Cabo Delgado residents forced to travel up to 200 km to access cash

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Residents of Cabo Delgado are forced to travel long distances to access banking services, as branches across the province have either been destroyed or shut down as a result of the insurgency on top of the devastation wrought by Cyclone Kenneth in April 2019.

In Macomia district the cyclone caused damage to the only bank in town, a branch of BCI. An ATM booth was installed, but it was frequently out of service, and then was destroyed in the 28 May attack by insurgents. The districts of Quissanga and Meluco also have no bank branches.

To access banking services, people living in these districts are forced to travel to Pemba, the capital of the province, a journey which is both expensive and time-consuming. The distance between Pemba and Macomia is about 200km and transporters charge between MZN 1000-1400 for a round trip. 

The demand for banking services in Pemba now means there are sometimes queues of more than 80 meters outside the banks, one resident told Zitamar News. This often happens at the end of the month when public and private employees from other districts need to withdraw their salaries, he said. 

None of BCI, BIM, or Moza Banco returned Zitamar’s requests for comments on how they are trying to serve customers in the conflict-hit areas.

Muidumbe district lost its only BCI bank during an insurgent attack on 7 April this year. It was sabotaged by armed men in an attack that was then claimed by the extremist group Islamic State.

Today, local residents who want banking services have to travel to the town of Mueda, 50 km away, with transporters charging around MZN 500 for a round trip.

The district of Mocimboa da Praia had three bank branches operated by BIM, BCI and Absa. They were also sabotaged in the attack on the district town on 23 March that was also claimed by the Islamic State — and the town has since been all but destroyed by continued fighting and looting.

Locals have to travel 100km to Mueda or 80km to Palma, where there are two bank branches, BCI and Standard Bank, on trips that cost about MZN 400 return.

The district of Palma, where the planned LNG projects are based, also receives residents from the district of Nangade, where the local bank branch has not been reopened since it was destroyed by Cyclone Kenneth.

Some members of the Defence and Security Forces scattered in these districts harass local merchants whenever they are found carrying more than MZN 15,000, a resident of Macomia told Zitamar. The authorities claim they are preventing the movement of money for the purpose of financing the attacks, the source said.

Mobile financial services such as Movitel’s E-Mola or Vodacom’s mPesa offered alternative access to financial services, but there fewer agents are now working for these operators, because they are afraid to move around with a lot of cash and because agents now need to go through the bureaucracy of registering as a company, while before it was enough to have ID, said the same source.

This article was produced by Zitamar and Mediafax under the Cabo Ligado project, in collaboration with ACLED and with support from Crisis Group. The contents of the article are the sole responsibility of Zitamar News.

© 2020, ZITAMAR NEWS. All rights reserved.

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