ASC Hosts Panel on Remittances


The African Studies Center (ASC), an affiliated regional studies center of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, hosted a panel discussion on diaspora and remittances on Dec. 2.

The panel was organized based on research conducted by affiliated ASC scholars at the Boston University Center for Finance, Law and Policy (CFLP), whose report, “African Diaspora and Remittances,” was released in fall 2015. The panel was moderated by ASC visiting researcher Daivi Rodima-Taylor and John Harris of the BU Economics Department.

“The event exemplified the successful collaboration of the African Studies Center and the Center for Finance, Law and Policy. As the exploration of the topic of remittances has grown so has the collaboration, drawing on a range of scholars here at BU and in the greater Boston African studies and African communities,” said Peter Quella, Assistant Director of the African Studies Center. “We’re hopeful the work and collaboration will continue to blossom.”

The panel examined the role of the African diaspora in contributing to their communities of origin through economic and social remittances. Billions of dollars are sent in individual remittances to Africa every year, and many migrants participate in codevelopment projects. However, the remittance transfers are often costly, insecure, and their integration into local development poses major challenges.

“Tt is high time that we all recognize that “de-risking” is a misnomer. Current policies have been counter-productive for years and furnish perverse incentives leading banks to keep closing accounts of legitimate money remitters serving needy communities in fragile states undermining developmental, humanitarian, security and crime control goals as grievances grow and illicit flows go through less monitorable channels,” said Nikos Passas, one of the presenters at the panel. “This amounts to regulatory fundamentalism that must be called out and addressed by academics, civil society and policy makers.”

It’s not the only research for which the African Studies Center has recently made waves. On Dec. 3, BU Research published “Into Africa,” an article series profiling ASC-affiliated Fulbright scholars.

“Our new CFLP Policy Report discusses the contributions of the African diaspora to their homelands.  The authors suggest solutions for improving remittance transfers, capacity building of diaspora networks, and enhancing financial democracy through diaspora contributions,” said Rodima-Taylor. “But most importantly, it features contributions from the African diaspora members who discuss the cultural and social significance of remitting – as an act of spiritual investment creating wealth of a more durable kind.”

From the text of the article:

For many decades, Boston University’s African Studies Center (ASC) has produced top scholars in the field. Now part of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, the ASC trains students in multiple African languages and academic disciplines. In the last two years, eleven BU doctoral students have conducted field research in Africa through the ASC, with eight of them funded by Fulbright or Fulbright-Hays grants. This report introduces three of these student researchers who traveled to three southern African countries in 2015.

You can read the entire article series here.

‘‘Considering the huge African Diasporas living in the United States and beyond, remittances play an increasingly greater role in improving the livelihood of recipients while positively impacting economies of receiving nations,” said Frezer Ayalew, BU Humphrey Fellow, National Bank of Ethiopia. “Yet, in order to harness this immense potential, lowering transaction fees, relaxing stringent regulatory hurdles imposed on financial institutions and Money Transfer Operators, and seeking opportunities for a productive investment of the remitted money should be the primary focus areas.  The panel provided a very insightful and useful discussion of these issues.”

Earlier in the fall, Rodima-Taylor joined Pardee School Associate Dean William Grimes to discuss remittances at the International Monetary Fund. Read about the event here.