Africa Finance Forum Blog

Currently the posts are filtered by: Remittances
Reset this filter to see all posts.

What do we know about remittances and forced displacement?

10.04.2017Kirsten Schuettler, Senior Program Officer, World Bank

This post was originally posted on the World Bank - People Move website.

Over 65 million persons were forcibly displaced worldwide due to conflict and persecution at the end of 2015. Many of them remain displaced for a long period of time. Personal transfers sent to refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) can contribute to livelihoods in protracted situations and increase self-reliance. Existing evidence suggests that they can be an important source of income, sent from the diaspora in third countries or from families and friends left behind. They can also play an important role in helping set up economic activities in protracted situations. At the same time, refugees and IDPs also send remittances, to refugees and IDPs in other places or to family and friends back home during times of conflict and peace. As their main reason for moving was not economic, their remittance behavior and the challenges they face might differ from economic migrants and might change over time. Policy frameworks and regulations can limit or promote refugee and IDP access to remittances.

However, there is a lack of knowledge on remittances send to and from refugees and IDPs. Research has mainly explored remittances in the context of economic migration. A literature review conducted for the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD) showed that there is almost no research on transfers sent and received by those internally displaced and the evidence on refugees is concentrated around a few country case studies. There is also a scarcity of quantitative research. A better understanding of remittances in forced displacement situations can help policy makers design policies and regulations to maximize their positive impacts and minimize the risks.

A KNOMAD workshop brought together leading researchers and practitioners in this field to define key research gaps from a policy perspective, identify solutions for methodological challenges and develop ideas how to improve the evidence base.

Among the key issues identified was understanding the regulatory environment and its impacts on the number of formal remittance service providers available to refugees and the costs of using them. The regulations are, on the one hand, linked to the legal status of refugees (and might in some cases serve to deter them from coming and/or integrating into the host country). These regulations might or might not allow them to officially send remittances, open bank accounts, provide the required identification documents and travel to use the services of different remittance service providers. On the other hand, there are financial regulations that are linked to security concerns, notably the AML/CFT and KYC regulations, and how the private sector implements these regulations. The second priority identified was understanding the role of remittances in the livelihoods of the displaced and how this is influenced by policies in the host country (like the right to work or set up businesses).

Regarding the data sources, participants agreed that further research should focus on quantitative approaches but triangulate the results, and include research over time (longitudinal data). Besides conducting new surveys, existing data sources should be exploited. The literature review prepared for the workshop listed a number of further data sets that have information on transfers and allow to identify refugees or IDPs but have not been exploited by researchers yet (see annex 2 of the literature review). Participants also recommended including more questions on refugees and IDPs and their remittances in ongoing household surveys, to see if it is possible to oversample refugees and IDPs, and to exploit UNHCR registration data. Furthermore, data collected by Central Banks and remittance service providers should be accessed and used. Remittance price comparison websites also generate data that have not been analyzed yet, and could potentially generate even further data. The workshop also triggered further ideas on exploiting synergies with humanitarians working on the establishment of cross-border cash transfers.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

About the Author

Kirsten Schuettler is a Senior Program Officer at the World Bank's Development Economics - Global Indicators Group. In the Migration & Remittances team her responsibilities include monitoring remittances flows to the MENA region and contributing to the implementation of the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD).

Trends in Remittances, 2016: A New Normal of Slow Growth

28.02.2017Dilip Ratha

First published on the World Bank-People Move website.

Against a backdrop of tepid global growth, remittance flows to low and middle income countries (LMICs) seem to have entered a "new normal" of slow growth. In 2016, remittance flows to LMICs are projected to reach $442 billion, marking an increase of 0.8 percent over 2015 (figure 1 and table 1). The modest recovery in 2016 is largely driven by the increase in remittance flows to Latin America and the Caribbean on the back of a stronger economy in the United States; by contrast remittance flows to all other developing regions either declined or recorded a deceleration in growth.

The top recipients of remittances are, in nominal US dollar terms, India, China, the Philippines, Mexico and Pakistan and, in terms of remittances as a share of GDP, Nepal, Liberia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic and Haiti (figure 2).

Figure 1: Remittance Flows Are Larger than Official Development Assistance (ODA), and More Stable than Private Capital Flows

 

Figure 2: Top Recipients of Remittances (Download data file)

Source: World Bank

Table 1. Estimates and Projections for Remittance Flows to Developing Countries

 

* This group excludes Equatorial Guinea, the Russian Federation, Venezuela and Argentina which were classified as High Income.

Besides weak economic growth in remittance-source countries, cyclical low oil prices have dampened the growth of remittance flows from Russia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. More worrisome are structural factors such as de-risking by commercial banks, the labor market 'nationalization' policies in some GCC countries (that discourage demand for migrant workers) and exchange controls in many countries faced with adverse balance of payments and falling international reserves. Exchange controls in Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan and Venezuela have increased black market premiums on exchange rates, encouraging a diversion of remittances to unrecorded channels. De-risking, the closing down of bank accounts of money transfer operators due to anti-money laundering regulatory risks, has prompted many international banks to close correspondent bank accounts of money transfer operators, disrupting remittance flows.

Regional Trends

East Asia and the Pacific: The outlook for remittance flows for the region has worsened due to weak global economic prospects and de-risking, leading to decrease in growth of remittances to 2.1 percent in 2016 compared to 4.1 percent in 2015. The Philippines is likely to see the slowest remittance expansion in the past decade, to 2.2 percent, reflecting a decline in overseas worker deployments. Remittance inflows to Vietnam's southern hub, Ho Chi Min City, increased by 4 percent during the first seven months of 2016. Pacific Island countries have seen some pick-up of remittance inflows due to strong migrant outflows to Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S.

Europe and Central Asia: Remittances to the region are estimated to fall further, by another 4.0 percent in 2016 after a drastic 22.5 percent decrease in 2015, due to the depreciation of the Ruble against the U.S. dollar and a weak economy in Russia. Most hard hit are Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Countries where the growth of remittances is expected to be positive in 2016 include Bulgaria (3.9 percent), Montenegro (3.8 percent), Bosnia and Herzegovina (3.3 percent), Serbia (2.9 percent), Macedonia (2.8 percent), Romania (2.7 percent), Turkey (1.6 percent), Kosovo (1.5 percent) and Albania (0.9 percent).

Latin America and the Caribbean: Remittances flows to the region increased during the first eight months of 2016. Two factors are responsible for this: i) Recovery of the US economy, which is in its seventh year of expansion, and ii) a slight recovery in Spain in the second quarter of 2016. Remittances are expected to grow by 6.3 percent and reach $72 billion by the end of 2016. From January to August 2016, the year-on-year growth rates in remittance inflows were: Mexico 6.6 percent, El Salvador 6 percent, Honduras 6.4 percent, and Guatemala 15 percent. In Colombia, remittances from the US increased by 12 percent and from Spain by 19 percent during the first half of 2016.

Middle East and North Africa: Remittances to the region are expected to increase by 1.5 percent in 2016 due to a low-base effect given the 5.7 percent decline in 2015. However, it is expected that remittances from the GCC countries would decline. Egypt, Jordan and Yemen, large recipients of remittances, would be impacted the most. In Egypt, the largest remittance recipient in the region, remittance flows through the formal channels are impacted by further depreciation of the Egyptian Pound and emergence of a black market exchange rate premium.

South Asian Region: Remittances to the region are expected to decline by 2.3 percent in 2016, following a 1.6 percent decline in 2015. Remittances from the GCC countries continued to decline due to lower oil prices and labor market 'nationalization' policies in Saudi Arabia. In 2016, remittance flows are expected to decline by 5 percent in India and 3.5 percent in Bangladesh, whereas they are expected to grow by 5.1 percent in Pakistan and 1.6 percent in Sri Lanka.Sub-Saharan Africa: Remittance flows to the region are projected to decline by 0.5 percent in 2016, compared to the 0.8 percent decline of 2015. Faced with weak earnings from commodity exports and other balance of payments difficulties, many countries in the region - Angola, Nigeria, and Sudan, for example - have imposed exchange controls. Nigeria, which accounts for two-thirds of the regions' remittance inflows, is projected to register a decline of 2.2 percent in 2016 following a 1.8 percent decline in 2015. A significant parallel market exchange rate premium- in September 2016, the market rate was around 450 Nairas/$ compared to the official rate of around 320- has dampened flows through the official channels. Flows to Nigeria, Somalia and other countries in the region are also impacted by a disruption to the services of many money transfer operators due to de-risking behavior by international correspondent banks.

UN Summit on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants

On a related note, the year 2016 marks an important turning point in global migration governance: the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) hosted a summit meeting, on September 19, to address large movements of refugees and migrants, and welcomed the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to become a UN-related organization. The New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants proposes two global compacts: A Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration. Negotiations on both compacts are expected to continue through 2017, with final adoption expected in 2018.

Ahead of the UNGA Summit, the World Bank Group released a paper "Migration and Development: A Role for the World Bank Group". The paper provides an overview of the economic benefits and challenges associated with migration and highlights a role for the International Financial Institutions in four areas: i) financing migration programs; ii) addressing the fundamental drivers of migration; iii) maximizing the benefits and managing the risks of migration in sending and receiving countries; and iv) providing knowledge for informed policy making and improving public perceptions.The multi-faceted nature of migration will require partnerships with other UN organizations, multilateral development banks, civil society, and the private sector. Viewing migration through the lens of reducing poverty and sharing prosperity while respecting human rights can provide a unifying framework for operationalizing the Bank Group's knowledge on migration and mobilizing its financial resources and convening power.

Also, on September 20 2016, the United States hosted a Leaders' Summit on Refugees. The outcome of this Summit include: i) an increase of funding to humanitarian appeals and international organizations by approximately $4.5 billion over 2015 levels; ii) almost doubled the number of refugees through resettlement or other legal pathways in 2016; and iii) access to education for one million refugee children globally and access to lawful work for one million refugees globally. President Obama also announced the launch of the World Bank's new Global Concessional Financing Facility.

______________________________________________________________________

[i] Prepared by Dilip Ratha, Supriyo De, Sonia Plaza, Kirsten Schuettler, Hanspeter Wyss, and Soonhwa Yi of the Migration and Remittances Unit (DECMR) of the Global Indicators Group of the World Bank. We also received useful comments and contributions from Nadege Desire Yameego and Ganesh Kumar Seshan of the Migration and Remittances Unit.

Message from the MFW4A Partnership Coordinator

30.01.2017David Ashiagbor

Dear Readers,

Let me begin by wishing you all a very happy and prosperous 2017, on behalf of all of us at the MFW4A Secretariat.

2016 was a rewarding year for MFW4A. We were proud to host the first Regional Conference on Financial Sector Development in African States Facing Fragile Situations (FCAS) in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, jointly with the African Development Bank, FSD Africa, and FIRST Initiative. The conference attracted some 140 policy makers, business leaders, academics and development partners from over 30 countries, to discuss the role of the financial sector in addressing fragility. The conference has already led to several initiatives by MFW4A and our partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Somalia. We expect to build on this work in 2017.

Our support to the Conférence Interafricaine des Marchés d'Assurances (CIMA), the insurance regulator for francophone Africa, helped them to secure financing of EUR 2.5 million from the Agence Française de Développement. The funding will help to expand access to insurance in a region where penetration rates are less than 2% - well below the average for the continent. We worked closely with a number of our funding partners to help define their strategies in Digital Finance and Long Term Finance. These results are a clear demonstration of how the Partnership can directly support the operations of its membership.

With the support of our Supervisory Committee, we took steps to ensure the long term sustainability of the Partnership. The approval of a revised governance structure which fully integrates African financial sector stakeholders, public and private, was a first critical step. The ultimate objective is to expand membership and build a true partnership of all stakeholders in Africa's financial sector.

2017 will be a year of transition for the Partnership. It marks the end of MFW4A's third phase, and the beginning of its transformation into a new, more inclusive partnership, with an expanded membership. We will focus on revamping our value proposition to provide more focused, needs based services with the potential to directly impact our current and potential membership. In so doing, we hope to consolidate MFW4A's position as the leading platform for knowledge, advocacy and networking on financial sector development in Africa.

In closing, I must, on behalf of all of us at the MFW4A Secretariat, thank all our funding partners, stakeholders and supporters, for your constant support and encouragement over the years. We look forward to working together to strengthen our Partnership.

With our best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2017,

David Ashiagbor
MFW4A Partnership Coordinator

What we learned from the Regional Conference on Financial Sector Development in African States Facing Fragile Situations? - Part 4

11.10.2016Amadou Sy, Director of Africa Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution

In June 2016, leaders from the public and private sectors and development partners gathered in Abidjan to discuss the links between fragility, resilience and financial sector development in Africa. This event, a joint initiative created by the African Development Bank, the Making Finance Work for Africa Partnership (MFW4A), FSD Africa, FIRST Initiative and the Initiative for Risk Mitigation in Africa (IRMA), also provided an opportunity to explore prospects for partnerships, innovative policies and private sector-led solutions to accelerate financial sector development in fragile situations in Africa.

In this fourth instalment of a six-part series, Amadou Sy, Senior Fellow and Director of the African Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution, looks at the potential of digital finance to achieve broad financial sector development in countries facing fragile situations.

In case you missed it, you can read parts One, Two and Three.

What is Special about Digital Finance?

The number of individuals with mobile accounts in fragile countries is higher than the number of individuals with bank accounts. But what explains the rapid and broader adoption of digital finance in fragile countries?

Mr. Laurent Marie Kiba of Orange Senegal noted that two preconditions are needed for the rapid adoption of mobile finance. First, that the technology is available in fragile countries. Fourth generation wireless technology (4G) is available in Guinea Bissau. Second, mobile payment is no longer a project as populations have adopted it. Mobile operators recognize that mobile payment services are a branding tool and this helps strengthen the adoption of mobile financial products. Mr. Mathieu Soglonou of UNCDF stressed that mobile technology is a unique solution because it allows fast, large scale, secure transactions in a market environment and is a resilient technology.

Comparing mobile money with traditional brick-and-mortar banking, Ms. Aurélie Soulé of GSMA identified three benefits that mobile money offer in fragile countries. First, mobile money can be deployed rapidly because the associated capital expenditure is lower. Opening a branch can cost up to $400,000 and an ATM can cost $20,000 compared to no cost for a mobile agent. Second, proximity is high as the network of agents is in the community. And third, the security costs of moving money to branches, especially in countries with a sparse population, are not as relevant.

Going forward, solutions need to be developed to go beyond mobile money and offer a broad range of services akin to what a traditional branch would offer. Regulatory constraints such as those associated with KYC can be overcome with technology such as digital fingerprints. Crowdfunding solutions including with the diaspora and equity participation are options that should be considered.

Are the promises of digital finance exaggerated? Mr. Sasha Polverini of Gates Foundation noted that there is very little scale and less coverage in rural areas. He stressed that digital finance can be an effective solution for financial inclusion and development. Its success, however, depends on the nature of the crisis we are facing. Are we facing an economic crisis, a human crisis, a migrant crisis? What are the sources of fragility? The impact of digital financial services will depend on the answers to these questions. While many participants agreed with this observation, they noted that although the two can overlap, it was important to distinguish between financial sector development in fragile countries and financial inclusion in crisis situations.

Many participants asked about policies to reach the "last mile" of cashless transactions for the poorest. Panelists noted that we are still far from the true last mile although the acceptance of digital payments is progressing. It was noted that governments are big payers and having them adopt digital payment would be a big push. Mr. Kiba mentioned the experience of an oil company that managed to have 40 percent of purchases at its gas stations paid digitally. _________________________________________________________________

You can download all presentations on the conference website.

You can view a selection of photos here.

You can watch the conference in our YouTube channel here.

International Transmission of Shocks via Internal Capital Markets of Multinational Banks: Evidence from South Africa

30.11.2015Adeline Pelletier, Assistant Professor, Instituto de Empresa

It is well documented that global banks contribute to international shock transmission via cross-border lending. Yet, global banking has taken another form over the recent decades with the expansion of banks abroad via branches and subsidiaries. This expansion has especially happened from and to developing and emerging economies, as countries have opened up their banking sector to foreign investors (Claessens and van Horen, 2012).

Multinational banks operate internal capital markets through which they (re-)allocate capital between their headquarters and their different foreign affiliates in response to financial or real economic shocks. In developing countries where interbank and capital markets are underdeveloped and a large part of the population is unbanked, the ability to receive funding through internal capital markets at low cost and in large quantity might present a significant advantage for foreign banks' affiliates. However, as internal funding reallocation can alter the funding position of a bank's affiliate, this may in turn lead to adjustments in foreign affiliates lending in their host market, thus creating another channel of international transmission of shocks (Cetorelli and Goldberg, 2012).

Impact of a financial crisis on capital re-allocation inside banking groups

In a recent study, I explore this issue by using a novel database on banks operating in South Africa, which includes information on internal loans and deposits from and to the banking group.

In exploring the impact of the 1997 East Asian Crisis on capital re-allocation inside banks, I found that that South African affiliates belonging to banking groups with high exposure to East Asian Crisis countries (in terms of total banking assets of the group in crisis countries) experienced a significant drop in their net internal funding position during the crisis, relative to South African affiliates of less exposed groups. The South African foreign affiliates of highly exposed multinational banks both received less internal funding from their group during the East Asian Crisis period than before, and lent more to their group, relative to the affiliates of less exposed groups. This result suggests that parent banks of more exposed groups reallocated capital away from South Africa to support their affiliates in east Asia.

Exploring the link between internal capital funding and domestic lending

Do foreign affiliates that receive internal capital from their group expand their local bank credit? Using an instrumental variable technique, I found that a 10% increase in the outstanding volume of internal funding resulted in a 5.6% increase in the volume of mortgage advances. As such, foreign affiliates do not only use this extra capital to acquire government securities or to invest abroad, as it has been reported in Africa where banks are often highly liquid but lend relatively little domestically (see Beck, Maimbo, Faye and Triki, 2011).They also "pass it on'' to the local economy by expanding their domestic lending.

Policy implications

This study suggests that foreign affiliates have ambiguous effects for the financial stability of the host country. On the one hand, being part of a foreign group reduces the risk of bankruptcy of foreign affiliates by allowing for the reception of internal capital from the group.

On the other hand, internal capital markets are a channel through which financial crises are transmitted from one country to another, when abrupt capital reallocations inside the group take place. However, the strength of this channel will partly depend on the legal structure of the foreign affiliate. Indeed, the organisational form of the foreign affiliate, either as a branch or as a subsidiary will have an impact on the stability of the banking sector and the local supply of credit through the internal capital market channel, as branches are more integrated to their group via this channel than subsidiaries.

A potential policy implication of this research for bank regulators may be that favouring organisation of foreign affiliates as subsidiaries rather than branches, through specific banking regulations, may reduce the potential transmission of foreign crises via internal capital markets. One caveat, however, is that if a banking crisis occurs in the host country, a parent is fully responsible for all losses incurred under a branch structure. Under a subsidiary structure, a parent's obligations are only limited to the value of the invested equity, which makes it more likely to walk away from the operation (Cerrutti et al., 2007; Fiechter et al., 2011). That said, if a foreign affiliate has systemic importance for the health of the banking group, its parent is more likely to support it through transfers of internal liquidity, regardless of its organisational form.

Bibliography:

Beck, Thorsten, Samuel Maimbo, Issa Faye, and Thouraya Triki. 2011. Financing Africa: Through the crisis and beyond. Washington DC: World Bank.

Cerutti, Eugenio, Giovanni Dell'Ariccia, and Maria Soledad Martinez Peria. 2007. “How banks go abroad: Branches or subsidiaries?” Journal of Banking and Finance 31 (6):1669-1692.

Cetorelli, Nicola and Linda S. Goldberg. 2012. “Liquidity management of U.S. global banks: Internal capital markets in the great recession.” Journal of International Economics 88 (2):299-311.

Claessens, Stijn and Neeltje Van Horen. 2012. “Foreign Banks: Trends, Impact and Financial Stability.” Working Paper WP/12/10, IMF.

Fiechter, Jonathan, Inci Otker-Robe, Anna Ilyina, Hsu Michael, Andre Santos, and Jay Surti. 2011. “Subsidiaries or Branches: Does One Size Fit All?” IMF Staff Discussion Note SDN/11/0, IMF.

_________________________________________________________________

This blog post is based on the MFW4A Working Paper Series "Internal capital market practices of multinational banks: Evidence from South Africa".

Adeline Pelletier is an assistant professor at IE. She was previously a postdoctoral researcher affiliated to the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, researching mobile payment services for the unbanked. She obtained her PhD in Business Economics from the London School of Economics in 2014, with a thesis on the performance, corporate financial strategy and organization of multinational banks in Africa. Prior to her doctoral studies she completed a MPhil in Development Studies at the University of Cambridge (2011) and she also holds a MPhil in Economics from Sciences-Po Paris (2006).

ABOUT THE AFF

What do renowned economists, financial sector practitioners, academics, and activists think about current issues of financial sector development in Africa? Find out on the blog - and share your point of view with us!

LATEST POSTS

"I've got your back" - the role of mutualitées in the DRCJaco Weideman, Research Associate & Renée Hunter, Research Analyst - CENFRI
To the Future and Back: Financial Inclusion in the Arab...Nadine Chehade, Financial Inclusion Specialist, CGAP
Unlocking infrastructure potential in Africa: The role of...Seedwell Hove, Senior Macroeconomist, Quantum Global Research Lab

LATEST COMMENTS