JOHANNESBURG - Crypto-currency experts say digital currencies are needed to ensure financial inclusivity.
Speaking at the Blockchain Africa Conference in Johannesburg on Thursday, experts agreed this technology would give consumers greater access to financial services and accelerate economic activity in emerging markets.
It is estimated that 3.5 billion consumers are currently operating outside the formal financial system.
Experts say this is due to high costs, lack of access to formal institutions as well as a lack of trust.
“The reason a lot of these systems are broken here is because consumers don't trust them," mobile finance platform Wala’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tricia Martinez said.
“There’s a lot of corruption, there’s a lot of fraud. You always have a middleman monitoring and managing everything. One has to trust a bank that it's actually going to take care of my money and not take it away. If there’s fraud, that it's going to help me. In a lot of these cases, that doesn't happen.”
Wala has designed a crypto-token that makes instant micro-payments anywhere in the world possible, at zero-rated fees.
“We saw that the biggest problems were cost and access. In order to provide a zero-fee financial system to consumers, we needed to operate on the blockchain. The blockchain enables us to do a lot of interesting things in terms of financial services,” Martinez added.
ProsperiProp, a property investment company using blockchain, says consumers in struggling countries like South Africa can build wealth in the property sector by investing as little as R50 on property tokens.
“Property tokens earn interest or appreciate as the property value appreciates," ProsperiProp founder Llewellyn Morkel said.
"It earns income as that property earns income. So suddenly, you've got this massive ecosystem of value that we've created for this person.”
Martinez and Morkel said more education and less technical speak is needed so that ordinary consumers can understand and access the opportunities that digital currencies offers.