In 2012 Unsuspecting Migrant Workers Paid $4 Billion in Remittance Fees

In January 2013 The World Bank stated that “African Migrants Could Save US$4 Billion Annually On Remittance Fees“. Africa’s overseas laborers, who sent home close to US$60 billion in remittances in 2012 actually pay more to send money home than any other migrant group. South Africa charges the highest remittance fee followed by Tanzania and Ghana with prices averaging from 20.7%, 19.7% & 19% respectively.

Confused? Well the disconnect is because migrant workers typically do not have bank accounts and are largely unaware of mobile bank services like Vodacom, M-Pesa, Transferwise and World Remit. Migrant workers are sending money home to their destitute families via exchange agencies that charge higher commissions, nearly 25-30% more than banks.

Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced a boom in mobile phone usage over the past decade. The total number of cell phone subscriptions on the continent increased from 11 million in 2000 to 463 million in 2011 and continues to grow exponentially. The good news is that with half of these poor African subscribers using their phone to send or receive money, Tanzanians have become the fastest users of mobile money services in the world, just behind Kenya.

So how can we bridge this gap? Could our governments & unions like the International Trade Union Confederation put a little pressure on migrant worker sponsors to facilitate mobile money transfers for their laborers?

The Middle East is catching in the Mobile Money industry. And their building boom is providing an amazing opportunity for them to help their poor construction laborers.

Following are some interesting statistics from Middle Eastern Building Boom Cities:

-Qatar has a population of 1.7 million, of which 94 per cent are migrants.

-An estimated 80 per cent of the 7.5 million people in the United Arab Emirates are migrants.

-Two-thirds of the 2.7 million people in Kuwait are migrant workers.

-In Bahrain migrants make up 1/4 of its 1.2 million population.

-Almost 30 per cent of the 2.7 million people in Oman are foreigners.

-The largest Gulf state, Saudi Arabia, has a population of 27 million of which around 30 per cent are migrants

M-Pesa, Vodacom, Mobile Money, Transferwise and Worldremit, are great platforms that provide the poor with access to financial services and the ability to save and send money safely, no matter where they are located. This information needs to get into the hands of migrant construction workers and their sponsors.

The Middle East could use more mobile money agencies and a champion to get the message across. Help spread the word so we can give the world’s disadvantaged a fighting chance! Poor migrant workers need our collective voices so we can help protect their rights!

By Tina Cornely

Written by

Tina Cornely is a long standing humanitarian and environmental activist. She is the former Director of Technology of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the former Director of Operations at the Miami Art Museum in Miami, Florida. Ms. Cornely believes that art is healing and revealing. In her own words, we can express with art what we cannot express with words. When we use art to teach others, we help increase their critical thinking skills exponentially. Art can also be a means to generate a revenue source. And when you make art out of trash, everyone benefits.
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