IT was good news to hear that Rwandans abroad are sending back some $172m a year into the Rwandan economy. Despite the global downturn, Rwandans dug deeper into their pockets to send home more money.
Kenyans send home $1 billion or more, so remittances can rival aid in helping Africans out of poverty. The World Bank spends some $250 billion a year but remittances are worth over $300 billion a year, so they have overtaken aid in funding development.
The good thing is because this help comes from family, it does not have all the conditions that aid comes with, but that is also a problem.
I remember the frustrations of living in Europe, seeing friends sending home money with little to show for it. Firstly, Western Union took 14 percent of the money before your poor relatives even touched it.
The Patriot act in USA limited the prevalence of smaller money transfer companies that could be linked to terrorism. This was a bonanza for bigger firms like Moneygram and Western Union who could have massive computer systems to keep records for due diligence checks.
This raised the price of money transfers and made it more expensive, but the arrival of Dahabshil, a Somali owned company is eating into the dominant market share of the major companies.
The other important aspect is similar to the effects of aid, when remittances are sent there should be check and balances to avoid dependency. What happens to nations also happens on an individual or family level.
Firstly the sender should ask the reasons why they are sending the money, is it out of guilt? Or is it to improve the lives of the people? Is it to just sustain the family indefinitely or help them on to their feet?
One can spend years sending money without anything to show for it, it can even kill the ambitions of your family as free money comes every month. It can fuel alcoholism, laziness, theft and breed disdain.
In sending money one must have strict targets and results, if you send money for school fee, you must check the school reports and threaten to cut off payments unless the results are good. If you are building a house, you must get regular updates and photographic evidence of results.
Every cent must be accounted for, remember every family has more needy members who can be helped. One must explain the difficulty that Africans abroad go through to try and get this money; many Africans think it is easy to get money in Europe and America, that the streets are paved with gold.
Therefore few Africans appreciate the hard work of their relatives abroad or the aid they receive.
We need to encourage Rwandans to send money back home; we need to reduce the cost of sending money. We need to give incentives to make Rwandans abroad bank at home by offering high interest rates payouts.
Lastly we need to work with Rwandans to seek their funding for development projects, particularly small-scale projects that help ordinary Rwandans.