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Last Updated: Friday, 20 August, 2004, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Do you send money home?
US dollar notes
Money sent home can be a lifeline for whole communities
One of the ways that money enters poor regions of the world, including Africa, is in the form of remittances, sent back by immigrant workers in the industrialised world.

Money sent home to relatives adds up to billions of dollars each year.

The sum is thought to exceed the amount of economic aid given by rich countries to poor countries by more than quarter.

In Ghana, for instance, remittance money is a key factor in new businesses. In Somalia, money sent home is a lifeline for whole communities.

Often, the people who earn the money in countries like Britain and the US make huge personal sacrifices for the families back home.

Africa Live is asking:

Does sending money back home hold you back in your new life? How does your family spend your money? Are you seen as a bottomless pit?

Or have remittances changed your life? Have you become too dependent on relatives working abroad?

Let us know using the form on the right.


And join in with the Africa Live! debate on Wednesday 25th August at 16:30GMT on the BBC World Service and if you want to contribute include your phone number.

This debate has just been published. A selection of your emails will appear below.

It is always different from person to person, but to me it is a privilege that I feel happy and honored to make. I passed through many helping hands to be who I am today, that makes my contribution to those in need at home a necessary part of my life.
Bernard Z. M., New York, USA (Tanzania)

Africa, plagued by perpetual wars and failed economies, must be thankful to its citizenry abroad. While most of the continent's politicians and business sectors have allied with the multi-nationals to milk Africa of its resources, her sons and daughters have relentlessly been remitting money back home to offset the damage. In war-torn Sierra Leone and Liberia for example, the collapse of the government-run banking system was taken over and managed by privately owned financial institutions which depended on remittances from abroad. Because of the internet, the system has become less expensive, and also the most reliable way to support relatives in need and gain foreign exchange for the country.
Dr Manso James Sesay, Hyattsville, USA

I don't send money to Kenya, but I have seen my friends do it. Those that they send money too cannot even look for a job in Kenya. Always waiting for that cash and complaining it is not enough while my friends go through sleepless nights working to get it.
Mike Njuguna, Baltimore Md

Some of our relatives are selfish and that is the bare truth. They want to spend more than they can afford.
Papa Amuah, Calgary, AB, Canada
As a graduate student, after paying for my fees, books and living expenses, I am usually left with about $100 Canadian dollars. I know my parents are retired and do not earn much so my next thing is to put a portion of this small amount aside for them. But some of my siblings assume that I have too much and I am not helping them. Even though they are all gainfully employed. Some just want a mobile phone, meanwhile they do not do any business that requires a mobile phone. If you say it, they tell me they have to keep in touch. In touch with who? Some of our relatives are selfish and that is the bare truth. They want to spend more than they can afford. This puts too much pressure on my studies as a result, because I am sometimes forced to feel guilty, even though I know there is no justification for me to feel guilty. I wish all Ghanaians who want to travel will be given VISAs so that they come and experience the life here. Seriously I am sure very few will be able to survive judging by the way they want to spend but do not want to work.
Papa Amuah, Calgary, AB, Canada

Sending money home does not hold me back. My well-being in life doesn't mean anything if my relatives back home are struggling for basic necessities. If they are a little better with the little that I can send them, then I am happy; to me that's progress.
Temwa, Uk

I regularly send money to relatives back home. One could say sending money to relatives culd be a draw back on the new life, but rewards are worth it. Relatives back at home sometimes depend on these remittances for their life-lines. Some may see the source as a bottomless pit, but a great majority really have the need.
Jakamser Jakodondi, Dallas, TX

I am a Liberian-American residing in Germany. I send money almost every month to refugee relatives in Guinea. However, most of them don't realize how difficult is it to acquire those money. So they kept asking for more and more every day. I am fed up and I'm about to take some drastic actions.
Alieu Swaray, stuttgart, Germany

Their level of ingratitude is beyond measure. In their time of need -- which is always -- every effort is made to contact you. But as soon as the funds are received, you will neither receive a call or letter from them saying thank you. And when you complain about their ingratitude the response would be "Don't you know that your mates over there are building big houses and sending back cars and you want me to worship you because of the small amount you gave me." Meanwhile, some of them have two mobile phones registered to them. They have no idea the things you deny yourself in order to send funds to them. For instance, avoid eating out; temporarily suspend paying bills. I wonder what they would do if the shoe was on the other foot?
Okey, Boston, USA

I came to the United States to change my life and my family's lives. When I arrived in the US, things weren't the way I anticipated and everything I earned, I spent it back home to change my people lives. This has gone on for many years, and I realized that family problems can never be solved if you're the only one. Otherwise, my money sent will be like looking for water on a desert or giving a ripe banana to a monkey. Families problems aren't one man's burden.
George, Harper, Liberia/USA

Sending money back home is a big sacrifice, the more you send the more the relatives will expect from you.
Jude, Toronto, Canada
Sending money back home is a big sacrifice, the more you send the more the relatives will expect from you. When you tell them how much you make, they translate it to local currency and think you are living life large, not taking into consideration the cost of living here, the taxes that are deducted out of your weekly paycheck and the necessities that you must deal with such as rent, phone, internet, and other bills. In the end you find that the money you send them makes them live a better life than you who is sending the money. But it's in our nature as Africans to help and live by sharing.
Jude, Toronto, Canada

We are the equivalent of the social security support program for our people especially for our aging parents. Yes,I do send money home and they look forward to it as a source of lifelihood.
Chukwuma Umeana, Atlanta, Ga

Sending money to relatives in Cameroon/Africa is more or less a noble deed and duty for most of us out of Africa.Those friends and relatives who have received such remittances have for the most part put it to good use. There is no question that there are abuses. There is also no question that some of our relatives consider us bottomless pits. These notwithstanding, the question is what would these folks do. One fundamental reason why we must keep sending these remittances is the lack of employment and restrictive government policies (taxes) which cripple entrepreneurship.
Levai Babaya, Minnesota, USA

I am a US citizen but have been sending money to relatives of a refugee friend who is unable to send money himself. I can only afford to send $50 per month and $100 for school fees each term. The grandmother and cousin I send money to are displaced Sudanese living in Nairobi. I feel privileged to be able to help them with food rent and school fees. I hope to one day be able to meet these people and be able to sit, talk and share a meal together.
Ted Jindrich, Chicago

Well in my case I tend to send money to my folks back home as I need to help them out with everyday things. They may not get enough money to support them. At times the money may not be used wisely but I try to make sure I tell them that the money sent wasn't picked from the tree.. it was worked for.
Sandra , Stockholm

I send money home twice a month (every pay cheque) to feed a whole family in which none is employed.Without my remittances i wonder if they will survive. It weighs down heavily on us here in the US as we have to file for income tax.Worst still, it is difficult to account for the money we send back home.I think the West should allow immigration to enable potential immigrants to work and reduce poverty in the developing world.Total aid to the developing world is far less than the $75 billion remitted to families every year,with the bulk coming from America.
Mohamed Sesay, Sierra Leonean/USA

Yes, I send money home to South Africa. I know they need it more than I do and it is so much nicer to give than to receive.
chris, Vacouver, Canada

Of course, that is what African's life is about. " A sharing circle"
Mecano, Canada

No doubt for me sending money home is one of the key factor that holds back my progress in my adopted country. Each month I send $1000 US dollar, which is half of my monthly income. With current political instability and civil war engulfing my motherland of Somalia, I have no doubt for me the process of sending a share of my wages to my relatives and family will be an infinite one unless peace is established so that people can fend for the themselves through business among other avenues.
Rashad, New Zealand

Since I came to the US in November 2003 I have sent more than $3,000 to my relatives and friends in Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa.The war in Sudan has made many families vulnerable and some people are not able to help themselves. The US sounds like a heaven for those who have not ever visited it. If you do not help your friends or relatives when you are in US or Europe, you are called a useless person and therefore you will immediately lose respect from your own community back home. When I return home, I don't want people to look at me as a simple and poor man who comes to America and goes back to Africa with an empty hand.
Peter Tuach, Sudanese, USA

I count it a blessing to be placed in the position by God to help
Roland S. Weah, Liberian in the US
I count it a blessing to be placed in the position by God to help. It is my obligation considering the many sacrifices my parents, friends and relatives have made for me. If I were earning more, and not only working to pay bills, I would have send more money back home bring relief to my people. Once I have sent the money, it becomes the prerogative of the recipients how to use it. They are not taking advantage of me, they are understanding and respect me for helping. They are constantly praying for me.
Roland S. Weah, Liberian in the US

I used to sent money to my family some years ago but I stopped doing that. Why? It is because sending money to my family will not help them since they will depend on me and they may not work to support themselves. Working abroad without a skill cannot really support both my family back in war-torn Sudan and myself here. I told them that I have to finish my education so that I will one day help them in different ways. I am searching for long lasting life, not a life of sending money to my family regularly.
Peter Dut Angon, Sudanese/ USA

Every month, I do wire close to $500 US dollars to Mogadishu, Nairobi and Addis Ababa. I work at least 10 hours a day and go to college full time. I can't save any money at all and sadly my immediate family members and other relatives have no clue of my sufferings and sacrifices. They are not even grateful. To them; I am just doing an obligation. If I sent less or delay the money wiring, I am being bombarded with pleas. I am aware that some of this hard earned money is spent on Qat purchases or spent fortuitously on unwarranted stuff.
Shaair Mohamed Shaair, Minneapolis, USA

Remittances are good for the families that get them. However, they distort the true economic picture of developing countries. In Ghana, people are receiving remittances mostly because of hardships and poverty, and it is not because people have so much confidence to invest.The remittances are consumed on daily needs. Money being consumed will not actually expand the economy in any way, since majority of the consumption is on foreign imported items. This distortion creates the danger, as government conveniently manipulates these numbers with respect to remittances to support non-existent or poor policies locally for job growth and economic well-being.The reality is, it sets the person remitting back financially. They are never able to achieve anything substantial in terms of personal investment or financial security.
Folson, Ako, Ghanaian, in USA

This is the best way to assist our poor deprived African countries. As a Kenyan-American, I have sent money to Kenya to a figure exceeding $20,000 over my nine-year stay here in America. The money is hard-earned, involved working 16 hours a day, and use of a self-depriving strategy. Sending money home is tradition,perharps the only better alternative that cushions the effects caused by a lack of slavery reparations by rich western countries.
Mukabi Wa Giathi, Atlanta, USA

The money I send home is seen as an investment. The money I send to my family in Zimbabwe goes a long way in propping the Zimbabwean economy.
Faraieverett Magagula, Pretoria, South Africa

It is good that Africans are not selfish but remember their folks back home. However, most folks nearly always let their people down spending the money lavishly and not using them for the purposes for which they were sent. This has left many people abroad despondent. Governments need to create more incentives for people who remit home
Kwame Amankwa, Uk

My happiest moments are when my relatives say thank you to me after receiving what I have sent
Lawrence Bangura, Chester, North West England
I send money to my father, mother, three of my sisters and two of my brothers and their children once or twice every month. To me it is an obligation which i have to honour and my happiest moments are when my relatives say thank you to me after receiving what I have sent. We have a saying in my tribe, Temne, that God chooses one or two people in a family and gives them all he would given to the entire family. Although some of them, especially my brothers and sisters, do not spend it wisely, I am still always happy to send whatever little I can afford.
Lawrence Bangura, Chester, North West England

The issue of money transfer has been a problem.issues like (1) trust;(2) remittance of funds in currency sent;and (3) appropriate exchange rate upon remittance if local currency of receiver's country needs to be thoroughly trashed to enhance smooth transaction.
Okpala Odilichukwu Ralueke, Enugu State,Nigeria

I think that those Nigerians abroad are trying their best. But sending money back home and building houses. Coming back with cars and riches have encouraged many young ones to have only one dream. Leave the country for abroad. It does not matter how. But leave and try it out.
Johnson, Lagos Nigeria

I am not allowed to work because I am an asylum seeker, but I manage to save 50 percent of the weekly allowance, that is 37 pounds given to me by the government, and try to survive on that. Guess what happens to the other half? It goes directly to my parents at the end of every month. I feel good about that, I feel very proud of myself and I feel that I am helping someone else. I am happy to be of some help to my parents.
Micheal, Uk

Sending money back home does not hold me back in my new life. Instead, it give me a significant moral boost knowing that I am taking care of my old parents who sacrificed all their life and loved me unconditionally. Whatever amount I send to them determines their life and their spending. At times, they tell me not to send any so I can focus on my school but in my heart, I know they need it. I believe making personal sacrifices for my family is my duty and it makes me a better person, son, African and/or Muslim. At the end of the day, I am confident that I have "done well" and "been there" for my family.
Haji Omar, MN, USA

It is good to receive Western Union or Vigo and others from relatives residing abroad. It is easy in UK and US or developed world to make money.I always complain to my sister in UK so that she can send money to me. So I know it is easy in UK. I am not working right now, although I graduated from polytechnic three years ago and I want to go to London or America for greener pasture as my sister is making money in Britain. Stela Akanji lagos
Stela Akanji, Lagos Nigeria

It has never been a burden to do so, in fact by giving, we remain free of greed and materialism. Our families appreciate the gifts and are better off because of it, but they do not see as as 'owing' them or as an inexhaustible source.
Nickie, Dallas, Us

There is a feeling of self worth when you help impoverished relatives back home. At the same time, there is anger and frustration when you are not being appreciated or being used and abused.
They are financially undisciplined and spend money like there is no tomorrow
Foday Kamara, Sterling, Virginia, US
There are certain relatives of mine who assumes I owe them just for living in the West. I sometimes become the recipient of blame when things go wrong financially. It is blasphemy to tell them I also encounter monetary problems because for them, I am not supposed to be broke. But they are financially undisciplined and spend money like there is no tomorrow. However, all that came to an end when one of them told me that "the family's" problems are more desperate than those of my wife. She freaked me out to the point where I had to request a change of my telephone number. Now, I am in control of my destiny: I don't call too often, I spend less time with them on the phone, enough to say "there is money at the forex, pick it up and good bye".
Foday Kamara, Sterling, Virginia, US

What I send to my is my entire allowance. Since I'm a student, who's got a sponsor here in USA and not allowed to work off campus, this is a burden. Above all I understand that they are in need of money and I know the situation and every day life that they're living in. The little I can give provides them with decent living. I made a promise in my life that I'll propel everything for their sake, the whole family is unemployed and I'm their breadwinner. I know they spend the money wisely and they are always aware not to hurt my feelings. Moreover, I know that my support and loyalty to them will win me more success and blessings in life. My advice to those who send money to their families is "keep on doing it, it's a right thing to do." Thank you.
Teko Nhlapo, South African -Texas(USA)

Sending money back home does hold you back, but,it is worth every bit of it. Our parents and guardians, suffer and struggle tremendously to take total care of you. At this point if you are fortunate enough to make it to the industrialised world, you owe them every attention, be it moral or financial. I am held within the family circle as a hero, and a life long one. When the words "May Allah bless, guide,direct and protect you", is showered on you from your parents, I bet you will prefer that to being a millionaire.
Ibrahim Tunkara Jr., Philadelphia, Pa

Even though we are making a big sacrifices to send money back home But we get satisfactions by doing so to be able to help our mothers and all our family members. Actually before I read this Africa Live, we were thinking to send money back home to Ethiopia for Ethiopian New Year's holiday for my mother and my wife's family. We know that they spend the money not wisely but who cares? It is a holiday after all and we want all the family to eat a very good food and dress nice cloth to celebrate.
Mathewos Sebehato, Canada

The money some of us send home from long hours of work here is the what keeps some families from living from hand to mouth at home in Nigeria. The oil boom was a curse in retrospect.
Jimi, Delaware USA

My brothers are in the UK and the US. They do send some money but it should not the only lifeline to our family even though money sent here has made a significant contribution to our development. It is important to note that African immigrants want to develop their economies at home and then come back and lead a better life but most countries have made it difficult for people to work. They should allow people from poor countries to work and uplift their economies. All in all money from this countries have helped a great deal in most families across Africa.
Zumabiko, Cape Town, South Africa

Almost all Eritreans are depending on the money we send home and not to mention that 3% of all we earn goes to in the hands of the dictator in Asmara.
Selenom Issayas, Rome, Italia

Talk about having a millstone around one's neck! Sacrifice should be for one's own sake.
Charles, Montreal, Canada

I came to the US last year and already I have done alot to improve the lives of my family and friends living there in poor Guinea. I personally take it as a pride to help those that are in need. If we all here in the developed world can do something to help our people in Africa then I`m sure we can make a big difference.
Abdulai Bah, Washington,DC USA

Sending money to my immediate family in Zimbabwe is a survival issue for them. Gone are the days when they wanted me to return home and look for work there. Supporting them makes me feel like I have not lost my heritage. I still do not feel at home in the USA. It is a personal sacrifice to send money back home, but it is a necessary evil. With EU economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, the money sent helps to buy fuel, medicine, food and keeps the country going. Unfortunately, money from Africans abroad is taken for granted and not counted as foreign investment. This must change.
Anon. Zimbabwean/USA

Pensioners like my folks are not looked after by the state, unlike the UK
Babafad, London, UK
Sending money back home to my folks, who are now in their 70s, gives me no end of joy. Back in their day, my folks were not the richest parents in the world, but they made sure that I had everything kids of my age would have. In Nigeria in particular, pensioners like my folks are not looked after by the state, unlike the UK. The money that is being received from the likes of us who live abroad goes a long way in maintaining their lifestyle during retirement. My parents have told me to not over stretch myself by sending money to them, but to concentrate on bringing up my own family. Easier said than done! Until the likes of Obasanjo address the situation of pensions and assists the elderly, the likes of myself will always send money home.
Babafad, London, UK

The real beneficiaries are Western Union and other money transfer agencies. They set their own exchange rates usually much lower than the prevailing market rates and then charge more than fifteen percent for transfer fees. It is grossly unjust as those sending the money often have to work very hard under difficult conditions. African governments should do something about this.
Uchenna Osigwe, Saskatoon, Canada (Nigerian)

Money sent back home is a necessity. It supports people who probably have nothing, however, when you start, you can't stop. The recipients will always want more, whatever circumstances you find yourself in. What starts out as a goodwill gesture turns into a tight collar around your neck
Francis, London, UK

My brother in England has paid for my BSc degree in Economics that I have just completed at the University of Zimbabwe. I do not have the burden of paying back a government loan. He is also trying to set me up as a poultry producer so that I don't have to keep looking for jobs that are not available. If everything goes to plan, the project should be self sustaining in two years. My ultimate ambition is to train as a Mathematics and Economics teacher in high school. We do not have enough technically trained people due to the brain drain. The political environment will have to change if people like me are needed to stay in the country instead of joining our compatriots in the Diaspora.
Brian Ngoshi, Murehwa, Zimbabwe

I am the only bread winner in my family and the only son. My mother and two sisters live in West Africa and they are totally dependent on me as none of them are employed. Dad passed away when I was 19 and I have assumed his financial responsibility ever since. I originally came to the U.S as a student and worked in low income jobs. Now that I have a new family here, I find myself supporting two families. I honestly cannot imagine how my sisters and mother would manage without me being here in the US.
Mustapha Hydara, Seattle, U.S.A

Often the money I work hard for is wasted on non-essential things
Sylvie, Finland / Cameroon
Europe is seen by the people back home as a place where money lies in the streets. Africans who make it to Europe, often via illegal routes, are too proud to admit that they are suffering and paint a rosy picture to those back home. Those back home remain blind and deaf to the truth and will only see and hear the few who return laden with wealth (often from crime or prostitution). As a result, the demands made on those who live in Europe are totally unrealistic. I am happy to support my siblings at school and my family if they fall ill, but it is never enough. Often the money I work hard for is wasted on non-essential things. The most distant relatives will contact you with requests for televisions, cars and expensive mobile phones. I do not even have a car myself. Rather than believe me when I tell them that life is not so easy here, they assume that I must be favouring other family members in secret. This is a lie which causes strife within the family that could lead to violence. The media should portray Europe as Africa is usually shown, with an emphasis on poverty and the difficulties of life.
Sylvie, Finland / Cameroon

I send money home and it feels very rewarding to be able to help my family in Nigeria. I feel elevated when I see my parents move into a new house which they have always dreamed of through my help. To know that a well has been created so that neighbours can fetch safe drinking water from our compound is to give something back to the helpless. My siblings are setting up businesses to help their kids - this is the satisfaction I have always wanted. I don't see them as a bottomless pit, as they are very cooperative and always spend every penny I give them wisely.
Anon. Uk

I have a very close family whom I send money to. I think it is our duty to look after our close family but not the extended family. I was the last son of the three children of our parent. My dad died when I was six and my mother and sister contributed to my secondary education. It is therefore right and proper for them to expect a return on their investment. My family however, understands the rule governing our relationship, that nobody makes demands on me and I will give what I can when I can afford it. We have no social services that cater for the elderly, young children or unemployed in Nigeria. I invited my sister to London and she really appreciated the fact that money does not grow in the streets of London.
Adams Dauda, London, Uk

Sending money home doesn't hold me back because I make enough. How they spend the money becomes irrelevant when I see the joy on their faces. I Love doing it.
Mal Dehenre, Laurel, USA

It is good to send money as long as it help to solve key financial issues. It is a stress releasing experience to know that the family is doing better due to your contribution.
Georges Manfouo, Uganda/Cameroon

I am a Kenyan trying to go to school and faced with the responsibility of supporting those back home. Those at home are not prudent with the money and seem to have endless projects that never materialise. It feels like a waste when they don't use the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty. I hope that one day it dawns on my family that I am really sacrificing a lot to send them money. I would love to finish my degree, but at this rate it will take a decade.
Peninnah Wanjeri, Boston, Massachusetts. USA

When I moved from Nigeria in 1997 to the United States, sending money home to my parents became an important habit I cultivated in order to help them maintain their standard of living. I did this religiously for about five years until I lost my dad in 2001 and then my mum in 2002. Doing this can be very stressful because I've had to drain my pocket and work extra hard in order to meet my personal commitments as well as sending money. Occasionally, I receive phone calls from friends and distant relatives demanding mostly unnecessary financial assistance. The irony is, some of those asking for such help are sometimes successful individuals who have no need for financial help. Now I always think twice before venturing into any financial obligations with anyone back home.
Tope, USA

Western nations should just simplify the remittance system so that Africans can work and send money home.
Anon. US
I send money regularly back to my family in Ethiopia, sometimes as little as $100, sometimes as large as $1,000 at least once a month. $100 saved here is 900 birr invested in Ethiopia for renovating the house, sending the children to school or even starting a small business. I trust their judgement despite certain disagreements that can occur. Disagreements can always be worked out, especially when one becomes the source of funds. I believe my family will in turn stimulate the internal economy of the country more than any aid agency can do with millions of funds. Aid agencies are simply blinded by their need to help but rarely know exactly what is needed to create an economy that can withstand itself. As radical as it might sound, aid agencies should just leave Africa and western nations should just simplify the remittance system so that Africans can work and send money home. Western nations will be able to save their funds while at the same time benefit from cheap labour imported from Africa. Business infrastructures will emerge and build up in Africa as the people will get more funds in their pockets. Eventually, if a stable economy develops in Ethiopia, I will move back or I will stop encouraging my friends to move to Europe and the US. The west want the labour and we want a piece of the big economic pie that Americans and Europeans have come to enjoy for over two centuries.
Anon. US




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