Raising diaspora remittances with offshore networks, partnerships

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For decades, remittances from Nigerians living abroad have significantly added to domestic income, social welfare and economic development. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and banks work closely to broaden the scope and scale of diaspora inflows through formal remittance channels dominated by International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs). The United Bank for Africa (UBA) has through its operation in 20 African countries and partnership with IMTOs supported Nigeria’s foreign capital inflows and CBN’s policies on exchange rate stability, reserve accretion, job creation, poverty reduction and economic growth, writes COLLINS NWEZE

 

Diaspora remittances remain major sources of stable external financing for Nigeria and developing countries. Countries have continued to harness these benefits despite the global fall in remittance flows in the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To keep the dollar flows coming, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and commercial banks work closely to constantly improve Nigeria’s remittance infrastructure, ease the process of international money transfer and simplify the experience for senders and recipients.

For these stakeholders, the efficiency of remittance services, especially as provided through commercial banks’ and International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs’) partnerships are critical to boosting dollar liquidity in the economy.

The PwC forecasts suggest that Nigeria’s remittance flows could reach US$34.89 billion by 2023, hence the need for the apex bank and commercial banks to continually work closely to ensure that more funds flow into the economy.

In this regard, the CBN had urged banks to develop products and investments vehicles, geared towards attracting funds from Nigerians in the diaspora.

Such channels for sending and receiving funds from the diaspora are expected to be seamless and convenient to their customers.

In compliance with this directive, the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, with operations in 20 African countries, has used its wide network to boost foreign capital flows to the economy.

The UBA partnership with top IMTOs is ensuring convenience in sending and receiving money from anywhere in the world.

For instance, through the bank’s remittance partners, customers can receive money directly into their UBA account or pick up cash at any of its branches nationwide.

UBA has also created money transfer services that allow customers to deposit, transfer and withdraw cash in local currencies across 20 African countries.

The UBA, led by its Group Managing Director/CEO Kennedy Uzoka, is also implementing the ongoing ‘Naira for Dollar’ policy of the CBN which gives a N5 rebate for every $1 sent by Nigerians in the diaspora.

According to CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, the new measure would help to make the process of sending remittance through formal bank channels cheaper and more convenient for Nigerians in the diaspora.

In a circular to all authorised dealers and deposit money banks, the apex bank said the policy, which was to end on Saturday, May 8, will continue till further notice.

Forex Trading Associate, AZA, a global forex dealer, Oghenefejiro Eduviere, said the ’Naira for Dollar’ policy will continually support exchange rate stability and boost dollar flows to the economy.

 

Operational guidelines for IMTOs

 

International money transfer is a fast and secure electronic payment service that allows money transfer across African countries and beyond.

Although the operational guideline for each IMTO differs, the objective remains to provide seamless and affordable money transfer service to beneficiaries.

According to UBA, to send or receive money through IMTOs would require completing a form indicating the IMTO service, Bank Verification Number, savings or current UBA account, valid means of Identification for non-account holders (National I.D card, International Passport, Drivers licence or Nigerian Voters Card).

For receivers, a Personal Identification Number (PIN) code provided by the sender is required.

The bank says it remains one of the leading banks in terms of remittance services across Africa. “We are currently ranked number two in Money Gram, number three in Western Union and Ria money transfer services. In April, our cumulative transaction count was 33,000 and the amount remitted through UBA was about 14.03 million,” it said.

The bank says it remains committed to providing ease and convenience for money transfers across the world.

UBA’s partnership with MoneyGram, Western Union, Ria Money Transfer, World Remit, Flutter Wave, AFTAB (Ace Money Transfer), Cash Pot, Colony Capital (Fincode), Swift Payment, Naira Gram, IDTPS Boss Resolution, SmallWorld, Sendwave and Omnex has enabled it to serve more people in the remittance market.

Country Manager, Nigeria and Ghana, at WorldRemit, Gbenga Okejimi, said the company was excited by the fact that it can continue to enable the transfer of remittances to more people across Nigeria whilst also supporting the Nigerian government in its efforts to strengthen the economy.

WorldRemit founder Ismail Ahmed created WorldRemit to ensure that the diaspora community could send money back home easily and through a safe platform. The company said it is constantly evolving, innovating and adapting to ensure that our customers’ needs are met efficiently. It added that customers of UBA can access US Dollar payout through bank transfer and cash pick up options.

The World Remit does not require a minimum amount for transfer. However, the initial transaction is subject to a maximum of $2,000, while the maximum limit per transaction is $7,500, the total of which must not exceed$50,000 every six months. There are no charges to the beneficiaries.

For instance, with Africash account and non-account holders of UBA can send and receive money in local currency from all its branches across Africa.

“The customer just need to fill Africash form, provide Bank verification Number (BVN), open a savings/current account with the bank. ForVerification holders, a valid means of Identification is required while the receiver should have the Personal Identification Number (PIN) code provided by the sender to collect funds,” the bank said in an emailed report.

Also, the UBA Connect gives its customers the option of sending or receiving money across 20 African countries with ease. This service is also available to account and non-account holders of the bank.

The bank explained that all the channels are safe, secure, provide competitive rates, easy and convenient.

Flutter Wave is safe, secure, and beneficiaries receive transfers within minutes and service available to UBA account and non-account holders. competitive rates and fees.

Africash services are available in cash collection and account transfers. “With the account transfer, the beneficiary needs not to worry about visiting any business location for payment as funds are instantly credited to the beneficiary’s account from the send point. Africash is available in US dollars and local currency, where regulations allow US dollar transfer and receivers are to indicate preferred currency”.

The Africash pricing reflects the market realities in each country of operation but, in all, prices remain competitive. On average, the price is one per cent or less. The transfer limits vary from one country to another. However, a $50,000 weekly transfer limit applies based on countries’ regulations.

Also, customers can open accounts with Instant Money Transfer International inflow and credit same into the account.

The UBA Nigeria Western Union Money Transfer is also a major remittance channel. The Western Union is an international money transfer service, which has been in service for over 149 years.

“It enables you to send and receive money worldwide. With a network in over 200 countries, Western Union controls 20 per cent of all remittance transactions. It is a fast and easy way to send or receive money in naira or dollars and is available at any UBA Branch,” the bank said.

The receiver of the fund through Western Union is expected to provide Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN), sender’s full name, receiver’s full name, answer to test question (if provided), location (Country) where money is being sent from as well as an amount to be received.

Also to be provided are valid, non-expired government-issued photo identity card which includes International Passport, Voter’s card, BVN, Nigerian Driver’s Licence.

In the Fast channel, a customer account is credited in approximately 48 hours, depending on the time of initiation of the transaction. Customers can calculate their fees, receive transfer notifications and track transactions online. The customers can also take advantage of loyalty schemes and such services as standing instructions.

The UBA Nigeria Western Union Money Transfer enables people to send and receive money worldwide. With a network in over 200 countries, Western Union controls 20 per cent of all remittance transactions. It is a fast and easy way to send or receive money in naira or dollars and is available at any UBA Branch.

Money Gram uses a high-performance, web-based application that makes it easy for customers to receive their money within a few minutes of their payment request.

“You can now send money to over 200 countries from any UBA branch to family and friends. The service has a maximum send limit of US $1,000 naira equivalent per customer every quarter and is available to account and non-account holders”.

“With Money Gram, money can be received directly into a UBA account or at a UBA branch with the reference code received from the sender. At the branch, the beneficiary will complete and submit the ‘receive form’. Once details have been verified, the beneficiary receives cash in their local currency”.

RIA Money Transfer is one of the largest international money transfer companies in the world. With a worldwide network in over 140 countries, RIA allows customers to receive the money within minutes directly into their UBA naira account or cash at a UBA Branch close to you from friends and family living abroad.

 

Understanding CBN’s remittance rules

 

Emefiele earlier directed that beneficiaries of remittance flow through an IMTO receive such inflows in foreign currency (US dollars) through any bank of their choice.

Recipients also have the sole decision to receive the foreign currency (US dollar) either in physical cash or instruct the bank to credit the fund to an ordinary domiciliary account, depending on their preference.

The apex bank also mandated the IMTOs to unambiguously disclose to remittance beneficiaries that such recipients have exclusive discretion to decide the mode of payment while ensuring that all funds received in favour of beneficiaries in Nigeria are promptly deposited into the agent bank’s correspondent account.

Furthermore, in an effort to reduce the cost burden of remitting funds to Nigeria by working Nigerians in the Diaspora, the CBN has introduced a rebate of N5 for every $1 of fund remitted to Nigeria, through IMTOs licensed by the Central Bank.

This rebate is provided to the bank accounts of beneficiaries, following receipt of remittance inflows. “We believe this new measure will help to make the process of sending remittance through formal bank channels cheaper and more convenient for Nigerians in the diaspora,” Emefiele said.

Besides, the CBN’s policy on the administration of remittance flows is aimed at increasing the transparency of remittance inflows, reducing rent-seeking activities, and providing Nigerians in the diaspora with cheaper and more convenient ways of sending remittances to Nigeria.

In addition, the apex bank believes that this new policy measure will encourage banks and financial institutions to develop products and investment vehicles, geared towards attracting investments from Nigerians in the diaspora. This policy shift is expected to help to finance a future stream of investment opportunities for Nigerians living abroad.

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