This fintech solution helps African refugees store and send money
May 4, 2021
FastCompany–(FastCompany)–As refugees flee across land borders in Africa, carrying money is a challenge, both virtually and in person. Leaf—a winner of Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards—uses the blockchain to help, even if they don’t have a smart phone.
Mobile money is a digital wallet technology that allows cash to be stored on standard, non-smart cellphones. It’s hugely popular in East Africa, but because plans and services vary from country to country, there can be problems with cash access while crossing borders. These problems can be especially difficult to navigate for refugees, who’ve been forced to flee their home nations and cross land borders by foot. Their accounts may not work in new countries, under new networks and plans. If they carry physical cash, they often become targets of scams and robberies—or the carrying a lot of cash raises questions with authorities. “When they get to a border point, they are inherently vulnerable,” says Tori Samples, cofounder and CTO of Leaf Global.
Leaf—the winner of the developing world technology category in Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards—is a money storage solution that allows these individuals to carry digital cash into Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, where Leaf currently operates. “It is a digital wallet that goes with the customer wherever they go,” Samples says. “Think of it as a global Venmo account.” Money stays protected in the Leaf wallet for as long as they need, and they can receive cash from relatives living in those countries at any point during their journeys. It builds on an already trusted technology, and one that’s booming as cashless payments become more prevalent: mobile money has seen a 400% increase in adoption during the pandemic.
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