The East African
12 October 2009
Nairobi — Kenya received the bulk of remittances in the region in 2007, amounting to $1,588 million, while Uganda got $849 million, and $51 and $14 million were sent to Rwanda and Tanzania respectively.
According to the 2009 Human Development Report launched last week by the UN, average remittances per person in Kenya were $42, $27 for Uganda, $5 for Rwanda and $0 for Tanzania, compared with $26 as the average for sub-Saharan Africa, which received a total of $16,815 million.
The report, Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development, said that of the total $370 billion remitted in 2007, more than half went to countries in the medium human development category, against less than one per cent to low human development countries.
Usually, remittances are sent to immediate family members in Africa who are the most direct beneficiaries of migration.
These benefits are spread broadly into local economies and also serve as foreign exchange earnings for the origin countries of the migrants.
The report finds that mobility generates access to ideas, knowledge and resources that complement and enhance progress.
Most migrants, internal and international, reap gains in the form of higher incomes, better access to education and health and improved prospects for their children.
These gains often directly benefit family members who stay behind as well as countries of origin indirectly.
To ensure the best possible benefits from migration, the report urges governments in origin countries to make mobility an integral part of national development programmes.
"Migration can benefit those who move and those who stay," says the report's lead author Jeni Klugman. "However, migration cannot be the sole national strategy to accelerate human development. Countries must continue to address the constraints to human development at home, with migration viewed as a potential element in a broad-based approach."
This is the latest publication in a series of global Human Development Reports, which aim to frame debates on some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity, from climate change to human rights.
It is an independent report commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme.
The report shows that migration can also have a significant impact on reducing poverty in a country.
This is especially true for internal migration, since it is much easier for people from poor families to move within borders than across them.
Evidence from Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Tanzania shows that poverty rates fall for households with at least one member who has moved elsewhere within the country.
Countries of origin benefit from emigration in many ways, especially through money transfers, or remittances.
In total, remittance flows to developing countries are around four times the size of total official development aid (ODA) that they receive.
Mobility also brings other benefits, such as new ideas, entrepreneurial skills and the transfer of technology to help with economic activities at home.
These "social remittances" can have a more intangible but no less significant affect on services and practices, such as health, education and gender relations.
One traditional concern about migration has revolved around what has been seen as an exodus of skilled labour, such as teachers, doctors and nurses from developing to developed countries -- the so-called brain-drain.
However, the report argues that this is typically a symptom rather than a cause of weak and inadequate health, education and other services.
Instead of trying to restrict migration, what is needed are development policies that address underlying structural problems, such as low pay, inadequate financing and weak institutions.
Copyright © 2009 The East African. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).
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