I&M Bank Rwanda and Blockbonds officially announced the rollout of SPENN, Rwanda’s first Blockchain based platform. Rwandans can use this platform which is an application for mobile banking, to make a range of financial transactions. Rwanda is an overpopulated third world country where most of the population vastly remains without access to banking services. Blockbonds, the Norwegian financial technology company is working towards formal financial inclusion of the largely unbanked population of Rwanda.
The company developed the Blockchain-based platform SPENN for the same reason, reports Rwanda’s leading daily, The New Times. Anyone with a smartphone can download the app and use it to pay for goods and services and other transactions. SPENN is quite distinct from other Blockchain platforms. It uses a different model wherein the need for cash is eliminated by digitizing national currencies.
Blockbonds has become the first financial technology company to digitalise the Rwandan franc, by partnering with I&M bank. Moreover, Rwandans don’t necessarily have to be customers of I&M to own a SPENN account. Users can transact and interact with others in the financial system immediately after from SPENN’s digital account. And the platform provides all its services free of cost.
Jens Glaso, the CEO of Blockbonds said they’re creating a way for transacting using legal tender through a Blockchain-based accounting system. They believe that this will allow more people to get financially included. Speaking to the press from the I&M offices in Kigali, he said,
“What we are doing is financial inclusion. This is what SPENN is. We are going to markets to enable people to easily transfer money from one another as well as pay for bills.”
Glaso further added that while Rwanda is their first marketplace, they’re planning to launch in several other potential markets soon. They include Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, Namibia, and Botswana among others.
I&M bank’s managing director, Robin Bairstow said the bank is working to replace physical cash with digital cash. He says this is critical to realise the country’s bigger vision of achieving a cashless economy by 2020. He said,
“I think we are one of the first banks in Rwanda and Africa to use technology like this, to replace physical currency with digital currency. This is also part of supporting the Government’s vision of going cashless by 2020.”
Easier transactions with the Blockchain platform
He further added that the Blockchain-based mobile banking platform is not only for the unbanked but also the banked. According to him, it aims to bring efficiency and effectiveness in the way people transact and make payments in the country.
Financial experts though seem sceptical about SPENN being relevant solution. The main reason being most people in rural areas have limited or no access to financial services or even smartphones. Similarly, the i2i project by the Union Bank of the Philippines also aims for financial inclusion of the unbanked population. The bank along with Consensys’s Kaleido Blockchain platform plan on using a Blockchain based retail payment platform to achieve their goal.
Image via Ajirayako
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