There are almost two billion people in the world without a bank account. Many unbanked people are shut out of the economy and forced to work illegally. But crypto advocates believe they have found the solution: accelerate the adoption of cryptocurrency in low income countries. In El Salvador, for example, 70 per cent of citizens are unbanked and roughly one quarter of the working population lives in the United States, from where they send remittance payments to their families back home. In the future, these payments could be made using crypto, which would dramatically reduce cross-border fees and allow families to send crypto to their loved ones across borders in an instant. Unlike regular banking, sending crypto doesn’t require families to have a home address or ID documents, which many lower-income people lack. All they will need is a Wi-Fi connection and a digital device to start using crypto and to make secure transactions on the blockchain networks cryptocurrencies run on.
But some security experts have their doubts. ‘Banking the unbanked’ may sound like a good idea but it assumes that people who lack financial services primarily need a better and cheaper way to access them. A 2015 World Bank report looking at financial inclusion found that 59 per cent of survey respondents cited lack of money as the main reason for not having a bank account. Rather than luring people into the murky world of cryptocurrencies, where volatile prices and scammers can make the poor poorer, should we not instead be looking at ways to help people in developing nations generate more income?
Who’s right and who’s wrong? Can crypto bank the unbanked or is it a dangerous idea that could do more harm than good?
Speakers subject to change.