Excitement about the potential of blockchain applications has led people to forecast all kinds of developments. I recently met with someone developing a new blockchain application, Leaf, with the potential to serve those most in need: African refugees.
African refugees usually carry the little wealth they own. Since banks in many African countries are not trustworthy, refugees cannot make deposits at their current location and then withdraw their deposits somewhere else, such as another country. This problem makes their journeys to refugee camps more risky than otherwise since they can be assaulted while traveling with their belongings.
However, even if African refugees do not have access to a good banking network, they do have access to mobile phones. In Africa, mobile banking is quite developed. The most economically developed countries in Africa have a more developed mobile-banking network than countries such as the United States.
Better yet, when refugees enter a refugee camp, they enter a trustworthy environment. Refugees then have access to a blockchain network that allows them to deposit their wealth in a bank account and withdraw it at their next stop. Blockchain technology allows for secure transfers at low transaction costs, which makes this service affordable.
Certainly, it remains hard for refugees to get to refugee camps with the Leaf service. Still, on arrival the refugees benefit from the service’s potential to safeguard their wealth. It is also noteworthy that this is a private sector initiative. Despite their resources and power, governments have failed to provide this type of cross-border solution. In the realm of money and payment technologies, market initiatives light the way.