking history in Somalia - introducing the first-ever debit card in the breakaway region of Somaliland.

The firm, Dahabshiil, hopes eventually to roll the system out to all Somali-speaking areas from Djibouti to Kenya.

They say large shops and hotels in areas with good internet connection and electricity can sign up to the service.

The card was launched in Somaliland's capital Hargeisa because of insecurity elsewhere in the region.

'Cashless society'

Somaliland declared itself independent from Somalia in 1991, when the country's central government collapsed.


Since then, Somaliland has forged a relatively stable state, despite its lack of international recognition.

Most of the rest of Somalia has been wracked by violence and Islamist insurgencies while

Dahabshiil boss Abdul Rashid Mohamed Said told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme he regretted that people overseas hear only bad news from Somalia.

"We believe Somalis here have the same needs as people in the UK or America and that's why the debit card will make their lives easier," he said.

He said he hoped to create a "cashless society" by encouraging customers to link their accounts directly to their cards.

The BBC's Jamal Abdi says people he spoke to on the streets of Hargeisa hope the new cards will reduce the long queues outside money-transfer agencies.

Dahabshiil has made its name by handling cash transferred by Somalis living overseas to their relatives back home.

Some estimates say as much as $1bn (£610m) is sent into Somalia from the emigrants.

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