Microfinance protocol that provides uncollateralised micro-credit to small entrepreneurs and enterprises.
From the beginning, one of crypto’s most promising features was its ability to sidestep the gatekeepers of traditional finance. With it, innovative entrepreneurs could build alternative financial systems and vehicles, setting their own rules along the way. And everyone expected that ability would set off a wave of disruption that would topple the financial world’s old guard for good.
But it wasn’t until the DeFi revolution began in late 2018 that projects aimed at doing that began. One by one, DeFi upstarts started deploying crypto-alternatives to traditional financial instruments. But they all seemingly had one thing in common – they aimed to displace existing incumbents by stealing market share from them.
That’s hardly the path of least resistance. And even though analysts are now beginning to recognize how much of a threat DeFi is to the financial industry status quo, it’s still an uphill battle. But it isn’t the only front in what is a much larger war. The other is a battle by some DeFi upstarts to capture the business of the 1.7 billion people around the world that have no access to the traditional global financial system.
And of late, that’s become one of the hottest areas of development in the DeFi ecosystem. Here are three DeFi startups making waves in a quest to capture the vast market of the so-called unbanked.
Enabling Fast, Frictionless Transactions
There’s voluminous research that indicates the fact that the vast majority of the unbanked fall into two major categories. The first is people who live in regions that lack significant banking infrastructure. And the second is people who big banks have deemed not profitable enough to serve. In both cases, DeFi would seem to be a natural fit.
And that’s what DeFi startup PlasmaPay is out to demonstrate. They’ve built a platform that aims to be an all-in-one bank account replacement for the modern age. And with no physical infrastructure to maintain and no massive workforce to pay, they’re able to offer a variety of services to the unbanked – almost completely for free.
Operating in over 150 countries, individual accounts on PlasmaPay give users simple crypto on and off-ramps. They can buy, sell, and trade crypto and fiat assets. And they can also send payments to and from others for next to nothing – making them a formidable threat to the nearly trillion-dollar global remittances market.
Extending Collateral-Free Microloans
The old saying that it takes money to make money is quite true in many ways. And in many places, particularly in the developing world, there are whole populations that lack access to capital. That means they lack the financial flexibility to see to their basic needs or better their economic standing. And even when access to loans is available, they often come with onerous terms and predatory interest rates.
But DeFi startup Egoras aims to change that. They’re a crypto-based microlending platform built to tackle global economic inequality. Their system uses a unique combination of two crypto tokens that power its lending and governance, respectively. The EGS token is a value stabilized cryptocurrency built to maintain parity with the US dollar. And the second, the EGR token, is the platform’s governance and staking token. It empowers owners to play a role in the loan approval process in exchange for a generous 12% APY yield on their investment.
But what’s truly unique about Egoras is the fact that it offers its microloans without requiring collateral from borrowers. This means it makes funds available to the widest possible group of borrowers and eliminates one of the biggest barriers to attaining credit in the developing world. And that’s not hyperbole. The Egoras platform has already extended more than seven thousand microloans to individuals and businesses, and the list keeps growing every day.
Offering Investment Opportunities
Cryptocurrencies are the most well-known around the world for their wealth-generation capabilities. But for the unbanked, there’s simply no easy way to take advantage of that. The very act of purchasing cryptocurrency is beyond the ability of many, and even more lack the disposable income to devote to the effort even if they can.
In southeast Asia alone, there are approximately 300 million members of the urban working poor that meet that description. And they live in regions that are both corrupt and economically disadvantaged. And that’s what a DeFi project called ARCC.one wants to change. And it’s doing so in a way that gets right at the heart of both core issues.
It makes use of an innovative mechanism its founders call “social proof of work”. It’s a system that generates tokens when users submit reports related to real-world corruption in their countries. In practice, users can report on things like flooding and electrical disruptions, which are often the result of mismanaged infrastructure fundings. They’re paid for their work in ARCC tokens, which they may then invest as they see fit. It’s a platform aimed at improving real-world conditions for its users and helping them build wealth at the same time.
The Significance of DeFi’s Push for the Unbanked
It’s difficult to underestimate how lucrative a market the global cohort of the unbanked might turn out to be. It encompasses a massive and geographically diverse population, most of which resides in regions with tremendous economic upside. And the fact that the traditional finance sector has already spent decades ignoring the unbanked means that these new DeFi players will face almost no competition in the market.
In the end, that might mean that DeFi has the chance to capture a vast new market and build its clout without opposition. And that will allow the involved projects the ability to then turn their attention back to more traditional markets and face the big banks and other institutions on more equal footing. If that’s what happens, it will represent a seismic shift in today’s David-versus-Goliath battle between DeFi and the incumbents. And it will be one that the major players don’t seem to see coming – to their detriment.
Featured image and other images via Pexels
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