In these days when people are becoming increasingly attracted by the lure of the proverbial ‘greener pastures’ in more developed countries, it is not uncommon to find families that have been ‘separated’ because one of the spouses has travelled abroad in search of better opportunities and income to take care of the family’s needs.
More often than not, it is the husband that undertakes this adventure, but increasingly we are also finding wives who brave the odds and make the plunge, ostensibly in a bid to seek the ever-elusive ‘foreign exchange’ that can presumably ensure a better life for their families.
As soon as the spouse who travels abroad has settled down and is lucky enough to start earning some reasonable income, the next step is to think of ways of making remittances back home to support the family left behind. At this point, the marriage has become, to all intents and purposes, a long-distance marriage.
For many of such families, the absentee spouse then becomes the major source of financial support, either perennially, or until such a time as the spouse back home is able to start a small business to augment the income from overseas.
Families which are forced to live apart for this reason invariably have to rely on International Money Transfer Organizations (IMTOs) such as Western Union, to facilitate seamless remittances from their bread winners across long distances and borders.
That is the story of Mrs. Lucky Imomotimi, a Nigerian housewife and mother whose husband moved from Nigeria to the US ten years ago in search of better opportunities, leaving her alone with five children to fend for.
Here is her story as told in her own words: “I am a full time Nigerian housewife, with five children. I have been using Western Union for the past ten years. My husband works in the US, where he produces T-shirts.
When he got there he called me and said that he wanted to be using Western Union for his money transfers. I asked, why ? He replied that it was easier for him to use. That has been my experience too. It is the money he sends to me through Western Union that I use to pay the children’s school fees, the house rent, and to meet other family needs.
“What he was not able to learn or achieve here he has been able to achieve in the US. I am proud of my husband. He is a loving, caring husband, and a good friend to me and the children. The children they are so happy, at times immediately I receive a text they will say: ‘Mummy you have a text’. They will not ask if it is daddy. They will ask: ‘Is it Western Union?’, Lucky added.
Lucky is one of the millions of happy beneficiaries of money transfer services offered by companies like Western Union. By dealing with such a reputable international company, with strong global footprints and a track record of quality service delivery, Lucky’s husband is at least rest assured that any money he sends to his wife will be delivered promptly and safely. And he has a ten-year-old testimonial to back that up.
The World Bank migration and remittance brief states that Nigeria is the largest remittance market in Africa and 5th in the world. And according to the statement issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria on the occasion of the licensing of 21 new IMTOs in early November 2016, diaspora remittances constitute the second highest source of foreign exchange for Nigeria after crude oil sales, accounting for as much as $21 billion in 2015 alone. That figure is expected to rise up to about $35 billion in 2016.
More than 195 countries and territories sent money into Nigeria, and 160 received money from Nigeria in 2015, reflecting the extraordinary global connections brought about by the rise in migration of Nigerians to many parts of the world.
As the undisputed market leader in the IMTO space in Nigeria, Western Union plays a key role in delivering value, not just to its individual customers, but also to the larger Nigerian economy in two critical ways.
First, it helps to strengthen the government’s policy of financial inclusion, as the recipients in Nigeria would be forced to open bank accounts and therefore be officially captured in the formal banking sector.
They would be required to have a bank account, mobile wallet account or even a virtual account to receive transferred money. These conditions would expose them to financial services and increase their demand for payment accounts – be they banks, mobile or electronic.
The second way is that the increased ease, convenience and reduced cost which Western Union offers is gradually easing out the options of informal processes of sending money through travelers, purchases, etc.
More Nigerians abroad are requesting their family and friends at home to open bank accounts, mobile money wallets and get their remittances directly instead of through third parties that might fail to deliver.
This also creates a banking record for the receiver who could use the record to access other financial products such as credits, health insurance, etc. Also, given that bank account penetration in Nigeria is not as high as is mobile penetration, mobile wallets and services could be leveraged to drive financial access amongst the unbanked and underbanked.
Western Union has operated in Nigeria for over twenty years, and considers the country as one of the most connected in the world when it comes to sending and receiving money.
From a single location with the First Bank of Nigeria in the heart of Lagos in 1996, Western Union has expanded its walk-in location count to over 5,200, with a presence in every one of Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja).
The company’s focus on channel diversification also allows Nigerians to receive money into 2.2 million mobile wallets and into more that 50 million bank accounts. This network connects Nigerians, no matter the distance between them and the world.