The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Africa:
Western Union wants immigrants’ money

Feb 5, 2007

The following article comes from the January 15 issue of Le Pouvoir aux Travailleurs (Workers Power), the publication of the African Union of Internationalist Communist Workers (UATCI), active in French-speaking Africa.

Over the last decade, Western Union, the money transfer company, has developed throughout Africa. By mid- 2006, it already had 1,000 agencies in Nigeria. It flourishes everywhere immigrant workers need to send money to their families. It has had so much success because the states of African countries like Mali and Senegal don’t have post offices that function properly. When immigrant workers in France send money home, their families have a lot of trouble receiving it. Not only are there delays, but they have to grease the palms of post office employees to get it. Village dwellers have to go to a big city and spend several days, while only getting a part of what was sent them.

This is why Western Union grew so rapidly almost everywhere in Africa. Its bosses are proud to announce they are in 195 countries, have a growth rate in sales of 10% a year, and had a profit of more than three billion dollars in 2005.

In fact, Western Union earns a lot of money from the transfer of money to poor countries. Sending $100 costs $17 from Paris to Chad and $10 from Paris to Dakar, Senegal. These are exorbitant fees. But immigrant workers have to pay it, since sending money with a family member returning home has become riskier. There have already been several attacks by bandits on people bringing money to villages, robbing them on the road, for example, in Mali.

Under these conditions, leeches like Western Union rub their hands with glee. The company even gives itself a “humanitarian” image. For example, to celebrate its 10th anniversary in Africa, it gave scholarships to some African universities and some school materials, right in front of TV cameras. But a thief remains a thief, even if he distributes some handouts.