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Archive for October, 2010

25 Oct

Sub-Saharan Africa trails other regions in its annual share of remittances and it is taking steps to raise it in order to fund much-needed development.

Total Remittances into sub-Saharan are expected to rise by 2 percent this year, from $21 billion, despite a faltering world economy.In global terms it is not as high as other regions for instance Mexico alone receives a comparable number that the entire sub-Saharan Africa receives.Remittance flows represent a significant share of gross domestic product for Kenya and many African countries. In smaller economies like Cape Verde and Lesotho, funds sent home by the nations citizens abroad account for more than a quarter of GDP.These are quite significant flows going into these countries and hence the need to have a very focused strategy on how remittances can be used to leverage development.

Proposals for enhancing the continent’s share of remittances include, efficiency of data collection –World Bank estimates 20 percent of money sent is not captured officially– use of technology and a risk-based approach to supervision.

Kenya’s mobile-phone based money transfer service, M-Pesa is as an example of technological innovations that can be deployed in the push for more remittances by the continent.Set up in March 2007 by telecoms operator Safaricom, M-Pesa had more than 12.6 million customers and 20,000 agents countrywide as at Aug 30 this year.Last year, the company launched the service in Britain, allowing users to send money from both countries.The total value of funds transferred on the service swelled to 33.32 billion shillings in July from 28.59 billion in March.Last year, the company launched the service in Britain, allowing users to send money from both countries.

Plans are afoot to extend the service to other foreign countries to allow more people to send money home. Authorities can also help by devising risk-based supervision of remittances.

 
 

20 Oct
A new survey by the World Bank indicates that the money is remitted in seven transactions in a year through banks and other money transfer companies such as Moneygram and Western Union although about some of it is sent through informal channels.
“The adult population according to the 2009 census is 18.6million.  The World Bank estimates that 2.6million Kenyans receive an average of $105 (Sh8,490) at least seven times a year, giving a total estimate of $1.9 billion (Sh153.3 billion),” explained the consultant Sergio Bendixen.The study involved 2,423 recipients, 35 percent of whom said they received money from their relatives in USA; 25 percent from Europe, 12 percent from Asia and the Middle East and the remainder from Africa.The lowering of communication costs in the country which makes it easier for Kenyans to communicate with those in the Diaspora has played a major role in facilitating the remittance process, the study further discovered.
According to the findings, the inflows benefit an average of four other family members or relatives while an estimated 20 to 30 percent is invested either in small businesses, education or saved with the various financial institutions.Central Bank of Kenya data shows that last year, Diaspora flows stood at Sh49.1 billion, although the actual size is estimated to be 20 percent more, an amount which World Bank’s Specialist for Africa Region Payment Systems Benjamin Musuku said calls for the development of supportive frameworks that can encourage Kenyans abroad to send more money back home.Despite the fact that the world economy has been in a recession for nearly two years, Diaspora inflows to sub-Saharan Africa are estimated to exceed Sh1.7trillion ($21 billion) and are projected to grow by two percent this year.
But while remittances play a crucial role in Kenya’s economy and even outstrip what the country receives from the International Monetary Fund to help it meet its trade deficit, the government is yet to take adequate measures to maximise the flow’s potential.

 
 

OTC-a huge success…

19 Oct

Safaricom’s M-Pesa is now so well known in the mobile banking world that it has come to be accepted by some as a blueprint for mobile financial services. The service relies on the phone in the hands of the customer (now more than 12 million) to perform transactions and the phone in the hands of the agent (all 20,000 of them) to credit and debit accounts. But in markets that have either lower penetration of mobiles or higher fragmentation among operators, offering over-the-counter (OTC) payment services may be an important alternative, or additional, strategy.

In Pakistan, CGAP’s partners Tameer and Telenor deliberately decided to take a two phase approach in the roll out of Easy Paisa. They gave agents the phone first and trained them to process OTC transactions, so that they would become comfortable with the service. The customer didn’t need to have a phone at all to transact at the agent, but they would get an SMS receipt if they did. Six months later they launched the mobile wallet which allowed customers with a Telenor phone to have their own account hosted on their personal phone. But one year after launch the OTC service has been such a huge success that it accounts for the vast majority of transactions and revenues

OTC transactions might be a useful way of building customer trust in a system and in the long-run help provide an additional revenue stream. Additionally the fact that any customer can use the service  enables the disbursement of large scale payments such as salaries, government payments or international remittances.

Some mobile banking services might see the ability to conduct OTC as a step backwards, reducing the incentives for customers to open their own mobile account,but in their rush to roll out mobile banking services to their existing customers some may have missed an opportunity to leverage their air-time distribution networks to provide a form of very basic financial services to the population which could also act as a stepping stone to the provision of a mobile wallet – not to mention providing additional revenues to both their agents and their own bottom line.

 
 

Communication made easier

12 Oct

Ever improving transportation and communications technologies have played an important role in ensuring those who have crossed borders seeking better opportunities can keep in contact with their families as well as provide for their families back home.Technology has made it much easier to migrate and still communicate and send money back home.

Some money transfer companies like mukuru.com have used these technological advancements to make it easier to send money in the comfort and convenience of your home. You can place an orderr,pay online using your card and your recipients are notified instantly via sms to collect the funds.This eliminates time constraints and ensures your loved ones get the money in no time.

M-pesa which means mobile money in Swahili is a mobile money transfer system that enables people to exchange funds without a bank account.It is one of the biggest business success stories on the African continent.Created by Vodafone in Kenya, the system took just a few years to reach a market of 10 million users in a country where the population is just more than 37 million .M-PESA is a branchless banking service, meaning that it is designed to enable users to complete basic banking transactions without the need to visit a bank branch.This has enabled a lot of people without bank accounts to still receive money from their loved ones.

 
 

An enriching destination

08 Oct

Prolific wildlife and white-sand beaches bring about 780,000 foreign visitors to Kenya annually. Tourism generates an estimated US$500 million per year in hard currency earnings, making this sector the country’s single largest source of foreign exchange.

Kenya is an enriching place to travel with its diverse geography,world-class wildlife viewing,culture and heritage.Kenya’s two major cities are Mombasa and Nairobi located along the coast of East Africa.The coast is hot and humid all year round and consists of beaches, coral cliffs and reefs, creeks and coral islands. The area between the coast and Nairobi is dry and arid and climbs up to the higher lands that start in Nairobi.The main tourist attraction in Kenya is wildlife with 59 conservation areas.Masai Mara and Amboseli are the most famous,but they all provide abundant adventure opportunities.

Kenya is a country of wildlife, landscapes, lakes, tropical coastline, culture, history and friendly welcoming people. Kenya has geographical diversity from snow-capped peaks, a Rift Valley with extinct volcanoes and hot springs, wide open plains, forest and coastline with reefs and magnificent beaches. Kenya tourist infrastructure is well developed with hotels, lodges, campsites an efficient transport system and lots of activities make Kenya a popular tourist destination.

The north of Kenya is a large desert and home to nomadic tribes. The gateway is Marala and Marsabit an oasis in the middle of the desert. The Kenyan coast has many beaches, coral reefs, creeks and coral islands. The coastal strip is largely flat and then rises inland into rolling hills.Game viewing is the big draw card for visitors. Kenya has 16 managed national parks, reserves and game reserves. Tsavo East and Tsavo West National parks between Nairobi cover a land area that is about the size of Wales.The most visited park is the  Masai Mara and borders the Serengeti plains that lie in Tanzania. In July and August the annual wildebeest migration takes place. Along with open range,and Kenya has forested reserves that include the Aberdares and Kakamega Forest in the west of Kenya.

A second draw card is the  Kenyan Coast along the Indian ocean. Extensive coral reefs that are very close to the shore line, palm fringed beaches with white sands and world class resorts make for a perfect holiday. The entry point is Mombassa and beaches are found to the south and north of  Mombassa and finish in the north in the  Lamu archipelago a world heritage site making Kenya a great holiday destination.

 
 

The evolution of mobile commerce

06 Oct

The balance of power within the money transfer market has tilted further in favour of mobile service providers following the launch of a number of new services that will allow mobile subscribers to send and receive money from any bank in the world  using their mobile phone.Mobile service provider Zain has enhanced its mobile money transfer product, Zap, to allow any of its five million customers within the three countries where the service is active – Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania – to transfer money in seconds using the mobile phone platform.

Users can now receive money from anywhere in the world directly to their mobile handsets as well as send funds directly to their bank accounts. This means a relative in New York for example can send money from their bank account to a Zap customer in Nakuru who will receive it almost instantly.The evolution of Zain’s mobile commerce product into an international money transfer service will have several implications for players in the global telecommunications and financial industries.

The likely casualties of Zain’s move are expected to be formal banking institutions and traditional money transfer agents such as PostaPay, Western Union and MoneyGram.Inter-bank transfers can account for up to 20 per cent of a bank’s profits, costing anything from Sh500 upwards to send money to foreign accounts.Within Kenya, traditional money transfer providers like Western Union and MoneyGram were already beginning to feel the effects of M-pesa, Safaricom’s mobile money transfer solution as it is cheaper and faster.

Eighty per cent of Kenya’s population and ninety-five per cent of Tanzania’s and Uganda’s populations currently do not have access to banking services.This has the potential to transform banking in Africa and will help overcome many of the obstacles presented by providing banking services to remote and rural communities who are now able to access global funds swiftly.

Analysts said the launch of these services would also create new synergies between the financial and telecommunications industries.

 
 

Remittance and Kenya’s Economy

05 Oct

Kenya is regional hub for trade in East Africa. The country has a market-based economy with a liberalized foreign trade policy. Over reliance on agricultural production and tourism makes the economy vulnerable to international market highs and lows.Kenya is an East African nation with a prominent coastal line along the Indian Ocean. The country shares its borders with Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda and Sudan.It is the 47th largest country in the world in terms of land area. Kenya has coastal plains at the eastern end, which rise to central highlands towards the west.Kenya’s economy suffers from a high population growth rate and rampant corruption which is the biggest impediment to Kenya’s economic growth. Following the 2005-06 foreign aid frauds, international agencies delayed fund advancements. The post-election violence in 2008 worsened the economic conditions thus the economic growth remained volatile.

Diaspora remittances have however grown steadily over the last five years, providing a lifeline for thousands of Kenyans with relatives working abroad, while also adding fuel to the stock market and real estate.Kenyans in the diaspora are able to borrow at lower rates in the countries they reside in for investing locally to earn higher return.sRemittances from Kenyans working abroad rose 15 per cent to $52 million (Sh4.1 billion) in June compared to the same month last year, boosting the shilling and domestic demand in an economy that is witnessing sluggish retail numbers.The bulk of the money sent goes into household expenditure and supporting investments such as shares and real estate.Currency dealers reckon that the increased flow will help support the shilling.World Bank estimates put total remittances that come through the banking system and unofficial channels such as personal deliveries at over one billion dollars per annum.

Remittances are Kenya’s largest source of foreign exchange and  they have played a vital role in alleviating the liquidity constraints that would otherwise prevent the state (or households) from investing in important areas like children’s education and housing construction.

 
 

Questions you should always ask when sending money home!

04 Oct

Many countries require money transfer companies to be licensed by the country’s banking regulator. Most countries that require licensing also require bonding and insurance to recover lost funds if the company fails.  One way to protect yourself from fraud is to make sure you are using a licensed money transfer company.It is illegal to operate a money transfer business without a licence.Money transmitters operate through agents such as travel agencies and multi service stores that many people use to send money.Agents are not licensed but they must have a contract with a licensed transmitter.Agents must post signs in English and other predominent languages spoken by customers with the name,address and telephone number of both the agent and the licensed transmitter.Its also important having a record of the transaction e.g a receipt,e-mail or sms notification to trace your payment and resolve any disputes if they ever arise.

It is important to note and ask the following:

  • Unfavourable exchange rates add to the cost of sending money Ask how the exchange rate is calculated,and how much money will actually be paid to the recipient
  • Find out whether the recipient will be charged any fees when they pick up the money.
  • Some banks offer low cost transfers to certain countries.Make sure to ask if you must keep a minimum balance in your bank account,if the recipient needs to have an account,how the exchange rate is calculated and what fees may be charged to you or the recipient.
  • You have the right to transfer money in U.S dollars unless the receiving country requires money to be converted to the local currency
  • Be careful with money transfers offered through pre-paid debit cards.These cards often carry high and hidden fees.

It is always important to ask all the relevant questions when sending money back home as this ensures that you get the best deal possible and this guarantees that  your recipient can get the most out of what you send.