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A Brief History of Remittances and Immigration in Senegal

Senegal houses many wonders such as a village made of seashells, a pink lake called Retba, and jollof rice. So, it is no wonder the West African country is also home to over 260,000 immigrants.

Dakar, the country’s capital and socioeconomic focal point, is a popular hub for migrant workers. However, this trend has flipped in the past 30 years due to economic adversity, with Senegalese citizens now being the ones to migrate.

Yet, the Senegalese are resourceful people, currently fighting back deforestation with agroforestry and poverty with remittances.

Senegal’s relationship with immigration

With 60% of the population being younger than 25, a case could be made that Senegal counts with a solid incoming workforce. Yet, the dire economic circumstances and limited job opportunities have left the dependency ratio at 85%, meaning almost the entire population depends on somebody else financially.

This is one of the main reasons that motivate migration as Senegalese adults need better job opportunities. At the same time, deforestation has displaced many given than 70% of citizens live in rural areas and live off the land.

As to be expected, France is a popular destination for migrants of their former colony, with Marseille becoming a Senegalese hub thanks to the many who joined the French colonial army and later found work in the city.

Other popular choices for migrants are Italy and Spain, for their job opportunities in agriculture and hospitality, the United States, and neighboring countries in West Africa.

Even though 1.2% of the Senegalese population has left their home country in search of something more, immigrants from Guinea (39%), Mauritania (15%), and Guinea-Bissau (11%) still find opportunities around Dakar.

The impact of remittances in Senegal

In 2018, Senegal received an estimated US$2.69 billion in remittances, representing 13% of the country’s GDP.

Remittance-receiving households in Senegal have an increased income of close to 60% compared to those who don’t receive funds from abroad.

These numbers are important given that, according to data compiled by the IOM Dakar Office, 50% of remittances are used for day to day expenses, 25% for savings and 20% for real estate investments. The other 5% goes to productive investment, but it could be argued that a higher volume of foreign income could garner bigger investment budgets.

Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa need better access to remittance services, and this can only be accomplished if competition is encouraged in the region. Exclusivity deals restrict the number of providers, increasing prices and hindering the reach of remittances.

Ria’s presence in Senegal

Malick Seck, Ria’s Managing Director for Africa, is a forerunner and advocate for sustainable remittance services in his native Senegal. Based in our Dakar hub, Seck travels the world spreading his passion for financial inclusion and development in Africa. His latest appearances have been at the Africa Remittances Confex in London and the Global Money Transfer Summit in Cape Town.

“Senegalese people, like their African brothers, are economic warriors. They are the ones pushing for change, boosting the country’s economy and bringing business back to Senegal,” Seck shared. “As managing director, I focus on the fight against exclusivity deals and looking for innovative ways to connect Africans with their loved ones, especially those who live in remote areas and have limited access to financial facilities.”

Orange Money is our newest service to Senegal, which allows our customers’ beneficiaries to receive money through Orange’s mobile wallet, granting access to remittances to those who live far from banks, post offices or Ria locations.

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