Bringing remittance prices down to 5 percent from the current 12.4 percent average cost would put US$4 billion more in the pockets of Africa's migrants and their families who rely on remittances for survival.
Africa's overseas workers, who sent close to US$60 billion in remittances in 2012, pay more to send money home than any other migrant group. According to the World Bank's Send Money Africa database, Sub-Saharan Africa is the most expensive region to send money to, with average remittance costs reaching 12.4 percent in 2012. The average cost of sending money to Africa is almost 12 percent- higher than global average of 8.96 percent, and almost double the cost of sending money to South Asia, which has the world's lowest prices (6.54 percent).
The G8 and the G20 established 5 percent as the target average remittance price to reach by 2014. "High transaction costs are cutting into remittances, which are a lifeline for millions of Africans," said Gaiv Tata, Director of the World Bank's Africa Region and Financial Inclusion and Infrastructure Global Practice. "Remittances play a critical role in helping households address immediate needs and also invest in the future, so bringing down remittance prices will have a significant impact on poverty." Lower cost remittances also advance financial inclusion, since they are often the first financial service used by recipients, who are then more likely to use other financial services including bank accounts.
Remittance prices are even higher between African nations. South Africa, Tanzania, and Ghana are the most expensive sending countries in Africa, with prices averaging 20.7 percent, 19.7 percent, and 19.0 percent respectively, due to several factors including limited competition in the market for cross-border payments.
"Governments should implement policies to open the remittances market up to competition," said Massimo Cirasino, Manager of the Financial Infrastructure and Remittances Service Line at the World Bank. "Increased competition, as well as better informed consumers, can help bring down remittance prices."
Send Money Africa also finds that banks, which are the most expensive remittance service providers, are often the only channel available to African migrants. A regulatory environment that encourages competition among remittance service providers can help bring down remittance prices. Migrant workers can also benefit from more transparent information on remittance services.