Of Interest to Diaspora

MONEY
Last week i happened to catch a great report on NPR about Latin American immigrants preferring to move to Spain instead of the US. Why? Because…

Experts say one of the main reasons is the emergence of an entire industry of financial services catering to immigrants.

Ecuadorians are the biggest group of Latin Americans in Spain. And in Madrid and Barcelona, there are shops where they can pay for appliances and have them delivered to an address in Ecuador. One company is test-marketing ATMs that allow users to pay for grocery purchases, medical treatment or cell phones in Ecuador.

Lucia Jimenez recently visited a branch of Mundocredit, an immigrant bank set up by one of Spain’s largest banks. It offers no-commission money transfers and the option of getting a mortgage in Spain for a home in Latin America.

Jimenez said that she is thinking about getting life insurance that she can eventually take back to her native country, Paraguay.

I found this very instructive to Diaspora because remittances to developing countries are constituting a growing percentage of GDP, as evidenced by figures from around the world. Specifically about kenya, from Next billion, some stats

Kenyans in the diaspora are contributing an equivalent of 3.8 per cent of national income through remittances.

In the year 2004, for instance, Kenyans living and working abroad remitted about Ksh35 billion ($464 million), which overshadows the net foreign direct investment (FDI) of Ksh3.6 billion ($50.4 million), which accounted for 0.41 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Point is, there is an opportunity to cater for immigrants in the financial services like the Spanish government is doing for the Ecuadorian immigrants. Its a powerful incentive to bank with a specific bank over another if a line of credit specifically for investment in one’s home country, and portable life insurance is available. There are myriad financial products for sending money but i am not aware of similar products for purchase of homes, cars etc in one’s home country. I have heard of people accessing the equity in their houses and using that to purchase homes in Kenya. I am not a finance wonk, but would appreciate input from those in the know.

COMMUNICATION
mama mikes
As noted by KP, Mama Mikes is running a campaign where you send airtime for $2.49 to Celtel, Safaricom and Telkom Wireless too. You can also pay for an electricity bill right on the website. It cost $9.99 – Decent price in my opinion.

CIVIC PARTICIPATION
If you aren’t checking mzalendo.com for information regarding your constituency, i am tempted to call you a bootleg Kenyan. I am just kidding of course, but seriously, there is lots of information there to stay informed even if you are miles away.

The Kenya Community Abroad issued a press release regarding the issue of Dual Citizenship and absentee voting, which you can read more about here. The world as we know (sorry to extend the much used cliche’) is increasingly flat. Dual citizenship and absentee voting IMO would be beneficial if not integral to Kenya. The inflow of remittance shouldn’t be the only welcome development, civic participation should be too. Mid last year I do recall Kalonzo Musyoka saying that if he were to become president of Kenya, that he would pass a presidential decree to allow for Dual citizenship. He even joked that if the Artur’s had Kenyan passports in addition to their Armenian ones, then really, isn’t it about time Kenyans got dual citizenship?

MUSIC, BOOKS AND ART.
There are still concerts happening around the US by African musicians, you can check if there is one near your city here. Ladysmith Black Mambazo is touring in September and Hugh Masekela’s remaining dates are:
Aug 31 2007 Tanglewood Festival, Lennox, Massachusetts
Sep 1 2007 Planet Arlington Festival, Arlington, Virginia
Sep 2 2007 African Festival of the Arts, Chicago, Illinois

Chris Abani, whose TED Talk is posted and highlighted by Hash, has several upcoming events in NY, Chicago, Vegas, DC, Minneapolis, Vermont, Miami etc. Check here if there is an event near you. I am hoping to read one of his books before i go for one of his events. His talk was very powerful. I recall just being transfixed by him when i listened to him in Arusha and again online. Particularly the part where he says that we as Africans need to explore what it really means to be African. I am simplifying a bit, but what i got from his talk is that we Africans also need to read our own literature in our exploration of who we are. I recall a post by David Seruyange about how some, if not most of us are mashups (David Seruyange has moved websites btw, so if you are a fan of his writing like I am, this is his new home), there is so much competing for our attention, but i think in order to be fully African (if there is such a thing) African arts, books and music help reconnect your being to that which is immutably you.

Move over Lion King! The Invincible Lions are the new game in town (scratch that…jungle).
Invincible Lions by Pictoon
Some great animations from Africa, click here for a post by Mweshi, highlighting some cool ones in the pipeline. I can’t wait to see these!

4 thoughts on “Of Interest to Diaspora

  1. That NPR piece is all over the place, and this??? : Experts say one of the main reasons is the emergence of an entire industry of financial services catering to immigrants.

    Excuse me a moment… {cough}{cough}bullshit{cough}

    I heard that same piece when it was broadcast. I also heard, within that same piece, or a following piece also on NPR, about the condescending outlook that Spanish have of immigrants. Not outright prejudice or discrimination (e.g. masked as legal immigration legislation) — which I believe has way more influence on why South Americans would travel all the way to Europe to look for better economic opportunites {but then again, I’m not an Expert} — but the typical kind of initial tensions that occur when immigrants move into established communites.

    As to real heart of the report, I do believe banks will wake-up and see that there’s some long-tail profitability to pursuing remittance service. However…do we really want these methods under official scrunity, worse under governmental regulations? These methods work because they are under the radar, and that they are not significantly draining capital out of the income-generating economy. Consider if a country started regulating remittance services, under the guise of preventing funding terrorism?

    As to the credit products, not gonna happen now, not for a while at least, given the sub-prime fiasco.

  2. …You are absolutely right in saying that ….African arts, books and music help reconnect your being to that which is immutably you….

    The challenge for many of our younger ones…and ourselves to an extent is how to fit it all in in an era of TV, games, email, facebook, blogs etc etc!

    …annoyingly…I hardly get past a few pages a day of the book by my bed…cause by the time I am trough with all the other stuff. But the struggle continues….

    Life will be so empty without African arts, books and music

  3. Hey E-Nyce, i missed the follow up piece! Thanks for the context and for your thoughts. Great points. Indeed the sub prime mess will muddy issues for awhile. Credit is going to be tight for awhile even for low risk borrowers. Btw, do you think Bernanke will lower the interest rate to ease the crunch? There was an interesting discussion about it on marketplace. (glad to meet another NPR listener)

    Chikwe, indeed! cool thing is tech can help us catch up a bit, we need to create more African content that is portable and can compete with our short attention spans (oh i meant – my short attention span)I am thinking more podcasts, its been really convenient watching the TED Global talks on my IPOD, and listening to Caribbean free radio podcast from Georgia popplewell. http://www.caribbeanfreeradio.com/blog/index.php?cat=4
    Seems like i will need to do a post on Africa related podcasts soon!

  4. The discount rate was lowered this past week, and increased the amount that banks can loan from it. Talking heads say the federal funds rate (which is more important to the individual borrowers) will be dropped at the next Fed meeting Sept. 18. We shall see.

    Already there are media debates circulating that the funds rate should *not* be cut, in order to force institutions take more responsibility in cleaning up their loan risk exposures. I’m not a finance person; but I would be willing to sit on a freeze of consumer interest rates if it meant that financial institutions would stop their reckless gambling with OUR money.

    I don’t care that people cannot now buy a new or their first home; they should be forced to save more money as down-payment, not get greater access to debt capital. It’s called ‘renting’ – many of us have done, so should they.

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