Dahabshiil, which is Somali for ‘the gold melter’, is a ‘rags to riches’ story of an African entrepreneur who lost everything during the Somali civil war.
With nothing but a strong network of contacts, he set about rebuilding the company which two decades later is now the largest African-owned money transfer business in the world. Dahabshiil was founded by Mohamed Said Duale more than forty years ago. He opened his first shop in Burao, the regional capital of Togdheer province in North-West Somalia, now known as Somaliland. He started off by selling imported goods from Gulf states on behalf of Somali migrant workers and transferring the proceeds back to their families.
The business collapsed as civil war broke out across Somalia, forcing more than a million Somalis to flee and seek refuge all over the world. With limited resources, Duale used his experience to set up a new remittance venture, enabling Somali refugees to send money and goods to displaced family members.
Over the next two and half decades, Mr. Duale, with the support of his staff and his son, Abdirashid Duale, who worked in the shop while also attending school, expanded the business to become the leading money transfer company in the Horn of Africa and beyond. Dahabshiil now operates in many African countries including Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya , and Ethiopia. It serves migrant communities all over the world and is fully compliant with international regulations.
Dahabshiil made banking history when in 2009 it launched the first ever debit card in the Somali territories. It also opened the Dahabshil Bank in Djibouti which is operational in some parts of the Somali territories as well
Abdirashid Duale, the current CEO of Dahabshiil, has worked for the company since his school days, helping his father develop what was a small family business into a global firm operating in more than 150 countries. He has committed his company to increasing financial inclusion in developing countries, and has been an integral part of the economic development in the Horn region.
The company is involved in community regeneration projects. It invests five percent of its profits each year into such activities, including the development of schools, hospitals, agriculture, sanitation and infrastructure. This amounts to millions of dollars annually.
The company’s humanitarian efforts during recurrent food crisis have included partnership with leading aid agencies in the delivery of a ‘cash for food’ programme, involving money transfers to beneficiaries for the purchase of food in local markets.
With headquarters in the Somali territories, the United Kingdom, and Dubai, Dahabshiil provides services to some of the world’s leading humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations and international NGOs.
Dahabshiil is also currently spearheading initiatives consisting of partnerships with development organisations in an effort to establish sustainable financial products to meet the needs of poor communities.
Abdirashid Duale has established a reputation as an expert in the remittance industry, and has vast experience in all areas of money transfer operations. He has gained a reputation as a regular keynote speaker at international and regional conferences, including those organised by The School of Oriental and African Studies, International Fund for Agricultural Development, The London School of Economics, Oxford University, the African Development Bank and the British Houses of Parliament. He speaks about remittances, telecommunications and development issues.
Abdirashid Duale has won several awards. This year he was independently selected out of nearly 700 candidates as one of the top 50 most influential people in Africa by the respected publication, The Africa Report. In addition to this he was recently awarded Top Manager of the Year by the International Association of Money Transfer Networks in recognition of the outstanding services that the firm offers its clients. He has also received the UK’s Mayor of Tower Hamlets award for excellence in the community, which recognises what it describes as the “outstanding contribution” Dahabshiil has made to the local, national, and international Somali community over the last forty years.
The story of Dahabshiil, which started off as one small shop, is an inspiration to many people, especially Africans. It has overcome many challenges in a difficult part of the world, and proves that hard work, commitment, professionalism, and resilience can yield large dividends.
By the Bridge