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The Pandemic’s Impact on the Remittances Market

The remittances market has grown as more technology is being introduced to make cross border transfers as seamless and cheap as possible. Historically, sending money abroad has cost a large portion of the sum being sent, however, as technology has evolved, new and innovative ways are being developed to make this process better for the workers sending money to their families back home. The pandemic halted the development of many industries, but not remittances according to WorldRemit.

Danielle Treharne, EMEA Director (Send) at WorldRemit,
Danielle Treharne, EMEA Director (Send) at WorldRemit

WorldRemit is a global payments company and, along with Sendwave, part of Zepz, a group powering two global payments brands. Currently sending from 50 countries to recipients in 130 countries, operating in more than 5,000 money transfer corridors worldwide, and employing over 1,200 people globally, WorldRemit is 100% digital (cashless), increasing convenience and enhancing security. On the receiving side, the company offers a wide variety of options including mobile money, bank deposit, cash collection and mobile airtime top-up.

The Fintech Times sat down with Danielle Treharne, EMEA Director (Send) at WorldRemit, to learn how the pandemic has affected remittances across the globe and how technology can be further used to help the sector:

How has the pandemic affected WorldRemit?

The pandemic has had far-reaching impacts on several industries, however, the remittance market remained resilient. According to the World Bank, remittance flows to low-and middle-income countries reached £392billion ($540billion) in 2020, just 1.6 per cent below the 2019 total of £398billion ($548billion).

On the sending side, we have seen a notable shift to online ways of transferring money, a trend that has been accelerated by covid-19. We anticipate the use of mobile money and other digital payment options will continue to grow quickly for the rest of the year and beyond.

What has been the most popular way of receiving money (bank deposit, cash collection, mobile airtime top-up, mobile money, etc.) across different regions?

There are different ways people can transfer funds across borders. With digitisation on the rise, digital remittances are becoming increasingly popular. Data from Statista shows that by 2025, there will be 15.6 million users of digital remittances.

Mobile payments, in particular, have seen a significant global uptake resulting from the pandemic. By 2023, it is predicted that there will be 1.31 billion global mobile transaction users, up from 950 million in 2019.

This strong growth in mobile money has also been reflected on the receive-side in many key corridors; for example in central Africa, the number of registered mobile money accounts grew by 100 per cent through 2016-2019, reaching almost 50 million people.

Kenya and Ghana continue to be global leaders in the mobile money market, ranking second and third, respectively, after China in highest mobile payment usage, according to a 2020 report by Boston Consulting Group. In the first half of 2021 alone, mobile money transactions in Kenya increased by 52 per cent compared to 2020. The report estimates that mobile payments revenue in Africa could rise from £2.5billion today to between £11billion and £15billion in 2025.

Meanwhile, in Uganda, the mobile money market has seen a similarly rapid uptake, reaching a transaction value of £34billion in 2020. Mobile money in Uganda has overtaken cash pick-up and bank deposits as the favoured method to receive money.

Tanzania is another leader in the African mobile money market, with 64 per cent of adults in the country using mobile phones for financial transactions. In 2020, the mobile money market in the country reached a transaction value of £59billion.

Enhanced security measures, flexibility and convenience are only some of the advantages that are drawing more and more people towards mobile payments.

Looking towards the future, we expect to see further growth in this area in the years ahead, particularly as smartphone access and usage increase globally.

A lot of people sending money overseas are sending it back as remittances. What separates WorldRemit from other cross-border platforms?

WorldRemit aims to be at the forefront of transforming the money transfer industry. The vast majority of money transfers are done offline, at neighbourhood shops and traditional money agents. These days, many people find it challenging to take time out of their busy lives to visit a money transfer agent during business hours, only to be subjected to high transfer fees. With our service, people can send support to their family and friends back home from anywhere in the world, at any time.

Unlike many of the traditional legacy players in this space, WorldRemit operates from a mobile-first approach. The digitisation of remittances means that on the sending side, we are 100% cashless, which enables our customers to transfer funds with just a few taps of their smartphones. On the receiving side, WorldRemit offers customers a wide range of options including mobile money, bank deposit, cash pick-up and airtime top-up.

We are also the leading provider of money transfers to mobile money wallets in Africa.

How does WorldRemit tailor its services to specific regions?

We currently send from 50 countries to recipients in 130 countries and operate in more than 5,000 money transfer corridors worldwide. We understand that each region is different, which is why we tailor our offering within each market to make the process and services as smooth and secure as possible. This is a priority for us in all areas in which we operate, as preferences and accessibility for how people receive funds varies market to market.

What still needs to be done in the cross-border transaction space?

We have seen an increase in global connectivity, which has further emphasised the growing economic importance of digital cross-border payments.

However, several challenges remain, such as the lack of basic infrastructure to access remittances via mobile phones and cashpoints. There needs to be collective action from both public and private sectors to ensure the right infrastructure is in place for cross border transactions to be accessible for everyone.


  • Francis is a journalist and our lead LatAm correspondent, with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

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