Diaspora remittances are a key source of financing for Africa’s development

Whether formal or informal, remittances from the diaspora have long been undervalued. However, they characterize a large part of Africa’s financial life. These financial flows between individuals contribute significantly to the economic growth of African countries: between 10% and 20% of the GDP of some countries, from Senegal to Lesotho, thanks to remittances that are sent through formal channels. According to the World Bank, money transfers to Sub-Saharan Africa represent $46 billion for the continent as a whole in 2018. These transfers have become more important than official development assistance.

Donors have been slow to realize the importance of remittances. The first report was published only in 2010 by the World Bank and the AfDB. It estimated that some 30 million African nationals from the diaspora, including North Africa, made “formal” transfers through traditional banking networks. 

Another category of less documented flow, that is crucial in daily life, is the funds that flow between African countries, such as Nigerian operators who source agricultural inputs in Côte d’Ivoire, Somali expatriates who support their families from South Africa or Malian manufacturers who source cement in Senegal, for example. These exchanges do not necessarily involve direct transfers. They are based above all on a form of “relational” economy specific to our continent and is based on trust. (see below the main amounts of remittances in Africa).

We can also note that a significant proportion of money transfers are made through informal means. In reality, this money circulates through ingenious channels, aimed at circumventing exchange control regulations or fees charged on international transfers. A simple call between New York and Dakar is all it takes, through banks managed by the “Modou-Modou”, small traders belonging to the Muslim community of the Mourides. These dematerialized money transfers are based on trusted networks and intermediaries charging small commissions: for example, an informal operator in Morocco will take the money of a Senegalese in Morocco who would like to transfer it home, but keep the cash for a different transaction made by another Senegalese customer in Morocco. 

Commissions are half the amount of the 10% or so charged by some remittance companies that are deeply involved in Africa and are located in every cities from which migrants leave, such as Louga in Senegal or Kayes in Mali. The market is huge, since 80% of African migration takes place within the continent, according to the African Union.

These agencies share a rapidly expanding sector, with 61% of the market share of a $4 billion per year market according to the World Bank. This is a trend coveted by banks (32% market share), post offices (5%) and, increasingly, by mobile phone operators. Some operators, particularly in Kenya, have changed the situation, such as the M-Pesa electronic wallet. This approach has been adopted across the continent.

Two countries are leading by example. Ethiopia launched in 2002, a website, the Ethiopian Diaspora Directorate, which identifies investment opportunities in the country for the diaspora members. They are very involved in their home countries, the Ethiopian diaspora the Ethiopian diaspora has invested more than $56 million in the project to build one of Africa’s largest hydroelectric dams, the Great Renaissance. Rwanda launched the Agaciro sovereign solidarity fund in 2012, which has raised €51.5 million in four years.

In fact, African financial success stories are countless. The Dahabshiil remittance network, founded in 1970 in Dubai by Somali businessman Abdirashid Duale, has grown to the size of a multinational… It has more than 2,000 employees in 144 countries. They have the advantage of receiving declared salaries, with pay slips. A good way out of the informal sector, while taking advantage of the huge contribution of migrants, whether on the continent or elsewhere.










Source : The Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development, 2019

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