Blockchains and distributed ledger technology can reduce the cost of remittances to Africa

Nairobi, Monday 14th August 2017 – The volume of remittances to Africa is growing year by year but prices for international transfers are still relatively high. Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) can assist to; reduce the cost of remittances, increase speed of settlement, reduce settlement risk, decrease entry barriers for financial institutions, improve the interoperability of different financial instruments and enhance the regulatory frameworks that oversee funds transfers such as Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) processes.

This is according to a new report, entitled ‘Blockchains, Distributed Ledgers and Funds Transfers: An Overview’, published today by the Financial Sector Deepening Africa (FSD Africa) in partnership with Consult Hyperion. The report states that DLT presents opportunities for new ways of performing funds transfers, payment settlement and regulatory oversight, due to its decentralised, replicated and transparent nature.

It comes at a time when FSD Africa has just released a report on ‘Reducing Costs and Scaling UP UK to Africa Remittances through Technology.’ The report finds over 1 million people born in Africa and living in the UK are paying more than £300 million a year to send money to friends and family back home. Nine out of ten send money through agents and just one in ten send money digitally, which makes Africa the most expensive place to send money in the world.

Commenting on the report, Salome Parulava, Associate Consultant at Consult Hyperion and the author of the report said: “Blockchain and DLT can provide a foundation for needed infrastructural changes in expensive and inflexible funds transfer models. But although opportunities are promising, there are many issues that arise when considering the widespread adoption of the technology, which should be taken into account. The report aims to give an overview of both benefits and problems of the DLT usage in funds transfers.”

The report concludes that, DLT has the potential to act as a reliable ‘store’ of identity information available in near real-time and as a generator of dynamically changing identity attributes (such as creditworthiness). However, this is not straightforward. Reliability comes from intrinsic DLT characteristics (such as amend-only transaction history across parties and cryptographically secured transactions), but not exclusively from them.

To ensure trust and reliability, it is important that DLT solutions are developed in accordance with national laws and security standards, and take into consideration the views of all stakeholders.