Somalia Bank Gives Microfinancing to Rebuild Economy Hit by War

International Bank of Somalia said it’s lending citizens as much as $1,000 to start businesses such as grocery stalls, as the Horn of African nation recovers from decades of civil war that ruined the economy.

The lender, based in the capital, Mogadishu, has distributed about $600,000 in cash to some 700 recipients since it began the program this year, according to Chief Executive Officer Hassan Ahmed Yusuf. The loans range in value from $100 to $1,000 and are given interest-free, with women representing 89 percent of recipients, he said Tuesday in an interview at his office in the city.

“Our purpose is to provide small loans to very poor people for self-employment projects that generate income, allowing them to take care of themselves and their families,” Yusuf said. “We do not want any profit in return for the loans -- this is an initiative we began to encourage small-scale businesses and to reduce the alarming amount of unemployment in the country.”

Somalia has been embroiled in civil war since the ousting of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and its institutions have largely collapsed. The country’s president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, is seeking to attract investors as its army, supported by African Union peacekeepers, pushes back al-Qaeda-linked militants from the country’s main urban areas.

IBS began operations in October 2014 and is the first lender in Somalia to handle foreign transactions. It provides retail, private, corporate and investment banking services.