“You’re so lucky to be heading to Yankee,” Bisi continued. “Everything is abundant there; light, water, food, money, everything! You will be picking money from the ground!” (Excerpted from Renike comes to America)
The myth that people pick money off the streets in the US is pervasive for many reasons. For one, work is readily available and those who apply themselves to industry, get paid. Once they get paid, they send money ‘home.’ In fact, migrants remit more money than some of their countries receive in development aid. There are two sides to the remittance story however; one good, the other bad.
Most migrants sacrifice their own comfort to cater for their relatives back in their natal countries. They send money despite their own dire conditions. It is not uncommon for a migrant to work two or three labor-intensive jobs to scrape together money to send to relatives. On the upside, such monies are used to fund school fees for kids who would most likely not darken the door of an educational institution; medical bills, and businesses. Secondarily, these private grants ensure community development.
Unfortunately, not all relatives who request and receive remitted funds use them for progressive projects. Often, money sent is squandered on parties, white elephant projects, and businesses that never take off. Most sinister however is the perception that those who live abroad are cash cows to be continually milked for funds.
I was told the story of a migrant who travelled to his natal country only to be kidnapped from the airport. The kidnappers demanded N3,000,000 for his release. At some point, he called the American Embassy which negotiated his release. When he returned to the US, he uncovered the fact that his younger brother was behind his kidnapping and demand for ransom. Interestingly, this was the same young man he’d been sending money to regularly.
Lessons? Watch who you send money to and what you fund. Go for progressive individuals and goals. Fund education sure, and business, if there’s a sound business plan. Avoid incentivizing greed and a sense of entitlement. Nobody works to put money in your pocket, don’t allow them to work to take money out.
And check out Renike comes to America to find out what part remittances played in her story.