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Burnaby Now: Fees hit families in Africa - ACORN Canada

Burnaby Now: Fees hit families in Africa

Posted August 10, 2011

As a community social services student at Douglas College, Burnaby resident Pascal Apuwa doesn’t have a lot of extra money to throw around.

The little extra he does have, he sends home to his family in Korogocho, Kenya.

But the fees on remittances – money transferred from someone in one country to another – are cutting into the amount his family receives, he said.

“When I send money back home, I want it to go to helping the people,” Apuwa said in a phone interview.

Apuwa headed a demonstration by Acorn Canada on July 27 outside the Money Mart at 7088 Kingsway, to protest the fees that Western Union charges on sending remittances overseas.

Money Mart acts as an agent for Western Union. The group presented a letter for Western Union’s CEO to the agent there, Apuwa said.

 

As a community social services student at Douglas College, Burnaby resident Pascal Apuwa doesn’t have a lot of extra money to throw around.

The little extra he does have, he sends home to his family in Korogocho, Kenya.

But the fees on remittances – money transferred from someone in one country to another – are cutting into the amount his family receives, he said.

“When I send money back home, I want it to go to helping the people,” Apuwa said in a phone interview.

Apuwa headed a demonstration by Acorn Canada on July 27 outside the Money Mart at 7088 Kingsway, to protest the fees that Western Union charges on sending remittances overseas.

Money Mart acts as an agent for Western Union. The group presented a letter for Western Union’s CEO to the agent there, Apuwa said.

 

 

Apuwa has lived in Burnaby since 2006. When he was working, he could send home as much as $100 or $200 every month. Last week, he was able to send $60 to his family.

But the service charge was $10, and Western Union makes money by increasing the exchange rate, as well, he said.

That money would come to almost 1,000 Kenyan shillings, which could pay for groceries for two weeks in his hometown, Apuwa explained. It could also pay for much-needed medicine, he pointed out.

“This is money that could save someone’s life,” Apuwa said.

Every cent is needed in East Africa right now, he added, particularly with the drought and famine.

Apuwa, and Acorn Canada, want regulation of the remittance transferring industry and more transparency so that banks and transfer agencies cannot charge hidden fees.

The issue is one that is also recognized by the World Bank. In 2009, the World Bank developed the Rome Road Map for Remittances plan, with the primary goal of banks and agencies charging five per cent remittance fees on transactions by 2014.

Recorded remittances received in developing countries came to US$325 billion in 2010, according to a World Bank report.

“Recorded remittances,” the report stated, “far exceed the volume of official aid flows and constitute more than 10 per cent of gross domestic product in many developing countries.”

Kenya received US$1.758 billion in remittances in 2010, the report said.

Current remittance service charges at various banks and agencies vary wildly, according to information obtained by Acorn Canada, and many have a flat fee rather than charging a percentage.

Western Union’s transfer fee on Wednesday was a flat rate of $11.00, according to the company’s website.

Bank fees for transferring money to Kenya can be much higher, ranging from a $10 flat fee to a $30 flat fee, according to Acorn Canada’s research. This does not include money made on elevated exchange rates or hidden fees.

But Apuwa said he has only one choice when it comes to sending money to Korogocho – Western Union.

“It’s the only one that can be found in a small town,” he said, adding that sending money to a larger city through a bank would mean his family would have to travel to pick it up, costing them more.

“I hope to see the charges reduced and regulated,” he said of the fees.

Western Union did not respond to requests for an interview by press time.

The original article is available at: http://www.burnabynow.com/business/Fees+families+Africa/5232079/story.html#ixzz1UdcvDzaW

 

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