The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has published the results of its Diaspora Remittances Survey, providing insight into the efficiency and cost of alternative remittance channels; the difficulties in remitting cash or non-cash transfers; the availability of information to Kenyans in the diaspora about investment opportunities in Kenya; and the usage of remittances received.
The Survey was conducted from March to May 2021, aimed at collecting valuable information on remittance inflows to Kenya, with the objective of boosting the role of remittances in supporting the economy and livelihoods.
Remittance inflows to Kenya have increased tenfold in recent years, with total remittances in 2021 reaching a record $3.718million. This surpassed the previous record of $3.094million set in 2020. These amounts are equivalent to approximately three per cent of Kenya’s GDP. However, only inflows through formal channels—e.g., through authorised international remittance service providers in Kenya or commercial banks—are included in the reported inflows, which exclude remittances through informal channels and in-kind remittances.
The Survey therefore represents an additional step in the effort to improve statistics on remittances and in the understanding of the landscape for remittances more generally.
The Survey found that remittances are directed at family members, who are largely self-employed, unemployed, or students. About half of the total remitted was allocated to investment in real estate (land and buildings) for recipients, mortgage payment for senders, and purchase of food and household goods.
The Survey also confirmed the importance of mobile money operators and money transfer companies, in addition to banks, as the main channels for cash remittances. Further, the Kenyan diaspora prefers digital service providers due to convenience, promptness, and ease of access. On average, recipients receive remitted funds on the same day, reflecting the efficiency of these channels. Key problems that were identified included the high cost of remitting cash, and the inadequate information on investment opportunities in Kenya for the remitters.
The publishing of its findings comes in tandem with the introduction of the Bank’s Amendment Act 2021. The Amendment provides the Bank with the powers to license and oversight the previously unregulated digital credit providers.
Correspondingly, CBK announced the issuance of draft Digital Credit Providers Regulations. With the recent advances in technology and ongoing innovations, lending through digital channels, particularly mobile phones, has grown significantly in Kenya. However, concerns have been raised by the public about the predatory practices of the unregulated digital credit providers, and in particular, their high cost, unethical debt collection practices, and the abuse of personal information.
The Amendment requires CBK to publish regulations within three months, and accordingly, CBK has developed the draft Regulations for public consultation. The Regulations provide for inter alia the licensing, governance, and credit operations of Digital Credit Providers (DCPs).
They further provide for consumer protection, credit information sharing, and elaborate on the Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) obligations of DCPs. In line with the public participation requirements, CBK invites interested members of the public to provide comments on the draft Regulations that can be downloaded through its website.