Somalia: New International Bank brings more Debit Cards to war-torn country

A new international bank has been launched in Mogadishu, the latest sign of life in the city after more than two decades of civil war which engulfed its bright lights.

Such an idea would have been out of the question without the fragile tranquility that culminated in the absence of Al-Shebab after the militants withdrew from Mogadishu three years ago, when the African Union peacekeeping force offensive weakened their grip on power.

A colourful ceremony celebrating the official ribbon cutting of Premier Bank has been held in its six-story building near Mogadishu’s K4 junction with senior government officials including President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in attendance.

Three years ago the locale of the bank was a bullet-charred trench used by Somali government forces to protect themselves from Al-Shebab attacks, but now lights twinkle in the tower, adding a touch of glamour to the building.

Premier Bank director Mahad Ahmed told the audience during the ceremony that his bank offers comprehensive one-stop financial solutions to customers, including both private and government institutions, corporate clients, small and medium-sized enterprises and individuals in the country.

“Premier bank believes in the promise of a new Somalia and that we all have a role to play in rebuilding in the country,” he said.

Ahmed emphasised that service delivery was one their key pillars and that is why they have partnered with MasterCard and Swift to bring these global services to the people of Somalia.

Somalia’s central bank governor, Bashir Isse Ali, said during the ceremony that Somalia is finally rising from the ashes, with the launch of such a classic bank in a country that has been plagued by violence and anarchy for more than two decades. It gives a glimmer of hope to many who have never dared dream that peace would come so soon to Somalia, he said.

The Somali president praised the country for standing on its own feet as its wounds are healing after the civil war.

Mohamud urged citizens to invest money in order to improve the economic climate in the country.

“My government dubs this year as the year for economic growth to be created in the county and to avoid factors that hinder economic development,” he said.

Both wealthy local and international businessmen have begun to take the plunge and launch businesses in the war-torn capital despite explosions and sometimes targeted assassination that routinely takes place in the capital.

Somalia’s deputy finance minister Abdullahi Nur tests his debit card during the ceremony for the country’s second international bank Mohamed Sheikh Nor for RFI

The opening of the new bank coincides at a time when then Kenyan government has frozen funds of many long-established remittance companies operating there in an effort to crack down on informal networks that transfers cash without any records of the parties involved.

Premier Bank hopes to change that by providing a way for customers to send and receive money.

It is the second international bank that has launched operations in Mogadishu after International Bank of Somalia, which was the first to have a bank identifying Swift code unlike its competitors.

According to the bank manager, it is a fully fledged Islamic bank licenced and regulated by Somalia’s central bank in Mogadishu. The ban has two branches on Mogadishu’s k4 junction and the main Bakara market.