MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia's prime minister urged the U.S. government and U.S. banks to support money transfer firms that offer a lifeline for many in the war-torn Horn of Africa nation.
About 40 percent of all Somali families rely on remittances from another country, and the estimated annual total of $1.3 billion is more than all foreign aid and investment in Somalia combined.
Funds sent back home to Somalia are crucial for many families and businesses in a country that lacks a proper financial system due to the years of fighting.
Virtually all major U.S. banks have ended remittance services to Somalis in the United States because of regulations designed to stop money falling into the hands of groups branded "terrorists" by Washington, such as Somalia's al Shabaab.
Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke said in a statement on Sunday he had spoken to American government officials about this "pressing issue" and repeated his calls to U.S. banks to reconsider their decision.
"I will seek to appease their concerns and I will do everything in my power to find a permanent, legitimate and transparent solution," he said.
He said his government was committed to the restoration of security after decades of conflict, adding that economic revival was also required.
"Somalia also requires a robust financial and banking system in order to reassure the money remittance sector, governments and key stakeholders," said the prime minister.
(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Stephen Powell)