IGAD commend Kenya for lifting ban on Somali remittance firms



East Africa’s IGAD bloc has commanded the Kenyan government for lifting ban on Somali remittance firms that was imposed in April, and urged Western countries to follow suit.

The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Executive Secretary Mahboub Maalim said the unlocking of the ban will help to avert poverty and build resilient communities in the Horn of Africa nation.

“This is a bold move by the president who has in mind the interest of not only Kenyans but the wider region at large,” Maalim said in a statement released in Nairobi.

Kenya’s central bank (CBK) lifted the suspension on 13 Somali remittance companies on Monday, enabling the firms to resume their operations.

The Horn of Africa nation has no formal banking system, and money transfer operators provide the services people in foreign countries would expect from a bank.

About 40 percent of Somali families depend on remittances to meet their most basic needs, including food, health care and education, and 80 percent of the capital for start-up businesses comes from the Diaspora.

Maalim stated that the Kenyan government had been very consistent in its protection of flow of remittances to those who need it most, including refugee population on its soil.

The Executive Secretary also appealed to Western governments and banks to continue providing services to Money Transfer Operators (MTOs) with a view to helping the region alleviate poverty, and by extension, reduce insecurity.

In February, principal banks facilitating money transfers to Somalia from the U.S., Britain and Australia broke ties with the Somali remittance companies over terrorism fears.

The East Africa’s bloc also said it plans to host a regional meeting on the sidelines of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development that will take place in Ethiopian July.

Maalim said the meeting will bring together finance ministers from Member States to review linkages between remittances and household food security in the region, with a view to formulating appropriate policies that enhance remittances contribution to local, national and regional development.

Experts of this roundtable discussion will also assess the impact that banking legislations in the U.S., Britain, and Australia have had on Money Transfer Operators or remittance companies.

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