Comparing the easiest ways to send money to family and friends in Africa
Every year, millions of people from African countries who live abroad send money home to family and friends. These remittances to Africa have reached more than $75 billion in recent years, representing some 12% of the annual global total.
However, despite the high amount of remittances, there are still challenges when sending money to certain countries in Africa, such as:
- diverse regulations across countries.
- fluctuating exchange rates.
- various transfer fees to calculate, some of which are hidden and only shown after the money has been sent.
- difficulty in getting the money to the recipient; for example, if they can’t access a bank or money transfer office, or they don’t have strong internet.
This makes it difficult to calculate the best deal for your money transfer. Ultimately, you want friends and family to get the most money from the transfer amount.
Africa’s unbanked population particularly compounds these challenges. It is estimated that some 50% of the population in African countries does not have a bank account or access to financial services.
However, as technology advances, these challenges are turning into opportunities for better services and alternative options. For example, KimboCare addresses the above issues by offering the option to pay for healthcare services instead of sending money home. Using blockchain technology, people can pay instantly and directly for their family’s healthcare bills. Read more about it here.
Based on their frustrations, this article explains the various ways to send money home to help you choose the right type of transfer for your situation.
We also have detailed articles on how to send money to Cameroon, Kenya and the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire.
Best ways to send money to Africa
The best way to send money back home depends on your requirements, such as whether you need a fast, cheap, secure, or convenient transfer. Below, we take a closer look at each of the choices.
- The cheapest way to send money to Africa: online money transfers and foreign exchange operators typically offer the best exchange rates and lowest fees.
- The fastest way to send money to Africa: mobile banking and mobile wallets offer instant transfers.
- The easiest way to send money to Africa: this depends on what access your loved one has; in many cases, cash transfers are the simplest way to send money without requiring a bank account.
- The most secure way to send money to Africa: Banks are subject to more stringent measures than other transfers. As such, they offer the most protection and security. However, they are often more expensive and slower. Most transparent alternative to sending money home: KimboCare’s platform allows you to buy ‘health credits,’ which can be used to instantly pay for healthcare bills or medical services where your family lives. You no longer need to navigate exchange rates or hidden transfer fees.
Choosing the best way to send money to Africa: which one is right for you
Your best option to send money to Africa will depend on the access of your friends and family back home. Alternatively, you can choose to pay for other services, such as their healthcare bills, which can help you avoid poor exchange rates or high fees.
You also need to check whether a provider offers the currency you need or operates in both countries where you are located. This is less of a problem if you want to send money from the US or the UK; but it can be more difficult when sending money to Africa from India or even another country in Africa.
Below we evaluate the various options to send money to Africa.
The cheapest way to send money to Africa
In most situations, a money transfer or foreign exchange service is the cheapest way to send money to Africa.
However, it can be difficult to compare which transfer provider is the cheapest. For example, a provider may offer a free transfer but have a poor exchange rate. Some have excellent exchange rates but charge higher transfer fees. Others may have an incompatible fee structure for your particular type of transfer. For example, a fee model that charges a fixed percentage of your transfer amount is less attractive for large sums.
Thankfully, today many transfer providers have improved their transparency. They often provide calculators on their websites to show exactly how much your recipient will receive.
The fastest way to send money to Africa
Mobile banking or mobile wallets (such as PayPal) provides instant transfers; your loved one can access the money as soon as the transfer is complete.
Similarly, online money transfer services are relatively fast. Depending on the country, a transfer can take less than one day. Some providers can send money in a matter of hours, or even minutes.
Your transfer time will also depend on your payment method (cash, debit card, bank transfer) and whether there are any official checks.
The easiest way to send money to Africa
The easiest way to send money will depend on how your family will collect the money. For many people without a bank account, cash pick-ups are the easiest way to receive money.
KimboCare also provides an easy alternative to send healthcare instead of money. This overcomes the challenges of high fees, poor exchange rates and lack of access to a financial service.
Comparing the different ways to send money to Africa
In most cases, an online money transfer service ends up being the best choice – but not always. Below we expand on specific situations when you might choose a different transfer type or use an alternative option, like KimboCare’s health credits.
Bank wire transfers
There are many types of banking institutions in Africa, including locally and foreign-owned banks, plus mutual and cooperative banks.
Traditionally, wire transfers to Africa have been the most secure and safest way to send money. Banks also typically offer certain protections, such as covering missing money. Another advantage is that the receiver does not have to withdraw all the money at once or take out a lump sum of cash. These factors still make banks the most secure option for large transfer amounts, especially if the money is to be spent over a period of time.
However, there are several downsides to bank wire transfers, including:
- banks still struggle with competitive exchange rates
- sometimes international banks offer free transfers between branches, otherwise, bank transfers normally have high fees attached
- there are longer wait times, further affected by different time zones and limited banking hours
- banks are subject to more in-depth screening and requirements to send money than other options; this can add to the processing time.
As such, while a bank wire transfer is one of the most secure ways to send money abroad, especially for large amounts, it is typically not the cheapest nor fastest way to send money to Africa.
Online money transfers to Africa
Today, there are many renowned companies offering money transfers for numerous countries and currencies. Their broad coverage allows them to offer the fastest way to send money to Africa from almost anywhere in the world, from the US to India.
The biggest advantage is being able to arrange a transfer online to many types of institutions, such as a family’s bank account, a cash pick-up point, or a mobile wallet.
The main competitive advantage is that online money operators have fewer restrictions than banks and can thus offer better exchange rates and faster transfer times. Their transfer fees are usually lower than banks and they offer more payment options, such as paying directly from a credit card or direct debit.
Some money transfer companies include:
Their services are also relatively secure. However, as they are not traditional banks, they do not benefit from certain protections, nor are they able to offer them. But as significant savings can be made from their exchange rates, many people find it is worth the risk.
Most companies offer comparison tables on their websites on how their fee structure and transfer times compared to other companies. It helps to use a few of these free calculators to see the exact amount your family will receive.
Sending health credits
If some of the above options are not suitable, an alternative is to pay for medical costs instead of sending money. KimboCare allows you to upload money to an online account, which is directly and instantly converted into ‘health credits.’ These can be used in a network of quality healthcare providers in Africa. This removes the hassle of foreign exchange rates and transfer times, while still offering an instant way to cover costs for your family.
This is a fast and convenient way to send money for lesser amounts of money or if the receiver needs cash fast.
Before the rise of online banking and foreign exchange services, cash pickups were the most common way to send money to any country. Today, in some areas in Africa where online or banking services are not broadly developed, this may still be your only option. Western Union was traditionally a strong player in this field, although today there are many options.
A cash transfer requires first locating whether there is an agent’s office where your family lives. In recent years, however, some companies have partnered up with local providers to broaden their locations. For example, in South Africa, Western Union partnered with ABSA, Wise uses the Mukuru network, and MoneyGram offers services through FNB.
While this choice is limited by location, it is one of the best ways to send money to Africa if your recipient doesn’t have a bank account. It can be as simple as handing over a voucher and showing ID.
If your family or friend has a mobile wallet, you can send money directly and instantly to them via this method. They receive the money as soon as the transaction is finished.
Some examples include MoneyGram services through Standard Bank, or WorldRemit’s airtime top-ups with MTN, Virgin, or Cell.
However, you need to factor in withdrawal costs. For example, PayPal has a wide network that accepts free transfers and payments using their platform. However, it is expensive (around 5%) if you withdraw money off their platform to a bank account.
It is possible to arrange a money order to countries in Africa via the postal services. Rules and requirements can vary between countries, so it’s important to check the specific country where you want to do this.
What more to know about sending money to Africa?
How much money can you send to Africa?
Sometimes there are limits and certain restrictions on how much money you can send, depending on which transfer method and the currency you use. However, you can avoid this by sending several transfers at the maximum amount.
Requirements to send money to Africa
Each service has its own requirements, although you can generally expect to supply the following:
- An official ID for you and your family member or friend
- The full name of your receiver as per their ID, plus their address
- Their bank account or financial service details, sometimes including both the bank address and the receiver’s address associated with the account
What’s needed to send healthcare to family back home?
If you decide to send healthcare credits instead of money, KimboCare’s steps are:
- Register an account with your email.
- Upload money to your account, which is then transferred to your family as ‘health credits.’ There’s no foreign exchange needed, and you can top up as many credits as you like to be used at any time.
- Enter the full name of your family or friend (as shown on their national ID).
- Select the treatment and location of the closest medical provider. Your family can get instant medical attention any time they need it.
There are many things to consider when evaluating the best way to send money to Africa. It can be a time-consuming process to analyze which company is offering the best exchange rate or fee every time, but it also saves a lot of money.
To avoid these challenges, you can also choose an alternative service like KimboCare, where your purchased health credits can help your loved ones access quality healthcare. You can also see exactly how your money is spent and save time on researching the best fees and exchange rates.