Remittance market expected to bounce back from COVID-19
Global remittances were projected to decline sharply by about 20% in 2020 due to the economic crisis induced by the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown. Remittance flows to Sub-Saharan Africa are expected to decline by 23.1% to reach US$37-billion in 2020, while a recovery of 4% is expected in 2021.
This is according to figures from the World Bank says multinational ICT and telecommunications firm Huawei. The company asserts that digital financial services (DFS) offers a new means for people, government and businesses to transact in a cashless way.
“With the pandemic forcing people to socially distance themselves from others, the adoption of DFS has been increasing across countries like Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. In Kenya where mobile money has already made great inroads, the government has actively promoted cashless transactions as a means to limit contact spread of the virus,” says Edison Xie, Director of Media Affairs, Huawei Southern Africa Region.
Huawei references A MasterCard global consumer study conducted in April 2020 which indicated that 75% of South African consumers were using contactless payments with 88% of the South African respondents viewing contactless as a cleaner and faster way to pay and to limit the amount of time spent in stores.
The tech firm adds that estimates for DFS adoption globally may be as high has 67% post-pandemic adjusted 5-10% upwards from pre-pandemic estimates of 57% (Forbes Africa, 2020).
Yet for the most marginalised and vulnerable in our economies and in society, some barriers remain that prevent more widespread adoption and use of DSF for remittances, the company states.
“The most expensive corridors are observed mainly in the Southern African region, with costs as high as 20 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, the less expensive corridors had average costs of less than 3.6 percent,” says Xie.
The World Bank estimated a cost of around 6.7% on a remittance value of US$200, but for Sub Saharan Africa, this cost rose to 9% even through intra-regional migrants in Sub-Saharan Africa comprised over two-thirds of all international migration from the region.
The United Nations estimated that between US$200-300 was spent on the costs of transfers (United Nations, 2020).
Xie says that the major contributor to the high costs of remittances is the costly operations of cross-border money operators handling cash transfers.
“Reducing the reliance on cash transfers and currency exchanges is thus an important way to reduce remittance costs for those sending money to Sub Saharan countries. Digital money transfer options become essential to facilitating lower costs remittances for migrant workers,” he said.
Huawei believes as DFS adoption increases and the ecosystem expands to bring in more services suited to the market it serves, evolution of the platforms coupled with increased support from government in the form of consumer protection, costs of remittances can be expected to gradually reduce.