Press Release: Mobile Money Adoption Within IDP Camps in Somalia Provides Unlikely Blueprint for Navigating COVID Pandemic
Internally displaced people’s (IDP) camps are relying upon Somalia’s intricate mobile money infrastructure to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Accelerating the adoption of mobile money by IDPs across Somalia has been shown to be effective in mitigating the risk of the COVID-19 spreading while providing rapid fund delivery.
With approximately $2.7 billion worth of transactions taking place each month, according to the World Bank, mobile money has enabled international aid organisations to provide relief safely and effectively to IDPs and vulnerable communities.
Aid agencies face multiple challenges serving the estimated 2.6 millions IDPs located across Somalia. Insecurity and the lack of a traditional banking system are among the many reasons that delivering aid and assistance within crisis areas. However, significant steps in the development of telecommunications infrastructure and digital adoption over the past few years has edged Somalia and its IDP camps closer towards becoming the world’s first truly cashless economies.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, mobile money penetration in Somali urban centres stood at over 80%. Even in rural Somalia, mobile money penetration rates stood at around 55%. More surprisingly still, the penetration rate of mobile money in IDP camps stands at 72%.
Raho Mohamed, a female IDP living in Mogadishu, can attest to the multiple benefits that mobile money has brought. Through mobile money, and specifically Hormuud’s EVC Plus platform, Raho feels liberated and has been able to start a small business in the IDP camp. Speaking on mobile money, she said:
“Humanitarian organisations would often call you from their location so that you could collect cash or food assistance. Now, I receive cash assistance through EVC Plus account. Walking around with Somali shilling is impractical and having dollars on you can create unnecessary situations that I’d personally like to avoid.
Now with coronavirus, we’ve been hearing that touching cash was spreading the disease. So though my EVC Plus account, I can avoid touching cash completely.”
Throughout the pandemic, these issues have been amplified with cash transactions helping to spread the virus. Mobile money overcomes these issues, providing a secure and safe route for these vital cash transactions to IDPs.
On the cash transfer programmes, a spokesperson for UN agency FAO Somalia said:
“Cash-based interventions are practical and efficient. Funds are guaranteed to reach beneficiaries in a few days and the cost of mobile cash transfers is up to 90% lower than via traditional methods. They have become a fundamental element of FAO Somalia’s work in IDP camps.
Thanks to our Somali telecoms partners, we’ve been able to grow our humanitarian capabilities in the country significantly. Their continued support and dedication have enabled the success of many FAO Somalia cash transfer programmes. We’re now capable of reaching even the most vulnerable and remote regions.”
Maintaining a functioning telecommunications network within a complex and often difficult to navigate environment is a difficult challenge. Partnerships with international agencies and domestic providers are therefore vital in order to effectively deliver aid where it is most sorely needed.
Difficulty with legal identification, limited infrastructure, implementation of sanctions and regional insecurity are all issues that require international organisations to lean directly on the expertise of local partners. Closer co-operation remains key to succeeding in countries like Somalia.
On the role of mobile money in IDP camps, Ahmed Mohamud Yuusuf, Hormuud CEO said:
“We’re pleased to see the wide adoption of mobile money services, including EVC Plus, in IDP camps. We understand that access to financial services can bring radical change to people’s day-to-day lives. Especially for IDPs, having a mobile money wallet enables them to receive and send funds easily and securely.”
“Hormuud’s partnership with FAO Somalia truly reflects our commitment to accelerating financial inclusion. As the leading telecoms operator in Somalia, we firmly believe that mobile money is a vital infrastructure to the growth of Somalia and other developing nations. We might be an unlikely blueprint, but the success of our work is clear for all to see.”
Photo courtesy of Simon Berry.