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The crucial role of remittances in crisis resolution in Africa

Do not call it Diaspora, call it a new dispensation

In recent years, West Africa has witnessed a notable trend of its citizens seeking opportunities abroad, with a particular focus on Europe, Canada, and the United States.

These migrations are propelled by the pursuit of improved economic prospects and job opportunities. The allure of a more prosperous life in a foreign land empowers these immigrants with the potential to contribute positively to their home countries through remittances, which in turn serve as a catalyst for socio-economic development. This phenomenon stands as a pivotal element in the region’s growth narrative.

The significance of remittances

Remittances, encompassing the practice of migrants sending money back to their home countries, exert a profound influence on the economic development of any nation.

These financial flows carry a direct impact on various facets of people’s lives, ranging from the enhancement of household incomes to the facilitation of healthcare access, business investments, and educational pursuits.

For instance, Nigeria, as a compelling example, bore witness to personal remittances totalling a staggering $20.13 billion in 2022, underscoring the sheer magnitude of these financial inflows.

According to Agusto & Co, these remittances are predicted to rise to about $26 billion by 2025, reinforcing their status as a cornerstone of the country’s economic stability, thereby positioning them as a potent force for fostering growth.

However, the influence of remittances extends beyond their role in fortifying household finances and propelling economic expansion. They stand as a vital lifeline for communities grappling with crises, lending invaluable support for stability, recovery, and the overarching well-being of societies and nations.

Of particular importance is the role remittances play in the world’s poorest countries, often the most vulnerable to crises and disasters, where these flows aid the recovery of individuals and households from various hazards.

In essence, remittances function as a critical tool to decrease people’s vulnerability to crises and promote a resilient path to recovery.

Supporting crises in Africa:

Africa, a continent celebrated for its breath-taking beauty and rich cultural diversity, has regrettably shouldered the weight of numerous crises over the years.

From armed conflicts and natural disasters to economic downturns and health emergencies, these adversities have tested the resolve of African nations and their populations.

During these trying times, remittances, an often underappreciated lifeline consistently offers hope and bolsters resilience.

Three recent scenarios serve to illustrate the invaluable role of remittances.

COVID-19: The global COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching consequences, particularly in Africa. The economic fallout and health challenges posed by the virus prompted the need for financial support.

Remittances, as an immediate and accessible source of funds, played a critical role in helping individuals and families cope with the pandemic’s impact.

The funds helped improve household incomes and alleviating poverty, as many Nigerians faced job losses and economic challenges due to the pandemic.

In countries like Ghana and Senegal, a good portion of the foreign funds received was directed towards supporting small-scale businesses and agriculture, which contributed to stabilizing the economy.

Remittances following the recent flooding in Libya: Libya, like other African nations, is susceptible to natural disasters.

The recent flood in the country left many in dire need of assistance. Humanitarian actors and NGOs are currently mobilizing resources to provide a lifeline for affected families, to provide lifesaving supplies to people, prevent a secondary health crisis, and swiftly restore some kind of normality to the country.

The ability to raise funds from around the world, which can then be remitted to a country in need, makes a world of difference in ensuring the swift restoration of normalcy to the affected community, all without overwhelming the government.

Remittances following the recent Moroccan earthquake: The devastating earthquake that struck Morocco resulted in loss of life and widespread destruction.

While Morocco may not be among the highest recipients of remittances in Africa, the international response to this crisis was swift and compassionate.

Humanitarian organizations, NGOs, and concerned individuals set up relief funds to provide support to earthquake victims, encompassing essentials like food, water, shelter, and medical care.

Platforms such as GlobalGiving and GiveDirectly mobilized funds from across the globe to aid the affected community.

These funds will be remitted to the impacted region, assisting in rebuilding the community and offering essential financial and psychological support to the victims.

In summary, remittances prove to be invaluable in supporting communities during times of crises by providing immediate relief to affected families, aiding in the restoration of financial stability, contributing to economic recovery, and promoting self-sufficiency.

Challenges and solutions:

While remittances are a lifeline, various challenges need to be addressed to maximize their impact, particularly during crises. High remittance transfer fees can diminish the actual amount received by victims.

To mitigate this, efforts by the government and financial providers should focus on reducing costs and enhancing accessibility to formal remittance channels.

Platforms like Blaaiz, for example, are on course to ensure that only the fairest rates are offered to ensure users maximize the value of their remittances in every situation.

Promoting digital and mobile platforms for remittances is also necessary to facilitate access to funds, even in remote areas, which is necessary in times of crises.

The ability to easily access funds received as support can expedite its use in providing relief to individuals and recipient communities.

Additionally, deepening cross-border cooperation and agreements can simplify fund transfers across borders, eliminating barriers and delays associated with international remittances.

Finally, implementing regulations that encourage financial institutions to offer remittance services and ensure accessibility to underserved communities is also essential.

These measures equip communities with the tools to manage remittances effectively, especially during crises.

Conclusion:

In Africa, where crises are both frequent and severe, remittances stand as a beacon of hope and a catalyst for resilience.

They offer immediate relief, support economic recovery, and contribute to the overall well-being of families and communities.

Read also: Doctors seeking greener pastures overseas will boost diaspora remittances – EDHA Deputy Speaker

Recognizing the vital importance of remittances in crisis resolution is not just a matter of policy; it’s a testament to the enduring bonds between people.

While remittances alone may not fully cover the costs of recovery and reconstruction following significant crises, they can complement other

sources of assistance and play a vital role in helping communities rebuild and regain their footing after such devastating events.

Therefore, it is pertinent to lay the foundation for swift, seamless, and convenient remittances on the continent to ensure efficient channels for receiving and distributing these funds whenever the need arises.

This includes minimizing transfer fees, digitizing and streamlining the process, and ensuring that funds reach the intended recipients swiftly. Such measures will help maximize the positive impact of remittances in times of crises and advance the development and resilience of African nations.