By STAFF WRITER
New York, (Tadias) – The first Ethiopian-American owned online money transfer company, announced that it will start operations next month.
BirrituExpress.com, the Pennsylvania based company, owned by Global Financial Exchange Holdings LLC, aims to tap into the growing Diaspora remittance back to Ethiopia.
“Birritu Express was created by Ethiopians to meet the specific needs of the global Ethiopian community, said the company’s press release sent to Tadias Magazine. “It is designed to be the most inexpensive, convenient and secure way to transfer funds to Ethiopia from abroad.”
The Ethiopian Diaspora’s annual income is estimated to be tens of billions of dollars , about equal to Ethiopia’s gross domestic product, according to Precise Consult International, organizers of The World Bank and USAID backed annual Ethiopian Diaspora business conference. Crude calculations using remittance figures ($1.1 billion in the first 9 months of 2006 & 2007 alone) show that the gross income of Ethiopians in the Diaspora is in the range of 10-20 billion dollars per year, roughly equal to the home country’s GDP of $13 billion in 2006.
Birritu faces stiff competition from industry giants like Western Union and Money Gram. But, the new company says it’s prepared for a fair competition.
“In the past Western Union has been the primary fund transfer player in Ethiopia based on an exclusive relationship with the Ethiopian government”, said the press release. “That relationship ended on June 1st which opened the door to competition.”
According to the company, which has already established links with Banks and the national Postal Service in Ethiopia, it intends to provide better and efficient service, while offering customers lower transaction fees.
“Typical transactions via BirrituExpress.com will cost much less than the western and traditional competitors in Ethiopia,” Dr. Munir Idriss, the company’s Chief Operating Officer, told The Reporter in Ethiopia last week.
“We will be a worthy competitor in being able to arrange fund transfers through the convenience of personal computers, lower fees, and top security. Recipients pay no fees and can receive transferred funds at hundreds of convenient locations throughout Ethiopia.”
According to the COO, the company will charge $8.29 for transferring one hundred dollars, while its transfer fee for sending five hundred dollars is set at $10.29. However, he suggested that the company reserves the right to adjust its service fees based on the dynamics of the market.
“We may, in accordance to the market and in considering the capacity of our customers, adjust our service fees”, he warned. “But the fees will always remain better and competitive ones. We will also transfer funds computing against the best exchange rate, thereby increasing the benefit to the recipient.”
The Company has partnered with PayQuik, provider of money remittance technology for Banks and money transfer companies. “Our proprietary programs have taken the worry out of cross-border fund transfers by incorporating industry-leading security features.” says Jeff Slowik, PayQuik’s senior Vice President.
As a standard feature, PayQuik encrypts all Birritu Express electronic fund transfer data. All costs are known at the time of the transaction and the sender can personally track the funds until they arrive in the hands of the recipient.
According to Dr. Idriss, the company will adhere to the US regulatory compliance requirements – US Patriot Act, Anti-Money Laundering, Bank Secrecy Act, as well as the laws of Ethiopia and regulations of the National Bank of Ethiopia.
The electronic money transfer business was started by Western Union in 1871.
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