The global average cost of sending $200 remained high, at around 6.4% in the fourth quarter of 2020, while the highest-cost corridors averaged 13%, according to the World Bank’s Remittance Prices Worldwide database. Reducing migrant remittance costs to 3% or less and eliminate remittance corridors with costs higher than 5% by 2030, is part of the 10 Goal “Reduce Inequality” in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The world’s top 5 remittance recipient in 2020 were: India $83.1 billion, China $59.5 billion, Mexico $42.9 billion, Philippines $34.9 billion and Egypt $29.1 billion.
Banks are the most expensive remittance channels, charging an average fee of 11%. Following, by Post offices that charge on average more than 7%.
Global remittances, flows to low- and middle-income countries, reached $540 billion in 2020, 1.6 percent below the 2019 total of $548 billion. The strong performance of remittance flows despite the COVID crisis, highlight its importance as a source of external financing for low-and middle-income countries and their families’ livelihood support.
Startups in the Industry
Wise is a London based FinTech, which took the remittance industry by storm with the mission to “bring transparency to finance, for people without borders”. It was launched in 2011. The company currently has over 10 million users and boasts of managing £4.5 billion in transfers each month. They are available in 80 countries and is possible to hold and convert money in 54 currencies.
The FinTech also launched their own debit card. The card comes with UK, European, US, Australian, New Zealand, Hungary, Romania and Singapore account numbers. This means that users are ready to get paid from 30 countries, all without paying fees.
So how is Wise able to offer such low fees and thrive in the cross-border transactions market? The answer is by doing the exact opposite. By this we mean that the FinTech doesn’t send money across borders, the cash stays in the same country. Wise has built a P2P-like network, that works like this:
If person (1) in Spain wants to send 100 Euros to person (2) in England, their Euros will actually be sent to someone else in Spain who is due to receive Euros. The opposite will happen in England. Person (2) who is due to receive the GBP equivalent of 100 Euros, will receive it from another person who is sending GBP from the England. This is the main gist of it but, off course, there are more technicalities involve.
Billmari is a Pan-African FinTech using blockchain to tackle remittance fees in Africa. The company has the mission of “Building the African Diaspora’s Financial Solutions” and help to eliminate the border impediments to trading with the African continent.
The platform uses Bitcoin technology to tap into new remittances markets and are the only Bitcoin-based company in the world to receive a money transfer license for the Central Bank of Zimbabwe. Furthermore, Billmari have strategic partnership with Agribank to perform remittances for their customers using Bitcoin.
As we know Bitcoin is Blockchain’s first great creation, it’s not owned by banks or anyone and the only miniscule fees for transfers are paid to those who ‘mine’ bitcoins. No salaries, rent, profit or other operations need to be paid. This allows for cross-border payments to have minimal fees. Billmari has used this to their advantage, by temporarily converting local currency to bitcoin, sending it overseas, then converting it to Zimbabwean currency, major fees are saved.
Additionally, the FinTech has a service that allows contracting sponsors to purchase farming contract for agricultural projects in Africa from anywhere in the world. The smart contracts used by the company allows fair trade and transparent predetermined conditions stored on a blockchain, given the consumers and farmers the security.
In conclusion, financial technology companies have a very important role in remittances flows and their importance in reduced inequalities for low-and middle-income countries.