Cash-strapped Kenyans feel the pinch as money remittance firms remain closed

Hundreds of millions of shillings belonging to thousands of customers of the 13 money remittance companies that were suddenly suspended by the government remains inaccessible to the beneficiaries.

This scenario has left many Kenyans who receive remittances from their relatives through the suspended firms in a financial fix and unable to meet their financial obligations. The suspended firms, handle at least Sh150 million worth of daily transactions “I usually receive Sh50,000 every month  from my brother in the United States to cater for rent, food and school fees.

The money was already sent but I cannot collect. I don’t know how I will survive,” said Yusuf Abdi, a resident of Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate. He added: ‘Why does the government close the money remittance companies so suddenly without considering many of us who depend on them on our livelihoods. This is not fair and a direct blow to our lives.”

Taxi driver Joseph Mwangi also lamented that business has dried up completely after the money remittance companies were closed “On normal days. I usually carry ten to fifteen passengers per day but yesterday I only carried one person. Economic activity has totally stalled in Eastleigh because people receive money through the suspended companies,” he said in Eastleigh’s 7th street.

Eastleigh Business District Association Chairman Ibrahim Hussein called on the government to allow the money remittance services to continue as investigations proceed.  He said nine out of the 13 suspended firms are EBDA members.

“The operations of the money remittance providers is strictly regulated by the Central Bank and the Financial Reporting Centre who have access to all the transactions carried out. Let the investigations continue without disrupting the lives of customers,” he said.

He added; “It is not fair to just wake up one day and close down the money remittance companies without any notice or investigations. Let the government follow the due process. We are ready to cooperate with them.” He indicated said that the money remittance companies serve Kenyans of all stripes and not just Somalis as many people believe.

He said people are attracted to them because their fees are much lower than those in commercial banks. According to the Kenya Forex Bureaus Association CEO Anthony Wachira the suspended money remittance companies processes money belonging to individuals, corporates and humanitarian organisations.

He said that the sudden closure will severely disrupt the livelihoods on many people in the country who receive or send money through them. “Currently, we have a 30 per cent market share in terms of the remittances from the diaspora and closing all of down suddenly is not fair. Our clients have been greatly inconvenienced,” he said.