Posted on: June 16, 2023 Posted by: diasporadigital Comments: 0

The International Day of Family Remittances (IDFR) is observed on June 16, each year.

The universally-recognised observance was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in June 2018 to recognize the contribution of over 200 million migrants in improving the lives of their 800 million family members back home, particularly in low- and middle-income countries; and to create a future of hope for their children.

In 2022, more than half of the USD626 billion remittances sent to these countries went to rural areas, tying in with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Global Compact for Migration (GCM)’s aim of promoting collaboration across all sectors including remittances.

The theme for this year’s IDFR is “Digital remittances towards financial inclusion and cost reduction.”

The UN Office of the Special Adviser for Africa, International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the World Bank hosted this year’s Global Forum on Remittance, Investments and Development (GFRID) Summit 2023 from June 14 to 16, 2023 in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

The 3-day Summit, which saw attendance from stakeholders across all spectrums of the value chain on Day One focused on “Remittances and diaspora investment: key socio-economic forces in Africa”, Day Two – “Remittance journey from first to last mile: Africa 2023”, and “From commitment to impact at the last mile: Africa 2023”, on the third day.

For over 18 years, Elvina Quaison has been working in the field of international development with a focus on the African diaspora. She is currently a Diaspora Engagement Specialist at The International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), where she’s a key member of the organisation’s European Union Diaspora Facility (EUDiF).

Elvina has a keen interest in discourse on diaspora identity and inclusion, and has supported diaspora-related projects on entrepreneurship and humanitarian response, and so on.

She attended the GFRID Summit in Nairobi on behalf of her organisation, where she was part of a panel which discussed “Entrepreneurship and SME investment: economic development back home” on Day Two.

Diaspora Digital News caught up with her for a short chat about the discussions, takeaways and thoughts on diaspora engagement and sustainable development.

How does this year’s theme “Digital remittances towards financial inclusion and cost reduction” tie in with your work as a Diaspora Engagement Specialist?

“Over 1 billion people receive remittances each year, and so while they are essential for supporting those experiencing poverty or difficult circumstances, the fees that they can attract; especially along African corridors can be quite high and so, reduces the amounts received by those who need it most.

Digital mechanisms for remitting money are creating avenues for greater access, greater reach and reduced fees. These are however dependent on both access and understanding of digital devices, internet and digital literacy.

For us to continue to support families in need and enable continued and enhanced levels and use value of remittances, we need to work together to create an enabling and impactful environment.

At EUDiF, our actions have been supportive of developing this ecosystem. Our work with various partners include AFFORD, and equally their work involving crowd-funding and crowd-lending development with diaspora investors. We’ve also worked with Africa 2.0 Spain and Ashoka, who are enhancing the work and support of the African diaspora community leaders in Spain, in identifying ways to harness diaspora investment for social entrepreneurial growth.”

Can you share some of the highlights of your panel discussion?

“During the panel session, we discussed the main challenges that migrants face when deciding to invest back home as an investor or entrepreneur in relation to the ways of investing.

Access to accurate information and data can help plan their endeavours effectively, since depending on the country, registering a business can be a complex undertaking.

For investors wanting to take money out of that country it can be an expensive process between currency fluctuations and fees for moving money.

Also, trust is a transversal challenge; and there can be limited trust in systems, institutions, poor due diligence, hardship in finding a partner, stability which all have links to consistent growth, stable infrastructure and so on.

In summary creating an enabling environment for investors who contribute from a distance or an entrepreneur in the heart of it is essential if we want to see growth and increased interest from either party.”

What is the added value of a migrant investor/entrepreneur, in comparison with one who’s not and why is it worth it to accompany them? 

“The motivation for the migrant investor or entrepreneur can be different. While they may be looking for return, they may have a greater ‘risk’ appetite considering they may access risk differently. Their knowledge or/and connections to community, leadership and so on may give them a different perspective and access to guidance to navigate the space effectively. However, this is not always the case. At times this perceived knowledge and connection can be problematic as we see people take advice, guidance and trust in entities that are not reliable. The common investor may take the formal route and pay for assistance from the institutions available and private companies who offer this support and so have a more successful and smooth experiences.

That said we have seen interest in diaspora at various generations who see investment and entrepreneurship as both a path for sustainable growth and a means to gain a greater return than that offered in their country of residence. This commitment means that if they can find secure pathways to contribute, they would be attracted to do this.”

Why do you think it is important to have a Summit such as GFRID at this time?

“I feel the GFRID Summit comes at an optimum time to engage diaspora, and fully incorporate them within sustainable development.

Diaspora investment is becoming more and more an area of interest across board. The scope of talking about remittances is growing beyond looking at the financial, to advocacy, and other skills diaspora can bring into this space.

It is relevant to know that countries within Africa are now incorporating through their Diaspora Affairs department or even in some cases creating space within governments to have diaspora voices come more central and in the focus.

Within ICMPD, diaspora has been incorporated in our work for over 20 years, and to see the attention and movements that have been happening in the ecosystem is extremely heartening.

Elvina is looking forward to continually working towards how the diaspora can contribute and be more visible in the Agenda 2023; by working with their countries of origin and residence, as well as building partnerships to push these forward.

By: Theresa R. Fianko

Additional Information: Elvina Quaison, IFAD, and EUDiF

Image Attribution: Elvina Quaison

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