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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Arkansas, North Carolina have approved similar laws that gay-marriage opponents say help maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More