Money-transfer companies thrive in Somali community

In the absence of a functional banking system, many in the Twin Cities Somali community turn to money-transfer systems.

Every month, Jama Dirie , 65, sends $150 of his $500 social security check to his children in Mogadishu, Somalia. Without the presence of a central government or bank in Somalia for nearly two decades, Dirie, like many Somali immigrants, uses Hawala âÄî a money-transfer system popular in the Somali Diaspora community. Dirie said he has been using Dahabshiil âÄî one of several money-transfer services in the Twin Cities âÄî for the past two years. âÄúI have never lost money during the period,âÄù Dirie said, speaking in Somali. Abdulkadir Abdullahi, manager of Tawakal Express, a Hawala , said itâÄôs extremely common for Somali adults in the United States to send money for their families back home to sustain a living in Somalia. Pre-pharmacy junior Sadiq Mohamud said there are more than seven Hawala in the Twin Cities, and many serve as a central collection point for money from other small branches around Minneapolis. Karmel Square and Village Market âÄî locally known as âÄúthe 24thâÄù because of its location on 24th Street East âÄî are home to many Somali-run money-transfer companies. Some are independent, while others double as Internet cafes or other stores. Abdullahi said his branch has been serving the Somali community since 2003. âÄúWe send money to places where the international money order cannot,âÄù he said, speaking in Somali. It used to take approximately three days to reach its destination, but Mohamud, who works for Tawakal Express, said the money now gets to Somalia within a day. The sender then receives a text message informing them that the money reached its destination, Mohamud said. University of Minnesota economics senior Ali Abdulkarim said he sends money to his mother in Nairobi, Kenya. Abdulkarim said he uses Hawala because it is an extensive network, fast and safe. Hawala charges people 5 percent of the remitting money. When the money reaches Africa, the other branches contact the people and ask them to collect their money. Hawala controversies After Sept. 11, the biggest money-transfer company, Al-Barakat, had to close after being accused of financing terrorists. In April, federal agents raided Minneapolis money-transfer businesses looking for details about the remitting money. The investigation happened shortly after federal agents intensified interrogating University students over the controversial disappearance of Somali men. No money-transfer company has yet been closed as a result of the investigation.