Who Receives Remittances? A Case Study of the Distributional Impact on Liberian Refugees in Ghana

SOAS Significant advances in transportation and communication have helped substantially expand the recent flow of transnational migration. As a result, there has been rapidly growing interest in the impact of remittances on development, and on poverty reduction in particular. But are poor households the main recipients of remittances?

In the Buduburam Refugee Settlement of Liberians in Ghana, remittances have proved to be a major source of income. When fieldwork was conducted there in 2008-2009, two Western Union branch offices were located just outside the settlement. They were reported to account for most remittance income received by refugees. According to data obtained from these branches, the average monthly value of remittances received by the refugees was about US$ 443,000.

What has emerged from this fieldwork is that the largest recipients of remittances in the Buduburam Refugee Settlement were invariably the offspring of the ruling ethnic elite in pre-war Liberia, many of whose wealthy members had long ago migrated to the US and other rich countries. This finding contrasts with the standard ‘globalisation’ discourse that often projects the misleading impression that virtually everyone could benefit from migration and the receipt of remittances.

Access the full briefing paper by Naohiko Omato here.

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