WAU, SOUTH SUDAN —
You could almost call the capital of Western Bahr el Ghazal, "Western Union" Bahr el Ghazal after the global money transfer company, so rapid has been the growth of money transfer services in the South Sudanese state since independence two years ago.
It used to be that residents of the state capital Wau had to wait months, if not years, for relatives to bring them money to live on. Now, they get the money in a matter of hours at one of four money transfer bureaus in Wau. And they don't have to pay the hefty transaction fees charged by banks for remittances.
Wau resident Angelina Abuk Kon's father sends her money every month from Juba, where he works. She uses the money to buy food and pay for transportation, and says it helps to keep her afloat. And it wouldn't be possible without the money transfer bureau, she said.
“This money transfer is helping us a lot," she told VOA News.
"If they were not here, our money would not reach us in a short time. I came to receive money from Juba, which is very far, but this money transfer service has made the distance shorter,” she said.
Barnaba Garang Deng looks after his nephew, who has a medical condition that requires weekly treatment at the local health center. His brother, the boy's father, works in Lakes state, and sends money for his son’s treatment every week.
Doing business with a wire transfer company is easier than dealing with a bank, he said, because banks ask for proof of identity, whereas money transfer companies don't.
"You can come and simply receive your money," he said. "We came, we take only five minutes, we get the money.”
Daro Patrick, Branch Manager of Eden Money Transfer Service in Wau, said his company not only wants to help people who work far from home to be able to send money to their families -- and be safe in the knowledge that they will get it -- but also to enhance locals' safety by allowing them to carry less cash on them.
“You know these days the world is very risky and you could find you are hijacked," he .
"So we thought it wise at least to open something which is more efficient so that the person can deposit his money somewhere.”
High demand for money transfer services throughout South Sudan has fueled substantial growth in companies like Patricks in the last two years, and officials at South Sudan's Central Bank say money transfer companies could help to boost the country's nascent financial sector by attracting outside investors to South Sudan.