Une stratégie maritime pour le 21ème siècle

photo-4Le premier ministre du Québec, Philippe Couillard, a dévoilé une stratégie maritime ambitieuse pour la province qui façonnera le transport et la logistique de l’expédition outre-Atlantique pour le Nord-Est de l’Amérique au 21e siècle. Montréal pourrait devenir la porte d’entrée maritime pour lier un marché américain (Nord-Est) de 135 millions de personnes d’avec la plus grande économie du monde, la zone Euro et ses $18,000 milliards. Cette annonce suit la nouvelle d’Octobre 2014 d’un accord de libre-échange (AECG) entre le Canada et l’Union Européenne qui donnera un accès préférentiel à ces marchés, possiblement dès 2016.

Les années de gloire

montrealsummer-026Dès 1860 et pendant un siècle, Montréal était la vraie métropole du Canada, principalement grâce à son rôle de plaque tournante du transport du pays avec son grand centre portuaire et ferroviaire. En 1923, Montréal était encore le plus grand port céréalier du monde. Certains des silos à grains datant de cette période sont encore visibles, mais Montréal se classe aujourd’hui 97ème à l’échelle mondiale en tonnage, avec seulement un quart du volume qui transite par New York (26ème).

Positionné pour l’avenir

La voie maritime du Saint-Laurent et des Grands Lacs représente le plus long système de navigation profonde du monde et s’étend sur 3,700 km, au cœur du continent nord-américain. Cette situation géographique favorable signifie que l’expédition par Montréal fournit le plus direct, rapide et donc aussi le moins cher. Ceci, combiné avec une logistique plus efficace – un temps de transit de fret de 24 heures à Montréal contre jusqu’à 5 jours par New York – donne à la “Belle Province” un avantage qui pourrait aider Montréal à retrouver sa position de plaque tournante maritime en Amérique du Nord.

Moins cher et plus propre

1l-maersk-mc-kinneyAvec les plus grands navires transportant jusqu’à 600,000 tonnes de marchandises, le transport maritime est le plus efficace. Il se compare favorablement au train et au transport routier au niveau des couts, mais aussi en termes de réduction de la pollution. Son empreinte carbone est 3 fois plus basse que par train et 33 fois plus basse que par camion!

La sécurité d’abord

Les risques du transport routier et la catastrophe ferroviaire de 2013 du Lac Mégantic qui a fait 42 victimes font de la sécurité une préoccupation majeure. Même si le transport maritime a un bon dossier de sécurité, la stratégie maritime reconnait l’importance des préparations aux catastrophes et prévoit le développement d’un centre d’expertise des écosystèmes marins aux iles de la Madeleine.

Science et innovation

Compte tenu des opportunités liées à la croissance des activités océaniques à l’échelle mondiale, il y a un besoin urgent de recherches, d’innovation et de partage des connaissances. La mise en place du Réseau Maritime du Québec agira comme un catalyseur pour mobiliser les structures existantes et améliorer les échanges, en particulier entre le Québec et la France (qui possède le deuxième plus grand territoire marin du monde).

Protection de la biodiversité et tourisme

Reconnaissant l’exceptionnelle beauté et la biodiversité de la voie maritime du Saint-Laurent, la stratégie appelle à la création de zones marines protégées équivalent à au moins 10% du territoire marin. Ceux-ci, ainsi que l’amélioration des infrastructures à différents points le long du fleuve visent à stimuler le tourisme de croisière qui est déjà en forte croissance et qui a attiré 350,000 personnes en 2014 et prévu d’atteindre 400,000 cette année.

Propulsant le Québec au 21e siècle

La stratégie maritime de $9 milliards de Philippe Couillard et les 30,000 emplois qu’elle espère créer est comparable en ampleur aux grands projets de la Baie James de Robert Bourassa des années 1970 qui ont coutés quelque 20 milliards de dollars plusieurs décennies a être complétés. Aujourd’hui, cet héritage de Bourassa donne à la Province une énergie bas-carbone et peu couteuse qui fait que les Québécois ont la plus faible empreinte carbone du pays (9,7 tonnes d’équivalent CO2 par habitant en 2012 contre une moyenne de 20,1 tonnes pour les Canadiens).

Fait intéressant, 43,5% des émissions de carbone au Québec proviennent du secteur des transports qui utilise l’essence pour alimenter des voitures et des camions peu efficaces. Compte tenu de son accès à une électricité propre et fiable, le Québec pourrait devenir un leader de l’électrification des transports pour les véhicules de tourisme. A son tour, la stratégie maritime pourrait permettre une réduction importance de l’expédition par la route avec de nouvelles réductions de carbone, tout en stimulant le commerce et la compétitivité de la province.

Un message pour ParisClimat2015

Réconcilier l’économie et l’environnement sur ​​la base de connaissances scientifiques solides pour la prospérité des Québécois au 21e siècle – un message urgent et inspirant que le Premier ministre Couillard et le Maire de Montréal Denis Coderre pourrons transmettre durant la Conférence sur le climat de Paris en Décembre. Cette aventure dure depuis déjà 40 ans dans la « Belle Province » et la stratégie maritime est son dernier chapitre.

A maritime strategy to propel Quebec in the 21st century

photo-4Quebec Prime Minister, Philippe Couillard, unveiled an ambitious and far-reaching maritime strategy for the province that will shape the transportation and logistics of cross-Atlantic shipping for North America in the 21st century. Montreal could become the preferred maritime gateway to link a Northeast American market of 135 million with the $18 trillion Eurozone, the world’s largest economy. This timely announcement follows the October 2014 news of a free trade agreement (CETA) between Canada and the Eurozone that will provide preferential market access as early as 2016.

Glory days

montrealsummer-026In the 1860s and for a century, Montreal was Canada’s true metropolis, largely thanks to its role as the country’s transportation hub with its major port and railway center. In 1923, Montreal was even the world’s largest cereal port. Some of the grain silos dating back to that period are still visible, but Montreal now ranks 97th globally for container tonnage, with only 1/4 of the volume that transits through New York (26th).

Positioned for the future

The St-Lawrence seaway and Great Lakes makeup the longest deep-boat navigation system in the world extending 3,700 km into the North American heartland. This favorable geographical situation means that shipping through Montreal provides the fastest, cheapest and most direct market access. This, combined with more efficient logistics – a 24 hour cargo transit time in Montreal versus up to 5 days through New York – gives the “Belle Province” a compelling advantage that could help Montreal regain its position as a leading maritime hub in North America.

Cheapest and cleanest

1l-maersk-mc-kinneyWith the largest vessels carrying up to 600,000 tons of cargo, maritime shipping is the most efficient form of transportation. It compares favorably to trains and trucks in terms of costs but also for pollution reduction. Its carbon footprint is 3 times lower then trains and 33 times lower then trucks!

Safety first

A poor safety record for road transport and the fresh memory of the 2013 unattended train with crude oil that derailed and exploded killing 42 people in Lac Mégantic makes security a major concern. While marine transport has a good safety record, the maritime strategy recognizes the importance disaster preparedness and will therefore develop a world-class marine ecosystem expertise center in îles de la Madeleine.

Science and innovation

Given the immense opportunities related to growth of oceanic activities globally, there is an urgent need for more marine research and knowledge sharing. The establishment of the Quebec Maritime Network will act as a catalyst to leverage the existing structures and improve exchanges science and technology, particularly between Quebec and France (a nation with a great expertise and interest in oceans given its control the world’s second largest marine territory).

Biodiversity protection and tourism

Recognizing the exceptional natural beauty and biodiversity of the St-Laurence seaway, the strategy also calls for the creation of marine protected zones equivalent to at least 10% of the marine territory. These, along with improved infrastructure at various points along the river aim to boost the already growing cruise tourism that attracted 350,000 people in 2014 and that is expected to reach 400,000 this year.

Propelling Quebec into the 21st Century

The $9 billion maritime strategy of Philippe Couillard and the 30,000 jobs it hopes to create across sectors is comparable in scale and ambition to the pharaonic James Bay hydroelectric plan of Robert Bourassa in the 1970’s that cost $20 billion and took decades to complete. Today, this Bourassa legacy provides Quebec with low cost and low carbon power and the lowest carbon footprint in the country (9.7 tons of CO2 equivalent per person in 2012 vs. a 20.1 ton average for Canadians).

Interestingly, 43.5% of carbon emissions in Quebec now come from the transportation sector that uses oil to fuel inefficient cars and trucks. Given its access to clean and reliable electricity, Quebec can become a global leader in the electrification of passenger vehicle transport. The maritime strategy in turn will allow a massive reduction in road shipping – with further carbon reductions – while boosting trade and the competitiveness of the Province.

A compelling message for ParisClimat2015

Reconciling the economy and the environment on the basis of sound scientific knowledge for the prosperity of Quebecers in the 21st century – a most urgent and inspirational message that Prime Minister Couillard and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre can now deliver at the Paris Climate Conference in December. This is an adventure that is already 40 years in the making “dans la Belle Province”. The maritime strategy is its latest chapter. Time will tell if the Couillard legacy becomes as transformational and as electrifying as Bourassa’s.

Pope Francis’ Encyclical: a climate game changer?

Rarely has a papal announcement received so much interest and controversy even before its release. On June 18, the long-awaited environmental encyclical of Pope Francis – the highest form of papal teaching – will be released to the 5,000 Bishops of the Catholic Church with a message to 1.2 billion Catholics around the world.

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This promises to be of great significance for several reasons:

1) Part of a long process at the Vatican

While the environmental focus of the encyclical was inspired by the 2014 papal visit to Tacloban, a city in the Philippines devastated by the Haiyan hurricane, the interest of the Vatican for environmental matters started much earlier. In 2002 already, John Paul II released his “Declaration on Environmental Ethics”, raising concerns about the degradation of natural resources and the pollution of water, land and air. Pope Benedict in turn, credited for being the first “Green Pope”, said that: “respect for humans and for nature are one and the same”. He installed solar panels and turned the Vatican into the first carbon neutral-state. So the interest of Pope Francis results from a 15-year period of growing interest for the relationship between humanity and nature during which the message of the Vatican was developed and refined.

2) A holistic and universal message

The key points of the encyclical will extend beyond the narrowly defined “environmental sphere” to emphasize harmony with God, with nature and with other human beings. By addressing questions of poverty, inequality and hunger, in a world of plenty where one-third of the food goes to waste while 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger, Pope Francis aims to replace apathy and indifference with global solidarity. In this manner, he can reframe the climate science debate into a moral and ethical imperative that is relevant to all.

By bridging science and religion, Pope Francis can provide a universal and non-denominational message that resonates with teachings across faiths. Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism, all agree on the moral need for humans to act as stewards and protectors of the Earth and to care for the most vulnerable.

3) Strategic timing for the message

The June 18 release will allow Pope Francis several opportunities to address key audiences including President Obama, the US Congress and the UN General Assembly during the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals that will run until 2030 – all during the month of September, sufficiently ahead of the December Climate Summit in Paris to mobilize the public and world leaders ahead of the conference.

4) A unique personality to overcome the North-South divide

Ever since the Rio 1992 Earth Summit, there has been a divide between developed countries, largely responsible for the bulk of carbon pollution, and Global South countries, the frontline victims of climate change impacts. This is why the move by the leading economies to push the “green economy agenda” onto poor nations has been received with great suspicion by developing countries that see this as another attempt at economic imperialism at their expense. Pope Francis, who selected his name after St Francis of Assisi, a man of peace and poverty, is largely perceived as the Pope of the Global South. No one is better positioned to defend the interests of developing nations and ensuring they do not end up on the short-end of any climate agreement. Only Pope Francis has the moral authority to bridge this great divide and allow a historic reconciliation capable of aligning all interests for the benefit of humanity and future generations.

Silence of the Bees

Picture credit: http://hdw.eweb4.com

Picture credit: http://hdw.eweb4.com

By Margo and Adam Koniuszewski

Over 40% of what we find in our plates including many fruits, nuts and vegetables, results from the pollination process. These “services”, mainly by bees but also butterflies, birds, bats and flies add over $215 billion annually to the global economy – some seven times the revenues of a multinational giant like Coca-Cola. Bees, including commercially managed bees, provide the bulk of this value through pollination while the honey, propolis, royal jelly and wax they produce represents only a small fraction. But the role of bees extends well beyond the economic. Ancient civilizations recognized and celebrated bees and their role in spreading the genetic material of thousands of plants. Honey was revered across the ancient world as a regenerative and mystical substance and the food of the gods in Mayan culture. In the Garden of Eden it is said that honey dripped from trees like rainwater and as far back as 5,000 B.C., “King Menes”, founder of the First Dynasty of Egyptian Kings was called the “Beekeeper”.

Industrial Agriculture

Today, industrial agriculture focuses on the utilitarian role of bees to pollinate vast monocultures. Honeybees are shipped when and where needed. The California almond is a case in point. 800,000 acres with 90 million almond trees stretching for more then 600 kilometers provide over 80% of the global almond production. With pollen available only in February, bees would starve in this environment. They must therefore be trucked-in from across the country for the job. A major logistical effort for some 5,000 trucks to bring 1.6 million beehives. This scale of trucking bees around is not without danger – accidents are common. Just last week, North of Seattle, a truck carrying over 20 million bees for blueberry pollination overturned on the highway, spilling 458 beehives that firefighters doused with flame retardant.

It is estimated that 2.5 million hives are being trucked around this way every year to Washington for apples and cherries, Dakota for alfalfa and sunflowers, Michigan for blueberries…

Bees in crisis

But the troubles of bees extend well beyond highway crashes. In the United States, beekeepers are reporting annual bee losses of 30% and more and the number of colonies shrank from its 5.5 million hives peak in the 1950s to less then 2.5 million today. This is the result of a combination of habitat loss, inadequate diets, mite infestation and disease, loss of genetic diversity and pesticides.

In Europe, since 1994, neonicotinoid pesticides have been associated with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) – where the insecticide confuses bees to the point where they abandon their hive. The same has been observed across the United States since 2006. UK studies link the pesticide to an 85% decline in queen production and confirm disruptions in the ability of bees to navigate and communicate. This is why the European Commission banned them in April 2013. Given that a worldwide ban would deprive Syngenta of 6.5% of its sales (source: Schroders Research), the science behind bees and pesticides is hotly debated and another culprit is pointed, the varroa mite, a parasite that has spread from Asia to the rest of the world and for which the impact of chemical treatment is showing mixed results – it is said that chemical treatment has helped the mite become more resistant at the expense of the bees.

Biodiversity decline and habitat loss are also having their toll. While farms located near natural habitats fare better, a study found that since the 1980’s there has been a 70% decline in key wildflowers. This means a lower diversity of plants from which bees can collect pollen. The genetically modified and neonicotinoid infected corn syrup they are fed by commercial beekeepers for their subsistence diet are also not helping.

The bee crisis is causing shockwaves well beyond environmental circles. New research by Schroders Investment Bank on “Bees and the Stockmarket” warns of impacts across industries including agrochemicals, food producers, retailers, beverages and the luxury sector. Meanwhile, the Obama Administration talks of a serious threat to food security and announced a federal strategy to protect honeybees, address habitat loss and biodiversity decline. $50 million has been appropriated across various agencies for research and to restore hospitable habitats for bees and other pollinators like the Monarch butterfly.

A Global Movement to Save Bees

Public authorities, the private sector and the public at large – all have a role to play. In 2010, the city of New York overturned a ban on beekeeping that had been in place since the late 1990s and “bee mania” has been spreading since with beehives being installed on skyscraper rooftops, community gardens and school backyards. Even the most  exclusive institutions like the Waldorf Astoria Restaurant have joined this movement – its has six beehives located near Central Park and serves the most prestigious honey in town. The private sector is also on board with organizations like the Cirque du Soleil in Montreal and the LVMH Group in Paris setting up hives at their headquarters and engaging in the protection and promotion of bees. But much of the leadership comes from individuals and associations around the world that are fighting unfriendly regulations and attitudes, overturning bee bans, installing hives and creating bee-friendly gardens with native wildflowers that benefit all pollinators. It may bee that in their consciousness, people everywhere are starting to realize that by protecting bees we are also protecting ourselves.

Maybee the bee still has a chance after all…

Bee Resources:

UNEP Report on Bees

White House Factsheet on Economic cost of Bee Decline and US Federal Strategy to Protect Honey Bees 

Bees and the Stock Market: Schroders Research Paper

Bees at the United Nations in Geneva

Nature Journal Study on Bee Addiction to Harmful Pesticides

European Commission Protecting Bees

Andrew Gough Blog with fascinating facts and stories about bees

Resource for Beekeepers

Health Benefits of Honey

Queen of the Sun Award Winning Documentary Film Review by Roger Ebert

Turning Trash into Cash

When Dr. Somthai started his waste recycling business in 1974, with 1,000 Thai Baht (30 US Dollars) and an old pickup truck, no one took him seriously. He literally became the laughingstock of Phitsanulok, a city of 800,000 located 400km north of Bangkok. But look who is laughing now. Over the last four decades, Dr. Somthai built his recycling business into a global empire with over 700 branches in Thailand and around the world, including Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Japan and even the United States. Not only has his Wongpanit Group become a major global player, his vision and charismatic personality have made him a leading international figure in terms of environmental stewardship, as a social entrepreneur, and, as a savvy, uncompromising and innovative business leader.

Waste is Gold

IMG_0215Waste management is a growing challenge in Thailand. A problem that only becomes more daunting as population grows and becomes more affluent. When waste was only organic it was easy to manage. But today, plastics, metals and toxics accumulate in landfills, overwhelm expensive and polluting incinerators, and threaten to contaminate water resources. Dr. Somthai offers a solution that diverts waste from landfills, incinerators and the environment, creates local employment and provides valuable commodities to industry at prices that help improve their competitiveness. By turning waste into resource, he transforms a problem into an opportunity for the environment and for society.

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Gold & platinum rings from recycled electronics

“There is no waste on this planet, only misplaced resources”, he says. “When looking at landfills most people see trash. I see valuable assets waiting to be mined! Recovering metals, plastics and other assets from landfills is much more efficient then mining the Earth for ores or oil. Reusing aluminum from scrap saves 95% of the energy needed to mine aluminum in the first place. The leverage is extraordinary!”

In his flagship ISO 14001 certified (since 2001) Phitsanulok plant, Dr. Somthai employs 250 people and can process 500 tons of trash every day. He buys waste from industry, landfills and individuals through 50 collection points scattered across the city. The waste is weighed, the purchase price determined based on the going rates and the payment is made immediately in cash.

IMG_1312He even has a catalog with 220 categories of items with prices for many categories of trash to encourage recycling.

A Global Market for Commodities

IMG_1265The prices of metals, plastics and all other commodities depend on global markets that Dr. Somthai monitors continuously. He prominently displays the daily prices for key commodities at the entrance of the center.

His four decades in the trade have helped hone his instinct for where the prices are heading. Akin to a professional commodities trader in London or Geneva, he takes positions, stocking up when he expects prices to go up or liquidating his stocks when prices are heading south. The recent drop in the price of oil had a negative impact on most products. This is why diversification is so important. His ability to recycle various kinds of waste helps spread his risk across a wide range of commodities. By adjusting his purchase price when markets are down he can always offer competitive prices to his customers while maintaining sustainable margins, whatever the market conditions.

Highly Skilled Labor

This labor-intensive trade is particularly well suited for developing countries with high unemployment and low wages. In Thailand it represents a significant source of income for the poorest of the poor. It is estimated that in the urban areas of Asia and Latin America up to 2% of the population depends on waste picking for their livelihood.

08_wongpanich_front05It would be a mistake however to think that this labor force is unskilled. Waste pickers are highly competent at identifying wastes with potential for recovery. The added value comes from sorting, cleaning, processing and organizing the transport of the waste in volumes that will make them commercially attractive for the domestic or international markets.

Take plastic for example. There are hundreds of plastic types. Each category must be identified, segregated by kind and color. Any impurities must be removed before processing (sorting, cleaning and chopping into flakes) so that the end product can have value. Any label on bottles of caps of a different plastic must be removed. Plastics must also be sorted according to their density (high HD or low LD) and their color. Each worker specializes in a particular type of material. Any turnover is problematic because training takes a long time and is expensive. Clearly, this is no project for amateurs.

Product Design

IMG_1267Manufacturers of packaging also cause significant problems when they fail to properly design their products. Many fast moving consumer goods have labels that are glued – this makes them difficult (sometimes impossible) to remove. But responsible companies are taking notice. Pepsi-Cola in Thailand has partnered with Wongpanit and agreed to pay an extra Baht for each kilo of recycled plastic but also to design its bottles to make them easy to recycle. Many manufacturers, despite their eco-labels and thick CSR reports fail to do this, which hampers recycling efforts and leads to overflowing landfills and incinerators. Dr. Somthai encourages these companies to follow the lead of Pepsi-Cola and the authorities to establish standards.

A Social Enterprise that is Part of the Community

schoolbankIn addition to providing local jobs and protecting the environment, Dr. Somthai values the importance of being a constructive force in the local community. Believing that the current generation is largely lost, he concentrates his time on young people, the leaders of tomorrow. He provides training in schools and once a week buys waste from the students,  providing them with an income while teaching them the economic value that can be found in waste. Similarly, he works with local monasteries that donate waste that he processes and donates money to fund scholarships for young people to be able to attend University.

A Global Perspective

11Delegations from around the world constantly visit Wongpanit. On the morning of our Swiss delegation visit there was also group from Japan, where Wangpanit already has two franchises. They wanted to meet the visionary man who started this business two decades before the first Rio conference, at a time when few people took environmental matters seriously. But today still, many believe that environmental stewardship is expensive and uncompetitive. Dr. Somthai has been disproving this myth for the last 40 years. Showing that the linear consumption model of extract-consume-dispose is outdated and that more circular models of consumption are needed. By turning waste into gold, Dr. Somthai provides the economic and social rationale for the creation of  zero-waste economy. A message that has come of age.

The Geneva delegation for the Swiss visit to Wongpanit was organized by the Honorary Consul to Thailand, Mr. Armand Jost, founder and president of S3Bi, a Geneva-based enterprise focused on assisting professionals in their career transition and its directors, Mark Giannelli, who is writing a thesis on “Waste Management in Developing Countries” at the Universities of St-Gall and Business School Lausanne (BSL). His Excellency, Ambassador Chalermpol Thanchitt from the Royal Thai Embassy in Bern (Switzerland) accompanied the delegation, as well as Dr. Gilles Bernard, Founder and CEO of Charity Consulting in Jumpol, Thailand, who is planning to develop such a project to create employment in the North of the country. My heartfelt thanks to Armand Jost and S3Bi for making my participation possible  and to our hosts, Dr. Somthai Wongcharoen, Wimonrat Santadvatana and the entire team at Wongpanit for welcoming us so generously. 

 

A Sticky Problem: Chewing Gum and the Environment

By CustomMade, for the original article click here.

Whether it’s being used as a mid-day breath refresher or on the playground to see who can blow the biggest bubble—chewing gum is a daily habit for many people. But what happens when you’re done chewing it? 80–90% of chewing gum is not disposed of properly and it’s the second most common form of litter after cigarette butts.

Chewing gum is made from polymers which are synthetic plastics that do not biodegrade. When it’s tossed on the sidewalk, there it sits until it’s removed which can be a costly, time consuming process. Littered gum can also make it’s way into the food chain. It has been found in fish where it can accumulate toxins over time. Sustainable chewing gums have been produced. These gums are natural, biodegradable substances. Cities are also implementing gum receptacles to cut down on waste. In a six month period these trash cans cut down on littered gum by 72%. Next time you get ready to toss your gum, consider aiming for a trash can instead of the side walk.

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The End of a Great Ripoff! Fund Transfers Made Cheaper

Financial intermediaries charge up to 12% to transfer funds internationally. Most of these transactions are from migrants wanting to send money home. At last, there is a solution that will dramatically reduce these costs and put an end to the free ride of financial institutions on the backs of migrant workers.  Original Polish version of article in Forbes PolandBritish_Pounds_Wide

Polish migrants working abroad sent over $7.6 billion home during 2011 (World Bank), providing an important source of income to their families for whom this often represents a critical lifeline for survival. Unfortunately, financial intermediaries take advantage of the opacity of this market and the lack of sophistication of their customers to impose exorbitant fees to send these funds internationally. According to the World Bank, the costs of a typical transfer of £120 from the United Kingdom to Poland ranged from 7.6% to 10.4% through Western Union and Money Gram (during the last Quarter of 2014). Even worse, commercial banks charge the highest fees on money transfers, on average 11.75%, often hidden within exchange rates to make their services seem cheaper than they are. This leads most migrants to wrongly believe that bank transfers are the cheapest way to send money. With around $ 1.3 billion transferred from the UK to Poland in 2011, the amount of money withheld by such agents is enormous.

Globally, the World Bank estimates that migrant remittances reached $582 billion in 2014, with average fees of 7.9%. In 2008 already, alarmed by the burden of these fees, the G8 had announced its “5X5” objective to cut the cost of transfers by half – from 10% at the time to 5% in 2014. Not only are we significantly off target, but fees to send funds to Sub-Saharan Africa remain above 11%. With three-quarters of these moneys being sent to developing countries, it is estimated that missing the “5X5” target cost these countries an estimated $16 billion in 2013, more if some of the cheaper transfer options that are already available were used.

Today, a number of innovative money transfer operators like TransferWise, Azimo, CurrencyFair, WorldRemit, transferGo offer solutions to send money across the globe for as little as 0.5%. But lack of awareness and the inability to compare the various transfer options remains a problem. Seeing a business opportunity in helping migrant workers find the best money transfer option money, a group of young Swiss entrepreneurs developed http://www.TawiPay.com, a web-based platform that helps compare the fees of fund transfer providers by destination. “The “United Kingdom – Poland” was one of their first “corridors” to take advantage of the large volume of transfers from the 521,000 Poles working there” said Tawipay co-founder, Laurent Oberholzer. A new “German-Polish” corridor, representing around $1.5 billion, was launched just last week.

While the website is free for users, the service is financed by micro-commissions from the operators. The success of the startup is therefore linked to its capacity to generate large volumes of transactions. Given the potential for enormous savings offered by TawiPay platform, let’s hope that today’s fund transfer quasi-monopolies will soon be a story of the past and that we will be able to expect better transparency and lower fees from the sector.

The TawiPay Story

In 1998, after a trip to Cameroon, Francois and Pascal Briod, two young students in Lausanne (Switzerland), created an association to support a village in this African country. In the first year they sent 180 Swiss francs and were shocked by the 10%+ fees charged by Western Union to transfer the funds. Realizing that globally such fund transfers represent over 500 billions of dollars annually, the Briod brothers teamed up with Laurent Oberholzer to develop the TawiPay.com platform that helps migrant workers lower the costs of sending money abroad.