Lifting People Out of Poverty: Anheuser-Busch InBev to Use Blockchain for the Unbanked

“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”—Nelson Mandela

In a world of affluence with coffee shops on every block, whether you’re in New York or Seoul—it is unthinkable for a traveler not to have access to a local ATM machine, or at a very minimum, access to a local bank. So, to think that 2 billion people worldwide do not have a bank account—will come as a surprise. (Asktrakhan, Irina). Perhaps what is more surprising is that 27% of Americans do not have regular access to banks, or other mainstream financial services. (Franco, Jules)

Benedict Alibasa, Coindesk, recently reported that “Budweiser’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, is doubling down on its interest in using blockchain tech to assist unbanked workers.”

Anheuser-Busch InBev has invested an undisclosed amount in blockchain-as-a-service, BaaS, startup—BanQu. BanQu is a BaaS software company whose mission is solving the global problem of extreme poverty. As the world’s first non-cryptocurrency blockchain platform—BanQu’s mission is to help lift people out of extreme poverty “by connecting them to the global supply chains they participate in and the brands, organizations, and governments that power them ,” banqu.co.

Out of Poverty

Estimates are that one-tenth, or about 750 million people globally, live at the poverty level. (Sumner, Andy). Extreme poverty is rural, where it’s estimated that 79% of those experiencing poverty live in rural areas. Andy Sumner writes in his paper, that “much of this poverty is concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, home to approximately 413 million poor people.”

Addressing the need of the poor has become a blockchain use case to lift these people out of humanity, and BanQu is doing just that. BanQu says it has “helped over 200,000 individuals and aims to raise 100 million people out of poverty by 2023,” writes Alibasa. Anheuser-Busch InBev and Banqu partnered on a pilot where they connected 2,000 Zambian farmers to the mobile platform. They later extended the project to Brazil, Costa Rica, India, Uganda, among others.

Bolaji Onibudo, Fintech News, says of sub-Saharan Africa that traditional banks are strapped with issues such as not having branch locations for rural people. They have high fees and prefer cash to digital transactions. Alternatively, mobile money accounts provide a simple and intuitive way to access money for anyone with a Smartphone.

Smartphone ownership in sub-Saharan Africa is increasing every year. This allows access to the internet— and African companies see the opportunity to capitalize on the need to provide mobile money solutions. Kenya’s Safaricom and Nigeria’s XendBit, among other companies, are developing blockchain-based financial services platform to provide mobile money solutions. They hope to take advantage of blockchain’s cutting-edge ecosystem for “smart contracts, crypto-currency, crypto-loans and tokenization.” (Onibudo, Bolaji)

Beyond Banking

Not only are Anheuser-Busch InBev and BanQu working to use blockchain technology to eliminate poverty and global poverty issues, so too is IBM and world banks.

Alejandro Pinto spoke with Marie Wieck, GM of IBM Blockchain, and Jesse Lund, VP of Digital Currencies at the SXSW Conference in Austin, Texas. Pinto says of IBM, they are looking to blockchain technology as a way to solve humanitarian issues. Wieck shared her vision on their desire to use the “power of blockchain for good.”

IMB is considering a number of use cases for blockchain to help solve humanitarian issues in developing nations such as microfinance loans, and improving global water supply by using blockchain to track aquifers.

While Anheuser-Busch InBev is focused on providing money services to the unbanked via Smartphone, IBM is helping private and central banks use blockchain for cross-border payments as a use case for cryptocurrency. The goal is to move barter societies from exchanging shells for brides—to world economies empowering its citizens to exchange digital currencies.

Conclusion

Bitcoin and blockchain technology can mean a great many things to many people. If your desire is to become wealthy, then for the right person investing in blockchain may be the answer. However, as most millennials have a disposition, corporate entities are developing visions to use blockchain as a tool to lift people out of poverty. Whether directly, by providing money accounts via Smartphone and blockchain, or indirectly by assisting national banks with cross border payment systems, the end goal is humanitarian.

 


Sources

Alibasa, Benedict, “Budweiser Owner Invests in Blockchain Startup Working to Alleviate Poverty”, Coindesk, June 7, 2019.

Asktrakhan, Irina, “2 Billion People Worldwide Are Unbanked—Here’s How To Change This”, www.weforum.org, May 2016.

Franco, Jules, “One Out of Every 4 Americans is ‘Underbanked”, www.ozy.com.

Onibudo, Bolaji, “Can Blockchain Help Bank The Unbanked in Sub-Saharan Africa?”, Fintech News, October 2018.

Sumner, Andy, “5 Facts About Global Poverty That May Surprise You”, development-matters.org, March, 2019.

 

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