Blockchain without Internet

We can't print enough paper notes for everyone who needs them. But nearly everyone has a phone (without internet). In order to reach a larger group of people across Kenya, Grassroots Economics has enabled feature phones with no internet, to have access to, trade and convert their blockchain-based tokens (Liquid Community Currencies (LCCs)) using the Bancor Protocol.

Community currencies came about as an integrative medium of exchange that would promote revitalization of the local economy and encourage community activities. Through the 1990s to 2000s community currencies emerged worldwide and to date hundreds of community currencies have been listed in the complementary currency Resource Center Worldwide.

According to research, the trade volume of Sarafu-Credit circulating in Kenya since 2010, covers approximately 12,500 out of 3 million people living in poverty. These (CCs) which reach users by being airdropped to business owners across different regions, have helped establish over 1200 local businesses, schools, farms and co-operatives like Miyani in Kwale county. They have also enabled households who live on less than a 100 shillings daily, afford at least one meal a day. But trading on paper meant that we could only have a limited reach.

A regional officer showing a trader how to use M-Sarafu.

How it works: A business owner receives community currencies from field officers (as a voucher for that users goods and services), who monitor and educate the traders on full use of the credits in order to develop their business and community. This creates a network of businesses that rely on each other, increasing circulation of goods and services within the community hence boosting the local economy even when there are no Kenyan Shillings in supply.

In order to scale and sustain this economic innovation, there needs to be a means of transaction that:

  • Is cost effective without the expense incurred in printing paper vouchers

  • does not limit the user geographically, hence encouraging trade among other businesses in neighboring communities (via Bancor Protocol),

  • can facilitate an increase in the amount of currency to at least offer 2 meals per day, compared to one as it is readily accessible,

  • Is cheap for the user without incurring the large transaction fees

  • and most importantly one that is both traceable (to measure SDG impacts) and scalable .

Grassroots Economics is pioneering the use of blockchain technology based on the Bancor protocol, which caters for communities at the Bottom-Of-The-Pyramid in Kenya.

Sarafu Network, it is a decentralized liquidity network that provides users with a simple, low cost way to buy and sell tokens directly through their wallets. This platform is the first of its kind to be USSD/SMS oriented which means that it is user friendly as it can be used on any phone without needing internet access. After every carried out transaction an SMS is sent to the user’s phone which acts as a statement of account showing the money sent/received and the balance remaining. The blockchain - this guarantees fast transactions, enabling users to easily monitor their daily transactions, sales and account information.

Furthermore, Sarafu connects digital currencies to each other across regions, with automated exchange rates based on productive capacity of the community.

The use of digital community currency is aimed at bridging the financial inclusion gap. As an easy method to develop and trade interest free forms of credit, it fosters economic development in marginalized communities, by addressing inflation and currency fluctuation in emerging markets. This curbs chronic poverty and food insecurity the contributing factors towards zero hunger, one of the SDGs enlisted by the UN.

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