Page last updated at 14:20 GMT, Monday, 15 June 2009 15:20 UK

Mobile phone banking for Somalia

Phone engineer in Somalia
Phones - mobile and terrestrial - have thrived in Somalia

A new system of making payments by mobile phones has been launched in the northern Somali region of Somaliland.

Telesom's Zad service means that people can send money to friends and relatives or pay bills just using their phones.

The self-declared republic of Somaliland is much more peaceful than the rest of Somalia.

But the telecommunications and money transfer sectors have thrived across the country, despite the conflict which has raged for the past 18 years.

Telesom deputy director Mohamud Aden Ahmed-Hadeed told BBC Somali that the service would improve the lives of people and help develop the country.


"They can have access to their accounts with a Pin number and they can send money to anywhere, anytime. People can pay their bills or buy things from shops," he said.

A similar system was launched in neighbouring Kenya in 2007, with a network of more than 7,000 agents - mostly shopkeepers.

Somalia's conflict has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee the country.

They use an informal, trust-based money transfer system known as "hawala" to send money back home.

And the lack of a government since 1991 has not prevented several mobile phone companies from setting up their businesses.

Aid agencies estimate that some four million people - a third of the population - need food aid.

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