Financial Inclusion, Cryptocurrency and the Developing World

Regions of the world with fast-growing economic potential and young populations, such as India and Africa, will become leaders in crypto adoption

four assorted cryptocurrency coins
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Beyond rapidly changing how we create, store and transfer value, cryptocurrencies are accelerating financial inclusion in a way that traditional financial institutions have either been unwilling or unable to. Yet crypto’s possibilities go way beyond banking the unbanked. It allows developing nations and those without access to financial services to avoid the bank completely and transact and grow small businesses using just a mobile phone.

Why financial inclusion is so important

Even today, almost 2 billion people around the world have no access to financial services. That’s approximately one-fourth of the global population. Having nowhere to place savings and not being able to get a bank card, obtain credit or avail of basic services such as life insurance is a horribly crippling disadvantage. These people are effectively unable to take part in their local economies — at least, in meaningful ways.

Gaining access to financial services will allow financially excluded people to improve their lives, increase their earnings, raise their household income and even stash away some savings for troubled times such as the ones we’re living in currently. Entrepreneurs can gain access to credit to start a business and families can acquire land and livestock and ensure that the roofs over their heads are safe. Quality of life can be improved for all.

Further still, impoverished parents can begin to send their children to school, offer them improved living conditions and access healthcare services. Financial inclusion can even lead to the creation of jobs as small businesses expand and need to take on additional personnel. We’re talking about a massive section of the global population that could substantially motor the economy through financial inclusion.

Developing countries are home to a young, tech-savvy population

The vast majority of financially excluded individuals live in developing regions. Yet this also coincides with a young, largely tech-savvy population. In parts of Africa, for example, mobile phones are more common than access to electricity. They have long been used as a primary tool for daily life exchanges and, more recently, for cryptocurrency use.

Across Africa, some 200 million people are between the ages of 15 and 24. This makes them generally well-versed in technology and a naturally captive audience for cryptocurrency adoption. This is mirrored by the population in many developing countries including IndonesiaTurkey and India. A tech-savvy population with a high mobile phone penetration rate — and a pressing need for financial services: This creates the perfect conditions to accelerate the adoption of cryptocurrencies.

As many people can’t access the traditional banking system, being able to earn, save and transact in cryptocurrencies directly from a telephone is hugely beneficial.

Ripe for cryptocurrency adoption

India is currently one of the most promising markets for cryptocurrency adoption and financial inclusion right now. With the regulatory framework improving this year with the Supreme Court of India overturning the Reserve Bank of India’s ban on cryptocurrency, adoption in the world’s second-most populated country could really take off.

India’s national currency, the rupee, has steadily declined in value against the United States dollar over the last decade. And with the COVID-19 pandemic causing increased money printing in India just as in other parts of the world, the rupee is being devalued further. Declining confidence in the national fiat currency as well as the government could be a large catalyst for cryptocurrency adoption in India and in many parts of the world.

Along with Africa and Indonesia, India’s population is young and very familiar with technology. In fact, around 8% of India’s gross domestic product comes from its well-developed IT outsourcing industry. The country has the skills and technical talent to make crypto startups flourish here. And with the largest remittance market in the world, crypto is the perfect use case for unshackling people from the high fees and lengthy delays involved in sending money home.

Onboarding the next wave to crypto

Of course, the right conditions and the potential don’t make crypto adoption a done deal. There is still much work to be done. The scene is being set for more and more crypto startups, remittance companies, exchanges and applications to appear across the developing region. At OKEx, we see the giant potential for crypto adoption in these parts of the world, and we want to be at the forefront of it. This is why our partnership with Paxful, the leading peer-to-peer Bitcoin (BTC) marketplace, is all the more significant.

Paxful has an extensive payment method infrastructure that allows local people to select how they pay for their Bitcoin from more than 300 different ways. This could be gift cards, store points, cash on delivery — or indeed any local method deemed acceptable by the seller. This kind of flexibility allows it to onboard people into cryptocurrency more easily.

They can then send and receive Bitcoin for goods and services and, through OKEx, earn interest on their BTC savings through high-interest accounts as well as make their money work for them accessing advanced trading tools.

As regulation becomes more favorable and the people’s needs are still repeatedly ignored by traditional finance, a young population with high mobile penetration will help financial inclusion to finally become a reality. The next wave will soon be onboarded to crypto, and it’s the developing world that will be leading the charge.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cryptopayplus LTD

Tanzania: Gov’t Looks To Information, Technology Sphere for Help in Blockchain Use Cases

The Tanzanian government has openly invited academics and researchers to collaborate in producing “favorable” blockchain regulations, tabloid-style South African news outlet The Citizenreported Monday, Oct. 29.

As part of a speech at the second Annual ICT [Information and Communications Technology] Professionals Conference 2018 in Dar Es Salaam, Dr. Jim Yonazi, the Deputy Permanent Secretary Minister for Works, Transport, and Communications, reached out to the industry for help divining new use cases for blockchain in order to gauge appropriate regulatory moves.

“Although we (the government) can have a national blockchain committee, I also challenge you (experts) and universities to conduct thorough research on this technology to understand its potentials and challenges before full adoption,” he said.

Tanzania remains pragmatic in its approach to cryptocurrency as well as blockchain, with the country’s central bank in a similar vein opting to study the phenomenon itself since last December in an effort to develop regulation.

Both ecosystems remain very much in their infancy in the country, however, with sporadic innovations such as the first baby “born” on the blockchain in Tanzania as part of a women’s aid project highlighting the experimental nature of the technology locally.

“Formalization of the activities needs such digital products as business software, communication platforms, affordable financial services affordable logistics and marketplaces which are easily accessible in the Blockchain [sic] platforms,” The Citizen quoted ICT lecturer Anthony Kigombola as saying.

Largest Chinese Newspaper to Launch Blockchain Lab After New Deal With Tech Company

The venture capital wing of the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China (CCP) — People’s Daily Online — has signed a deal for a strategic partnership on a blockchain laboratory Oct. 23, according to a press release.

People’s Capital signed a deal with Shenzhen-based technology company Xunlei Limited. Per the terms of the agreement, the two companies will construct a laboratory for “technology innovation” at the People Capital’s Blockchain Research Institute.

In addition to researching blockchain application in various use cases, the partners will also build a “high-level industrial service platform” to organize competitions, seminars, workshops, and promote and identify startups in the blockchain industry.

According to the press release, the blockchain laboratory is part of an initial global partnership agreement signed by People’s Daily Online and Xunlei Limited on July 22 of this year.

The People’s Daily Online is the online version of the People’s Daily, which was founded in 1948. Since the publication’s inception, the People’s Daily has been directly controlled by the top leadership of the CCP.

In 2012, the online version went public on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, becoming the first news website in the country to be listed on the A-share market. The publication is widely regarded as a mouthpiece for government policies and positions.

Xunlei Limited is a blockchain infrastructure provider and is also known as the “BitTorrent of China” for developing the Xunlei download manager, a peer-to-peer software that supports HTTP, FTP, and BitTorrent protocols.

Earlier this year, the CCP published a primer on blockchain technology and its possible applications. Ye Zhenzhen, general manager of the People’s Daily then stated that the most important part of blockchain technology is its “operating mechanism.” He added, “Through the ingenious combination of technologies, the fair distribution of resources is completed.”

Africa too: Must Embrace Blockchain to Avoid “Cybercolonization”

On September 27, the EU Competitiveness Council met in Brussels to discuss how to support Europe’s digitization, particularly with regard to artificial intelligence — an area that has tremendous potential, but also faces extreme global competition. AI, of course, runs on data. The unfortunate reality is that U.S. tech companies control and exploit large amounts of European data, in turn monopolizing our digital economy.

That’s why I, among 16 other executives, signed a letter to the council’s ministers—who engaged in a public policy debate and “competitiveness check-up” at Thursday’s meeting—urging a focus on these monopolies and the unfair business practices they get away with, from the exclusion of third parties to spontaneous changes to terms and conditions to unjustified interference, to name a few. There are alternatives to giving away the data, and thus, sovereignty,—something I emphasized as part of the National Digital Council in France and as the leader of numerous working groups focused on AI and privacy.

France, for one, has worked hard to attract major foreign investment in this space, opening AI hubs while seemingly ignoring the fact that Google, Apple, Facebook and the like don’t pay taxes in the country, yet still extract significant wealth from it. This hurts innovation and many local startups working hard to improve the region. London, Paris, Berlin, and Zug are popular tech destinations, yet they often get overshadowed or pushed out of the market because of the dominant U.S. players.

Google, of course, dominates web search market, conducting 77% of all internet searches and processing 400,000 every second—gathering significant amounts of data in the process. Such dominance means, as AI specialist Cedric Villani aptly put it, that large foreign companies threaten Europe with “cybercolonization.”

Online platforms that mediate buying and selling account for a whopping 60% of the private consumption of digital goods and services. Europe cannot be lax and blindly open its market to foreign platforms who are only creating monopolies. Their goal is to lock both buyers and sellers into their ecosystem—to be the central point of the majority of digital transactions. This level of centralization has become synonymous with a dependency on tech oligopolies, and a lack of country sovereignty. Even the “local” companies we think we have working in AI are often very dependent on U.S. tech.

The good news is that every problem that exists with closed, proprietary marketplaces and platforms can be solved easily with blockchain. Through the GDPR, Europe and France have already been the first to regulate data privacy, protecting both individual rights and digital sovereignty from foreign tech giants. Blockchain—which in fact has developed faster in Europe than in Silicon Valley—can take this a step further, and can transform Europe in to the next Crypto Valley. Decentralized AI means that algorithms run directly on end-user devices, preventing sensitive data from being sent to the cloud at all.

Also, rather than having an intermediary between people buying and offering digital goods and services, blockchain allows peer-to-peer marketplaces. These marketplaces often have no fees, meaning all of the value can be captured by buyers and sellers. On the other hand, when U.S. tech giants hold a monopoly they can charge significant fees, force certain types of payments, and coerce end-users in a myriad of other ways. With a decentralized approach, no single person or company controls the content. The suppliers and buyers decide for themselves what should be included in the marketplace.

It can be tempting to want to make Europe attractive to some of the biggest names in tech and AI, but we must recognize what we are sacrificing by doing so. Many local startups can’t compete because having a monopoly means you can, more or less, do whatever you want—even if that means engaging in unfair business practices or doing things that are good for your bottom line but bad for actual users. One way to avoid such cybercolonization, though, is to embrace decentralized technologies. They’re the key to both innovation and sovereignty.