Western Union and MoneyGram announced Thursday that they will resume money transfer services to Afghanistan to facilitate vital remittances to a country facing major economic hurdles following its takeover by the Taliban last month.

“Western Union is pleased to announce that it will resume money transfer services to Afghanistan on September 2nd so that our customers can resume sending money and helping their loved ones at that time,” said a spokesman.

“We understand the urgent needs of our customers and their families and are determined to support them,” the spokesman said, adding that Western Union will be waiving wire transfer fees from September 3-17.

According to the spokesman, the service offers payments in Afghanistan in both Afghanistan and in US dollars through seven banks, and transfers have been suspended “because the banking network was essentially closed and there were obvious liquidity problems”.

“But we have now given assurances from our banking partners that a number of branches have been open in the last few days and more and more every day, and we have also assured that they have good liquidity,” added the spokesman.

MoneyGram said in a statement that they would resume service on Thursday, following “guidance from the US government” and “in coordination with our partners in the country and the Afghan banking association.”

“The decision to suspend our services was not taken lightly and we are grateful that we can reopen our business in the country to serve the people of Afghanistan,” the statement said.

Remittances from Afghans living abroad are vital to the impoverished country’s economy and amounted to nearly $ 789 million in 2020, according to the World Bank – about four percent of the estimated $ 19.8 billion of Afghanistan’s GDP that year .

The Washington-based development lender announced last week that it would suspend aid to the country, saying it was “deeply concerned about the situation in Afghanistan and the impact it has on the country’s development prospects, especially women”.

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The IMF announced shortly after the Taliban came to power that it would end its aid to the country, citing the uncertainty surrounding its leadership.

Western Union’s chief compliance office, Tyler Hand, said facilitating money transfers does not violate Washington’s guidelines.

“We have spoken actively with the US government since the withdrawal, which has shown that humanitarian activities, including remittances, are compatible with US policy,” he told AFP.

It is expected that the Islamist Taliban fighters, who have promised a gentler form of rule than during their brutal rule from 1996-2001, will soon form a new government.

Dt / cs / ch