Authoritative sources including the World Bank and the International Organisation for Migration say more than 215 million people, or 3 per cent of the world’s population, live outside their home countries.
These report that remittances, meaning the money these migrants send home, are three times the size of official development assistance and provide an important lifeline for millions of poor households.
It is further reported, and this is of special relevance to Tanzania, that remittances to developing countries were expected to hit the US$372 billion mark last year. The corresponding figure for 2008 was US$305 billion.
What many will need to find time to think over is the observation that the flow of remittances to developing countries by far outstripped all development assistance and foreign direct investment combined.
There is also the revelation, resulting from research findings, that the African Diaspora of more than 30 million routinely sends home (to their families) more than US$40 billion every year.
With these mouth-watering figures, financial and various other experts agreed that the overall economic gains from international migration for sending countries, receiving countries and the migrants themselves were by all standards considerable.
The organisers of the three-day Training on Migration and Data Management which opened in Dar es Salaam yesterday will definitely have had this inspiring background in mind even as they mooted the idea of holding the event.
We are told that the training attracted a wide array of migration stakeholders from the likes of the government, academia, research institutions, civil society organisations and “strategic partners” – all determined to promote cooperate on migration data management and training aimed at better tracking and possibly boosting remittances by the African Diaspora.
For historical reasons, all has not been well with remittances by the Tanzanian Diaspora. In fact, in a way understandably, it was once practically unthinkable – even strictly taboo or illegal – for a Tanzanian living outside the country to make any such remittances!
But the world has changed so much, what with globalisation, etc., that most perceptions of this nature have been overtaken by events. Additionally, we now have laws better able to contain crimes such as money laundering and fears of “dirty money” causing havoc have generally become easier to address than they once were.
Despite then technological and other developments the world is witnessing, Tanzania remains a tail-ender when it comes to making a comparative analysis of remittances by the global or African Diaspora.
According to the organisers of the Dar es Salaam meeting, factors behind the unfortunate situation include the fact that most ordinary citizens remain largely ignorant of issues relating to migration.
With Tanzania having little option but to continue entrenching itself into regional integration and international cooperation in an increasingly globalised world, it must be fully conversant with the dividends remittances by its own Diaspora can pay – and tap the resource more profitably.
With more people moving from place to place in this “migration age” of ours than at any other time in human history, doing the much it takes to turn these goings-on into social, economic and other gains does humankind great service. Tanzania should thus join the race and fight to win.