Afghanistan has a plan to rid itself of money. Now in danger of extinction.
This is an important project: Afghanistan’s economy runs on money, and it is estimated that only 10 to 15% of citizens have a bank account. APS is intended to help Afghanistan become less monetary, make economic transactions more secure and efficient and bring the real bank to more people. And, Khademi said, it was moving fast before the U.S. withdrew its forces and the Taliban took over.
However, now, as the unrest in Afghanistan continues, the project has stalled, and money has run out before any possible alternatives are finalized.
But a different outcome will come, Khademi said: Afghanistan is probably only a year or two away from having a 21st-century digital banking infrastructure that can cope even if money is lost. His team is “very committed and hardworking”, he said, constantly working up to 17 hour days to support rapid growth. They are “too economically motivated to stand alone.”
“We hope our efforts bear fruit,” he said, in tears. “It seemed like everything was in vain, everything was done. It was like a dream, but now it can’t come true.”
The money crisis was not an accident. Most of the assets of the previous Afghan government were held in foreign accounts that were frozen to prevent the Taliban from gaining access, agreed by former Central Bank governor Ajmal Ahmady. And the U.S. has chosen to prevent the Taliban – which is on the Treasury Department’s sanctions list – from taking other funds through frozen government money reserves in Afghanistan and stopping the planned remittance of cash. Many Afghans have been expecting such a situation for weeks, with long lines at banks as citizens worry about the future as they run out of money.
ATM activity went through the roof. “Friends [who work in banks] says where they usually make hundreds of transactions every day, they make thousands, ”said Ruchi Kumar, a journalist and contributor to the MIT Technology Review who worked in Kabul for eight years but ran now in the country.
The problems that cause lack of money are growing. The U.S. dollar is declining, the value of cash in Afghanistan is declining and, according to Khademi, the price of basic commodities is rising. The circulation of money continues – There is a large informal banking system, run even local unlicensed money traders. Sources say they are still active, but without the bank’s activity, the money supply will soon run out.
Some outsiders want to fill the gap by running online fundraising campaigns, while others have as well suggests that cryptocurrency could be a step in vain.
But getting money into the country from abroad has become even more difficult. Western Union, the largest money transfer company in the world suspended services in Afghanistan, and NBC reported that MoneyGram also stopped operations there. While some foreign crowdfunding websites, such as GoFundMe, have been accused of “disingenuous” behavior after obstructing certain fundraising efforts for the country while let others go on.
“I didn’t think this day would come”
While digital alternatives have largely failed to fill the gap left by the fall of money, there are some windows of opportunity for alternative services to help.
Kumar, the reporter, says vulnerable Afghans are using services like WasalPay-an online payment system for available payments-to maintain their phone credit.
He uses it to send money that can be used by people who have difficulty to stay connected. His network includes journalists, activists, and human rights defenders; they have been able to use WasalPay to access funds from abroad, either from individual donations and contributions, or from a wider range of sources such as the International Women Media Foundation.