Copyright © 2009 International Development Options
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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
MIGRANT REMITTANCES AND DEVELOPMENT IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: A CAUTIONARY NOTE
Department of Political Studies,
University of Cape Town, South Africa
Published Online: March 15, 2017
Migrant remittances to Sub-Saharan Africa have increased dramatically in the last two decades. These increases, along with the growing number of migrants from Africa to more affluent destinations, have raised expectations on the contribution of remittances to the region's development. Conventionally, the migration literature depicts remittances as having a positive impact on development by alleviating poverty, raising incomes, increasing access to education and health among poor households, and improving the balance of payments positions of sending countries. While these facts are acknowledged, it is argued that the positive contribution of remittances to development in Sub-Saharan Africa is frequently overstated. The anti-developmental effects of remittances have remained either unobtrusive or underemphasized in conventional migration scholarship. Among other negative effects, remittances create dependency that impairs long-term development; cause a reduction in working hours, thus undermining local labor supply; encourage migration and brain drain; exacerbate income inequalities; and often spawn black markets. Thus, not only should an overall assessment of the impact of remittances on development in Sub-Saharan Africa be holistic and acknowledge their potentially damaging consequences, but the benefits from remittances must also be celebrated with caution.