Libra Set to Offer Global Digital Financial Services to 1.7bn Unbanked

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Emma Okonji

Worried about the huge number of unbanked adults globally, which is put at 1.7 billion by the World Bank 2017 Global Index Report, the Libra Association, on Tuesday, unveiled plans to offer digital financial access to billions of people that are currently excluded from the global financial inclusion drive.

The global association further unveiled plans to grow the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of African countries like Nigeria and Kenya, through the services of Libra, a simple global currency and financial infrastructure that is built on a demystified blockchain technology that is secure, scalable, and reliable, designed to empower billions of people.

Libra association, in its white paper released on Tuesday and made available to THISDAY, explained that it would be backed by a reserve of assets designed to give it intrinsic value, and would be governed by the independent Libra Association, which was formed to manage and evolve the new ecosystem that is scheduled for global launch next month.

Analysing the opportunities created by the internet and mobile broadband, the white paper further explained that although billions of people now have access to the world’s knowledge and information, with high-fidelity communications and connectivity that have driven economic empowerment by enabling more people to access the financial ecosystem, a large swaths of the world’s population are still left behind.

Head of Policy and Communications, Libra Association, Dante Disparte, who spoke through a video conference call, said: “Over 1.7 billion adults globally remain outside of the financial system with no access to a traditional bank, even though one billion have a mobile phone. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies have a number of unique properties, as they are decentralised, globally accessible, with low cost, and safe, but the existing blockchain systems are yet to reach mainstream adoption.

“Mass-market usage of existing blockchains and cryptocurrencies has been hindered by their volatility and lack of scalability. Some projects have also aimed to disrupt the existing system and bypass regulation as opposed to innovating on compliance and regulatory fronts to improve the effectiveness of anti-money laundering.”

Facebook team played a key role in the creation of the Libra Association and the Libra Blockchain, working with the other founding members. While final decision-making authority rests with the association, Facebook is expected to maintain a leadership role through 2019. Facebook created Calibra, a regulated subsidiary, to ensure separation between social and financial data and to build and operate services on its behalf on top of the Libra network.

Vice President of Product, Calibra, Kevin Weil, who also spoke through video conference call, said: “We believe that collaborating and innovating with the financial sector, including regulators and experts across a variety of industries, is the only way to ensure that a sustainable, secure, and trusted framework underpins this new system. And this approach can deliver a giant leap forward toward a lower-cost, more accessible, more connected global financial system. With Libra, we will enable developers and businesses to build new, inclusive financial service products for people all around the world.”

One of its founding members, Diogo Mónica, who is the President and co-Founder, Anchorage, said: “With Libra, the world gains an open and inclusive global currency – one that is technologically sound and designed by the world’s best engineers to operate at global scale.”

Another founding member, David Marcus, who is the Head of Calibra, Facebook, said: “Libra holds the potential to provide billions of people around the world with access to a more inclusive, more open financial ecosystem.”

Vice President of Global Payment, Billing and Risk, eBay, Alyssa Cutright, said: “eBay is committed to supporting emerging technologies that have the potential to expand global e-commerce and make it more affordable for people across the world.”