South Africa’s blockchain start-up Wala is planning to pilot a new digital banking model that will bring accessible, zero-fee banking to sub-Saharan Africa population.
Wala will also pilot a fully digital banking model that authenticates users with biometrics.
Wala is a South African blockchain-powered financial services platform for the unbanked and underbanked that provides access to transactional banking, remittances, loans, and insurance.
The start-up announced on Thursday that it has teamed-up with Veridium, a leader in strong authentication using biometrics, to bring universal and affordable financial services to emerging countries in Africa.
The agreement will enable Veridium and Wala to kickstart a pilot programme in sub-Saharan Africa to demonstrate a new digital banking model that will bring accessible, zero-fee banking.
This pilot 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 programmes.
The Wala Financial Platform was spawned from an online community of over 1 million emerging market consumers who became members to improve their financial well-being and obtain free financial services.
This community grew through an incentives and rewards program designed to improve financial behaviour. Now, on the path to financial prosperity, the users are ready for the free financial services to be offered through the Wala Financial Platform.
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.
“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 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.”
Wala is the world’s first borderless, rewards-driven, zero-fee financial platform built on the Ethereum blockchain & powered by the Dala utility token.
“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, Veridium.
“Using Veridium’s 4 Fingers TouchlessID to securely enrol 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.”
Veridium’s technology brings the ability to enrol and authenticate customers remotely and securely, using biometrics.
Wala’s platform will integrate Veridium’s proprietary biometric solution, 4 Fingers TouchlessID, which captures four fingerprints at once, contactlessly, using a phone’s rear camera and flash.
Veridium is the first company to develop a multi-finger touchless biometric authentication system that works on unmodified smartphones.
The quality of the prints are the equivalent to those captured on tradition flatbed scanners, making this the most reliable option for remotely enrolling and authenticating customers.
Wala will also be using the VeridiumID platform to manage and store this sensitive data – a solution that uses a distributed data model to secure biometric templates.
This announcement of the collaboration with Veridium comes after Newtown Partners, the venture capital firm founded by Llew Claasen and Vinny Lingham, invested in Wala to solve financial exclusion affecting 3.5 billion people.
Vinny Lingham is best known as the Founder of mobile gift card company Gyft, sold to First Data in 2015 and more recently, Civic, a Silicon Valley-based start-up that completed a $33m token sale for a digital identity management platform in July 2017.
Newtown Partners previously assisted their portfolio company Augmentors, operating in the augmented reality space, to complete a very successful $1m token sale in February 2017, at the time the largest gaming token sale in the world.