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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 August, 2004, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
Africans pay for living overseas
BBC Africa Live's Fiona Ledger investigates the impact of the millions of dollars sent home by African migrants living or working in the West.

Ghanaian Eddie Oyortey
Eddie sends every pound he saves back to Ghana

Eddie Oyortey is on the phone to a friend: "I need to get the money there quickly, so if you're going tomorrow, I would be really grateful if you could take it. You'll save me on bank charges."

The money in question has been earned by Eddie, the destination is Ghana, where his brother Sam is anxiously waiting for it to arrive.

Eddie is one of millions of people who live in the industrialised world, but who send their money back home.

Sending money back home is a big sacrifice, the more you send the more the relatives will expect from you.
Jude, Toronto

Close to $73bn was sent back to developing countries in the form of remittances in 2001, according to the latest figures available from the World Bank.

This amounts to just under half of all foreign investment and close to 40% more than the total amount of aid given by industrialised countries.

Developing economies

Eddie is a successful film maker and media consultant. He could be driving a fast car, and going on several holidays a year.

Eddie's brother, Sam
Sam invests the money into their farm business

But Eddie sends every pound he saves back to Ghana, where brother Sam is literally ploughing it into the land, a mango and cashew nuts farm to be precise.

They bought it as a joint venture but only see each other a couple of times a year.

The impact of the remittances that Eddie and millions of other expatriates send back to their countries is increasingly seen as a crucial factor in the growth of developing economies.

Sam and Eddies' farm, for example, employs about 10 workers, which will rise to 20 when the first big harvest comes in.

Until recently, remittances have been hard to quantify since money was sent through unofficial channels - a friend or relative.

Agent of change

Now that organisations like Western Union and major banks have set up money transfer businesses, it's possible to see the impact of this "hidden aid" in statistical terms.

US dollar notes
Money sent home can be a lifeline for whole communities

Harvard economist Professor Dev Kapur says, "Remittances are one of the most visible - and beneficial - aspects of how international migration is reshaping the countries of origin. In a variety of settings they are quietly transforming societies and regions."

Both Eddie and Sam like to see themselves as contributing to Ghana socially and economically.

"I like to think of myself, as an agent of change, an agent of development, and eventually I will retire to Ghana," says Eddie, "but I know I could never do this without Sam."

The dependence is mutual, "Without Eddie's money, a farm like this would be a non-starter for me, " says Sam.

"We have had our share of problems, but we are getting there."




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