22 November 2011

Uganda: World Bank, AU Introduce Money Transfer Database

Photo: UNHCR
Migrants risk their lives travelling to Europe in over-crowded and unseaworthy vessels to escape persecution or for better prospects.

The World Bank and the African Union have taken steps to lower the cost of sending remittances to and within Africa by launching an online database that will help increase transparency about prices and stimulate greater competition among service providers.

The database named "Send Money Africa" is a years-in-the-making partnership between the Bank, the African Union Commission, and donors and was launched last week. Through this initiative, migrants can compare the cost that remittance service providers charge to send a particular amount to a given country.

"Send Money Africa will stimulate competition among the service providers and ultimately induce a reduction of the costs. As a result, remittance senders and recipients will benefit from transparent, efficient, less costly remittance services," Richard Cambridge, the manager of the Africa Diaspora Program in the World Bank's Africa Region said.

The World Bank estimates that about 120 million people in Africa receive money from about 30 million relatives and friends who left their home country for a total of US$ 40 billion a year. However, when it comes to choosing which operator to use to send money to Africa, too often migrants do not have the necessary data to make an informed choice.

Send Money Africa provides data on the cost of sending and receiving relatively small amounts of money (the equivalent of US$200 and 500) from 15 major sending countries worldwide as well as in Africa to 27 African receiving countries.

According to the World Bank "Remittance Prices Worldwide" database, Africa is the most expensive region of the world to send money to. The average cost of sending money to Africa is over 12 percent of the amount sent, compared to a global average cost of 9 percent.

"By virtue of being countercyclical, remittances play a crucial role in poor households," Amb Olawale Maiyegun, the director of social affairs of the African Union Commission said. Adding "For this reason, any reduction in the cost of the transfer would result in more money remaining in the pockets of the migrants and their families."

The database also contains useful information on the methods that can be used to send money, the actual amount of money that is received in local currency by families and friends in the home country, the time needed before the remittance is available to the recipient, the places where the money can be collected, the exchange rates applied to the transaction, and more.

Send Money Africa is published by the Payment Systems Development Group of the World Bank Financial and Private Sector Development Vice Presidency, in the context of the African Institute for Remittances (AIR) Project, which is managed by the Africa Diaspora Program unit of the World Bank Africa Region Vice Presidency.

The AIR Project is funded by the European Commission and implemented by the World Bank in collaboration with the African Union Commission and its member states.

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