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Int’l Somali bank comes on to reconnect Somaliland with global networks

Premier Despite the presence of international money transfer services in the region, residents in Somaliland had problems in making online transactions and bank-to-bank services, a barrier which one international Somali bank now tries to work out.

By Jamal Ibrahim, jamal@alleastafrica.com

HARGEYSA – For decades, the breakaway northern Somalia republic of Somaliland had been struggling to reconnect with the international banking system to resume cross-border transactions with foreign banks, an attempt which has proved more challenging than initially assumed.

Despite the presence of international money transfer services in the region, residents in Somaliland also had problems in making online transactions and bank-to-bank services, a barrier which one international Somali bank now tries to work out.

Launched in Hargeysa, Somaliland’s capital last week, Premier Bank, an international Somali bank which partnered with Visa as part of a wider strategic agreement to strengthen formal banking services in Somalia aims to reconnect Somaliland with the global payment networks.

The agreement signed between the two will enable Visa cardholders in Somalia to use Premier Bank’s ATM network.

Abdirahman Sheikh Hassan, the bank’s general manager speaks during the launching ceremony of Premier Bank’s headquarters in Hargeysa. Jamal Ibrahim/Alleastafrica

Abdirahman Sheikh Hassan, the bank’s general manager says the bank’s new operation in Somaliland would enable Somaliland residents to make all types of banking transactions around the world for the first time in history.

“We are member of the global provider of secure financial messaging services (SWIFT) and we have licenses from VISA and Master Card, thus making all people in Somaliland to use international banking system.”  He said in an interview with Alleastafrica.

Since the civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991, Somali citizens found increasingly difficult to use international banking system, and were merely relying on the traditional remittance companies and on which the Somali economy would crumble without remittances from emigrants.

The situation has left many Somalis struggling to access much-needed remittances from friends and relatives abroad and created a billion-dollar gap that Premier Bank seeks to fill.

Officials and customers attend the launching ceremony of Premier Bank’s headquarters in Hargeysa. Jamal Ibrahim/Alleastafrica

As it expands its operations across Somalia, the bank which has its headquarter in Mogadishu has a long-term goal which it hopes would help a vast part of the population relies on financial transfers from the diaspora community, known as remittances, to get by.

“Our goal is to become the premier of Somali banks and fulfill all financial needs of people in Somaliland.” Mr. Hassan says.

With the bank started its operations across Somaliland, cardholders will be able to withdraw cash, check their bank balances and pay for goods and services from merchants who started to accept Visa across the enclave.

Officials handshake each other during the launching ceremony of Premier Bank’s headquarters in Hargeysa. Jamal Ibrahim/Alleastafrica

In addition, customers will also be able to use their secure payment cards at Points of Sale (POS) across Somaliland as well as Letter of Credit services.

Meanwhile, many in Somaliland have welcomed the bank’s entry into Somaliland market, that many say would herald the beginning of a new move to develop infrastructure such as banks and credit systems in Somaliland

“This is a very positive development – now, we can make any type of transaction and banking system.” says Ahmed Mohamed, a university professor in Hargeysa.

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