Family, friends in diaspora need our support now

Thursday, April 9th, 2020 00:00 |
Staff line up at attention as they prepare to spray disinfectant at Wuhan Railway Station in China’s Hubei province. Photo/AFP

Sharon Kinyanjui       

The coronavirus is ravaging the world, with close to 1.5 million people infected globally and more than 80,000 deaths recorded.

With the curve yet to flatten, and pressure mounting to slow the spread, focus in coming weeks and months is likely to shift to regions such as Africa where the first cases were reported much later than the rest of the world.  

Experts say what makes the difference in slowing the spread of Covid-19 are simple but impactful measures such as social distancing, hygiene and staying at home.

It is, therefore, reassuring that many countries across Africa are encouraging their citizens to take these measures.

Partial and full lockdowns have also been introduced to curb the spread.

Alongside these actions, it would be good to have a broader conversation about the implications of the pandemic on the economy and society at large.

Although public health is and should remain the first priority, we need to confront the fact that it will be several months before everyone goes back to their normal lives. 

While some people have moved their work, transactions and businesses online, not everyone has been able to do so.

Worse still, others are facing heightened financial uncertainty as businesses reel from the aftershocks of lockdowns. 

Tellingly, major stock indices around the world, which typically act as key indicators of economic prospects, recorded their worst first quarter in many decades due to the pandemic.

Amidst these unprecedented and evolving challenges, the need to connect with friends and loved ones for support and strength has become greater than ever. 

One segment of the population that we need to connect with in these challenging times is Kenyans and Africans living and working abroad.

Over the past decade, an unprecedented number of Africans have moved to the diaspora for work, study and opportunities. 

Starting in 2010, Sub-Saharan African nations accounted for eight of the 10 fastest growing international migrant populations, according to data from Pew Research. Kenyans have not been left behind.

There are an estimated three million Kenyans living the diaspora, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

We need to acknowledge the difficulties that Kenyans in the diaspora, as well as their families back home, are going through at this time. Now more than ever we must support the diaspora to stay connected to friends and family back home.

One way of doing this is by ensuring they are able to send money back home safely using their phones or laptops from the comfort of their homes. This means cutting reliance on traditional remittance channels. 

Digital transfers, which are instant, secure and can be done on mobile or online from the comfort of your home are the ideal option for remittances right now.

At WorldRemit, we are currently advocating for bank transfer, mobile money and airtime top up in the 150 countries where our service is available to receivers.

On the Send Side in countries such as the US and UK with large Kenyan diaspora communities, we have introduced a flat fee for all transactions via our mobile app in line with our commitment to make transfers as affordable and convenient as possible in these unprecedented times. 

In Kenya, we have partnered with Safaricom to increase transaction limits so our customers can send up to Sh150,000 to M-Pesa  per transaction.

The previous limit was Sh70,000 but at this time we understand the need for greater assistance.   

The coronavirus has disrupted life and brought change at a scale hitherto unprecedented. Many will need support to navigate the uncertainties ahead.

Let’s connect and support each other, including our friends and family in the diaspora, in order to overcome these challenges. —The writer is the head of East and Central Africa at WorldRemit

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