AkoinYoung entrepreneurs in Africa face unique obstacles when starting their own businesses, which prolongs Africa’s development. Akon, the multi-platinum-selling singer and recording artist, is originally from Senegal in Africa. Therefore, he has a deep understanding of the economic strife facing Africa due to inflation and financial instability. On top of this, about 350 million adults in sub-Saharan Africa remain unbanked, equivalent to 17% of the world’s total unbanked. Akon aims to change this by introducing the Akoin cryptocurrency.

Why Akoin?

Akon is using blockchain technology to help African entrepreneurs. He seeks to provide them with the tools necessary to overcome the difficulty of working between more than 40 currencies across 54 African countries by uniting currencies. With the Akoin cryptocurrency, seamless transfers within and across borders could be possible.

In the early months of 2021, the youth of Senegal took to the streets to protest the economic instability and unemployment facing their generation, highlighting the need for a new economic recovery plan. Although the economy in Senegal has grown in recent years, the growth has not always meant growth in jobs for young adults.

Akon is aggressively seeking to reach his goal of implementing Akoin in Africa because “[i]t brings the power back to the people and brings the security back into the currency system.” The singer-turned-social rights advocate seeks to implement Akoin as a form of payment to provide users access to a suite of business tools. Additionally, the construction of Akon City has been approved by the Senegalese government. Construction will take an estimated 10 years with the cost of this futuristic city being an estimated $6 billion, supported by Akon and other investors.

How it Works

Akoin, the African cryptocurrency token, is part of a decentralized exchange ecosystem that allows users to trade tokens and other cryptocurrencies between each other or major exchanges. After making this technology accessible to emerging entrepreneurs and helping them with the extensive paperwork required by banks when starting a new business, Akon could strengthen the African economy with a stronger infrastructure for startups.

Unlike other cryptocurrencies, Akoin is specific to Africa and seeks to provide optimal support as a transaction medium in otherwise hard-to-reach areas. One major obstacle to the African adoption of cryptocurrency as tender is government uneasiness. Signs show that the wariness of another legal tender remains, potentially due to a lack of public knowledge and the possible insecurity that comes with blockchain technology’s anonymity.

Looking Foward

With Africa awaiting a crypto boom, Akon makes the clarification that Akoin does not necessarily need to be deemed legal tender, only an “alternative financial solutio[n].” According to Chainalysis, a blockchain analytics firm, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria are ranked among world leaders in peer-to-peer crypto transactions. Mwale Technological and Medical City have beta-tested the transaction platform. More than 2,000 merchants utilized the technology as the “sole currency and payment processor.

Hope remains for the Senegalese government’s adoption of Akoin. Leaders of the African cryptocurrency scene are hopeful for more African countries to adopt and primarily benefit from the plethora of crypto applications.

– Melanie Goldsmith
Photo: Flickr

Blockchain Startup in MexicoAs internet connectivity expands around the globe so do the benefits of blockchain technology and its potential to better the lives of those living in poverty. In Mexico, accessible financial services and insurance programs are vital to the improvement of the quality of life of Mexicans living below the poverty line., a blockchain startup in Mexico, helps facilitate this access.

Blockchain Startup in Mexico

A blockchain startup in Mexico has utilized the security of blockchain technology to meet the needs of Mexicans living in poverty. offers Mexicans a secure and easy-to-use platform on which they can pay their bills using remittance money from abroad.

This is a significant development in the Mexican fintech market as Mexico receives billions of dollars in remittances from the United States each year, with $10.6 billion reaching Mexico in the third quarter of 2020 alone.

Especially during a time of economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to securely receive timely remittances is crucial for the financial security of Mexicans who rely on remittance payments for their survival.

Saldo’s services have the capacity to reach millions of Mexican customers, as it has been estimated that by the end of 2020, upwards of 81 million Mexicans will have internet access and thus the ability to quickly receive and utilize much-needed cash without having to wait for physical cash to arrive from abroad.

Consuelo: Access to Affordable Insurance Plans

One of Saldo’s newer services is Consuelo, which allows users to find fixed health and life insurance policies. Consuelo uses blockchain technology to connect its users to an insurance plan with a “smart contract,” which eliminates the need for a claim adjuster and gives the users direct access to affordable plans.

By removing a costly middleman and lessening the financial bureaucratic burden on customers, Consuelo gives its users a chance at obtaining health and life insurance and decreases long-term financial insecurity concerns.

Consuelo also helps uninsured Mexicans bypass the bureaucratic messiness of the national public healthcare system, which is supported by numerous uncoordinated social security institutes. This allows for better continuity of care by allowing Mexicans to remain with the same doctor by staying on their plan provided by Consuelo rather than facing the possibility of having to switch to another doctor through the national system after losing their jobs.

The Diverse Applications of Blockchain Technology

Innovation is not confined to affluent areas of developed countries. Especially in the age of the internet, new solutions can be developed and rapidly disseminated from any part of the world and can impact the lives of millions. In Mexico, receiving international transfers of money and gaining access to affordable health and life insurance plans can be difficult for the unbanked and those without stable employment. Startups like Saldo exemplify the potential of internet entrepreneurship and blockchain technology in helping lift the global poor out of poverty.

– John Andrikos
Photo: Flickr

Moyee Coffee is Helping Farmers in Ethiopia
The days of poor coffee farmers in Ethiopia receiving underpayment for hard work may soon be over as Moyee Coffee is helping farmers in the country. Moyee, a Dutch coffee brand, is transforming supply chains with blockchain. Moyee begins this process by creating unique digital identities for its coffee producers. Next, it sets prices at 20 percent over the market rate. Buyers can view these prices and choose to support the livelihood of farmers in Ethiopia. The coffee company is also creating an app that allows customers to tip farmers. These business decisions are what make Moyee the first multinational coffee company based in Ethiopia.

Why Coffee is Such a Tough Business

People consume billions of cups of coffee every day and the coffee industry is worth almost $100 billion, yet the producers of the coffee bean are among the world’s poor. Approximately 90 million people who help produce coffee live on less than $2 a day. To put that into perspective, most Americans spend more than $2 a day on a cup of coffee.

A lot of the problems associated with coffee farming and poverty have to do with climate change and price fluctuation. Climate change has altered growing seasons making it difficult to produce good quality crops. Species of coffee are dying out because of deforestation and soon farmlands may become unsuitable to grow coffee. Prices fluctuate often because of supply and demand. The problem is that when climate change damages crop yield, prices can be low which means farmers earn less than they should for their product.

How Blockchain Increases Profits for Farmers in Ethiopia

This is when Fairchain comes in. Fairchain is a version of blockchain that Moyee created. It is a digital supply chain that is completely transparent. The supply chain tracks every transaction from the coffee bean to the coffee cup. This allows blockchain to cut out the middleman and help control price fluctuations. When the supply chain is transparent, people and companies can see how much each chain in the line received to keep prices fair. This is what helps farmers when prices fluctuate dramatically because they get a fair price even when demand is low.

How Moyee Coffee is Helping Farmers

Moyee gives coffee farmers mobile wallets, tap cards, identification numbers and barcodes that allow them to receive payments directly. Moyee also allows customers who buy its coffee to support farmers by using a QR code. The code allows customers to tip the farmer or fund small programs that aid farmers like microloans or training.

The Moyee Brand has a growing impact in Ethiopia by using blockchain to increase profits for coffee farmers. The use of technology has allowed for supply chains to become more transparent. Transparency is key because customers are often unaware of where their product is coming from and how much the producer receives. The increase in profits can help farmers in a variety of ways. Their product yields could increase and they could live a more sustainable lifestyle. Middlemen used to take advantage of farmers and cut their profits, but Moyee is changing that and hopefully, it will serve as a model for other multinational corporations.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

Technologies that can help end povertyDespite gloomy predictions for the future among pessimists, humanity develops the tools for a brighter tomorrow. At the Lisbon Web Summit on November 6, 2017, physicist Stephen Hawking discussed the pros and cons of artificial intelligence. Though Hawking is aware of how new technologies threaten jobs, he also believes that such advances can alleviate disease, global warming and poverty. Artificial intelligence isn’t the only gadget in development. Here are four technologies that can help end poverty, provided they’re used the right way.

  1. Blockchain
    Blockchain records transactions made in cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin. These ledgers are publicly available. Brian Singer, a William Blair partner, predicted in 2015 that access to a cheap and transparent payment system through Blockchain would serve emerging markets well. How have Bitcoin and Blockchain helped the world so far? By allowing a transparent ledger, Blockchain prevents falsified land deeds from stealing the land of small farmers. With no need for a physical building, Blockchain can save foreign aid money; through the data provided, Blockchain can optimize a developing economy. Cryptocurrency provides a small, but significant, step in helping impoverished people begin their own businesses.
  2. Smart Survey boxes
    The World Bank reported how Smart Survey boxes in Tajikistan monitor energy usage. These boxes collect data on energy quality and power outages. At first glance, Smart Survey boxes seem an unlikely candidate for technologies that can help end poverty. But having the right data in a crisis ensures that the right cure can be provided. Automated information collection leaves little room for human error and little reason to put volunteers in unsafe areas.Utz Pape, a World Bank economist, summarizes the impact of data collection on poverty: “It can help improve data quality of existing surveys, it can help to increase the frequency of data collection to complement traditional household surveys, and can also… improve our understanding of people’s behaviors.”
  3. Genetically Modified Crops
    The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in farming has led to fiery debated in the past decade. But the results are clear. Using seeds designed to resist pests and herbicides, GMOs led to more yields, fewer applications of pesticides, and more profits for farmers, according to a study by Penn State. Stephen Hawking warned about the careless application of technology, and GMOs are no exception. The impact of GMOs on other organisms has not been well documented. But when Penn State concludes that “The technology may be more appropriate for farmers that have difficulty spraying pesticides and herbicides,” it’s easy to see how developing nations benefit from the invention.
  4. Video Games
    Though considered fun distractions in America, video games have immense teaching potential. The United Nations described an initiative in India that taught English to children through mobile phone games. A similar project, in Somalia, taught money management skills to young Somali women. The Somali mobile game project boosted job training and placement for 8,000 people, both male and female, by 2015.

All these inventions— cryptocurrency, data collection, GMOs, and video games— destroyed the world in countless science fiction novels. In the real world, they’re technologies that can help end poverty.

In some ways, the brighter tomorrow has already arrived.

– Nick Edinger

Photo: Flickr

Ethereum Blockchain in Jordan Is Changing How the United Nations Delivers Aid
Distributing aid within areas of conflict, especially those ruled by unstable authoritarian governments, has proven to be a struggle for organizations like the United Nations. These efforts are often plagued by a myriad of issues, such as the distribution of funds to individuals by relief agencies. The Ethereum blockchain in Jordan is shifting the paradigm.

Blockchain technologies, cryptocurrencies and digital banking, however, have the potential to alleviate many of these complications. On May 31, 2017, the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) completed the first successful large-scale trial of the Ethereum blockchain in Jordan to distribute humanitarian aid to Syria.

In order to fully understand the tangible effects that blockchain technology has on the lives of these individuals, it is first necessary to establish a basic background of what exactly this new platform is and what it can do.

Ethereum essentially lends itself to decentralized data recording, meaning that no single person or entity owns the final ledger. Instead, everyone who participates in the network becomes part of the record keeping process.

Blockchain, the technology behind the infamous cryptocurrency Bitcoin as well as Ethereum, has many other applications past transferring money between parties. Like Bitcoin, Ethereum acts as a distributed public blockchain network. However, while Bitcoin’s main application involves peer-to-peer exchange of payments, Ethereum blockchain focuses on both cryptocurrency, called Ether, as well as deploying decentralized applications. These applications generally contain smart contracts: computer codes that facilitate the exchange of money, content, property or anything else of value.

Ethereum offers an unprecedented capacity to carry out nonspecific applications, meaning that instead of just offering peer-to-peer transfer of digital currencies, Ethereum enables the development of potentially thousands of different applications on a single platform. Additionally, hacking and fraudulent activities are virtually impossible on a decentralized network like Ethereum.

Ethereum has many widespread applications, one of which includes legal identification. With current estimates suggesting that there are 1.1 billion people around the world with no official documentation, many of whom are refugees, aid organizations struggle to provide health, financial and educational services without proper identification.

While smartphones or Internet-capable devices are an obvious access point for the identification platform, the project implemented by the WFP was built under the assumption that its beneficiaries might not have access to such luxuries. Instead, the WFP made it possible for thousands of Syrian refugees to pay with a scan of their eyes using the Ethereum blockchain in Jordan.

In this month-long trial, instead of administering funds directly to the recipients, the WFP issued unspecified amounts of cryptocurrency-based vouchers to thousands of Syrian refugees. The U.N. allocated money to the merchants of participating stores where the coupons could be redeemed, effectively cutting out the banking middlemen in the aid distribution processes. Iris recognition devices verified the identities of the refugees at the supermarket in the Azraq camp in Jordan and deducted what they spent from the total sum the WFP provided.

By the end of May 2017, the Ethereum blockchain in Jordan was successfully used to record and authenticate transfers to about 10,000 individuals. WFP consultant Alexandra Alden helped oversee the implementation of this project and stated, “All funds received by the refugees from WFP were specifically used to purchase food items such as olive oil, pasta, and lentils.”


The Future of Ethereum Blockchain in Jordan and Beyond


In terms of future expansion, the WFP intends to include upwards of 100,000 individuals in Jordan in the program as early as August 2017, with hopes of serving the entire Jordanian refugee population by the end of 2018. If this expansion proves successful, the agency will look to expand beyond Jordan to other countries in need of aid.

Additionally, companies including Accenture and Microsoft have been working to design a more comprehensive digital ID network for the U.N. using blockchain technology.

Instead of just receiving food from local merchants, this identification network will provide undocumented refugees with unique identifiers called “stamps” that authenticate services received at camps or through other agencies, such as vaccinations. This system of record keeping will be tested in the near future.

While blockchain technology has the potential to serve the rest of society in various capacities, Ethereum offers those individuals who have been forced to renounce their identities over and over again the possibility of retaining important parts of who they are.

Richa Bijlani

Photo: Flickr

Many people have heard about bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that has more than doubled in value over the past year. However, few are familiar with blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin. Blockchain creates a tamperproof public ledger of transactions, thus removing the need for a trusted third party between strangers. Because it is public and contains multiple nodes, the blockchain is practically impossible to corrupt. The potential applications for blockchain are promising and diverse. Blockchain could revolutionize the financial industry, as well as the healthcare sector. There are at least three ways blockchain can help the poor.

  1. Blockchain can be used to establish identity. According to UNICEF, there are more than 200 million children under the age of 5 that are unregistered. More than 80 million of these belong to the least developed countries. Lack of identification can perpetuate the cycle of poverty and increase the risk of exploitation. Children without birth certificates can be denied access to education and healthcare. Later in life, lack of identity can hinder employment or access to assistance programs. In some countries, failure to register is due to governmental red tape. Thankfully, groups like ID2020, BitNation and OneName are already working to use blockchain to help the unidentified poor.
  2. Blockchain can improve healthcare for the poor. Paper-based medical records are onerous, but especially so in developing countries where people frequently relocate due to economic or political instability. Also, it can be difficult to keep track of vaccination history, particularly during the early years of life. Pediatric vaccines often require multiple administrations along a specified timeline. Blockchain technology would help maintain a more accurate record of which vaccines have been administered and are still due to be administered to a child.
  3. One of the ways blockchain can help the poor is by altering the flow of money. Most of the money pouring into developing nations is not from foreign aid, but rather from remittances. On average, more than eight percent of the more than $400 billion of remittances sent to developing countries each year is lost to fees. Because blockchain removes the middle man, the cost of sending remittances would drop significantly. Since more funds would be reaching their target recipient, senders would be motivated to send even more, thus further increasing the cash flow into developing nations. Just as blockchain would help to ensure that remittances make it to their intended recipient, it would also help to ensure foreign aid is used appropriately. Since donations would be part of a public ledger, they would not be susceptible to diversion by corrupt individuals.

These are just a few of the many ways blockchain can help the poor. The technology also holds promise for improving access to credit and establishing land ownership, among a myriad of other applications. It’s no wonder that more and more people are expressing interest in the blockchain.

Rebecca Yu

Photo: Flickr

Satoshi Nakamoto was the pseudonym under which a person or persons released the invention of the Bitcoin, and more importantly, the Blockchain. Bitcoin has proved to be influential and has a fervent user-base that believes it holds the keys to upending the banking and finance world through decentralized cryptocurrency. The power behind Bitcoin, however, lies with the Blockchain. And the power of the Blockchain has the potential to spawn new technologies and help the poor.

The Blockchain technology developed by “Satoshi Nakamoto” has been hailed as a practical solution to the “Byzantine General’s Problem.” It does not completely solve the Byzantine General’s Problem, but it does enough to bypass the issue to the extent that it should pose no issue in reality. The Byzantine General’s Problem proposes the flaw of sharing information between, say, two Generals. If one wants to tell the other to “attack point A,” he or she may send a message, but then he will never be sure if the other General got the message. The Blockchain is important because it solves the problem of “double spending” by providing a practical solution to the Byzantine General’s Problem. This means that there is no risk of a Bitcoin being spent twice, which would be similar to counterfeiting money. The Blockchain does this by creating a public ledger that records every transaction that ever took place with Bitcoin. Essentially, the Blockchain enables trust without the need for identity.

Blockchain technology could be used in wide-ranging applications. For example, NASDAQ recently announced that it will be testing Blockchain technology to record transactions of share trades for privately-held companies. Brian Singer explained in an interview with Forbes that he believes that Bitcoin and the Blockchain can substantially reduce poverty around the globe. Singer argues that the ability to have undeniable, transparent ownership of something that everyone can trust is imperative. Ownership of, say, a Bitcoin is ownership overvalue. This undeniable ownership of value that is recognized in a system no matter what anyone says is what causes Singer to believe that the Blockchain technology behind Bitcoin can have a profound impact on the poor. Bitcoin has already caused disruption in the remittance business; immigrants have been using Bitcoin to send money back home. Bitcoin does not demand costly extra fees like Western Union.

The Blockchain also removes the need for a third party, such as a computer server. One purpose of a bank is to store value safely and efficiently and also manage exchanges of value at high rates using credit card and debit card systems, which are centralized. The Blockchain can safely and effectively protect your value from “double spending” and digital theft – only by mistake of the user can it be stolen – and at the same time avoid the pesky fees and rules that banks impose.

Because of the Blockchain’s ability to essentially create trust without identity in a system, it lends itself to secondary innovations such as being used for other distributed systems that are without a central point, such as one server that contains all necessary information. Although distributed systems are not new, the Blockchain could help facilitate the creation of even more. These systems are in many ways more powerful than a centralized system. They rely on much less digital and physical infrastructure, such as a server run by a third party. These systems can run independently of authority. Distributed systems of all sorts have many advantages that lend themselves to the poor. By curtailing the need for a trusted authority or more infrastructures, it makes it easier for the poor to use and access these technologies from their respective countries and makes them more reliable.

It is possible that new innovations will emerge that are of particular use to the poor, as seen when people use the Blockchain and Bitcoin to bypass traditional remittance markets. The possibilities are endless; new companies are popping up and attempting to leverage this new technology. Like the Internet or other technologies, it can be difficult at first to see where the end of the tunnel leads, and the Blockchain may be no different. With smartphones becoming more and more common even amongst the poor, innovations on the Blockchain may hold hidden solutions.

– Martin Yim

Sources: Brookings, Marketplace, Forbes, The Guardian
Photo: The Cointelegraph