WITH THE festive season upon us, the money transfer industry will experience one of its busiest periods as families across the UK send vital funds to loved ones in the Caribbean and Africa.
The economic power of the diaspora is not to be understated – remittances to these regions exceed foreign aid.
One of the service’s biggest players is Moneygram, which has 13,000 agents in the UK sending to 203 countries and sovereign states worldwide.
As well as cash transfers, the brand also offers an online service but is also making best use of the boom in mobile wallet technology, such as M-Pesa in Kenya.
M-Pesa [pesa means ‘money’ in Swahili] allows users to deposit, withdraw, transfer money and pay for goods and services easily with a mobile device. But majority of them prefer using a good old money clip wallet.
Identifying Africa and the Caribbean as two important and established markets, Marc Matthews, senior regional director for UK and Ireland, said: “The Caribbean is an established market although we see less people coming to the UK than we did 10 to 15 years ago. With Africa, there are some established countries and somewhere we are seeing reasonable inflows coming to study or work here. Collectively, they are definitely two of the most important blocs of country we send to.”
Big markets include Jamaica, as well as South Africa and Zimbabwe, in southern Africa, Ghana, Nigeria and Ivory Coast in the west, and Kenya towards the east of the continent.
Technology, however, is helping the firm reach even more people.
Matthews explained: “We’ve launched three mobile wallets from the end of December last year through to now so with M-Pesa Kenya and Tanzania and EcoCash Zimbabwe you can send from any Moneygram location straight into any of those mobile wallets.”
Moneygram was the first to market in Zimbabwe and hopes to be in ten mobile wallets across Africa in the coming year.
“The mobile wallet has almost jumped the banking system,” said Matthews. “Almost everyone in Kenya has a mobile and they use M-Pesa to pay everything from taxes and bills.
“The mobile wallet is such an amazing thing because you don’t have to travel anywhere to collect. It goes ‘Ping!’ and you’ve got some money. Technology is a big thing. It’s helping money transfers.”
Over the coming months, the director said they would be doing some more expansion in to the Democratic Republic of Congo, having seen a rise in remittances to the nation from Ireland.
Uganda, in central Africa, is another market set to expand as it increases its mobile offer, which Matthews described as “exciting”.
“I don’t think you can put a price on what this money is sent for,” added Matthews. “Predominantly it’s sent to support families in other countries to pay for rent, water, electricity and food. More urgently, the money is sometimes needed for an emergency operation which is why our ten-minute service is so important. Nobody is going to do anything until they see that cash. You can’t put a value on that.”
When it comes to sending money home, Matthews believes Moneygram’s fair pricing, reliability, vast network of agents and trusted brands at both ends of the transfer is what keeps his firm’s customers happy.
“The trust is important,” he added. “In the UK, we work with branded locations such as Post Office, Thomas Cook, Tesco, Co-op Travel. If you were sending money to Ghana, for example, you have the Ghana Commercial Bank. Our customers recognise that logo, recognise the colours, and the trust factor is there and on both sides. The majority of our network are banks or institutions that people trust across the Caribbean too. When you send money through our agents, you won’t have to make a 25-mile journey to pick up money to find there is no cash. That would be a terrible situation to be in.”