Dahabshiil, the largest international money transfer business in the Horn of Africa, has launched the first ever debit card service in Somalia to help individuals and businesses make and receive payments.
The service, called Dahabshiil eCash, will enable customers to pay for goods and services at any shop, restaurant, hotel or petrol station that is an official Dahabshiil merchant and has a point of sale terminal on the premises.
Abdirashid Duale, CEO of Dahabshiil, said: "We are delighted to be the first company in the region to provide our customers with the facility to make and receive payments via debit card. This underlines our intention to be at the forefront of the region's banking and money transfer sectors.
"We believe Somalis here have the same needs as people in the UK or America and that's why the debit card will make their lives easier. We hope Dahabshiil eCash will help create a cashless society.
"While the central focus of Dahabshiil eCash is the customer, it is great that local businesses and the Somali economy will reap the benefits of the service too."
Dahabshiil eCash is available to all customers with a Dahabshiil account and debit card transactions are made via internet connection, which means that the money is transferred from the card holder's account to the merchant's account immediately.
The debit card requires both PIN and signature authorisation and all transactions are protected by the industry standard SSL 128 bit encryption.
A cash-back service is also available for Dahabshiil customers so that they can add an extra amount of money to the total purchase price of a transaction and receive the cash, along with their goods, should Dahabshiil branches be closed.
Dahabshiil plans to expand its eCash service to utility providers and major educational institutions in Somalia to allow students to pay for tuition fees.
It will also incorporate the eCash service into its worldwide remittance business, providing its customers with a more secure, accessible and protected service for receiving remittances from friends and family living in abroad.
Abdirashid Duale continued: "Transferring remittances is a lifeline for many people in the developing world whose friends or family live in Europe and regularly send money home.
"Access to payment services like these will help to bridge the digital divide among Somalis and will revolutionise the way they make and receive payments with each other and with the world."
In 2004, the World Bank estimated that remittances worth about $1billion (GBP610 million) a year reached Somalia from emigres in Britain, the United States, Sweden and the Gulf States.
Dahabshiil eCash was launched at the Ambassador Hotel in Hargeisa, on 27 October 2009.