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Crypto Savannah partners with CoinBase and Mercy Corps to launch refugee digital identities and a cash project

Ugandan crypto firm CryptoSavannah has announced a project in partnership with Coinbase and Mercy Corps to deliver blockchain-powered solutions that advance economic empowerment and financial inclusion for refugees.

By Anna B Kiwanuka

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Ugandan crypto firm, CryptoSavannah has partnered with Coinbase and Mercy Corps to deliver Blockchain-powered solutions that foster economic empowerment and financial inclusion to refugees and host communities in Uganda.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) data, as of May 2022, Uganda hosts over 1,531,593 refugees and they are faced with critical challenges such as their inability to obtain suitable and affordable financial services because of the slow and ineffective identity systems in host countries.  They are required to present approved identity documents before a SIM card or mobile money service can be activated by a Mobile Network Operator (MNO) in Uganda. Because of the delay in identity verification between MNOs and humanitarian organizations, refugees have difficulty accessing aid disbursements, registration for education, employment, and medical and financial services. 

The goal of this project, therefore, is to address such issues by enabling refugees to access financial services with digitized identities. The digital ID solution will allow refugees access to cash transfers which will help cover the costs of food, accommodation, medicine, and school fees, help them rebuild their lives while offering flexibility and freedom in how to spend their money, and most importantly, will support their families.

“Our solution aims to digitize the already existing refugee identities through our blockchain platform which will act as an attestation layer to the databases of the Refugee identity issuers,” states CryptoSavannah on its website.

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Additionally, the project helps in stimulating local market actors like small businesses.

This project will be rolled out in a two-phased pilot approach that will reach approximately 35,000 people.

Pilot 1: Digital ID powered by Blockchain

A Digital ID platform that is powered by blockchain will be built to verify identity and facilitate digital transactions. Participants’ digital identities will be created when they key in a registration code via USSD that is used to acquire a unique immutable identifier. This identity will be authenticated and encrypted with a password and recorded on a distributed ledger for more secure management and storage of digital IDs by providing unified, interoperable, and tamper-proof infrastructure. As the ledger is publicly accessible, each participant will be able to use their digital credentials in many locations, helping them to integrate into the wider community.

This pilot will enable refugees to prove their identities and enable their inclusion in the financial, economic, and digital sectors.

Pilot 2:  Crypto transfers to a blockchain-built mobile wallet

Leveraging the digital identities created in the first pilot, each participant will establish a digital wallet that can be used to receive, store, and spend funds. This wallet will serve as a foundational component to help refugees build their financial profile and literacy of new products and services. Crypto-based transfers will be distributed to mobile wallets and all transactions will be recorded on an immutable blockchain which will increase transparency and security.

Participants are registered for recurring crypto transfers as per existing program guidelines. Instead of receiving fiat money, a prepaid card, voucher, or other forms of payment, the participants receive a top-up deposited directly to their crypto wallet. The funds can be redeemed for fiat money at select cash-out points or used directly at participating stores within the local community — benefiting refugees and host community businesses.

Participants can also save some funds in their interest by accruing mobile wallets, giving them access to extended financial services. Another potential benefit would be to keep the funds in a foreign-denominated stablecoin, which would offer an inflationary hedge in countries with volatile currencies.

A specific benefit to using blockchain, in this case, would be traceability. Recording all transactions on an interoperable ledger would increase transparency and accountability for aid organizations and donors, ensuring that funding is used according to program design.

This pilot will revolutionize cash transfer programs for aid organizations globally, shifting from traditional payment modalities to crypto.


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