On the dusty streets of Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa, Mohammed Ahmed Ismail is arranging paper money in his tidy, waiting for clients who wish to exchange foreign currency.
Ismail has more than five years experience in the trade.
Together with his colleagues, they stack notes in wheelbarrows and move around looking for clients who want to exchange foreign currency for Somaliland shilling.
But lately, there clientele has been waning and the business losing lustre. Reason? Technology.
The emergence of mobile money service has promoted efficiency and at the same time limited the use of cash.
Telecommunications company Somtel and eDahab (mobile money service provider established by funds transfer company Dahabshiil) have transformed the financial system.
“Instead of going to the streets to exchange currency, eDahab has eased that pressure by creating a solution where one can exchange currency using the electronic money platform,” Mr Fuad Ahmed Nuh, e-Dahab director, explained.
He adds: “What we have done is to ensure the electronic money exchange is registered within the electronic service. We have registered dealers who have floats in foreign currency in their eDahab accounts.
“All a client needs to do is to enter the dealer’s code and the amount to be changed and it will happen within seconds.”
The platform is receiving accolades, Ismail being one of them.
“I will not walk around with these bulk of notes forever. Things are changing. We must move with the new ideas,” he said.
Mr Nuh said that the innovation has received recognition from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and is being used by global humanitarian agencies to send monetary donations.
“We have Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Food Programme and many other organisations now linked to our system and sending aid to people in remotest places directly and with ease,” he said.
Last year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sent money to drought victims through eDahab.
Dahabshiil Chief Executive Officer Abdirashid Duale said the service has greatly benefitted the people.
“Take a case of the donation by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for example. We provided each of the recipients selected by the American Refugee Committee and Love Army with a mobile phone equipped with a Somtel card, and within a few minutes we opened an eDahab account for them so that we could upload the funds directly into their mobile phone accounts,” he said.
Mr Nuh said customers no longer have to go to the city to withdraw money.
Customers are also using the service to apply for loans.
“eDahab has had a huge impact. Previously, people would travel long distances to come to the city to withdraw money from our branches. Some would have to spend the night in the city due to transport problems. That is now a thing of the past.”
Dahabshiil is planning to develop a mobile application for oversees customers.