The ability to acquire credit is one of the key elements necessary to participate in a modern economy. Unfortunately, having a traceable credit history is a typical requirement for acquiring credit. If that seems like sort of a Catch-22, that’s because for many of the world’s poorest people, it is.
Hamse Warfa, co-founder of BanQu, along with his company’s team, is trying to address such challenges faced by people who lack a traceable economic history via their company BanQu, which uses blockchain technology to create “economic identity” profiles for people whose movements through the global economy would be otherwise invisible.
“BanQu’s the first ever digitally distributed economic identity platform,” Warfa said.
BanQu’s website defines “economic identity” as follows: “the digital or electronic credentials a person’s or persons’ history or histories of economic interactions in the world economy.”
“Over two billion people don’t have any kind of identity,” Warfa said.
BanQu uses blockchain technology, which is the same technology that underpins crypto currencies, although BanQu doesn’t have anything to do with crypto currencies. BanQu’s blockchain platform can store records of various types of transactions, as well as property records, health records, and education records.
“We’re one of the first companies harnessing the power of blockchain for humanitarian purposes,” Warfa said.
Although the users BanQu wishes to help are some of the poorest on the planet, according to the company’s website, roughly 60 percent of them to help already own mobile phones, which makes it viable to create digital solutions to some of their problems. BanQu’s user base also extends to governments, corporations, and organizations that work with the world’s poor who desire a greater degree of traceability and transparency within their supply chains, such as to track the disbursement of aid.
One of the events that incited the team of collaborators that created BanQu to pursue the company’s creation was a time when Ashish Gadnis met a woman from Congo who was trying to support her family but could not open a bank account.
Per Warfa, Gadnis told her, “One day I hope we will bank you.”
Warfa has seen the type of poverty BanQu strives to lift people out of firsthand. “I spent three years and a half in refugee camps in Kenya,” Warfa said.
He described one common issue refugees face is that they cannot produce a credit history when they travel to a new location, which hinders their ability to establish themselves because they have difficulty opening accounts, accumulating credit, or taking out loans at reasonable interest rates. When they go to a new location, they have to start over in terms of accumulating the records necessary for many types of economic participation.
BanQu launched its first set of customers on the platform in 2016. The service is presently available in six countries. Warfa states they have roughly 20,000 users right now, and they are expecting more growth this year.
Hamse Warfa will present at 1 Million Cups Fargo on July 25, 2018 and TEDxFargo on July 26, 2018. For more information on BanQu, visit the company’s website, http://www.banquapp.com/.