Western Union suspends money transfers to Afghanistan, cutting off ‘vital channel’ of financial support
Western Union is suspending money transfers into Afghanistan as America withdraws troops from the troubled country now in the Taliban’s control.
“We recognize that our services provide a vital channel for our customers to support their loved ones, and we will continue to closely monitor this rapidly-developing situation and keep our customers and associates apprised of any developments,” the company said in a statement.
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The widely-seen footage of Afghans clinging to a U.S. military plane as it took off from Kabul airport was a stark image marking the close of 20 years of American intervention in the country. But the Western Union announcement is a reminder of the less-visible assistance Afghan families have been receiving via informal financial channels from family and friends abroad.
Remittances — money beamed from abroad to people inside Afghanistan — constituted nearly 4% of the country’s gross domestic product last year, according to World Bank data. Last year, Afghanistan’s GDP was $19.8 billion, the World Bank said.
The countries where remittances made pup the largest share of GDP in 2020 were Somalia (35.2% of a $4.9 billion economy), the Kyrgyz Republic (28.4% of a $7.7 billion economy) and Tajikistan (26.6% of an $8.1 billion economy), World Bank data show.
People in Afghanistan received $788.9 million last year in remittances, the World Bank said.
Western Union and MoneyGram are the two big money transfer companies in most countries, according to Paul Vaaler, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.
People living in urban areas like Kabul will be the ones feeling Western Union’s absence, said Vaaler, who has been studying the effects of remittances on the developing world, including Afghanistan.
MoneyGram did not respond to a request for comment on the status of its Afghanistan operations