Africa has one of the highest population mobility in the world. Also, African nations account for a significant and growing chunk of the international remittance industry. African migration is also rising at a fast pace, adding to the growth of cross-border transactions.
Pew Research, in a report, mentioned Sub-Saharan African nations account for eight out of ten fastest-growing international migrant populations since 2010. Further analysing UN data showed that 25 million Sub-Saharan migrants were living outside their birth countries in 2017. However, there is more to the picture, as illegal migration and informal remittance channels mean a more significant money and people movement than official data suggest.
Challenges and Opportunity
The current remittance scenario in Africa offers both challenges and opportunities. Currently, one of the biggest challenges in the African remittance industry is the high charges involved. Reports suggest it is more expensive to remit money to sub-Saharan Africa than any other region globally.
Senders spend an average of 9% for transferring $200 compared to the global average of 7%. The African remittance industry’s success depends on developing the proper infrastructure and introducing policies to support an increasing migrant population.
Speaking of infrastructure, Africa has an advantage that can drive remittances across the globe and financial inclusion, i.e. mobile money. Africa was one of the first to adopt mobile technology and digital wallets. With many successful mobile technology initiatives, Africa has a sturdy foundation to support the growing migrant population.
The digital transformation has been beneficial for a smoother flow of money. And to mitigate the risks that are present in the remittance business, international money transfers have a plethora of security measures and restrictions to deter money laundering and terrorist financing. However, these safeguards are desirable, and policymakers need to find the right balance between security and smooth transaction processes.
Also, you can observe growing collaborations and partnerships between money transfer operators, banks and fintech. This association is improving the remittance experience and optimising the potential of digital technology. However, regulators and stakeholders cannot overlook the possible jeopardisation of free-market access and free trade.
As in the past, Africa has witnessed exclusive partnerships and other obstacles to competition. This attribute is one of the primary reasons behind the high remittance charges. Encouraging competition can help to exploit the potential of the present remittance market fully. The goal behind a competitive market is to provide, affordable costs to the customer.
There is an active movement to encourage migration and dismantle barriers to trade within the continent. The protocol on free movement is a step in the right direction. The protocol’s objective is to implement a free flow of citizens within the 55 member countries of the African Union. With this protocol in place, the need for an interoperable financial system will arise, of which remittance is a pivotal part.
Any number of the reason may prompt migration, but whatever the factor, the forecast is for elevated movement between African populations. With an increased migrant population, the need for a digitally enabled competitive remittance market arises. A united effort from international money transfer operators, policymakers, trade bodies and the fintech community is needed to make it all happen.
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