| 22 October 2021, Friday |

Crypto can drive financial inclusion in developing countries, experts say

Billionaire blockchain technology pioneer Brock Pierce said that cryptocurrencies can help developing economies bolster financial inclusion.

Citing El Salvador, which became the first economy to adopt Bitcoin as a legal tender last month, Pierce said more than half the Central American nation’s population downloaded the Bitcoin Wallet in a month.

“Results are unbelievable … they managed to achieve what was my highest expectation. The data shows the courageous move has worked … the latest technologies or innovations can address the global problem of under- or unbanked population,” Pierce told a panel at a future-of-finance event hosted by the Middle East Futures forum this week.

“The level of interest in digital currencies in the developing world is unbelievable … how can you expect prosperity if you don’t have the essential financial tools? El Salvador has proved that this idea works to create financial inclusion,” he added.

A World Bank report released in 2017 showed that around 1.7 billion adults globally remain unbanked with no account at a financial institution or through a mobile money provider.

Nearly half of them live in seven developing economies — Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan — and almost 56 percent of all unbanked adults are women.

However, financial access rates have increased since 2011, when the Bank Group began documenting them through the Global Findex database.

The Salvadoran government granted citizens $30 worth of free Bitcoin if they downloaded the crypto wallet, in order to attract people to digital currencies.

Pierce said El Salvador’s move could face some initial hurdles including technological glitches, protests and less funding from agencies like the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund.