• One segment of the population that we need to connect with in these challenging times is the diaspora.
• Over the past decade, an unprecedented number of Africans have gone abroad for work, study, and opportunities.
Worldwide coronavirus cases are now more than two million.
With the curve yet to flatten, and pressure mounting to slow the spread, the focus is likely to shift to regions such as Africa, where the first cases were reported much later compared to the rest of the world.
Experts say what makes the difference in slowing the spread of Covid-19 are simple but impactful measures such as social distancing, sanitising and staying at home. It is, therefore, reassuring that many African states are encouraging their citizens to take these measures. Partial and full lockdowns have also been introduced to curb the spread.
Alongside these critical actions, it is good to have a broader conversation about the implications of the pandemic on the economy and society. Although public health is and should remain the priority, we need to confront the fact that it will take months or more before everyone goes back to their normal lives.
While some people have moved their work, transactions and businesses online, not everyone has been able to do so due to the nature of their work. Worse still, others are facing heightened financial uncertainty as businesses around the world reel from the aftershocks of partial and full lockdowns. Tellingly, major stock indices around the world, which typically act as key indicators of global economic prospects, recorded their worst first quarter in many decades due to the pandemic.
Amidst these unprecedented and evolving challenges, the need to connect with friends and loved ones for support and strength has become greater than ever.
One segment of the population that we need to connect with in these challenging times is the diaspora. Over the past decade, an unprecedented number of Africans have gone abroad for work, study, and opportunities.
Since 2010, sub-Saharan African countries accounted for eight of the 10 fastest growing international migrant populations, according to Pew Research. There are an estimated three million Kenyans in the diaspora, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
We need to acknowledge the difficulties that Kenyans in the diaspora, as well as their families back home, are going through at this time. We are social creatures and need each other. For most people in the country, the loneliness that comes with staying indoors has been lessened by the presence of family. However, for many Kenyans and Africans in the diaspora, the presence of family is not a privilege that is routinely enjoyed, particularly now when there are heightened restrictions on international travel.
Now more than ever we must support those in the diaspora to stay connected to friends and family back home. One way of doing this is by ensuring they are able to send money back home safely using their phones or laptops from the comfort of their homes. This means cutting reliance on traditional remittance channels, where someone living abroad has to get out of the house and physically go to an agent and fill out cumbersome paperwork and handle cash before sending money back home. This is not the safest option at the moment.
People need to spend as much time indoors, where it is safer. Digital transfers, which are instant, secure and can be done on mobile or online from the comfort of your home are the ideal option for remittances right now.
At WorldRemit, we are currently advocating for bank transfer, mobile money and airtime top-up in the 150 countries where our service is available to receivers.
On the Send Side in countries like the US and UK with large Kenyan diaspora communities, we have introduced a flat fee of ninety-nine cents for all transactions via our mobile app regardless of size, in line with our commitment to make transfers as affordable and convenient as possible in these unprecedented times.
In Kenya, we have partnered with Safaricom to increase transaction limits so our customers can send up to Sh150,000 to M-Pesa per transaction. The previous limit was Sh70,000 but at this time we understand the need for greater assistance.
The coronavirus has disrupted life and brought change at a scale not seen in a long time. Many will need support to navigate the uncertainties ahead. Let’s connect and support each other, including our friends and family in the diaspora, in order to overcome these challenges.
Kinyanjui is the head of East and Central Africa at WorldRemit