‘Reduce Remittance Fees to One Percent’

Haja, who works and lives in London, used to receive money from her parents when she was studying in France. She tells IOM UK that now it is now her turn to send remittances and support members of her extended family and that it is too expensive to send money.

Sending remittances is not a tradition or a cultural thing, but helping others financially is a responsibility. People in my family who are financially more comfortable will always take care of those relatives who need help.

Even when I was a student, I had to meet that responsibility. It is funny, but sometimes when my parents sent me money in France and I then remitted it to my relatives, even though my parents could have sent the money directly to them. But this is how it works. My parents helped some members of the family and I contributed to the wellbeing of some others. It wasn’t obligatory, but I wanted to do it.

I was born and grew up in Mali and, also Guinea, before leaving at the age of 18 to study in France. After completing undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Nice, I came to London to pursue another master’s degree. Coming from a nomadic family, I was used to moving often. The UK is now the country where I’ve stayed the longest.

I fell in love with London the minute I arrived and I really felt at home, even though I had a French education in West Africa. Initially, when I moved from Nice to London, it was very difficult and my family had to provide substantial financial support. Even then, I knew I had to give back to my family. I have a massive family and we are scattered all over the world. There is always a member of our family who is in need so we divide the responsibility amongst ourselves. 

Now that I am a working adult, I can contribute more and I am helping my siblings. I am the oldest of seven siblings. I regularly support my parents and siblings in West Africa.  Three of my siblings are studying in America and Canada, and they need to be helped with their expenses.

Since part of our family was displaced from North Mali when it was occupied by extremists, my contributions have become even more vital. To be honest, while my wage in London is reasonable, every month, I do feel the hardship because of these responsibilities. I sacrifice a lot.

When I was in France, I used an informal channel to send money home. I just gave my money to someone in Paris who would give it to someone in Mali. In the UK, I started sending money using World Remit and now, I am using Azimo. It takes two or three days to send money through online operators, but it is really simple and much cheaper.

When I think about the people that I send money to, I know that they would have not benefited from other funds or international aid. I remit to more than 12 people per year and I can’t stop thinking how much more they could get if the fees were not so high. Intra-African transactions are even costlier; my dad pays exorbitantly high amounts when he sends money from Congo to Mali.

While one of the SDG goals is to decrease the fees to 3 per cent, I feel that this is not ambitious enough. I wish we could reduce it to 1 per cent.