South African blockchain-powered financial services startup Wala has partnered biometric authentication company Veridium for a pilot programme in sub-Saharan Africa to demonstrate a new digital banking model that will bring accessible, zero-fee banking to this population.
Founded in 2015, Wala provides access to transactional banking, remittances, loans and insurance, working with specialist providers to offer a full suite of financial services.
The startup has already grown its financial services community to one million consumers in over 100 countries, and recently secured equity investment from Newtown Partners, the venture capital firm founded by Llew Claasen and Vinny Lingham, to expand its operations.
The pilot with Veridium is funded by a grant awarded to Veridium from the Digital Financial Services (DFS) Innovation Lab, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to develop and field test biometric authentication technology on unmodified Android smartphones.
Because Veridium’s biometric authentication technology is compatible with Android phone models up to 10 years old, it has the promise to bring this technology to developing countries as a method for accessing and enrolling in financial and government programs.
To date, efforts at solving this problem have been built on traditional banking models, often requiring physical access to branches and onerous verification of identity, an approach the partners believe does not work in many emerging markets, leaving billions worldwide without access to financial services.
Wala is tackling this issue by deploying a totally digital model. In collaboration with microfinancing partners, Wala’s Android-based mobile platform sits between customers and banks, allowing them to sign up and transact through an app.
“Financial services are out of reach for billions of people due to high banking fees and lack of accessibility, forcing them to rely largely on cash,” said Wala chief executive officer (CEO) Tricia Martinez.
“Our model leverages blockchain technology to address these problems, eliminate the high costs of banking, and bring financial services to the unbanked and underbanked through mobile devices. This allows customers to efficiently pay their bills, save money, and not only safely guard their savings, but find opportunities to grow it. Partnering with Veridium allows us to easily and securely bring this solution to the masses in a way that is both accessible and affordable.”
“Like Wala, we are building solutions that are easy to use but solve complicated problems, so we are thrilled to be partnering with them to bring access to financial services to the unbanked and underbanked,” said James Stickland, CEO of Veridium. “Using Veridium’s 4 Fingers TouchlessID to securely enroll and authenticate this population, Wala will be able to deploy their vision to scale. We’re excited to be on the ground with them through this pilot to prove out a model that can positively impact billions worldwide.”
The pilot project will roll out in January 2018 and its findings will be presented to the Gates Foundation at a conference in February 2018.