Africa Finance Forum Blog

Expanding access to finance for smallholders one lease at a time

27.03.2017Ashley Olson Onyango, Programme Manager, Agricultural Finance

This post was originally posted on the Rural & Agricultural Finance Learning Lab website.

In rural sub-Saharan Africa, working in agriculture tends to be an extremely labor-intensive job with high risk and low payoff. As a result, new generations of farmers and other entrepreneurs are often deterred from pursuing a career in agriculture. This leaves the agricultural industry with ageing farmers and declining agricultural production. One potential solution, however, is the mechanization of farming which can help decrease the need for hard, manual labor, while also improving production, household incomes, and livelihoods. A shift to tractors and other machine-powered equipment is part of a broader strategy to improve rural livelihoods and make agriculture attractive for new generation of farmers.

Although this shift may seem easy, the challenge is that tractors and machine-powered equipment are expensive - and access to finance is frequently cited as a key barrier to increased investment and productivity for smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Farmers struggle to mobilize the resources required to effectively invest in their land without additional financial support, but at the same time, lack adequate collateral to access credit from financial institutions.

Financial Sector Deepening Africa (FSDA) and Nathan Associates recently published the Agricultural leasing market scoping study for sub-Saharan Africa, which directly tackles the barrier of adequate collateral. In fact, a key advantage of leasing is that it doesn't require collateral, since the lessor retains ownership of the asset for the duration of the lease contract. That being said, lessors still need to mitigate their risk by taking an initial down payment from lessees. Specifically, "in agricultural leasing, concerns around willingness to pay, crop failure, and asset depreciation all drive up the size of the initial payment required by financial institutions."

The required down payment on agriculture equipment typically varies by region and product. For example, in developed countries the required down payment is generally in the range of 10% to 20%. Compare this to developing countries, where the FSDA study found that in the eight reviewed - Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia - downpayments generally range between 20% to 40% of the value of the asset. This is a threshold that is above what most smallholder farmers can pay - creating a significant barrier to accessing leasing products, which ultimately holds back demand.

One recommendation to overcome this challenge is to establish a fund that would increase market access for financial leasing by reducing the credit risk of leasing companies. For instance, a fund could bridge the gap between what potential lessees are able to pay and what lessor's risk policy deems an acceptable down payment. If the lessee (farmer) can make a 10% down payment, but the lessor requires a 30% down payment, the fund could make up the difference by paying the 20% differential. The 20% would be paid directly to the lessor, so the lessor receives their full 30%. The lessee ends up only paying the ten percent that he or she is able to afford at that time. The 20% paid by the fund becomes a separate loan and with every lease payment from the lessee to the lessor, a percentage of that amount is paid back to the fund to cover the 20% loan.

A potential fund to make lease finance more accessible, as FSDA's report recommends, could address customers' needs for an innovative product that tackles the issue of adequate collateral for financial access. Furthermore, it could address the challenges that suppliers of such financing face by buying down some of the risk and making an entry into this sector more attractive. We might call this a "smart subsidy" that could be transformative if well designed and executed by strong partners (see Inflection Point for context on "smart subsidy").

To bridge the gap of finance and improve rural livelihoods, development financial institutions should ask themselves what role they can play in making this new form of finance accessible to the agricultural sector - promoting growth and mechanization for improved livelihoods through the fund. While leasing finance is just one piece of the puzzle, the country scoping sheds light on how to enter this space given the current state and where are the risks and opportunities.


About the Author

Ashley Olson Onyango is the Programme Manager, Agricultural Finance at FSD Africa. Ashley has been working in the agricultural finance development sector across sub-Saharan Africa. Ashley previously spearheaded the development of a new lending portfolio with Root Capital, focused on domestic value chains and food security crops. After the launch, she managed the start-up of the portfolio and integration of the new portfolio into Root Capital's lending operations. More recently, Ashley has been consulting in the agricultural finance development sector with a number of clients and has joined the FSDA as a long-term consultant to manage its Agricultural Finance Programme. 

Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) in Nigeria - A Call for Rescue

13.03.2017Dr. Abdullahi Y. Shehu

This post was originally posted on This Day Live.

The aim of any AML/CFT regime is to prevent, detect, interdict and control money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The global framework for this is adumbrated and elaborated in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) 40 Recommendations on Money Laundering, and the Financing Terrorism and Proliferation (2012). In brief, the Recommendations set out measures, including AML/CFT policies and coordination; criminalization; prevention; transparency; as well as powers of competent authorities and international cooperation, for the prevention and control of these phenomena. The forty recommendations, the acceptable international standards against money laundering, terrorist and proliferation financing and are enforced globally. The enforcement of these measures is monitored through the FATF network process of peer review known as 'mutual evaluation'. Countries that are not members of the FATF or its Regional Style Body are targeted based on perceived deficiencies and risks from their jurisdictions and engaged by the FATF for the purpose of enforcing compliance with the standards.

The FATF Standards, even though referred to as recommendations have become powerful tools for combating transnational organized crime and their enforcement has become a major policy issue in all jurisdictions. Indeed, the spirit and letter of the standards have proven over the years to promote sanity and best practices and protect the international financial system. Thus, any country enforcing the standards does so in its own interests and not necessarily satisfying foreign obligations.

The Nigerian AML/CFT Regime

Although Nigeria is not a member of the FATF, it is a founding and active member of the ECOWAS Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering (GIABA), which is a FATF Style Regional Body responsible for the promotion and enforcement of the FATF standards in West Africa. Accordingly, Nigeria has committed to the full implementation of the international standards against money laundering, terrorist and proliferation financing. Nigeria's AML/CFT was the first to evolve in the west Africa, and indeed the whole Africa, because the Nigerian Money Laundering Decree No. 3 of 1995, even though it criminalized only drug money laundering, was the first piece of legislation against money laundering in Africa. Nigeria was the first country in West Africa to establish a specialized agency (the EFCC) for money laundering enforcement; the first to establish a Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU); and most importantly, it was Nigeria's leadership, in collaboration with the UNODC and the ECOWAS that led to the establishment of the regional body (GIABA). Unfortunately, however, and despite being the first to put in place the initial structures for AML, Nigeria missed the opportunity to become the first African country to attain a FATF membership, mainly because Nigeria's efforts were not properly coordinated and sustained.

By the FATF fundamental and technical criteria, Nigeria is no doubt a strategic country obviously because of the prevalence of corruption and money laundering, but mainly because of its GDP, the size of its banking and financial system, its integration with the international financial system, as well as its geographical and political influence in Africa. As a result of none response (in fact nonchalant attitude) of Nigeria to engage, the FATF was left with no alternative than to blacklist Nigeria among countries considered to be non-cooperative countries and territories (NCCTs) in 2001. Subjecting Nigeria to this process meant that Nigeria was perceived as a risky jurisdiction for business and all financial transactions with Nigerian banks were subjected to extra ordinary scrutiny - and embarrassment. But this did not stop the laundering of proceeds of corrupt enrichment from Nigeria in other jurisdictions anyway. I am not going into the details of the responsibilities of other jurisdictions here as it is not the aim of this article.

It took Nigeria six years of engagement to be removed from the NCCTs process in June 2006. One of the conditions for Nigeria's removal from the black list was for Nigeria's AML/CFT system to be evaluated by GIABA to ascertain its level of compliance with acceptable international standards. The first comprehensive mutual evaluation of the AML/CFT regime was carried out in 2008 and the report showed significant deficiencies, particularly in strategic areas like insufficient criminalization of the offences of money laundering and terrorist financing, lack of effective regulation and supervision of the financial system, inadequate records keeping of financial transactions, insufficient measures for the enforcement of United Nations Resolutions 1267 and 1373 with respect to financing of terrorism, and lack of mutual legal assistance law to facilitate effective international cooperation, among others.

These deficiencies again, made Nigeria to be subjected to the FATF review under its International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) process in 2010. By subjecting Nigeria to the two FATF processes of global enforcement is not suggestive of Nigeria's strategic importance; but rather notoriety for non compliance, which is not good for the image and integrity of the country. Nigeria suffered the consequences and also had to invest both in human and material resources to get out of this process in 2013. As an active participant in all these processes, I feel very bad for my country and all this is blamed on lack of synergy and coordination of Nigeria's efforts. There are too many stakeholders in the AML/CFT arena, and yet leadership remains a huge challenge.

Within the framework of the GIABA processes, the ministers of Finance, Justice and interior in each country are responsible for AML/CFT, but the obvious responsibility going by the FATF standards lies with the minister of finance. I was told the Minister of Justice has this responsibility in Nigeria, and yet sixty percent of AML/CFT obligations lay within the financial sector. Furthermore, the key strategic technical deficiencies, notably, the lack of a mutual legal assistance, asset recovery and management laws, as well as harmonization of the money laundering and terrorism prevention laws are the responsibilities of the minister of Justice.

Vulnerabilities and Risks in the AML/CFT Regime

The main thrust of AML/CFT is the identification and mitigation of risks. That is why the international standards place emphasis on risk assessment, which Nigeria has recently done but the report is yet to be released. Without pre-empting the outcome of the risk assessment, I know for certain that since 2013 after Nigeria was removed from the FATF ICRG Process, the following fundamental weaknesses remain in its AML/CFT regime:

  • Absence of compressive mutual legal assistance legislation;
  • Lack of Proceeds of Crime Law;
  • Lack of harmonization of the various amendments made to the Money Laundering (Prohibition) and the Prevention of Terrorism Acts 2013 to make them consistent with acceptable international standards;
  • Ineffective coordination of the overall AML/CFT regime;
  • Controversy surrounding the status and location of the Nigeria Financial intelligence Unit (NFIU);
  • Lack of credible records of statistics on the achievements in AML/CFT;
  • Obvious or visible patterns of money laundering through various methods, including massive outflow of cash, real estate and the prevalence of corruption;
  • Poor records of dealing with 'high profile' corruption cases, most of which remain inclusive; and
  • Weak beneficial ownership and legal arrangements, among others.

It should be noted that these weaknesses are within the technical compliance requirements; meaning that there is more to be done to achieve effectiveness as a pre-requisite for the next round of evaluation under the revised FATF Standards.

Rather than for Nigeria to focus on addressing the strategic deficiencies in its AML/CFT, which would automatically give it credit and recognition to become a member of the FATF if that is Nigeria's ultimate objective; there is a misplaced priority on Nigerian officials' participation in FATF Plenary meetings to "observe and learn" nothing that is not already known on AML/CFT. How can that change the system back home other than draining resources? It is disappointing, to say the least, that many countries, most of which are less endowed than started the process after Nigeria, but due to their commitment and prioritization of actions, they have surpassed Nigeria in many aspects. This is why my own contribution is not a critique per se, but a call for rescue to address the weaknesses in the Nigerian system.

Nigeria's Membership of the FATF

Becoming a member of the FATF is desirable for Nigeria, but it is not a priority. What is a priority and important for Nigeria is to review its AML/CFT architecture and address the specific technical deficiencies that would provide the building blocks for a solid regime. Without those building blocks being in place, little can be achieved in terms of effectiveness, talk more of aspiring to become a member of the FATF. In any case, Nigeria can play a leading role within the regional AML/CFT framework that can earn it the respect of the international community and by so doing, becoming a member of the FATF will be much easier. In fact, the FATF will be the one courting Nigeria rather than Nigeria struggling to become a part of it.

At any rate the criteria for attaining FATF membership are clear and these include the technical requirements that a country must achieve nothing below the rating of largely compliant on the core recommendation 3, which has do with criminalization of money laundering; recommendation 5, which has do with criminalization of terrorist financing; recommendation 10, which deals with customer due diligence; recommendation 11, on records keeping; and recommendation 20, on reporting of suspicious transactions. Can the current status of the NFIU achieve this requirement?

The Status and Location of the NFIU

Practitioners in the AML/CFT cycle have always asked and would be eager to know my view with respect to the seemingly controversial status and location of the NFIU. I have come to realize that the problem with the NFIU is not with its operational independence as most people would claim, but with a misplaced notion of who is in charge of what and a misperception of public office as a personal and life time vocation. Perhaps the most credible arguments in the controversy for a review of status and location of the NFIU are that: (1) the EFCC being a law enforcement agency cannot at the same time be the FIU of Nigeria as contained in section 1 (2) of the EFCC Establishment Act; and (2) the NFIU has not been administered professionally to make it truly a centralized authority for all law enforcement agencies to derive financial intelligence from it, rather, it is perceived as the property of the EFCC. Indeed, we must acknowledge the foresight and good leadership of the EFCC in establishing and strengthening the NFIU, but since we must conform to acceptable standards, what is required is either to enact a standalone law establishing the FIU according to the Egmont standard, or amend the EFCC Act to say the FIU is located within the EFCC as it has to be located somewhere anyway.

There is no proof that the FIU can be better in any other location other than where it is at the moment. After, all what is in a location? It is instructive to note that what is required is the operational autonomy and financial independence of the FIU and its ability to serve all law enforcement agencies. That can be achieved through either of the two alternatives contemplated here. This seems to be a hard nut to crack, but it must be done somehow if the system must work very well.

Conclusion and the Way Forward

Anti-money laundering and counter financing of terrorism is an important element of the fight against corruption, which is one of the main thrusts of the government of Nigeria. Yet, since 2013, no significant input has been added to the AML/CFT framework. As Nigeria seeks to strengthen democracy by reinforcing rule of law, there is no alternative to strengthening the mechanisms for accountability, including a robust ML/CFT regime. These issues are neither academic, nor are they political, inspite of the legislative processes; they are purely technical issues, which require technical expertise to address. With South Africa as a member of the FATF and with Egypt nearer to attaining membership, the regional balance that FATF sought for may have been achieved to some extent. However, it would still be a fact that sub-saharan African is not represented and it would be a disappointment if any other country will overtake Nigeria and become a member of the FATF. The second round of the evaluations have already commenced and if the Nigerian system remains as it is with the strategic deficiencies mentioned earlier on, Nigeria's leadership and influence in AML/CFT will diminish regrettably. Time is of the essence and a word is enough for the wise.


About the Author

Abdullahi Shehu is a Professor of Criminology and former Director General of the ECOWAS Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering (GIABA).

Digital Finance in WAEMU: What’s New?

13.03.2017Estelle Lahaye, Financial Sector Specialist, CGAP

This post was originally published on the CGAP website.

The journey toward financial inclusion in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) has made some interesting strides with digital financial services (DFS), even if the journey continues to be long.

According to the regional Central Bank (BCEAO), during the first nine months of 2015, DFS users made 346.9 million transactions worth $8.5 billion, increasing by 33% and 36%, respectively, compared to 2014. Last year, BCEAO updated its regulation for e-money issuance and distribution that will significantly influence the evolution of the DFS market in WAEMU moving forward.

However, let's not lose sight of the fact that only 13% of the adult population in WAEMU has an account at a formal financial institution, and that when mobile money is added, the rate goes up to 18%. Despite its impressive growth, uptake of DFS across WAEMU has been relatively limited compared to its potential, and mobile money activity remains relatively low. For example, in Côte d'Ivoire, over 50% of registered clients report not having used their accounts within the past 90 days; in Senegal, while at least 80% of people are aware of mobile money, only 8% have used such a service.

Over the past several months, CGAP interviewed representatives of 100-plus organizations in Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Mali and Niger to better understand the market system for DFS in WAEMU. A new CGAP report provides an analysis of key actors in supply and demand, rules (e.g., regulations for e-money, telecommunications, competition) and supporting functions (e.g., agent networks, information providers). It also identifies root causes that explain why the DFS market is currently not serving the needs of low-income populations and opportunities for triggering systems-level change.

So what have we learned?

Regulatory environment. The 2006 regulation for e-money has been an enabling factor for the development of DFS, allowing banks and nonbanks to issue e-money. And so far, most mobile network operators (MNOs) have partnered with banks. With the updated 2015 e-money guidelines, the pathway for MNOs to create e-money-issuing subsidiaries is clearer, and some MNOs are embarking on that path. MNOs are expected to become more independent from banks and flexible in developing their mobile money offerings; as such, the partnerships are expected to focus more on developing second-generation DFS, such as credit, savings and insurance.

That said, some regulatory aspects remain unclear or incomplete, including know-your-customer (KYC) requirements, identification, agent banking regulation and access to the USSD channel. Some of these "gaps" are not just the domain of BCEAO; national telecom authorities, national identification offices and other national authorities are also involved. This will require further consultation and dialogue, as well as careful consideration of market specifics for each of the eight WAEMU countries.

Private sector. A key constraint identified by this study is that many banks, MFIs and even some MNOs are simply not convinced of the "business case" of growing their DFS offerings - they view it as too risky and not profitable enough. Distrust between MNOs and financial institutions (i.e., banks and microfinance institutions) is also impeding "deeper" partnerships that would offer DFS beyond cash-in/cash-out, person-to-person transfer and bill payments. While these are starting to develop in some of the more advanced WAEMU markets, it is still rare for financial institutions and MNOs to view each other as valued partners whom they trust and prioritize in their future growth strategies.

We hope that donors and policy makers, to some extent, will play a stronger role in encouraging providers to adopt a long-term approach to developing DFS as well as develop DFS channels and offerings suited for low-income customers.

Agent networks. Current agent networks without a doubt need to be expanded, both in number and location (in rural areas especially). However, this growth needs to be sustainable to ensure that agents remain active, provide good quality of service and are sufficiently liquid. That requires developing supporting infrastructure, such as telecom network coverage, and partnerships between MNOs and actors that can provide financial services to agents. It is also critical to provide training to help agents grow their businesses (and remain active) and monitoring to ensure their compliance with KYC and Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism requirements.

Information. Up-to-date, publicly available information on both demand and supply of DFS in WAEMU is relatively limited, as is knowledge on what DFS offers have worked (or not) and why. A rapidly evolving market and an unwillingness by some actors to share data are at play. Limited resources and the capacity of actors to conduct, analyze and publish such research also contribute to this lack of information. Furthermore, even when such information is available, it may not always be widely communicated or presented in useful forms.

Some efforts are underway in a few countries to remedy to this challenge. Future information collection and knowledge-sharing initiatives should consider presentation and communication aspects as early on as possible, and as equally important to the actual content.

Political will. Lack of sufficient infrastructure and education in general are some of the most commonly cited constraints to greater DFS uptake. However, the root cause of many of these seems to be national political will and capacity to build the needed infrastructure (and to incentivize MNOs to deploy telecommunications infrastructure in rural areas), operate an educational system that ensures at least a minimum level of schooling and literacy of the entire population, and incentivize digital payments.

We hope to see national governments, in collaboration with BCEAO, prioritize these issues. The regional financial inclusion strategy developed by BCEAO offers a good framework for such efforts. Donors and development actors can support the implementation of this strategy through funding, technical assistance and encouragement to government partners to prioritize this work.

We need to push the boundaries for DFS to sustainably develop and continue to advance financial inclusion WAEMU. This report (in English and French) provides detailed information and analysis for market actors and donors to take on and work toward achieving this goal.


About the Author

Estelle Lahaye is a Financial Sector Specialist for CGAP, and leads experimentation and research activities to help create an effective and innovative ecosystem for digital financial services in WAEMU. She also contributes to CGAP's research agenda on how donors and investors can facilitate the development of inclusive financial markets.

Reading between the data: Exploring the mismatch between the number of insurance policies reported by consumers vs. providers in Zambia

28.02.2017Jeremy Gray

First published on the Cenfri website.

In 2014, 22.2% of adults in Zambia were covered by insurance. In 2015, just 2.6% were. If you are working on insurance in Zambia you would probably think the magnitude of this change was because of the discontinuing of the Airtel Life product. But even if you exclude Airtel Life from the 2014 data, it captures three times more insurance policies than the 2015 data. So why the mismatch?

The mismatch is not bad reporting or survey design, but simply that many adults do not know that they have insurance. The 2014 data is from the Landscape of Microinsurance in Africa study which collects data on the number of insurance policies through provider consultation, whereas the 2015 data is from the FinScope Consumer Survey and (as the name suggests) from interviews with consumers. Many of the products that providers report are compulsory, embedded or group policies. This often leads to consumers not being aware, and thus not reporting, that they are covered, while providers continue to collect premiums without worrying about being called to pay claims. Exploring why this is the case reveals some interesting insights into the existing Zambian insurance market and its future development.

First, the low use of insurance does not reflect the risk experience of most Zambians. As in any other developing country, Zambians are subject to a range of different risks. However, as the figure below shows, few rely on insurance to deal with these risks. It shows that more than three-quarters of adults experienced an insurable risk in the last year, but largely used savings together with credit and the sale of assets to mitigate it.


Figure 1: Risk experience vs. risk response in Zambia                                 Source: FinScope Consumer Survey Zambia (2015)

This begs the question, given the risk experience in Zambia, why do adults prefer to use other risk mitigation mechanisms rather than insurance? And, if insurance can be a better risk mitigation mechanism, how do we change this behavior?

Step 1, pay claims. A market dominated by compulsory, embedded and group policies is not in itself negative. Chamberlain et al. (2016) explain that this is a necessary stage for most developing insurance markets. However, if the beneficiaries are unaware of the insurance cover, they may not claim on the insurance product. Where such claims are automatically settled, consumers will not be aware of the role that insurance has played in reducing their liabilities. In both these cases the lack of awareness undermines the development of the insurance market. In order for a retail insurance market to develop beyond a compulsory, embedded and group policies to the next stage of voluntary retail sales existing consumers need to be made aware of the value that insurance provides them.

Hence, pursuing compulsory product lines with low awareness, and as a result low claims, may be lucrative in the short-term. However, it undermines the perceived (and actual) value proposition of insurance amongst consumers and the potential for long-term market development.

This is the situation in which the Zambian insurance market currently finds itself. The existing compulsory insurance cover presents a good opportunity to grow both awareness of, and appreciation for, insurance products if these are offered in a way that provides value to the policyholders. However, instead claims ratios are low and insurance products are not perceived as providing value. The Pensions and Insurance Authority of Zambia (the insurance supervisor) reported claims ratios of 40% in the Life industry and 38% in General in 2014. Anecdotal evidence suggests that for some products, claims ratios may be as low as single figures. Additionally, two of the major barriers to using insurance products identified by FinScope respondents were that "insurers don't pay when you claim" and that they "don't trust insurance companies." If consumers have no faith that the insurer will pay claims then the product has no value to them.

Step 2, Design better products. Paying claims is critical to demonstrate the value of insurance after a risk event, but getting consumers to take up insurance in the first place requires products that actually meet their needs. For example:

  • Adults face multiple risks. Bundling insurance products that cover multiple risks can better meet needs and hence offer greater value. For example, the index insurance products offered by Focus and Mayfair (insurance companies in Zambia) not only offer farmers cover against adverse weather but, understanding that they also face a range of personal risks, bundles it with funeral cover and intends to add hospital cover in future.
  • Formal insurers are competing with informal providers. Informal risk mitigation mechanisms are used by a large portion of Zambian adults: 38% of adults indicate that they use some form of informal financial services (FinScope, 2015). Whilst most of these informal products may not be insurance type products, most can be used to manage insurable risks. For example, borrowing from friends and family or using the savings from under the mattress to pay for transport fees to get to the government hospital. These products are not only used because they have low barriers to entry, but even adults that can use formal services, prefer to use them. Informal products are effectively competitors to formal providers. Understanding this, and why they are preferred, is a critical step for providers looking to drive further uptake.
  • Insurance products lack tangibility. Insurance is a credence product. Given that many insurance markets start with micro-life or funeral products, adults only derive value after someone has died. This often makes it hard to sell to first time buyers. Insurers in other markets sometimes overcome this by offering in-life benefits to policyholders to add tangibility to their insurance policy, something not currently prevalent in Zambia. In-life benefits also enable providers to maintain an on-going relationship with the consumer. Traditionally, a consumer will only engage with the insurer when they purchase the policy and when they claim, which may be many years later or by one of their family member after they are dead. In-life benefits facilitate an ongoing interaction, making it easier for the provider to maintain a relationship with a consumer.

The mismatch between demand and supply-side data reveals a market with low awareness and a likely lack of value for policyholders. Whilst this may be initially lucrative, this short-sighted approach should be a concern for providers and policymakers. The profits currently enjoyed by incumbent providers will erode over time as competition increases (Zambia has seen the number of insurers triple of the last 10 years) and most importantly, undermines the long-term development of the insurance market as there is no basis for voluntary sales to grow. For policymakers this also limits the potential of insurance to contribute to capital markets.

Although there is some evidence of insurers beginning to innovate with product design and targeting new markets, reading between the data reveals many insurers still asleep at the wheel - undermining the potential contribution of the industry to the welfare of adults in Zambia.


About the author

Jeremy Gray is a Senior Research Associate at Cenfri. He has worked across a range of financial inclusion projects in countries throughout SADC (Southern African Development Community) and ASEAN. In particular, he has worked on MAP (Making Access Possible) financial inclusion diagnostics in Zambia, Malawi, Swaziland, Lesotho and DRC. Previously, he worked on a number of microinsurance projects including the A2ii Cross-Country Synthesis study, which involved analysing and synthesising the various microinsurance business models, inherent risks and appropriate regulatory responses found globally.



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.


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