International Bank of Somalia partners Visa to launch card payment service

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Somalia has gained its first Visa-branded card payment service through a partnership between Visa and the International Bank of Somalia (IBS Bank).

The partnership will enable cashless payments in the country for both international and domestic transactions.

Eva Ngigi-Sarwari, Visa country manager for Kenya, Somalia and Eritrea, says the new cards can be a secure alternative to physical cash during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

She adds: “The Visa card also offers access to a global market, giving access to over 61 million merchant locations in over 200 countries.”

IBS Bank CEO, Mahat Mohamed Ahmed, says: “For Visa to come to Somalia, it means that we are on the right path of growth and progress. We’ll continue to make partnerships, and bring convenient and innovative financial solutions to the people.”

The Visa breakthrough comes six years after Mastercard arrived in the African country. In 2015, it became the first international payments network to enter Somalia, through a partnership with Premier Bank. Prior to this, Somalia had had no form of formal banking service since the collapse of the government and financial services system in 1991.

Speaking at the Visa launch, IBS Bank’s Mahat notes: “New players are coming on board now. Two years ago, we had about five licensed banks, and today we are talking of 13 licensed commercial banks. That goes to demonstrate the appetite that is there.”

According to Somalia’s central bank governor, Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi, the launch signals growing confidence in the country’s banking and finance sector, and he believes other developments are on the way.

He says: “As the Central Bank of Somalia, we plan to install an electronic verification system that will ease biometric identification of customers opening bank accounts or transacting in Somalia. We believe this will help to build international trust and confidence in transactions originating from Somalia to other financial markets.”