Kenya's remittance inflows jump by nearly 11% in 2020 to $3 billion - cenbank

A security guard walks past a montage of U.S. dollar bills outside a currency exchange bureau in Kenya's capital Nairobi, July 23, 2015. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Remittance inflows into Kenya jumped by nearly 11% in 2020 to $3.09 billion as technological innovations helped people overcome the economic struggles brought on by the coronavirus crisis to send more money home, the central bank said on Friday.

Kenya’s economy has been hit hard by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions that were put in place to contain its spread, forcing many businesses to close and slowing key foreign exchange earners, such as tourism and horticultural exports.

“In Kenya, remittance inflows were strongly buoyant in 2020, despite the devastation by COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the source countries,” the Central Bank said in a statement.

It said remittances reached a historical peak of $299 million in the month of December 2020 alone.

“This remarkable growth of remittances has been supported by financial innovations that provided Kenyans in the diaspora more convenient channels for their transactions,” the bank said.

Kenyan banks have made it easier for people to send cash to mobile money accounts and platforms such as Western Union. Also, Safaricom’s M-Pesa platform has an option to receive cash from countries where M-Pesa also operates.

Kenya’s economy contracted 5.7% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2020, its first quarterly contraction since the global financial crisis 12 years ago.

As of Jan. 15, there have been 98,693 infections and 1,723 coronavirus-related deaths reported in Kenya since the pandemic began, according to a Reuters tally.

Reporting by Omar Mohammed; Editing by George Obulutsa and Alison Williams