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Friday, April 19, 2024

Harnessing Diaspora Remittances for Kogi State’s Development – By Hon. Seyi Olorunsola

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In the global economic landscape, remittances have emerged as a vital lifeline, fostering financial stability and contributing significantly to the development of recipient nations. As we stand on the cusp of a new administration in Kogi State, it is imperative to cast a discerning eye on the immense benefits that can be derived from harnessing the diaspora remittances pouring into our great state.
Nigeria, as a whole, has witnessed a steady growth in remittances, with a noteworthy 38% share of sub-Saharan Africa’s total. In 2024, remittance flows to the region are projected to increase by 2.5%, according to the World Bank. Notably, Nigeria’s remittances, accounting for a substantial portion of this flow, have grown by about two percent. Ghana and Kenya, two other major recipients, have also experienced gains of 5.6% and 3.8%, respectively.
The current official market rate of over N1,000 per dollar paints a promising picture for Nigeria, with an estimated total diaspora remittance of N19 trillion. Of this staggering figure, Kogi State, with its significant diaspora contingent in North America, Europe, and Southeast Asia, is poised to receive nearly 15% – a whopping N280 billion. This potential windfall demands a strategic and concerted effort from the government to ensure that these remittances translate into tangible investments that can drive economic growth and social development.
One of the critical issues currently impeding the transformative impact of these remittances is the absence of a structured framework to guide their utilization. As the funds flow in, there is a need for the government to actively engage with the diaspora community, encouraging them to view their remittances not merely as sources of personal consumption but as powerful instruments for economic stimulation and community development.
The diversion of remittances from official to unofficial channels due to fixed exchange rates and capital controls further underscores the urgency of this matter. It is imperative for the new administration to recognize that the lack of deliberate government action to guide the diaspora in channeling their remittances is a primary reason why, despite the substantial inflow, it has not translated into significant economic and social development for the state.
As we usher in a new era with the impending inauguration of the new Kogi State administration, there is an urgent need to establish a Diaspora Ministry.
 This dedicated ministry can serve as the linchpin for interfacing with the diaspora community, creating an environment conducive to transforming remittances into strategic investments. Such a ministry would play a crucial role in providing guidance, support, and incentives for the diaspora to invest in projects that contribute to the overall development of the state.
Kogi State stands at a unique crossroads, brimming with untapped opportunities that make it an attractive investment destination for diaspora funds. The state boasts the singular honor of hosting the only river confluence in Africa, with the meeting of Rivers Benue and Niger in the state capital of Lokoja. Harnessing this natural wonder for tourism presents an opportunity to not only showcase the state’s beauty but also to drive significant tourist traffic, creating jobs and boosting the local economy.
Moreover, Kogi State’s strategic geographical location, bordered by ten states – Niger, Kwara, the FCT (Abuja), Nasarawa, Benue, Enugu, Anambra, Delta, Edo, and Ondo – positions it as a central hub for commerce and trade. By establishing an administrative structure dedicated to harnessing diaspora remittances, the government can attract investments that capitalize on the state’s unique attributes.
A Diaspora Ministry would serve as a catalyst for change, providing a platform for collaboration between the government and the diaspora community. Through targeted initiatives and incentives, the ministry can encourage diaspora members to invest in sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure, education, and healthcare. These investments, in turn, would create employment opportunities, enhance local industries, and contribute to the socio-economic development of Kogi State.
In conclusion, the potential benefits of harnessing diaspora remittances for the development of Kogi State cannot be overstated. The establishment of a Diaspora Ministry is not just a prudent move but a strategic imperative. By proactively engaging with the diaspora community, providing the necessary support and incentives, and channeling remittances into impactful projects, Kogi State can transform its economic and social narrative. As we look ahead to a new administration, let us seize this moment to unlock the immense potential that lies within the diaspora – a potential that can reshape the future of Kogi State for generations to come.

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