Top Seven Blockchain Projects
Traditional perceptions of blockchain technology involve uses in financial technology and under the table transactions. Blockchain, however, has possibilities far beyond finance and digital currency. By its nature, blockchain provides unparalleled security and transparency. By creating a decentralized network of highly-encrypted blocks, a blockchain system creates a secure, unchangeable ledger. No one person can make changes and the encryption means that it is extremely difficult to hack, thus making blockchain one of the most secure and transparent technologies in the world. This technology has the power to revolutionize poverty reduction. Below are the top seven blockchain projects that represent the most successful blockchain for poverty projects that address real, pressing global issues.

Top 7 Blockchain Projects for Poverty

  1. Agri-Wallet: Agri-Wallet is a mobile app that allows farmers to remotely and securely receive payment for their produce and save money on business expenses. The majority of smallholder farmers do not have enough funding, both due to delayed payments for goods and a lack of access to credit. This is because banks are hesitant to lend to poor farmers that do not have a strong credit history or collateral. Through the blockchain financial ecosystem, Agri-Wallet allows farmers access to small loans and guarantees payment the first week of every month, which has been a major boon to Kenyan farmers. Agri-Wallet has already seen extensive success in Kenya, with approximately 4,000 farmers, 14 suppliers and 25 buyers using the app only one year after its large-scale release.
  2. Mojaloop: In developed countries, some may take access to banking for granted, but 1.7 million adults around the world do not have access to a secure banking system. The Gates Foundation sought to change this by releasing Mojaloop, an open-source solution that allows anyone to build financial services software, providing financial security through blockchain-based encryption. The key to Mojaloop’s importance is its egalitarian nature – a developer does not have to be connected to a major company or bank to develop technology using Mojaloop, and the code bridges all financial products and applications in any given market, providing unprecedented access to financial services for poor populations. The app has already gained the confidence of two of Africa’s largest mobile operators and the Gates Foundation estimates that it will reach 338 million existing mobile money accounts through the entire continent of Africa. In other words, this blockchain for poverty app could provide a flexible, universal banking system to 338 million people in Africa.
  3. Diwala: As of June 2019, there are more than 70 million displaced people worldwide fleeing war, persecution and conflict. The ability to join the workforce of refugee’s new home is critical for their integration into their new community and to rebuild their lives. However, when fleeing a war-torn country, it is difficult for refugees to retain certifications or diplomas. Diwala provides a secure, unchangeable digital resume that verifies a person’s skills, education and certifications that employers can rely on to provide an accurate record. The organization currently works with multiple organizations and universities to help issue credentials via Diwala to further verify education and certifications. Diwala is already bringing digital employment verification to Kenya and Uganda.
  4. BitGive: BitGive’s goal is to provide better transparency and accountability between donors and charitable organizations. The company’s blockchain for poverty product, GiveTrack™, allows donors to trace their donations in real-time to see exactly where their money goes. BitGive’s use of blockchain technology provides high-level security while also providing an unalterable ledger that donors can refer to at any time to ensure their money goes to the cause they want and see the real impact they are having on a community. The use of cryptocurrency also means that BitGive can quickly and efficiently transfer funds across the globe. The organization has seen amazing success, including partnerships with Save the Children and The Water Project.
  5. Goodr: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans waste approximately 30-40 percent of the U.S. food supply, while 820 million people around the world suffer from hunger. Goodr provides blockchain-based supply chain management tools that allow companies, such as airlines, convention centers and other food operations, to redirect surplus foods to food-insecure communities. As an added incentive, Goodr provides companies with blockchain-based ledgers that allow them to track their food and identify areas of waste. During the 2019 Superbowl alone, Goodr rescued over 100,000 pounds of food.
  6. OneSmart: The World Bank considers government corruption a significant challenge in reducing global poverty, particularly because corruption disproportionately affects poor populations. In 2018, UNICEF funded OneSmart’s OS City project to combat corruption and bring more transparency to local and national governments. OneSmart created a blockchain platform that is flexible enough to be integrated with existing city management platforms, allowing for the implementation of blockchain and artificial intelligence throughout government to avoid waste and increase transparency.
  7. SOLshare: SOLshare seeks to help the 1.1 million people worldwide without consistent access to electricity. It is the first-ever peer-to-peer electricity trading network, allowing villages to create mini-power grids by connecting houses with solar panels to other homes in the neighborhood. The blockchain-based platform allows for the fast, efficient and safe transfer of funds between neighbors, allowing for local, independent electricity grids. SOLshare has already brought electricity to 65 million people in Bangladesh and is helping helps poor villages shape a greener future.

People limit the use of blockchain technology by relegating it to banking or shady online transactions alone. The above top seven blockchain projects show that blockchain has value as a tool to develop solutions for multiple global issues. A blockchain is a useful tool that can address multifaceted issues in fighting poverty. Though it is still an emerging technology, blockchain deserves widespread research and support.

– Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr

Tala is Changing the WorldShivani Siroya’s startup, Tala, is changing the world by making a better, more equitable financial system one loan at a time. Billions of people around the world do not have a financial identity, making it impossible for them to advance due to a lack of credit history, but Tala is changing this.

The Financially Anonymous

Only 30 percent of the world’s adult population has a financial identity. The other 70 percent lack a credit history or any way of applying for loans. This severely limits opportunities to financially advance because loans are often necessary for larger investments, like starting a business, purchasing farm equipment or investing in better irrigation systems.

Credit and loans are only accessible with some type of paper trail or financial history if customers are borrowing from traditional banking institutions. It would be too risky to lend money to anyone lacking credit and financial history. Siroya, Tala’s founder and CEO, realized “that there are billions of people around the world who are not ever seen and don’t even have an identity. That felt really wrong.”

How Tala Works

Tala is a smartphone application available to anyone with an Android phone. With permission from the user, the application uses data collected from smartphones to create a digital credit history that determines if the customer is eligible for a loan. It serves the same purpose as traditional credit history to create a unique financial profile for each user. It is currently serving customers in Kenya, Tanzania, the Philippines, Mexico and India with Kenya accounting for the majority of users.

Using nontraditional data, Tala analyzes each of its three billion users using 10,000 unique data points to determine a user’s risk profile and whether they would be a credible borrower. Data points come from information gathered from texts, calls, sales transactions, application usages and personal identifiers that help to create a unique profile for each user. About 85 percent of Tala users receive a loan within 10 minutes of this vetting process. The average Tala loan is $50. Users typically invest these loans in equipment or business licenses, which are important opportunities that are not available to those who cannot access credit.

Tala expects customers to repay the loan within 30 days, which 90 percent of customers do on time. Tala is a loaning service that deals in microloans, ranging from $10 to $500. Since the company’s inception in Santa Monica in 2014, it has granted a total of six million loans worth $300 million and amassed a customer base of 1.3 million. Investors like Revolution Growth, IVP, Data Collective, Lowercase Capital, Ribbit Capital and Female Founders Fund with around 215 employees around the world fund Tala.

How Microloans Change Lives

Tala is a microfinancing company, using small loans to make big changes. Siroya herself has seen how these small funds make disproportionate improvements in people’s lives. Jennifer in Nairobi, a 65-year old food-service entrepreneur, needed credit to invest in a food stall and start her business. However, she had no credit history and banks refused to invest in her business aspirations. Her son heard of Tala and introduced her to the smartphone app. After answering eight to 10 questions, Tala approved her for a loan.

Over the last two years, Jennifer has taken out 30 loans and subsequently opened three food stalls. Additionally, she now has a formal credit history and can borrow money from formal bank institutions. In fact, Jennifer has used this opportunity to take out a small business loan from a bank and begin opening her own restaurant.

There are more people like Jennifer who lack opportunity but with help from Tala, they are beginning to see changes. By developing a real relationship with their customers, Tala is changing the world by updating the face of microfinancing and the very notion of credit history. Now it is possible to identify those who banking institutions ignored and give them a fair chance at empowering themselves.

– Julian Mok
Photo: Pixabay

Credit Access in MoldovaThe Republic of Moldova, a small, post-Soviet landlocked country bordering Ukraine to the north and Romania to the south, currently grapples with issues of economic freedom. According to the Index of Economic Freedom, Moldova ranks as the 97th freest economy in the world with Russia at 98th and Burkina Faso at 96th. With 180 countries ranked, the Heritage Foundation categorizes Moldova as a mostly unfree economy. Credit access in Moldova suffers along with its corrupt economic and political culture, affecting the most at-risk individuals in the population.

A Shift Away From the Agricultural Sector

Farming and agriculture once made up the bulk of Moldova’s domestic economy with agriculture accounting for 42 percent of the Moldovan GPD in 2000, according to a multi-national case study including USAID. The CIA World Factbook cites that in 2017, Moldovan agriculture made up only 17.7 percent of the GDP while Services took up 62 percent. In just 19 years, the Moldovan economy has experienced a rapid change. Moldova is transferring from an agrarian economy into a service-based economy, but during this transition, farmers are being left behind and their credit access in Moldova is dismal.

Farmers face the unique challenge of navigating a banking system that is new for their country. Before the year 2000, the Moldovan state owned all agrarian land. A USAID report explains how 800,000 private farmers became landowners and suddenly needed additional financial resources, yet struggled to acquire them since the amounts requested were only a few hundred dollars each–unattractive investments for local banks. The banks refused to work with the burgeoning independent farmer sector, making credit access impossible for many who needed small loans to fund and improve their businesses.

No Access to Investment

Along with the difficulties of learning a new market system, Moldovan farmers also encounter immense corruption in both government and business. The World Bank reports in its Country Partnership Framework (CPF) that “a massive bank fraud in 2013-14 enabled by political interference…led to depreciation of the currency, inflation, financial destabilization and loss of investor confidence.” Those who have no credit access in Moldova also have lower chances of receiving investment from outside the country because the risk of investing in a corrupt country carries too much risk for international investors.

The World Bank CPF explains that “limited access, inefficiency and poor quality have contributed to social exclusion, persistent poverty and vulnerability to shocks, especially in rural areas.” Rural farmers cannot rely on either the state or the banks to offer much-needed investment, and therefore are left without a critical resource essential to operating a thriving business.

The World Bank’s Moldovan Engagement

The World Bank currently sees transparency, accountability and corruption as the most pressing issues to the Moldovan economy. In an effort to stabilize the region and bring economic prosperity, the World Bank has ten active projects in Moldova. The organization cites three objectives: “strengthening the rule of law and accountability, improving access and quality of public services and enhancing the quality and relevance of education and training for job-relevant skills”. The objectives of The World Bank CPF, while broad, would allow for Moldovan farmers to either gain the credit access needed to operate their farms or expand into other sectors of the economy.

Three projects from The World Bank in particular help to solve the issue of credit access in Moldova. To help rural community members that wish to expand their horizons past farming, the World Bank has instituted the Moldova Education Reform Project, which gives out result-based specific loans to certain sectors of Moldovan education to improve the efficiency of the education sector and improve “the ministry of education’s capacity to monitor the reform”.

To help squash corruption and inefficiency, the World Bank also created the Tax Administration Modernization Project which reviews the Moldovan tax code to ensure an equal and comprehensive tax policy that supports the development of small businesses.

In an effort to help all Moldovans, the World Bank’s Moldova Economic Development Policy Operation Project (DPO) helps “to support the government of Moldova in reducing fiscal risks and leveling of the playing field for private sector development [by] strengthening oversight [and supporting] private sector development in access to business opportunities and resources”.

Lessons Learned

While credit access in Moldova is a complex issue, institutions like the World Bank that specialize in economic reform and recovery are getting involved in the country. Supporting institutions such as the World Bank helps the World’s poor help themselves by improving local economies and the governmental and business practices around them.

– Spencer Julian
Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in Micronesia
A lack of credit access in Micronesia is limiting Micronesia’s ability to develop effective solutions to widespread poverty. Limited credit regulation and poor banking infrastructure (Micronesia has only 14 bank branches per 100,000 adults) have hindered attempts at poverty reduction. An estimated 16 percent of the population lives below the international poverty line (individuals or families whose income per person is less than $1.90 per day) while an estimated 42 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line.

Infrastructure

A lack of effective financial regulation plays an important role in this problem, as Micronesia lacks both the public (credit registry) and private (credit bureau) infrastructure necessary to ensure that financial institutions can confidently provide loans to businesses and individuals. This has produced an extremely small lending practice in Micronesia, as banks and other institutions face a substantial risk when offering loans. Beyond simply the difficulty in verifying that debtors can pay back their loans, there is little legal protection for creditors. When a debtor defaults on a loan, secured creditors do not receive payment first, and if a debtor files for bankruptcy, there are no legal guidelines establishing relief for the creditor. This creates little incentive for lending institutions to grant credit, as there are often serious questions about the prospect of getting their money back.

While poor financial regulation may not appear to have an immediate effect on the spread of poverty, it plays a substantial role in limiting prospects for poverty reduction. The two largest sectors of Micronesia’s economy are the service industry and agriculture, which together make up around 81 percent of Micronesia’s GDP. The lack of credit access in Micronesia has amplified the structural difficulties of poverty, as many lack the money necessary to purchase land or start a business. They also cannot reliably acquire such capital from banks, which harms the overall growth of these vital sectors.

Credit access also plays a substantial role in agricultural production. The agriculture industry in Micronesia is declining as it holds an incredibly small portion of Micronesia’s total exports compared to agriculture’s importance in the country’s GDP. Around seven percent of Micronesia’s exports are in agriculture, and the sector is seeing its impact decline overall, as few can afford to remain farmers. Credit access enables farmers to acquire better agricultural inputs, which functions to provide a long-term solution to poverty in Micronesia by raising income levels across the impoverished population, growing individual incomes and strongly affecting Micronesia’s economy.

Business confidence

Beyond simply limiting access for those seeking the startup funds to create a business, the lack of effective credit infrastructure has hampered overall business confidence and undermined faith in the prospects for sustained growth. Constraints on capital have limited the ability for pre-existing businesses to ensure continued access to the money necessary to provide financial stability. This lack of confidence, while largely sentiment-based, has produced an environment which harms overall prospects for economic activity.

The Good News

Fortunately, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has begun investing in local banking infrastructure to develop credit access in Micronesia as a part of its Private Sector Development program. In a series of loans beginning in 2006, the ADB has provided over $9 million to Micronesia, with the goal of improving bank credit and narrowing the gap between public and private employment to develop more jobs in the private sector. The program has thus far been a success, as the employment gap has decreased by 20 percent signaling the growth of private industry.  The ADB can offer loans for land ownership via a partnership with the Federated States of Micronesia Development Bank (FSMDB). It can also improve building infrastructure with one loan recipient saying that he was able to make his used clothing store earthquake-resistant to protect his business against a sudden loss in revenue.

Moreover, Micronesia is implementing reforms to protect financial institutions and improve the government’s capacity to register security rights in moveable properties. As a part of the World Bank’s Doing Business program, established in 2008, Micronesia had the goal of improving legal protections for creditors. Since then, the Micronesian government has developed more reforms which allow for the use of moveable assets as collateral when seeking credit and expanding security agreements to codify the use of such assets.

One cannot underestimate the importance of credit access in Micronesia as it plays an integral role in maintaining vital sectors of the Micronesian economy. Not only does credit impact the country’s economic growth, but it also helps lift individuals out of poverty by providing sustained sources of income. While Micronesia requires more work to develop stronger infrastructure, the Micronesian Government, with the help of the ADB, has begun taking steps in the right direction.

– Alexander Sherman
Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in CameroonCameroon is a country in Central Africa located right below the Sahara Desert. With a population close to 24 million, estimates show that 48 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The majority of those who live in poverty reside in northern, rural regions. Although Cameroon has experienced growth in GDP since 2018, it is the largest economy in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), a region that has suffered in Africa due to the fall of oil prices. Cameroon aims to become an emerging country by 2035, which means the real GDP will have to grow by 8 percent. In order to reach this goal, credit access is an advancement that must be focused on. Seeking a solution for credit access in Cameroon is a crucial task for its government.

Unfortunately, in 2017, only 10 percent of Cameroon’s population reported that they have a bank account.

Agriculture and the Economy

It’s clear that financial services and education are not reaching a large portion of Cameroon’s population. Often described as a miniature Africa, Cameroon exhibits all the climates of the continent, with a large chain of mountains separating the arid and green regions. This terrain presents a challenge in acclimating the population to new advancements such as mobile banking and loan access.

Cameroon’s economy is rooted in agriculture, something found mostly in rural regions where access to credit is poor. Because of the country’s rich landscape and natural resources, 70 percent of the population’s labor force is in Cameroon farms. However, 23 percent of farmer households rely on subsistence farming, which means they are working to feed themselves and their family. This is an alternative to both consuming and selling the produce.

While subsistence farming can provide a family with a self-sufficient method towards survival, its success is dependent on a non-hazardous climate and funding. Specifically, this is access to expensive chemical fertilizers. Subsistence farming also doesn’t help improve the economy’s investment sector when many people are farming to live instead of making money to save. Most farmers sell their products at the marketplace, where physical cash is exchanged for goods. Out of the 90 percent who do not own a bank account, the majority reported that they had no money to save or made no regular income.

A Need to Expand Credit Access in Cameroon

There are currently around 840 or so accredited microfinance institutions in Cameroon. The country’s loan performance has worsened due to the number of uninformed loans given to consumers. In 2018, the Risk Prevention Bureau for Microfinance (CREMF) was established as a system that helps these institutions track and disseminate the correct data on all their customers. This makes it somewhat easier for them to recover borrowed money. However, the challenge is still present: the majority of these microfinance institutions are in rural areas with low internet connectivity. This makes it difficult to continue giving out loans to those who need them.

In order to make credit access in Cameroon more financially inclusive, mobile services must be extended to rural areas. Additionally, services should also cover financial education and funding for farmers. In 2008, Express Union introduced mobile money. Mobile money offers a quick method for payments and access to finances.

While there are 6.8 million subscribers, there are only 1.5 million active users of mobile money services. The biggest challenge is implementing a cashless culture in a country that is reliant on a cash-based agricultural market.

Improvement Efforts

In order to establish an equal financial climate, the government of Cameroon and the World Bank Group renewed its strategy. This 2017-2021 project focuses on three main areas:

  1. poverty traps in rural areas
  2. access to better transportation
  3. improving weak governance.

The main objectives of this framework are increased market productivity in the agricultural sectors, improved health and improved access to credit in Cameroon.

Another solution to help foster jobs in Cameroon is the Agriculture Investment and Market Development Project (AIMD). Participants of this project are working to pave a bridge between agriculture and agribusiness. For example, this includes:

  • educating farmers on new techniques
  • providing them with the means to create quality produce
  • connecting them with agro-industrial companies like Guinness through mobile applications.

These advancements have helped to boost the financial sector and improve credit access in Cameroon. As a result, the livelihood of the country’s poor has improved. With consistent improvement, it’s possible that Cameroon’s economy can emerge into one that is economically stable, with more equally-distributed prosperity among regions.

– Isadora Savage
Photo: Pexels

Credit Access in TajikistanTajikistan, located in Central Asia, has a population of over 8 million people. Tajikistan has borders to Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China. Although Tajikistan’s financial sector has made significant progress since 2000, many new advancements such as credit access are still in need of improvement. In 2017, almost 30 percent of Tajiks were living below the poverty line. Finding a solution to increase credit access in Tajikistan has become an important task for the government of Tajikistan.

Tajikistan’s Reliance on Remittances

Due to Tajikistan’s limited employment opportunities, about 90 percent of Tajiks travel out of the country for work. They often travel to the Russian Federation in search of employment. Many migrant workers send remittances back to their friends and family in Tajikistan. More than 60 percent of Tajik households reported that half of their income comes from remittances with 30 percent of Tajik households reporting that 100 percent of their income comes from remittances.

A 2010 Labor Organization study reported on how Tajik households save their income and remittances. The study found that only 23 percent of people were able to save their remittances with only 9 percent able to save at a partial amount of 21 to 40 percent of the money. When the money can be saved, it is not often for long. In fact, only 11 percent of the people were able to save their remittances for more than six months.

Income savings did slightly better. At least 63 percent reported being able to save part of their income. For example, 51 percent saved about 20 percent of their income. However, only 3 percent could save between 41-60 percent of their income. Since remittances are the main source of income in many Tajik households, money is spent on immediate needs, which results in low percentages in income saving.

Credit Access in Tajikistan

According to a 2010 International Labor Organization study, 95 percent of Tajik households do not keep their savings in financial institutions. Due to Tajikistan’s remote and unique mountainous terrain, 95 percent of Tajik households are not aware of the savings products available to them or know where financial institutions are located. Credit access in Tajikistan isn’t seen as a necessity in many Tajik households because it is very common and traditional for Tajiks to keep their savings at home. There also seems to be “a general distrust” of financial institutions.

In April 2010, the World Bank Group, with the help of the Government of Switzerland, launched the IFC Azerbaijan-Central Asia Financial Markets Infrastructure Advisory Services Project. This three-phase project is aimed at improving the financial infrastructure of Tajikistan and expanding credit for people and small businesses. This would allow for the creation of more jobs.

The project also provided financial literacy training to more than 100,000 Tajiks, which allowed Tajiks to become knowledgable about where their savings go. As a result of the IFC Azerbaijan-Central Asia Financial Markets Infrastructure Advisory Services Project, Tajikistan’s financial sector was able to establish the first private Credit Information Bureau with the help of IFC and the National Bank of Tajikistan.

These crucial advancements have led Tajikistan’s financial sector in the right direction toward improving credit access in Tajikistan as well as addressing the needs of the people of Tajikistan. With impoved credit access comes financial security, an increase in small businesses and a better economic standing.

Jocelyn Aguilar
Photo: Flickr

Advance Consumerism in sub-Saharan Africa

As a way to build a more “digitally exclusive ecosystem,” Visa is partnering with Branch International to advance consumerism in sub-Saharan Africa. So the Branch-Visa partnership offers over 2 million consumers in sub-Saharan Africa virtual, prepaid Visa debit cards. With these virtual Visa accounts, consumers can then create accounts on Branch, the most downloaded finance app in Africa. Now, with access and finance, citizens are even able to invest in technology. As a result, this donation will advance consumerism in sub-Saharan Africa, even enabling consumers to start their own tech companies.

Here’s how and why Sub-Saharan Africa needs this.

Sub-Saharan Africa Can Participate in Global Consumerism

Giving citizens in sub-Saharan Africa access to online purchasing allows them to contribute to global markets. Many setbacks prevent citizens of impoverished African countries from entering this market. These setbacks include:

  • Lack of transportation
  • Limited stores selling modern, technological products
  • Having only cash to buy products
  • Having low or no credit score

Enabling these citizens to start their own tech companies will advance consumerism in sub-Saharan Africa, as products become accessible and affordable.

Most of Sub-Saharan Africa is Unbanked

According to Business Insider, only about 30 percent of sub-Saharan African adults had a bank account as of 2014. This percentage drops to below seven in Niger, Guinea and the Central African Republic. About 42 percent of citizens in these countries cite lack of money as the reason for not having an account.

But with prepaid debits cards, over 2 million citizens in Sub-Saharan Africa can now access online banking. Additionally, the region is also expanding its internet access, to even the most remote parts of Kenya and Tanzania. Ultimately, these efforts will advance consumerism in sub-Saharan Africa, as online banking becomes accessible to more citizens.

Merchants Can Grow Their Businesses

Currently, most small businesses and startups in sub-Saharan Africa are unable to access quick loans. However, the Visa-Branch partnership also includes preferential small business loans to Visa merchants. So as small businesses and startups grow, citizens will have greater access to tech companies across the region.

Because most sub-Saharan African citizens do not possess bank accounts, they rely on cash and only invest in local businesses. But this partnership with Visa and Branch International allows these citizens to use online banking and expand their reach. In doing so, they not only help grow businesses across the region but advance consumerism in sub-Saharan Africa.

Sara Devoe
Photo: Flickr

Seoul, South Korea

Since the Korean War, South Korea has emerged as one of the more politically and economically free nations in the world. Home to companies like Samsung and Hyundai, South Korea’s economy has been growing for years. While South Korea has become a model for other countries in southeastern Asia, the country is also facing new challenges that a strong economy alone cannot fix. Here is a list of the top 10 facts about living conditions in South Korea.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in South Korea

  1. Life Expectancy: The life expectancy rate is one of the highest in the world. South Koreans, on average, have a life expectancy range that goes into the mid-80s for men and into the 90s for women. This means the country has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, a benefit to having free, universal healthcare coverage. Koreans’ diets consist of steam-cooked rice, vegetables and meat, constituting a healthy meal and contributing to a long and healthy life.
  2. Credit Access: South Korea is among the world’s top countries with high credit card usage. South Koreans averaged almost 130 credit card transactions per person in 2011, according to the Bank of Korea. Additionally, it is illegal for businesses to refuse credit cards, even for smaller purchases. This has created a bustling tourism and shopping industry in South Korea.
  3. High Suicide Rate: The suicide rate in South Korea is among the highest in the world. It is believed that the high suicide rate is due to the long work hours and stress in the workplace. Another factor contributing to these high rates is the level of poverty and loneliness among the elderly. The country has taken preventative measures to combat such a tragic statistic. Korean legislature continues to update and improve the Mental Health Act. The Act for the Prevention of Suicide and the Creation of Culture of Respect for Life went into effect in 2011, which sets forth policies to help prevent suicides.
  4. Youth Unemployment: The country’s economy is strong, but it is slowly declining. With such large companies like Samsung, LG and Hyundai in South Korea, many smaller businesses are having trouble cementing themselves into Korean society. These larger companies then offer less than ideal contracts to smaller companies who must accept them or risk going out of business. This is disabling young people’s ability to find jobs with a smaller market of opportunities. More than 11 percent of young people between the ages of 15 and 29 are unable to find jobs. President Moon Jae-in promises to combat the unemployment of young people during his presidency.
  5. Universal Healthcare: South Korea has adopted an affordable, universal healthcare system. It was first introduced in 1989. As mentioned above, this may be a key factor in the increase in life expectancy in South Korea. The country also created plans to help its citizens treat certain forms of dementia. It is projected that the percentage of South Koreans age 65 or older will increase to 40 percent by the year 2060.
  6. Plans to Boost the Economy: South Korea has decreased its infrastructure spending, but is increasing its minimum wage. President Moon has planned to drastically increase South Korea’s spending budget by around $420 billion in 2019. The goal is to increase the number of jobs available and to raise the minimum wage; however, these programs will also create budget cuts for infrastructure spending.
  7. Climate Change: The country is taking action on climate change. In an effort to learn more about climate change, the Korean National Institute of Environmental Research began working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other organizations in 2016. These organizations have been focusing on monitoring air quality throughout East Asia. Citizens of South Korea are affected by smog and concentrations of particulate matter that lead to respiratory illnesses. South Korean air is twice as polluted as some other countries.
  8. Low Violence Rates: South Korea has low rates of terrorism and violence. South Koreans have great respect for the rule of law, according to data from the World Bank. Citizens also have a great deal of respect for the courts and rules of society. It is possible that the impeachment of former President Park Geun-Hye in 2017 also increased confidence in the South Korean legal system.
  9. Expensive Housing: The already expensive housing prices in South Korea are increasing even more. The nation’s capital, Seoul, is the most expensive city to live in South Korea. It’s twice as expensive to live there than anywhere else in the country. During the past year, housing prices have risen 23 percent in Seoul and 12.5 percent outside of the city. To encourage young people to live in the city, the government offered 70,000 homes to newlyweds in December 2018.
  10. Long Work Weeks: South Koreans work more than the majority of other countries. In 2018, South Korea changed the maximum limit that employees may work from 68 hours to 52 per week. This change was put into effect to improve health conditions and keep laborers from becoming overworked. This bill limited the work week of South Koreans to 40 hours per week with 12 hours of optional overtime at 50 to 100 percent normal pay rate. As the last fact on this list of top 10 facts about living conditions in South Korea, it shows South Korea is prioritizing mental health and the well-being of its citizens.

South Korean has made great advancements in the quality of living conditions, but there is still room for improvement. Many younger Koreans believe that President Moon’s policies will lead to more benefits and a fairer society. These top 10 facts about living conditions in South Korea outline a promising future, but making mental health and financial stability a priority is necessary for the country’s citizens.

Jodie Ann Filenius

Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in Mauritius
Mauritius, the island nation in the Indian Ocean, has undergone a financial transformation since the early 2000s, promoted by the government in order to catalyze the economy of the country. This has impacted credit access in Mauritius in a big way. Since 2000, the country has experienced losses connected to its truncated access to EU sugar and textile markets and is facing steeper competition from China and other East Asian exports.

Mauritius Economy Compared to Other Countries

This loss of preferential treatment and high budget deficit spells a slight struggle for Mauritius to retain its middle-income standing. Currently, the country ranks 65th in the world on the Human Development Index, and in 2014, it was the second highest country in Africa on the development list. Mauritius’ Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is at $9,770 and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports that the country performs better than the average compared with other sub-Saharan African and middle-income countries as far as information ability, involvement of the trade community, advance rulings, appeal procedures and internal border agency cooperation.

By continuing to focus on the area of governance and impartiality, Mauritius can increase its trade volumes and lower trade costs. A strengthened customs system and transparent ethics policy could be the final stretch to reach the Prime Minister’s dream of a high-income country.

Government Initiatives

The Prime Minister of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth, has predicted a revamping of the economy and expresses hope for Mauritius moving into the future. Key reforms introduced in the 2018/2019 budget helped bring Mauritius its present position. The Minister also touched on the government’s dedication to raising the country to high-income level country, thereby funneling benefits to every citizen. Already this commitment can be seen in the growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and financial services, estimated to continue at 4.1 percent in 2019.

The government introduced changes to the legislative system in order to prevent money laundering and corrupt business. In his speech, the Prime Minister assured that the country is conducting a national risk assessment of terrorism financing.

Credit Access in Mauritius

A report from the Global Findex as of 2017 records 68.5 percent of Mauritians making or receiving digital payments, as well as 48.3 percent using credit or debit cards. The percentage of adults above the age of 15 who borrowed from a financial institution in Mauritius was at 22.9 percent, much higher than the sub-Saharan average of 8.4 percent, in comparison. Outstanding housing loans are increasing in availability as well, and almost 90 percent of adults were able to obtain access to financial institution accounts, banks or otherwise.

Enjoying past growth of upwards of 6 percent in the 1990s and continued economic performance, Mauritius is still dealing with the changes in the EU Sugar Protocol and falling sugar prices. As of 2006, the government incentivized seafood production in order to shift toward exporting fish instead of sugar, as well as a list of Integrated Resort Schemes offering luxury villas to foreigners. Diversifying the market and leveling the competition will surely launch Mauritius ahead in the economic playing field. The GDP by sector reveals the sugar sector operates at a modest 4.3 percent in 2007, led by government services at 15 percent, wholesale at 11, finance and real estate at 14.2 and many other diverse trade sectors.

Unfortunately, drastic adjustments meant one-third of employees for the sugar sector were redundant. The lost sugar income has still not been completely replaced, but the government is focused on diversification and increasing exports in the coming years.

In addition to experiencing an incredible 195 percent wealth growth from 2007 to 2017, credit access in Mauritius continues to increase due to strong ownership rights, a resilient economy, and ease of investment. Hopefully, the country’s example spearheads a movement throughout Asia for easier credit access and stable banks and economy.

– Hannah Peterson
Photo: Flickr