A Call to Set Up an African Immigrant Bank
By James Butty
The Voice of America News, October 2, 2009
It is estimated that remittances to and within Africa total $40 billion dollars a year. But only a few money transfer operators have a monopoly in processing these remittances.
So how can remittance senders in the African Diaspora get more value for their money?
Senegal-born Ogo Sow, communications advisor on Diaspora Affairs for the US-based Africa Travel Association said the solution lies in the setting up of an African immigrant bank.
'The role of the African Immigrant Bank is we're going to use that as a way people sending money like transfer agencies like Western Union or Citi Bank. Why not launch an African Immigrant Bank owned by Africans?' he said.
Sow said the bank would give a big advantage to African immigrants.
'The money you're sending to your country when the dollar gets there, the people you're sending it they don't get one dollar. They get less than a dollar, and we can help to keep that money in the bank to help create health facilities in the rural areas and small jobs for the youth,' Sow said.
He said the idea of an African immigrant bank is the brainchild of the US-based Africa Travel Association (ATA).
'The mission of ATA is to promote tourism from America to Africa, and ATA come up with this idea you know the African Diaspora is there, but we don't talk about African immigrant contribution. And now we're using ATA to say we're going to work with the AU (African Union) to give this proposal to African heads of state and African bankers and also Americans who are interested to help to build that bank,' he said.
Sow said Africans in the Diaspora are equally concerned about the lack of a favorable business climate in Africa.
'If Africa wants its sons and daughters to go back to invest like just what Chinese and Jews are doing in Israel, we have a security problem there because I am not going to save my money here $10,000 or $1 million and going back put in some African country's bank and when there is a conflict I lost my money without having a guarantee,' Sow said.
He said the Diaspora will be discussing with the African Union its concerns about security and visa requirements.
'Part of the problem we're going to discuss is about security and visas. They have to do exactly like here. American people they don't need visa to go and establish in Atlanta or in Chicago or in Los Angeles,' he said.
Sow said the African Union has moved to bring about understanding between continental Africans and African Americans.
'African Americans they say the Diaspora is those Africans who were forced to leave the continent by force. And we said we are part of the Diaspora because when you leave outside of your country if it is voluntary or involuntary you become somebody who is abroad,' he said.
He said the African Union has resolved this issue by defining African Diaspora as people of African origin living outside the continent who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent.
Sow said now is the time for Africans born on the continent to bridge the divide between them and African Americans, especially with the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States.