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Angry people loot stores and hawala shops in Abudwak town

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Hundreds of angry residents in Abudwak town have looted hawala shops and stores in the Galgadud region in central Somalia forcing business activities in the town closed down.

The angry residents turned violent as they were protesting against the business owners’ move to ban the 1000 Somali banknotes following rumours of fake banknotes in circulation.

The menace started in Hiiraan last week where the Al-Shabab group issued restrictions on trading with the only 1000 banknote remaining from the Somali shilling and soon spread to other regions including Galgadud.

“Residents started to protest the against the foreign exchange and business owners who rejected to trade with the Shilling. The protest turned violent. Several shops of hawalas and food stores were looted.” Said Abdi Yonis, a resident in Abudwak.

The protesters mostly low income families in the town later marched in the centre of the town as they called the Federal Government and local authorities to intervene the menace that led to the people’s lives to face standstill.

They warned the local traders against the use of EVC Plus, a local mobile money transfer service.

On Sunday residents in Beledweyn took to the streets to protest against the ban on the Somali shilling and alleged the business owners and foreign exchange operators to have sided with Al-Shabab.

A directive from the Ministry of Finance of the Hirshabelle state in Somalia on Tuesday barred all services of the local mobile money transfer by the Hormuud Telecom following standstill in the central Somalia region of Hiiraan.

The directive came following the closure of businesses in Beledweyn for the third day.

“After witnessing the challenges faced by he community in Beledweyn which led to business closure, we have ordered all EVC Plus (Electronic Voucher Cards) stopped. Said the directive from the Jowhar-based Ministry of Finance of the Hirshabelle state.

EVC Plus is operated by the Hormuud Telecom.

Local traders rejected to trade with the Somali 1000 banknote, the only banknote currently in circulation in the country. The move came after Al-Shabab issued ban against the banknote as they alleged that fake new denomination of 1000 banknotes were coming from Puntland.

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How to Turn $200,000 Into a $670 Million Business

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Seven years ago, Ismail Ahmed set out to build a startup that could send cash electronically from the U.K. to Africa. He had $200,000 and a lot of experience in the money transfer business in his native Somalia.

Today, London-based WorldRemit Ltd. sends money to 148 nations and has just raised $40 million in a deal led by LeapFrog Investments, an investment firm in London, the company said in a statement on Thursday.

The Series C funding round values the fintech firm at more than $670 million, according to a person familiar with the transaction, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. WorldRemit’s longtime backers, Accel Partners and Technology Crossover Ventures, invested in the deal.

WorldRemit, which specializes in sending money via mobile phones, will use the cash to try to grow its customer accounts globally to 10 million from 2 million by 2020. The company is making a big push in transfers between the U.S., Asia, and Latin America.
“The U.S. will grow our revenues as much as 40 percent over the next few years,” Ahmed, WorldRemit’s chief executive officer, said in an interview.

But the company faces stiff competition from The Western Union Co., the longtime powerhouse in the $444 billion global remittance business, as well as other fintech firms such as Remitly Inc., a Seattle-based company that raised $115 million in a private fundraising deal in October.

WorldRemit is on course to record 60 million pounds ($81 million) in net revenue this year, a 46 percent jump from 2016, according to Ahmed. The company is looking at a potential initial public offering in two to three years, he said.

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New market means increased economic opportunities for one Somali town

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In Somalia’s Puntland region, Bossaso’s local market provides a source of income for local traders. For women, however, the market is especially important.

After years of conflict, many households are reliant on money generated by women to survive. In some households, women contribute more than 70 percent to their families’ income.

And the majority of women in Somalia earn money from informal sectors – including working in local markets.

Unfortunately for traders in Bossaso, selling their goods in the city’s main market was no longer an option. In 2012, a fire severely damaged Bossaso Market – a place many women traders depended on for their livelihoods.

With funding from the Government of Japan, UNOPS oversaw the construction of a new market with improved facilities to support women entrepreneurs in Bossaso.

“We’re grateful for the support of the Government of Japan and UNOPS, who worked closely with us to implement the project,” said Engineer Yazin Mire, Bossaso’s mayor. “Many businesses will benefit from this market, which will help several different communities, including Yemeni refugees and returnees who fled from the conflict in Yemen.”

Giving women a say in their future

Before the construction of the new Bossaso Market began, information was collected from female traders during an extensive consultation process. This allowed them to be actively involved in the design and planning of the new site, ensuring their needs were taken into account from the beginning. In all, nearly 2,000 market traders, both male and female, participated in the data collection process. That data was used to define the scope of the construction of the new market.

An extensive community needs assessment was also conducted to encourage a sense of community ownership of the project, as well as to contribute to the long-term sustainability of the new market.

Training for the future

The new Bossaso Market will enable traders, particularly women, to become economically self-sufficient. In addition to the new market, local entrepreneurs also received training – carried out by the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention – aimed at teaching them new skills to help their businesses thrive. More than 200 traders – nearly 90 percent of them women – either received business skills training or business start-up kits.

“The Government of Japan is delighted with the success of this project, which contributed to stabilization of the region through the empowerment of women, in collaboration with the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention,” said the Embassy of Japan. “The Government of Japan is confident that those who got vocational training will play an important role in leading the local economy and society.”

Asiya Ali Farah owns a kiosk in Bossaso. She participated in a training session on microfinancing. “One day, I hope I will become a lender,” Asiya said. “So that I can give loans to Somali women who need help starting up small businesses to feed their families.”

“Microfinancing is not new in Somalia, but there are not many female traders with access to it yet,” explained Japan Center for Conflict Prevention Secretary General Yukiko Ishii. “The training was intended to help participants access emerging, locally available microfinancing schemes to boost their small business.”

The new skills learned as part of the training sessions will help market traders generate a higher income. This in turn can help increase economic development in the region – and encourage stability.

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Somalia’s Premier Bank becomes the first to offer letters of credit

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In Somalia, the government is trying to improve its financial capacity and capabilities. It wants to convince other countries that it’s a safe place to invest. One lender has taken a major step forward in this process. Premier Bank has become the first to offer its clients access to a letter of credit. The crucial document will go a long way to boosting trust between traders and suppliers.

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