Courtland Walker

Following Remittances Around the World

With international remittance flows to the developing world set to top $167bn this year, a newly released report by the United Nations shows that remittanceflows to the African continent, averaging US$17bn per annumbetween 2000 and 2003, havesurpassed Foreign Direct Investment during the same period.

Whileofficial aid remains atop the list of external finance flows to Africa, worldwide remittance flows are more than double official aid, andgovernments, NGOs and the private sector alike are beginning tocapitalize on these transfers as a driving force for growth.

Casein point, the Latin American Federation of banks recently announced a plan to channel remittances into small businessloans and a range of other financial products to benefit the poor inLatin American and Caribbean countries.

Meanwhile across thePacific, non-profits like Unlad Kabayan are funneling remittancepayments from migrant workers into sustainable micro-enterprisecreation.

Step further to the west and you can find emerging privatesector enterprises like, providing an innovative e-commerce platform as a vehicle for remittancepayments by the Nepalese diaspora.? And with the proliferation ofmobile phones across the world, providersfrom the Philippines to SouthAfrica have turned their attention to the facilitation of remittancetransfers.

Speakingon remittances, Dilip Ratha, co-author of the World Bank’s 2006 World Economic Prospects Report, notes:

“Highfees are a significant drain on the savings of the migrants and also asignificant drain on the funds that are flowing to essentially poorpeople.”

?Reducing remittance costs can increasemigrants? savings and result in increased flows to developing countries? to poor people.?

With the increasing formalization of the oncelargely informal remittances market (still estimated to be as large as50% of the formal market), improved systems and technology, such asthose mentioned above, are emerging to facilitate faster, simplertransfers; simultaneously, and most importantly, driving down fees.

Thatthese improvements in the remittances market, directly benefitting thepoor, are emerging sustainably and often times profitably from theprivate, NGO, and government sectors alike, attest once more to theopportunities for poverty alleviation and income generation, lying inwait at the bottom of the pyramid.

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