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Western Union, MoneyGram resume services to Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 3, 2021)

Western Union Co and MoneyGram International Inc resumed money-transfer services to Afghanistan on Thursday, moves in line with a U.S. push to allow humanitarian activity to continue after the Taliban’s takeover, Reuters reported.

According to the report pair suspended services in Afghanistan more than two weeks ago after the Islamist militia captured Kabul at lightning speed.

But an easing of security concerns following the completion of the Taliban’s conquest of the country opened the way for the reopening this week of banks, which the money-transfer firms rely on to dispense and collect funds.

Jean Claude Farah, Western Union’s president in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told Reuters the reopening of banks, plus a push by the United States to facilitate humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, had given the American company confidence to resume services on Thursday.

“Much of our business involving Afghanistan is low-value family and support remittances that support basic needs of the people there, so that’s the grounding that we have and why we want to reopen our business,” Farah said.

“We’ve engaged with the U.S. government, which has conveyed that allowing humanitarian activities, including remittances, to continue are consistent with U.S. policy.”

The flow of funds from migrant workers overseas is a key lifeline for many Afghans and has helped the economy of one of the world’s poorest nations weather years of violence and instability. The United Nations says about half of the population requires aid amid the second drought in four years, Reuters reported.

In a statement, MoneyGram said following guidance from the U.S. government, it was resuming its services in coordination with its partners in the country and the Afghanistan Banks Association.

“We recognize that remittances play a pivotal role in the livelihood and daily needs of the Afghan people,” MoneyGram said.

According to Reuters yet U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has said it is committed to allowing humanitarian work to continue in Afghanistan.

“We are continuing to engage with the U.S. government and others to understand their policies and what type of longer term regulatory framework will be put in place as it relates to the Taliban,” Western Union’s Farah said.

Remittances to Afghanistan reached $789 million in 2020, around 4% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), the World Bank estimated, down from $829 million in 2019.

Such flows have historically played an important role in supporting financial stability. Along with international grants and resilient exports, remittances helped Afghanistan’s current account surplus reach 14.2% of GDP in 2020, the International Monetary Fund said in June.

In recent days, Afghanistan’s central bank has provided funds of hundreds of thousands of dollars to each bank that requested liquidity, a senior banker told Reuters. But the financial system and economy could be in peril unless the Taliban can access the central bank’s roughly $10 billion in assets, which are mostly outside of the country.

Farah said Western Union had been assured by the banks it partners with in Afghanistan that they had sufficient cash to pay receivers of remittances.

“Some of them have indicated at some locations that they have good liquidity in afghani and at least some liquidity in U.S. dollars as well, we allow payouts in both, to resume remittances,” he added.

Before it shut down services on Aug. 16, around 45% of each transaction sent via Western Union to Afghanistan was $200 or less, he said.

Western Union said on Thursday that payouts of any funds sent to Afghanistan were available in select locations. Outbound services, money sent from there to other countries, remained suspended, it added.

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Acting commerce minister meets Russian deputy PM

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(Last Updated On: May 17, 2024)

Nooruddin Azizi, Acting Minister of Industry and Commerce, met with Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk to discuss trade and investment, it was announced on Friday.

Sergey Pavlov, General Director of Russian Railways, and Dmitry Zverev, Deputy Minister of Transport of Russia, were also present in the meeting, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce said in a statement.

According to the statement, the two sides discussed increasing the volume of trade, preferential tariff for Afghan goods, Russian investment in mines and water dams in Afghanistan, and Afghanistan’s role in the International North–South Transport Corridor.

They also discussed about reducing the cost of transportation through the Russian railway, removing the export tax on basic materials, arranging the trip of the delegation to the ports of Astrakhan and Makhachkala, and holding a trade connectivity conference and an expo of Afghan products in Moscow.

Azizi met with the Russian deputy PM on the sidelines of the Kazan Forum – the 15th International Economic Forum of Russia and the Islamic World.

He also met with representatives of a number of Tatarstan and Russia companies and encouraged them to invest in Afghanistan.

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Azizi meets with head of Tatarstan on sidelines of Kazan Forum

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(Last Updated On: May 16, 2024)

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry said Thursday acting minister Nooruddin Azizi met with the leader of Russia’s autonomous republic of Tatarstan, Rustam Nurgaliyevich Minnikhanov, on the sidelines of a meeting in Kazan.

According to the ministry, Azizi met with Minnikhanov on the sidelines of the Kazan Forum – the 15th International Economic Forum of Russia and the Islamic World.

The two officials discussed bilateral trade relations, the establishment of the Russian Trade House in Afghanistan, the visit of Minnikhanov to Kabul, investment in electricity production, water transfer, mining, cultural and economic cooperation and other matters.

This annual meeting is held by Russia and the 14th round of this meeting was also held in the same country last year.

The main goal of the forum is to strengthen trade and economic, scientific and technical, social and cultural ties between Russian regions and the countries of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), as well as to promote the development of the Islamic financial system institutions in Russia.

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Afghanistan’s imports and exports totaled $10.3 billion last year

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(Last Updated On: May 15, 2024)

The National Statistics and Information Authority (NSIA) said on Wednesday that last year, the value of exports totaled $1.79 billion while imports totaled $8.57 billion.

According to NSIA, fruits accounted for the largest share of export items last year, totaling over $645 million.

Medicinal plants, minerals and vegetables were the next top three items respectively to be exported.

Meanwhile, petroleum and oil accounted for the largest portion of imported goods, totaling over $1.37 billion.

Another large portion of the total amount imported went to machinery, vehicles and parts. This totaled over $1.15 billion, followed by textiles, metals and metal products.

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