Migration, Remittances and Development in Southern Africa
Remittances by migrants are now a focus of attention of governments and development agencies worldwide. Globally, cash remittances by international migrants now exceed $250 billion per annum, easily outweighing the value of development assistance. Over a third of remittances to developing countries originate in other developing countries. International cash remittances are only part of the story. Remittances in the form of goods and commodities are also extremely important, as are internal remittances from urban to rural areas within countries. Debate rages on the development impacts of remittances and how these can be maximized. Advocates of migration as a positive force in development highlight the role of remittances in poverty alleviation in developing countries. Others view migration as having an essentially negative impact on development and poverty reduction, for three reasons. First, there is the difficulty of converting remittances into sustainable productive capacity. Second, remittance income is rarely used for productive purposes but for direct consumption. Very little is directed to income-earning, job-creating investment. Finally, remittances increase inequality, encourage import consumption and create dependency. These opposing views frame much of the contemporary debate about migration and development. In the Southern African context, this debate has been difficult to resolve because so little is known about remittance flows and usage. In response, SAMP devised the Migration and Remittances Survey (MARS) to provide nationally-representative data on remittance flows and usage at the household level for 5 SADC countries: Botswana, Lesotho, Southern Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Subsequent rounds will expand the range of countries studied. Since most cross-border migration in Southern Africa is to neighbouring countries, the bulk of remittance flow is within the region itself.