Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire — Remittances from the diaspora are an important source of income for African economies, which could be making a huge impact on the ground if exorbitant charges were slashed, says Economic Commission for Africa's (ECA) Acting Director for the Sub-Regional Office for West Africa, Bakary Dosso.
Speaking at the 3rd edition of the Ivory Coast's diaspora forum on the theme; "Talents and Investors: The Meeting for Employment and Opportunities" in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, Mr. Dosso said remittances from the Africa diaspora were growing every year but continued to be eroded by high charges.
"Their contribution would be even greater if the cost of transferring funds to sub-Saharan Africa were not the highest in the world. The cost of sending remittances to Africa continues to be far higher than any other region in the world. It shouldn't be like that," he said.
"Indeed, a survey conducted in 2018 showed that transfer costs represented 9.3% for every 200 dollars sent to sub-Saharan Africa. This is three times the threshold of 3% provided by one of the monitoring indicators of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development."
The Acting Director also spoke about diaspora investments in West Africa, which he said were on the rise. These are being done through various channels like diaspora business forums and by returning migrants.
He said nations need to produce data on migrant remittances, contribute to the need to lower remittance costs for migrants, encourage the permanent or temporary return of Africans in the diaspora, strengthen the role of the embassies abroad and improve the business climate and the quality of institutions if economies are to fully benefit from remittances.
According to Mr. Dosso, migrant remittances in 2017 were estimated at over 77 billion USD for the whole of Africa and 31 billion USD for West Africa.
"Migrant remittances tend to be more stable than any other external income. While flows of foreign direct investment and even development aid are pro-cyclical, remittances are often counter-cyclical, supporting consumption and investment during periods of recession. Moreover, they guarantee the migrants' countries of origin a substantial availability of foreign exchange," he said.
Five countries in West Africa were among the top 10 countries that received the largest amounts in remittances in 2017. These are Nigeria with US 22 billion dollars, Ghana with US$ 3.5 billion, Senegal with US$1.9 billion and Mali and Togo with US$ 827 million and US$403 million, respectively. Côte d'Ivoire received US$342 million during the same year.
"It is important to note that remittances as a percentage of GDP account for 12% of GDP in Liberia, 9% and 8.5% of GDP in Senegal and Togo; and 7.3% and 6% of GDP in Ghana and Nigeria. This indicator is estimated at 0.8% for Côte d'Ivoire," said Mr. Dosso.
The diaspora forum, organized by the Ministry of African Integration and Ivorians Abroad, aimed to address the concerns of the Ivorian Diaspora in order to develop a future national management policy of Ivorians living abroad and ensure their participation in the economic and social development of their country of origin.
Under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister and Head of Government, Mr. Amadou Gon Coulibaly, the forum also aims to mobilise the Ivorian diaspora to foster the socio-economic development of Côte d'Ivoire in accordance with the nation's vision of becoming an emerging country by 2020.
The Head of State made a strong appeal to the Ivorian diaspora to support the country to overcome different challenges and forge ahead as a united nation.
"Côte d'Ivoire offers our diaspora community an attractive business environment with huge opportunities and effective support mechanisms for a bright future in their country," he said.
Prime Minister Coulibaly said Côte d'Ivoire ranks 18th among African nations receiving remittances - in 2008 it received US$ 199 million which rose to nearly $ 380 million in 2017, an increase of 91 percent.
"Our country must meet the challenges of supporting the diaspora in its socio-professional integration," he said.
The Minister of African Integration and Ivorians Abroad, Ally Coulibaly stressed that the forum would serve as a framework to see how Côte d'Ivoire could maximize the 180 billion CFA francs it receives per year in transfers of funds from the diaspora.
The forum sought to agree on an institutional framework for the management of Ivorians living abroad, validating the main lines of future national policy on management of Ivorians living abroad, mobilize Ivorians abroad around issues of development and determine the terms and conditions to facilitate their return.
The diaspora community learnt about job and investment opportunities in their country; talked about the need to promote the fundamental rights of Ivorians abroad for better integration into the host countries; and shared experiences in management of diaspora communities from other countries.
The first edition of the Ivorian diaspora forum took place in 2015 and the second in 2017.
For more information, please contact: Tahirou Gouro, Communications Officer, ECA- SRO/WA,