- Title: US crowdfunder sets up Sierra Leone credit database
- Date: 2nd September 2019
- Summary: FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE (AUGUST 21, 2019) (REUTERS) ***WARNING: CONTAINS FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY*** NANCY BARMOI, FIRST PERSON IN SIERRA LEONE TO CHECK INTO THE DIGITAL eKYC (eKnow Your Customer) NATIONAL DIGITAL ID PROGRAMME AT THE LAUNCH SCHAN DUFF, KIVA VICE PRESIDENT OF STRATEGY TALKING TO AUDIENCE AT THE LAUNCH PEOPLE LISTENING TO THE LAUNCH (SOUNDBITE) (English) KIVA VICE PRESIDENT OF STRATEGY, SCHAN DUFF, SAYING:(SOUNDBITE STARTS OVER PICTURES OF SCREEN SHOWING PROJECTION WITH FIGURES ON FINANCIAL LITERACY/ACCESS/USAGE) "So today we will see the first live eKYC check using the National Digital Identity platform." (SOUNDBITE) (English) KIVA VICE PRESIDENT OF STRATEGY, SCHAN DUFF, SAYING: (SOUNDBITE CONTINUES OVER VISUALS OF BARMOI STANDING NEXT TO DUFF) "Now with the new digital identity platform Nancy has everything she needs to perform the eKYC process." MAN AT LAUNCH SETTING UP BARMOI'S DATA FOR DIGITAL ID ON A LAPTOP HAND MOVING MOUSE (SOUNDBITE) (English) KIVA VICE PRESIDENT OF STRATEGY, SCHAN DUFF, SAYING: (SOUNDBITE CONTINUES OVER PICTURES OF BARMOI REGISTERING WITH HER FINGERPRINT) "Nancy is now providing her consent with her fingerprint to share identity data from NCRA."
- Embargoed: 16th September 2019 13:26
- Keywords: San Francisco blockchain online ID database Sierra Leone traditional banking microfinance
- Location: FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE
- City: FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE
- Country: Sierra Leone
- Topics: Information Technologies / Computer Sciences,Science
- Reuters ID: LVA001AUYRK2J
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: SOME SOUNDBITES ARE OVERLAID WITH PICTURES
Sierra Leonean teacher, Nancy Barmoi lost her identity card and could no longer apply for a loan as banks could not look up her credit history.
She is not alone here and in the West African country. More than three quarters of Sierra Leone's population lies outside the formal banking sector, according to data from the central bank.
Informal institutions like community banks and microfinance lenders are more common, but they rarely share credit information and often charge extortionate interest rates.
Kiva, a San Francisco-based tech charity, is using blockchain to create an online ID database in Sierra Leone allowing people who struggle to get loans to prove their credit history.
Kiva officially launched the system in Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital, on Wednesday (August 21) when Barmoi became the first citizen to get a National Digital ID and was able to carry out an electronic 'Know Your Customer' (eKYC) check in with just her finger print, making her credit history and financial data available to banks and lending institutions.
Barmoi said the community bank she went approached to help her start a new educational business refused to lend her money because she could not open a bank account without her ID card. And now she can.
"Problems come to you every day, and if you don't have a place to collect money from, you'll get more problems immediately. If you're able to save money, you're able to solve your problem. If you're not able to save, you're not able to solve your problem. You will die by a sickness that wouldn't have killed you [otherwise], because you didn't have any money and no one was able to trust you in the community," she said.
The platform will enable lenders to look up citizens' credit histories using fingerprints and other biometric data that was collected a few years ago by Sierra Leone's government to print voter ID cards.
Each prospective borrower will be assigned a digital wallet, with transactions recorded in blockchain to keep user information secure and prevent tampering with the leger.
"First, the majority of the population, about 80 percent is currently excluded from the formal financial sector. Some of the barriers to that access is related to the ability to open a bank account, so the KYC process will be able to provide an identity that's verifiable to a bank or MFI partner. By using the National Digital Identity programme, we're effectively providing a digital identity to every adult in Sierra Leone that they can use as part of a client onboarding process when opening a new bank account. So we think that the punch line of all that is we'll expand financial access and inclusion in Sierra Leone," said the Vice President of Strategy at Kiva, Schan Duff.
Sierra Leone's President Julius Maada Bio said it was a visionary step that will benefit small enterprises to thrive.
"With this launch today, we have radically changed Sierra Leone financial inclusion landscape and made it possible to access and deliver economic and other opportunities to every Sierra Leonean," he said.
Ordinary Sierra Leoneans appear excited by the prospect, including Safiatu Mariama Bangura who with her mother runs a rice restaurant at a roadside restaurant in the capital Freetown.
"If we were able to get a loan we would be happy because we would be able to extend the business, the business would grow further beyond the way it is now," said Bangura.
Borrowers will access the wallet through an app. That presents a problem for many in Sierra Leone, where the Information Ministry says less than 15 percent have access to the internet.
Duff said its partners in the field, including banks, overcome this by using mi-fi devices that can connect to the internet via phone networks.
Sierra Leone's government aims to have the system in use by all banks and microfinance institutions in the country by the end of this year, Bio said.
(Production: Yvonne Bell)
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