Crypto and blockchain enthusiasts have been denouncing the centralized world of banks for years, but many do so from the privileged viewpoint of developed countries. But what if blockchain technology turned out to be the most revolutionary in emerging economies?
Take Africa for example. Consumers in those countries became so frustrated about the bank charges that their transactions brought with them whenever they only wanted to supplement their mobile airtime, that air time minutes alone became a form of money. Banking as it is developed for the developed world simply does not work when a transaction to charge a phone can cost more than the call time itself.
The startup Wala, based in South Africa, realized this early on. It developed a smartphone app that functioned as a wallet, allowing customer transactions via the app with existing banking infrastructures. But the high bank charges for almost every function had a negative effect on Wala's customer base and the company's early business model as a mobile wallet for the generation of smartphones.
They needed a zero-fee solution, but the existing financial system simply did not work. At that time they realized that they could switch to a cryptocurrency and allow payments for a peer-to-peer network for sellers, offering broadcasting time, data, electricity bills – even the possibility to pay school fees.
Wala, which in December last year collected $ 1.2 million in sales based on Ethereum-based & # 39; $ DALA & # 39; Tokens in a first currency denomination (ICO), facilitates thousands of transactions in daily accounts in Uganda, Zimbabwe and South Africa, most of which are micro-payments below $ 1.
Since the launch of their $ DALA currencies in May 2018 (currently accessible via the Wala mobile app), more than 100,000 $ DALA portfolios have been opened and over $ 2.5 million DALA transactions have been processed, says company. The crypto-asset with multiple chains – now at least – uses Ether for the portfolio and Stellar for transactions, although it is not locked on a single platform.
Through $ DALA protocols (Kopa, Soko and Kazi), consumers have access to limitless, cheap, efficient and unique financial services that allow them to earn, save, borrow and transact in a new, decentralized, financial system.
But Wala does not intend to stop there.
Today, Dala announced that it is entering into a partnership with a gigawatt-scale solar energy program for Uganda to create a clean energy economy suitable for blockchain.
Here is how it will work:
The sustainable energy company CleanPath Emerging Markets Uganda (CPEM) is working on the project with the Ugandan government and the Ugandan Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, which means that Ugandans can buy solar energy from this huge new infrastructure project with $ DALA.
CPEM will use the DALA blockchain platform to manage its general ledger, its supplier contracts and its partner obligations. The company already has more than 11,000 MW of experience with renewable energy under its belt.
The $ 1.5 billion program is aimed at creating a new clean energy economy in Uganda, not only for job creation and starting a clean energy economy, but also for new economic development in Uganda. Ugandan consumers can buy solar energy in $ DALA, employees can be paid in $ DALA and the program will even run at $ DALA.
Tricia Martinez, co-founder and CEO of Wala, told me at the recent Pathoverstelling event in Oslo: "The numbers we have seen since the launch of $ DALA are huge, and a large part of our current users are Ugandan, so this is Partnership is a natural next step to allow users to take advantage of the use of $ DALA, and the high user traffic also shows us that Ugandans are ready to use crypto-assets in their daily transactions. "
But the story would not have come about without an enlightened African prince who could step straight out of the mythical kingdom of Wakanda, as seen in the recent smash film Black Panther.
For the founder of CPEM Prince Kudra Kalema is from the Bugandan Kingdom (a Ugandan royal family), whose origin dates back to at least the 14th century. Buganda is now a kingdom monarchy with a large degree of autonomy from the Ugandan state.
"We are really enthusiastic about this program and our collaboration with Dala", says Prince Kudra Kalema of the Buganda Kingdom, who is also managing partner and co-founder of CPEM. "By giving Ugandans the opportunity to access clean energy through $ DALA, we are promoting a more inclusive decentralized financial system that is not possible with existing technologies."
In an exclusive interview with TechCrunch, Prince Kalema said: "My family considers itself the custodian of the country and I have been looking for solutions that would improve the country for a decade, but where can we work if people do not even turn on their lights? can put? & # 39;
It became clear to him that the biggest problem was affordable electricity. And to do it in a renewable way. And it had to be solar energy. Microgrids were not the solution. And it had to be on scale.
But the question is, why did he hit cryptocurrency?
"We started using the $ DALA protocol because it became very clear that the financial structure in Uganda was not adequate, it was clear that we needed something, Ugandan shilling is absolutely not stable enough for the kind of program we do. Wala had already invested in the same country and was not only talking about the idea of running a crypto currency in an emerging market, but also about creating the best type of financial institutions for the country. with what we do, it became a no-brainer. "
"Ugandans say that what we have now does not work." – Prince Kudra Kalema
He says that the $ DALA crypto in combination with his solar energy project can be implemented much more easily in Uganda than in countries like the US: "More than 80 percent of Ugandans are under 35 and very well educated. the term jump-frogging, but this is what it is, they do not have to learn anything that happened before, they want to find out and learn about a solution that will help them, if you look at how fast mobile money was adopted by Ugandans It was not powerful because it was imposed but because people craved it Uggans say that what we have now does not work The costs for banking transactions, the cost of money transfers … – It's hard for them to be enthusiastic about something they know it does not work. "
Uganda remains a hungry market to apply new technology, and the recent announcement that Binance launches a fiat on crypto-exchange in the country is a recent example of this.
He added: "Uganda has always been at the forefront of these kinds of issues." Even before we were a protectorate of the British Empire, Uganda was part of the region where people would travel to find out how to deal with things. in Africa We had a complicated tribal system, the British did not fall in, they made it a protectorate. "
The details of the plan are ambitious. Prince Kalema's CPEM is planning to develop a gigawatt scale program for solar energy development in Uganda that will provide 25 percent of the population with clean energy and create 200,000 new jobs in the clean energy economy.
The program would more than double the current power generation capacity in Uganda (equivalent to about two average US coal-fired power stations), where 75 percent of the population does not have access to energy.
By using $ DALA, Ugandans can use energy at zero transaction costs, use them for everyday purchases and also convert them to Fiat Uganda currency through agents / sellers and cryptocurrency exchanges.
It will even allow CPEM and the government of Uganda to make free scholarships available to the poorest, while keeping a fully verifiable and fraud-proof overview of these scholarships.
The story of how a small start-up took the African markets by storm, starts in 2014.
Initially supported by angel-investor and a social impact VC (Impact Engine) in the US, the Wala of Tricia Martinez (pictured above) married in 2016 at the Barclays Techstars Accelerator in London. Later she settled in Cape Town, South Africa and she began to grow his team (it is now at a total of 12 staff).
Not long after, South African VC invested Newtown Partners and Wala then issued the $ DALA crypto-asset and founded the Dala foundation. It is perhaps no coincidence that Newtown is run by Vinny Lingham (from the well-known Civic and Ethereum based project).
Martinez is passionate that cryptocurrency will be the solution that emerging markets such as Africa need and needs for years: "The fact that the unit of account and store of value for this program is $ DALA proves its usefulness and shows its potential to be a preferred financial system for all emerging markets We are excited to be involved from the ground floor and look forward to playing our part in creating a fair and accessible financial system for consumers. "
She says that both the Prince and the Ugandan government "need a partner who can help stimulate financial inclusion to get them into a more efficient digital system." That's when they heard about us. "When we started talking, we both saw the possibility to actually build a complete ecosystem, built on a crypto-asset.
"So it's not only that consumers buy that energy cryptocurrency, but the employees who build our energy networks will be paid for it, so they are very passionate about blockchain, especially from the energy perspective, to create transparency. Making reports of what they expand could even reduce the potential for corruption. "
As Martinez points out, "In the hands of more than 100,000 users in Uganda, people are already buying their electricity needs, products and services." The purpose of this project is for people who get the energy to then use all these other services that we We will also be launching ATMs so that people can go to those mobile money agents to raise money and pay their wallets. "
It is clearly a big project. Some observers will see the words "Uganda" and "Cryptocurrency" in the same sentence and will undoubtedly come up with a sort of well-deserved assessment.
But Wala's experience on the ground – and it can not be emphasized enough how important that is, compared to the armchair commentators at most blockchain conferences in the Western world – combined with the hunger of an emerging country, a passionate prince and ingenuity his people should not be underestimated.