News / Africa

Malians Shelter to Black Market to Transfer Cash

x
Anne Look
BAMAKO, Mali - Cash has been in short supply in the northern Malian town of Gao since April when armed groups seized the town and looted banks, businesses and public buildings. The black market "Western Union" has become a lifeline to the North, allowing people to get money to their relatives in Gao within an hour.

The Binke Transport bus company ferries passengers daily from its bus station in Bamako to the occupied northern town of Gao. The journey takes about 18 hours.

However, if you go around to the side entrance behind the ticket counter, you will find a small office where you can get cash into the hands of your relatives or associates in Gao in a matter of minutes.

University student, Abourahamane Maiga, walks in. He needs to send $60 to his mother in Gao.

"How much? To whom?" asks Moussa Bathily, the unofficial manager of this unofficial business. Bathily takes down all the information on one row of a small lined ledger before folding Maiga's money into the neat wad of bills in his left hand. He sends a text message to his contact in Gao.

"Tell her to go see this man in one hour," he tells Maiga. "The money will be there."

Maiga says his mother needs to go to the market to buy food and other necessities.

He says this is the only way to get cash to her safely and quickly because all the banks in Gao are closed. He says there is food being sold in the markets at reasonable prices but she needs cash to buy it. He says he picks up odd jobs in Bamako to earn money. He says he and other northerners in Bamako cannot abandon their families.

This type of unofficial cash transfer system is not new to Binke Transport or other Malian bus companies. However, it has assumed newfound importance since April when armed groups seized control of the North, including Gao and two other key towns.

Hundreds of thousands have fled the region. Life for those who remained is increasingly difficult. Militants are imposing a hardline interpretation of sharia law that has included executions and amputations. Access to medical care is limited. Aid agencies say malnutrition is on the rise.

Residents of Gao say the al-Qaida-linked militants currently in control of that town are stocking the markets with food and other goods reportedly brought in illegally from Algeria. However, residents have little cash.

Bathily of Binke Transport says he takes in about 60 money transfers per day, a significant increase from before the crisis.

He says cash never physically passes between him and Binke's associates in Gao because there is too great of a security risk on the road.

The virtual transactions go in both directions.

A Bamako-based businessman, who preferred to give only his last name Cisse, comes in to collect $200 sent to him by his younger brother.

He says he will use the money to buy various products, in particular cell phones and the pay-by-the-minute cell phone credit scratch cards. He will ship the items to his brother in Gao that same day via Binke's package service so his brother can sell them or deliver them to people who placed special orders.

Bathily said Binke does charge a small fee per transfer - this is a business after all - but it is still less than what an established company would charge and is primarily intended to cover expenses like what he said can be long phone calls to sort out the occassional accounting error.

As Bathily processes transactions, no receipts are given.

He says people have been using this system for a long time and it is based on trust. He says people joke that the Binke bus station is the embassy of Gao, a hub of communication. Northerners, he said, tell him they come by when they are homesick and want to run into familiar faces from back home.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs