Five years ago, Samira Ishaq left her house in Kano to work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, tracing a route pursued by tens of millions of Nigerian migrants.
She borrowed almost N800,000 from relatives and engaged a local recruitment agent that bought her flight ticket, secured a work visa, and promised her a job.
Separated from her husband a decade ago, she thought the only way to escape the constant pressure of getting married again was to go far away from home. Barely a year after moving to Riyadh, Ms Ishaq repaid the agent and since then, has shared the money she is making in Saudi Arabia with her father and siblings to look after themselves.
Last year, Ms Ishaq and millions of other Nigerians abroad sent home a record $20.1 billion. At the current official market rate of N767 per US dollars, the amount is equivalent to N15.3 trillion.
This is the highest amount sent to any country in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Bank’s latest Migration and Development Brief.
The process of sending money to family members or friends in one’s home country, otherwise known as remittances, is a lifeline for many migrant workers around the world.
For Ms Ishaq, this has always been a dream: “to be financially comfortable and be able to support her parents,” she said, adding, “I also have savings which I am going to use to set up businesses in Nigeria.”
Not only do remittances aid in the prosperity of individual households — helping to pay for things like food, education, and other bills — they are also vital to the prosperity of many developing economies around the world.
The World Bank report said remittance flows to Sub-Saharan Africa grew to $54 billion in 2022, a 6.1 per cent increase from the preceding year.
The report said regional growth in remittances was largely driven by strong remittance growth in Ghana (11.9 per cent), Kenya (8.5 per cent), Tanzania (25 per cent), Uganda (17.3 per cent), and Rwanda (21.2 per cent).
It added the increase in remittance flows to the region supported the current accounts of several African countries dealing with food insecurity, supply chain disruptions, severe drought (Horn of Africa), floods (in Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Cameroon), and debt-servicing difficulties.
In 2023, growth in remittances is expected to ease to 1.3 per cent, the World Bank said.
Remittances, usually understood as the money or goods that migrants send back to families and friends in origin countries, are often the most direct and well-known link between migration and development, the World Bank said.
The World Bank provides annual estimates of remittances flows globally (and bilaterally), based on national balance of payment statistics produced by central Banks and compiled by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Top Remittance Recipients
Remittances to Nigeria accounted for about 38 per cent ($20.1 billion) of total remittance inflows to the Sub-Saharan Africa region.
Ghana and Kenya are behind, receiving $4.7 and $4.1 billion respectively.
Zimbabwe recorded $3.1 billion, followed by Senegal, $2.5 billion, Democratic Republic of Congo, $1.7 billion; Sudan, $1.5 billion; Uganda, $1.3 billion; Mali, $1.1 billion; and South Africa, $900 million.
Globally, remittance flows to low- and middle-income countries increased by 8 per cent, to reach $647 billion in 2022.
“This is a remarkable increase,” the World Bank said, “given that it followed a 10.6 per cent growth rate in 2021 and the economic environment seemed difficult due to slowing economies around the world, inflation, and the war in Ukraine,” it said.
“Remittances are estimated to grow by 1.4 per cent to $656 billion in 2023 as economic activity in remittance source countries is set to soften, limiting employment and wage gains for migrants.”
In the post-COVID period of slower economic growth and falling foreign direct investments, remittance inflows have become more important to countries and households, given their resilience as a source of external financing.
“Remittances are highly complementary to government cash transfers and essential to households during times of need,” said Michal Rutkowski, Global Director of the Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice at the World Bank.
“The World Bank is leading analytical and operational work on global migration to facilitate remittance flows and reduce costs.”
According to the Migration and Development Briefs, last year’s remittances were supported by strong oil prices in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, which increased migrants’ incomes; large money transfers from the Russian Federation to countries in Central Asia; and the strong labour market in the United States and advanced migrant destination economies.
Globally, the top recipient countries for remittances in 2022 were India (receiving $111 billion), Mexico ($61 billion), China ($51 billion), the Philippines ($38 billion), Pakistan ($30 billion), Egypt ($28.3 billion); Bangladesh ($21.5 billion), and Nigeria ($20.1 billion).
“Remittances have become a financial lifeline in many economies through the pandemic and will become even more so in the foreseeable future,” said Dilip Ratha, lead author of the report on migration and remittances.
“We have stepped up collaborations with source and recipient countries to improve data and leverage remittances to mobilise private sector capital through diaspora bonds and improved sovereign ratings.”
The Migration and Development Briefs report updates on migration and remittance flows as well as salient policy developments in the area of international migration and development.
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