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Western Union, MoneyGram restart money transfers to Afghanistan

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Remittances are vital for Afghanistan's economy, which was disrupted when the Taliban took over in August./AFP
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Sep 03, 2021 - 09:28 AM

WASHINGTON — Western Union and MoneyGram announced on Thursday that they would resume money transfer services to Afghanistan, allowing vital remittances into a country that faces huge economic hurdles following the Taliban’s takeover last month.

“Western Union is pleased to share that it is resuming its money transfer services into Afghanistan, starting September 2, so that our customers can once again send money and support their loved ones at this time,” a spokesperson said.

“We understand the urgent needs of our customers and their families and are committed to supporting them,” the spokesperson said, adding that Western Union would waive transfer fees from September 3 through 17.

The service offers payments in Afghanistan in both afghanis and United States dollars via seven banks, according to the spokesperson, and transfers were suspended “because the banking network was closed, essentially, and there were obviously liquidity issues.”

“But we now have had assurances from our banking partners that a number of branches have been open in recent days and more and more opening each day, and also that we’ve had assurances that they have good liquidity,” the spokesperson added.

MoneyGram in a statement said they would resume service as of Thursday, following “guidance received from the US government” and “in coordination with our partners in the country as well as the Afghanistan Banks Association.”

“The decision to suspend our services was not made lightly, and we are thankful to be able to reopen our business in the country to help support the people of Afghanistan,” the statement said.

Remittances from Afghans living abroad are crucial for the impoverished country’s economy and amounted to almost $789 million in 2020, according to the World Bank — some four percent of Afghanistan’s estimated $19.8 billion GDP that year.

The Washington-based development lender last week announced it would suspend aid to the country, saying it was “deeply concerned about the situation in Afghanistan and the impact on the country’s development prospects, especially for women.”

The IMF announced shortly after the Taliban’s takeover that it would suspend its assistance to the country, citing uncertainty surrounding its leadership.

Chief Compliance Office at Western Union Tyler Hand said facilitating money transfers doesn’t run afoul of Washington’s policies.

“We’ve been actively in conversation with the US government since the withdrawal, which has conveyed that humanitarian activities, including remittances, are consistent with US policy,” he told AFP.

The Taliban Islamist militants, who have pledged a softer brand of rule than during their brutal reign of 1996-2001, are expected to soon form a new government.

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