The Importance of the Xawilaad for Somali in the Horn

Recently, there have been a few studies on the xawilaad system and the remittance flows it processes. None of these studies deals specifically with the function of the system for life in the camps, and they also do not examine the role it plays on household level in detail. Nevertheless, the great importance of the xawilaad for the Somali economy as well as for individual households does become clear. According to Montclos (2000), there is nothing exceptional about the fact that Somali migrants send money to their dependents living in the Horn in a very regular way: All communities abroad try to improve the living standard of members of the family who stayed behind. What is outstanding about the Somali case, according to Montclos, is that there is a war going on in their native country, and as asylum seekers and refugees, they have an incomparably precarious status. Whereas we should not ignore or exceptionalize refugees from other remittance sending migrants, this does not mean that there are no circumstances specific to their case. In light of these facts, the amounts that the Somalis send are astonishingly large and frequent, and the transfers by xawilaad are made fast and with great efficiency (Montclos 2000).
Remittances have played a crucial part in the Somali economy for decades, but the sheer size of the current diaspora combined with recent technological developments in the field of telecommunication and the collapse of the Somali formal economy, have added weight to their importance. Although remittances have become the critical source of hard currency for the country and individual households, the precise value of this economy is difficult to calculate for several reasons (Gundel 2002: 10). In thefirst place, it is helpful to know the size of the Somali diaspora, and I have already mentioned the difficulties in estimating this. Secondly, it is not easy to get the figures from the xawilaad offices themselves. They do not…

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