The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about the situation in Somaliland where extreme economic are creating a cashless society. Here's an excerpt.
Hyperinflation and economic isolation have pushed this poor, breakaway republic closer to a virtual milestone than most other countries in the world: a cashless economy.
Mobile-money services have taken off over the past decade in Africa; 1 in 10 adults across the continent—about 100 million people—use them. In Kenya, Vodacom Group Ltd.’s groundbreaking service M-Pesa, broadly considered the first major and most successful mobile-money technology platform, counts 26 million users, roughly half the population. More than half of the world’s 282 mobile-money platforms are in sub-Saharan Africa, research by McKinsey & Co. shows.
The continent, home to many of the world’s frontier economies, has come closest to skipping, or “leapfrogging” as it’s often called, traditional brick-and-mortar banks and going straight to heavily using phones as wallets.
And nowhere are the benefits of mobile money more apparent than in Somaliland, where the extreme economic and financial conditions have allowed Zaad, a service from the main local telecom, Telesom, to catalyze commerce in one of the most isolated parts of the world.
The country prints its own currency, the Somaliland shilling, but the exchange rate is around 10,000 or more to the dollar, money traders say. This leads to wide use of the greenback, which arrives through remittances and major aid agencies that operate here and mainly pay in the U.S. currency.
The reasons for mobile money’s success in Somaliland are on full display on Hargeisa’s busy, bumpy streets, where rows of money changers lounge in front of 3-foot-tall towers of cash, some held together by nets, others in sacks. To get the shillings to a customer’s car, most money exchanges employ assistants armed with wheelbarrows to lug the heavy bags.
Once a week, Abdulahi Abdirahman hauls two bulky, heavy sacks of shillings from his gas station across Hargeisa to the money-exchange area downtown and, several hours later, returns with just a few dollar notes in his back pocket and his Zaad wallet loaded up.
To read the complete article (subscription required), see:
An Isolated Country Runs on Mobile Money
Wayne Homren, Editor
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