The international Bank of Somalia has become the first lender in the Horn of Africa nation to handle foreign transactions. As Grace Pascoe reports bank officials say it's a sign the country is stabilizing after decades of conflict.
Getting your cash out of an ATM. It's an everyday experience for many of us. Here in Somalia, it's still a novelty. This one in the capital, Mogadishu, is the country's first - and only just recently installed. It's a sign Somalia is open for business. And now, a new bank is handling foreign transactions for the first time in over two decades. The International Bank of Somalia is housed in a brand new building - with a brand new chief exec, Ahmed Hassan Yusuf. (SOUNDBITE) (English) INTERNATIONAL BANK OF SOMALIA, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, AHMED HASSAN YUSUF, SAYING: "In IBS, we are using international standards. We have risk management, we have compliance, we have anti-money laundering system, we have name screening, we have internal audit, we have external audit. We have all sorts of safeguards that makes us to connect to the world." Mr Yusuf says the bank has its work cut out. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AHMED HASSAN YUSUF, CEO, INTERNATIONAL BANK OF SOMALIA (IBS) SAYING: "The operating costs in Somalia are very high, you have to do everything by yourself and that's a challenge. The other challenge is you need to educate people on how the banking sector really works, who benefits from the banking sector." The civil war and more recently Islamist militant insurgency destroyed Somalia's banking system. After years of conflict, displacement and famine for its ten million people, it's starting again from scratch. Accessing cash is now easier, according to one of IBS's first customers Abdi Nasir Sheik Ahmed. (SOUNDBITE) (Somali) CUSTOMER, ABDI NASIR SHEIK AHMED, SAYING: "Most Somali people are used to the ashawala money transfer system, there was no recognised banking system. If I'm not wrong, this is the first bank that not only offers money transfer services, but international banking services as well." With around 40 percent of all Somali families relying on remittances from another country, ashawalas or money transfers cater for incoming foreign transactions. But no outgoing payments could be made … until now. With most urban centres now free from Al-Shabaab extremists, the government is in better shape to focus on Somalia's recovery. This long-awaited international bank is another encouraging sign that Somalia is on the way up.