Money and the rule of law in Southern Africa

Last week, some of the world’s most ‘influential’ people met at the World Economic Forum in Davos. From Southern Africa, the new leaders of Angola, South Africa and Zimbabwe were in attendance leading the Financial Times to remark on how there was a revolution in the air as change swept across the region. However, omitted in all the talk of revolution are the contributions made by Southern Africa’s diaspora. These are men and women who at some point in the past emigrated from their countries but have since been sending money back. According to the World Bank, remittance flows into developing nations are more than three times that of official development aid and according to the Pew Research Center tend to be more stable than private investment or development aid—a remarkable feat and one that challenges western perceptions of international aid budgets. To put this in context, the projected UK Aid budget for Zambia in 2019/20 is £17.6m, by contrast, Zambians living abroad sent back £38m in 2016. The Pew Research Centre provided the following breakdown by country of remittances sent to Southern Africa in 2016:

Angola – $11,000,000

Botswana – $29,000,000

DRC – $5,000,000

Lesotho – $344,000,000

Malawi – $34,000,000

Mozambique – $93,000,000

Namibia – $2,000,000

South Africa – $755,000,000

Swaziland – $19,000,000

Tanzania – $411,000,000

Zambia – $38,000,000

Whilst the figures allow for a margin of error, what they reveal is that there is a large amount of money flowing into the region particularly from the United Kingdom and South Africa. This would indicate that the majority of migrants from the region tend to settle in the UK and South Africa. This is important from a rule of law and human rights point of view as there is a correlation between economic prosperity and the rule of law and both the UK and to an extent South Africa, have these. The UK’s legal system is the envy of the world and one would hope that migrants sending money back home also transfer expertise and knowledge built on a just and robust legal system.

One further hopes that the region can look to the economic powerhouses where some of their money is coming for examples of how to grow robust economies built on laws and legal systems which treat people equally and work for everyone.  What the World Bank figures do not account for however are other benefits that migrants bring back to their countries of origin such as expertise, experience, education and material resources like clothes, cars and other goods. There is therefore much to be said of the influence of migrants in their home countries; it could be concluded from the above figures that favourable immigration laws in countries such as the UK, US, Portugal and South Africa will go a long way in helping develop the Southern Africa region.

Source: Pew Research Remittance Flows 2016,



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