Several thousands of Africans—living abroad queue every day in money-transfer outlets (offices) to transfer home hard earned currency they have been able to save. These moneys are sent from Germany, the US, United Kingdom, the Gulf Coast Countries (GCC), among others to developing countries—where some of the moneys find their way deep into the hinterlands. There, it may send a child to school, take a child to the hospital, build a house, or buy food to sustain those who are living in abject poverty.
Although, remittances contribute enormously to the economic development of developing nations, unfortunately, most of the money sent home by migrants are unrecorded, and therefore do not enter many countries’ national statistics. Development planners increasingly emphasize the relevance of tracking this money, which will help governments try to increase remittances as a source of development finance and better channel them into productive sectors such as health, education, and industry.
Throughout the continent, financial and monetary policies and regulations create obstacles to the flow of remittances and their effective investment. According to Mills Soko, a researcher at the South African International Affairs, a capital poor continent such as Africa, cannot overlook this source of income.
As a result of the leverage remittances from the Western developed world offer developing nations, even emerging economies such as Brazil, India, Philippines, inter alia, provide incentives to attract such transfers into local savings and investment funds. No wonder, in Ghana, and some developing countries, researchers are talking about brain gain and not brain drain.
Most often, policy debates on migration have centered on the loss of skills and labor from poor to rich nations. An estimated 3.6 million Africans are living in the Diaspora; some of them highly trained professionals. The migration of such workers has led to the loss of skills and labor in essential sectors of the economy. As a consequence, African governments have often tended to discourage migration. But this stance has changed and it is still changing.
During an interview granted by the president of Ghana, president Mills to the BBC Africa a few months into his administration in London, where he was asked about the readiness of the country to receive Ghanaians who had been hit by the credit crunch back into the country, his response was that he hopes the economic meltdown is overcome so that the Ghanaians domiciled abroad could continue to support the economy via their remittances. This is a testament of the veering of governments in developing nations from the brain drain typology to that of brain gain.
As many in the developed world lost jobs, the ripple effects of job losses by Ghanaians abroad was projected to translate into a drop in remittances, but at a press conference addressed by the former governor of the bank of Ghana on Tuesday February 24, 2009, Dr. Paul Acquah averred that the indications were not egregious. Remittances into Ghana have increased and not decreased as projected. He indicated that remittances continued strongly throughout the last quarter of 2008. He told the media that private inward transfers—received by NGOs, embassies, service providers, individuals etc.—through the banks for the year amounted to US$8.7 billion, which represents 26.8 percent increase over those for 2007.(www.ghanabusinessnews.com).
Although, remittances have contributed to the development of most developing economies, in my estimation, the impact would have been greater, but for exorbitant fees charged by some money transfer organizations (MTOs). Has it ever entered our heads why unofficial money transfer is almost half of those sent through official channels? The reasons are not far-fetched: 1. the cost for sending money to developing countries is very high, 2. because of the higher exchange rate on the parallel market, in which traders are willing to pay as much as double the official rate.
Looking at the above stated factors that entice migrants to patronize the informal conduit of sending moneys home, which is not safe, and which most of the migrants who patronize detest due to its associated high risks, it stands to reason that when the cost for sending money is reduced or lowered, people will lose interest in the informal sector. That is why I have always argued that we need a vibrant competitor in the money transfer industry in order to bring the cost of patronizing the formal channel of sending money—which benefits the receiving economies greatly.
There is a major player in the money transfer industry based in Munich, Germany—called VoiceCash which offers better services with extraordinary unique selling propositions (USPs). Apart from offering better rates, it also provides convenience for the senders and receivers respectively. The price offered by the VoiceCash Product is the best, and as a result provides the potential users value for money. The net gain by the potential users of the product offers the patronage of the formal channels of wiring moneys home, with the added advantage of helping the governments to accumulate sufficient funds for developmental projects. Upon registration, you are offered two cards—the primary and secondary. The primary cardholder is the sender of the money (at the moment from Germany) and the secondary cardholder is the receiver (in any part of the world, Ghana included).
As soon as the sender loads money on his card (via bank transfer or a loading voucher or a gyro pay), he can wire it onto the secondary card at anytime or any day. The secondary cardholder then goes to any automated teller machine (ATM) which has a MasterCard’s logo upon notification by the sender, inserts the card and withdraws the money. It is just easy, convenient, and safe. This is what I call money in real time. Check out more about VoiceCash on www.voicecashcard.com
Source: Kingsley Nyarko, PhD, Educational Psychologist, Accra (firstname.lastname@example.org)