EVCplus is a free electronic money transfer service introduced and operated by Somalia’s biggest telecommunication company, eHormuud.
It’s a fairly easy-to-use tool and works like an SMS service. Both sender and receiver first need to register with the company. After dialling #770# from their mobile phone handset and using a secret four digit pin password, customers can choose between seven options. Instant transactions can be made as long as there is enough money in the account of the buyer. All texts go through centrally controlled software that adds or deducts money immediately from your account depending on your activity.
The service has transformed the lives of many. All the traders in the market say they prefer to be paid by EVCplus or in US dollars.
“I don’t like customers paying me in cash. Not anymore. One dollar is eighteen thousand shillings,” said Mohamed. Because of the low value of the Somali currency, it’s impractical to conduct business transaction using the Somali shilling. He added, “I will need bags and a wheelbarrow to carry the money from the ten goats I sold today.”
In a country still recovering from more than two decades of civil war and awash with guns, traders also prefer EVCplus for safety reasons.
“No one knows if you have money. I travel outside the city and the roads are not safe. It is easier to hide a sim card than a sack of money,” said Mohamed Iman Ali, a fellow trader at the market. “Even if you don’t take the sim card out and your phone is stolen the company blocks your EVCplus.”
Even though most customers are now using EVCplus as a payment tool, the service was rolled out as an airtime recharge service. Before its introduction two years ago, customers used to recharge their airtime using scratch cards.
With shops closing early every evening – mostly for safety reasons – customers had no place to buy scratch cards. So EVCplus took off. Customers no longer had to take the risk of leaving their homes at night to recharge their airtime.
The service also has cut down on the company’s costs. eHormuud used to print the scratch cards abroad then ship them into the country.