Ethiopia’s Diaspora Remittances Rise, Illegal Migrants Holding It Back

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Written by Kevin Mwanza

Ethiopians living in the diaspora sent home over $4 billion in remittances in the first ten months of the year, more than what the horn of African nation received in a full year in 2015, the country’s Foreign affairs ministry announced last week.

Demeke Atnafu, the Director General of the Diaspora Engagement said while transfers into the country had risen in recent years it was still lower than what other African countries were getting from their citizen living abroad, Sudan Tribune reported.

This he said was due to a large number of Ethiopians migrating illegally to other countries, something that makes it difficult for them to send money back home legally.

“Many people are forced to use irregular means to send remittances,” Abebe Tsegaye, a lecturer at Addis Ababa University, told EBC in January.

“The irregular channels have many disadvantages. The money can disappear somewhere in the middle, or it may be delayed. Some choose to send money via irregular channels because the fixed exchange rate is always a bit lower than the black market value,” he added.

There are about two million Ethiopians living and working abroad, one of the largest diaspora community from Africa. The country is the second most populous on the continent – after Nigeria — with over 93 million people.

Remittances to the East African nation have been on the increase in recent year buoyed by opening up of the country’s financial sectors that has made it easy for diasporans to send money back home for investments and other uses.

It jumped 88 percent in 2015 to $3.7 billion, from $1.5 billion in 2014, and is currently one of the largest hard currency earner for the fast growing coffee-producing nation.

The United States, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom are the top three countries from which Ethiopians abroad send money to their families and relatives back home.

According to the World Bank, the country’s remittances are expected to expand by 50 percent over the next three years.

The Ethiopian government has for the past few years taken various steps to encourage Ethiopian Diaspora community to play an active role in the development of their home country.

It is estimated that Ethiopians living in abroad have built approximately 200 luxury hotels back home making it easier for the country to market itself as a upmarket tourist destination.