Copyright © 2009 International Development Options
All Rights Reserved
Volume Five Winter 2008-Spring 2009 Numbers 3-4.
THEME: GLOBAL LABOR MIGRATION AND EMERGING TRENDS IN DEVELOPMENT FINANCING:
AN ASSESSMENT OF THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC IMPCT OF MIGRANT (WORKER) REMITTANCES
IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA
REMITTING FOR SURVIVAL: RETHINKING THE DEVELOPMENT POTENTIAL OF REMITTANCES IN
Jonathan Crush Wade Pendleton
Global Development Studies Department of Anthropology
Queen’s University, Canada University of Cape Town
and Honorary Professor South Africa
University of Cape Town
Published Online: March 15, 2017
Central to the current international debate on migration and development is the issue of remittances. Two conventional schools of thought can be identified: one arguing that the developmental value of remittances is limited and the other that remittances are the key to unlocking the development value of migration. An alternative perspective has recently emerged which suggests that the development impact of remittances can be maximized through various kinds of policy intervention. This article, based on the results of a survey of five SADC countries, suggests that while remittance-receiving households are generally better off than those that are not, remittance use in Southern Africa is dominated by livelihood needs such as food purchase. Very little of the remittance package is saved, invested or used to boost agricultural production (the conventional development markers). Nor is it spent on luxuries such as consumer goods. While remittances may help alleviate poverty they do not, at present, form the basis for sustainable development at the household level. In this context, conventional policy interventions are unlikely to enhance the development value of remittances.