How Hormuud Telcom has shaped lives in Somalia amid COVID-19 pandemic
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Arguably the most dependable and effective telecommunication company in the Federal Republic of Somalia, Hormuud Telecom, a leading privately-owned telecommunications company based in Mogadishu has played a critical role throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to wreak havoc across the globe.
With almost a dilapidated healthcare system, Somalia has heavily relied on well-wishers especially from the West and internal donors, who are credited for contributing towards equipping of various facilities in the country, thus saving thousands of people from jaws of death.
So far, the disease has spread to every corner of Somalia, but Puntland, Somaliland, and Banadir regions are the most affected. Over 180 people have succumbed to the disease from over 6,000 infections, although experts argue that the testing capacity of the country is limited.
But throughout the journey, and as part of her Corporate Social Responsibility [CSR], Hormuud Telcom has played an integral role in helping the government to tackle the pandemic. Recently, the company donated $50,000 to the Gedo region, to help curb the hunger crisis which is partly triggered by the pandemic.
To make easy online engagement through Zoom and other platforms, Hormuud has subsidized bundles thus enabling users to interact without limitations. This has tremendously helped students and officers working for different organizations to engage without necessarily having physical meetings.
Hormuud Telecom was established on April 02, 2002, in Mogadishu, Somalia. The Company started modestly, with 250 shareholders, ten customer service centers, and a few thousand customers. At that time, the Company only offered voice and SMS services.
In February, health minister Dr. Fawziya Abikar awarded the company for what she termed as "important roles you're playing in cushioning the public". The company is credited for donating Oxygen tanks and even equipping the COVID-19 Isolation centers in the country.
Although it's part of the CSR, Abukar said: "The government doesn't take this for granted. Your support is important, we wish that you continue to partner with us for the sake of defeating this pandemic".
Somalia is one of the cashless economies and this is why the company has opted to provide a mobile money transfer platform, EVC Plus, as a free service. With transactions totaling approximately $2.7 billion a month according to the World Bank, Hormuud noted: "We have grown mobile money usage to a rate of 73% amongst Somalis over the age of 16".
Recently, the government awarded the company first mobile money accreditation by the Central Bank of Somalia. This represents over two decades of innovation, growth, and development and a big milestone in formalizing Somalia’s regulatory infrastructure.
Somalia used to receive huge volumes of imported dry foods from humanitarian agencies and the United Nations [UN]. It was very difficult to transport the food aid to those who needed it most. Security concerns persisted in rural areas which meant additional investment was required to safely transport the goods to those who needed them most.
However, with mobile money, humanitarian organizations can directly provide financial aid to those in need. Aid distributed via mobile money not only protects recipients physically but also empowers them through freedom of choice. This is a far more efficient form of humanitarian assistance that allows individuals to best serve their own needs, rather than just receiving food, the company notes.
A report published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics by Johannes Haushofer and Jeremy Shapiro found that “unconditional cash transfers have significant impacts on economic outcomes and psychological well-being” of recipients. Hormuud’s mobile money platform has been essential in delivering these outcomes.
A spokesperson from the agency recently said, “thanks to our Somali telecoms partners, we’ve been able to grow our humanitarian capabilities in the country significantly. We’re now capable of reaching even the most vulnerable and remote regions.”
Additionally, cash aid contributes to the Somali economy and has a trickle-down effect. Previously, aid agencies would import food from other countries and today the cash coming in from overseas goes from a Somali pocket — or mobile phone — into the direct market supporting small businesses and communities.
Most organizations operating in Somalia are able to transfer cash to their clients and workers with minimal interaction as a way of curbing the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. The company remains the biggest telecommunication network in the country, only rivaled by those from neighboring countries.