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Former U.N. Official: Bitcoin has potential in fragile states

Former U.N. Official: Bitcoin has potential in fragile states | Remittances | Scoop.it
homestrings's insight:

Most of us are familiar with the argument that bitcoin could help the unbanked, but Ben Parker, co-founder and former director of humanitarian news service IRIN, has seen firsthand how the digital currency could play a crucial role in fragile states.


Read more here: https://www.homestrings.com/news-and-analysis/2015/june/23/former-un-official-bitcoin-has-potential-in-fragile-states

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India continues to top in remittances, receives USD 70 billion from its global migrant workforce

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The World Bank has said India continues to be the leading nation in remittances pulling in USD 70 billion from its global migrant workforce in 2014.

 

World Bank's study of remittance, the money workers and professionals working in foreign lands send back to their native countries, attributed this mainly to weak economic growth in Europe, deterioration of the Russian economy and the depreciation of the euro and ruble.

 

Read more: https://www.homestrings.com/news-and-analysis/2015/april/16/india-continues-to-top-in-remittances-receives-usd-70-billion-from-its-global-migrant-workforce/#.VTZpCCGeDRY

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Traditional Remittance Provider Adds Bitcoin Services in Latin America

Traditional Remittance Provider Adds Bitcoin Services in Latin America | Remittances | Scoop.it
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A bitcoin exchange and a remittance company have partnered to offer customers fiat-to-bitcoin deposit services across Latin America.

Bitex.la has joined with More Money Transfers (MMT), a Latin American remittances company in what they claim is the first alliance of its kind. However, the partnership, said Bitex chief marketing officer Manu Beaudroit, isn’t meant to provide remittance services in bitcoin, but instead, enable more people into contact and activity with the digital currency.

Speaking to CoinDesk, Beaudroit voiced his belief that bitcoin holds some of the greatest promise for remittance companies in the Latin American region.

“Remittance companies, which belong to the traditional ecosystem, are being threatened by bitcoin,” Beaudroit said. “With this alliance they are embracing the future of how money is going to be transmitted.”

The service is available in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; and Cochabamba, Bolivia, at present. Its network will soon extend to more than 240 Latin American cities.

Using More Money Transfers

Users need to first be registered with Bitex.la to receive a personal code required to make deposits into their accounts.

They can then go to any of MMT office and deposit fiat into their Bitex.la accounts. The deposit will be reflected in the user’s Bitex.la account in USD within one hour, with which it can buy bitcoin through Bitex.la.

Alternatively, users can go through the same process and receive funds directly in bitcoin. If they arrive at a MMT location with a ConectaBitcoin code, MMT will convert the deposited amount into USD, send it to users’ Bitex.la accounts, and Bitex.la will convert the funds into BTC.

Beaudroit said that the cash out feature will become more available through MMT by summer.

Latin American region

Latin America has been touted as a major region in which bitcoin can transform the way remittance services companies operate.

In a nod to the many citizens that either have no access to a bank account or endure the high cost of transmitting money abroad through money transfer services like Western Union and MoneyGram, Beaudroit expressed his excitement about a bitcoin company joining with a remittance service at last.

“For Latin America [this] is huge because it means that there’s no need for a bank to operate with bitcoin,” he said.

He added that this would make sending and receiving money a more accessible event for users because of the many locations available for them to do so across the region. While there are three MMT offices currently, the company has many more partnerships continent-wide with small businesses wherein users can access the service.

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The TEN news of the Money Transfer Industry in 2014

The TEN news of the Money Transfer Industry in 2014 | Remittances | Scoop.it
homestrings's insight:

As I did for 2013, I have put together the 10 most important news stories for the International Money Transfer Industry in 2014, as a way to reflect back and at the same time analyze the trends for the coming year. They are not necessarily in order of importance. They are based on my personal opinions and ideas from friends and colleagues in the industry. If I miss something of importance or if you have any type of comment, please share your opinions.

1
Volume of Money Transfers continue on the rise. The estimated global remittance volume will be close to US$580 B in 2014 and rise above US$600 B in 2015. Volume to developing countries are rising globally by 4.4% to reach US$454 B in 2015. 
2
Bank Discontinuance and De-Risking took new heights with more bank account closures in the US, Australia and other countries prompting responses and statements from the World Bank, US regulators and other agencies.
3
The cost of remittances continues as a major objective of multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and its influence in the G20 agenda while more governments discuss the idea of taxing remittances. It’s all politics? 
4
Telcos on the move. With still major regulatory and technological hurdles to overcome and many partnerships and cost structures to be agreed upon, mobile wallets to be tested, Telcos are moving ahead with money transfers.
5
Online Remittances are disrupting the traditional agent-based ecosystem as more clients look for these alternatives and every major MTO in the world increases its online channel developments. Are we finally seeing the shift?
6
Mobile Remittances on the rise with every online money transfer provider hastily rolling out their mobile solutions with a good response from new and existing clients while mobile-only service providers get funding and forge ahead.
7
US Regulator moves forward and fines the first Compliance Officer of a major Money Transfer Operator (MTO) sending chills throughout the industry. Some say US Regulators needed a “sacrificial lamb” and quite a few have deemed it unfair.
8
The performance of Public Traded Money Transfer Companies has been a concern of many analysts that watch the payment industry closely. It hasn’t been a good year for the two major MTOs due to competition for market share & lower pricing.
9
Is Remittances the best driver for financial inclusion? As the concept of inclusion changes, as some banks develop agent-based networks and as mobile access to financial services widens, will remittances take a driver seat?
10
Is Bitcoin as a remittance tool ready to pick up steam? We have seen a year full of regulatory discussions on cryptocurrencies, growth of the blockchain ecosystem and the emerging of firms devoted to Bitcoin & Remittances.

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Easypaisa launches Pakistan’s first ‘International Remittance Doorstep Delivery’ Service

 

 

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KARACHI – Pakistan’s first and largest branchless banking service and a joint venture between Tameer Micro Finance Bank and Telenor Pakistan, Easypaisa has collaborated with the International Remittance partner Xpress Money to launch Pakistan’s first international remittance doorstep delivery service for its customers.  

The Easypaisa International Home Transfer facility provides the safety and convenience to receive remittances sent up to PKR 50,000 from over 150 countries through Xpress Money, at more than 50,000 Easypaisa shops across 800 cities in Pakistan. Now, customers living in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi can avail the Easypaisa International Remittance Doorstep Delivery service by calling the Easypaisa helpline by dialing 3737 or 111-345-100 and request to receive their remittance through a courier service after the provision of required documents. The service is free for both the person sending the remittance from abroad and the receiver in Pakistan.

Expressing his views on new service, Nadeem Hussain, CEO Tameer Micro Finance Bank said, “Home Remittances from overseas Pakistanis play an extraordinary role in the economic development of Pakistan. Our received remittance stood at $ 6 billion in Q3 of 2014 signifying a growing demand of financial services for local beneficiaries. The Easypaisa International Home Transfer facility indicates our commitment to provide convenience and safety to both the remitter and beneficiary and contribute to Pakistan’s economy as a smart and innovative partner.”

Yahya Khan, Chief Financial Services Officer at Telenor Pakistan added, “Easypaisa has a history of thought leadership in developing innovative products and services that match the needs of our customers. The Easypaisa International Home Remittance service is a convenient, reliable and secure service that will eliminate the inefficient mechanism of money transfers from abroad into the country. Furthermore, this service facilitates the segment of society that is unable to collect remittances conveniently by leaving their house. As the first International Remittance Doorstep Delivery service in Pakistan, at no extra cost, we are hopeful that customers will seek out the additional convenience provided by Easypaisa.”

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Micro Reforms for African Agribusiness project launched

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Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), a non-governmental organization.

Mr Kwetey said a viable and sustainable economic development in the country could only be achieved through the transformation and modernization of the agricultural sector.

He said a number of policies such as the Medium Term Agricultural Development Programme, the Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Development Strategy, and the Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy (FASDEP II), were formulated to guide the interventions towards the growth of the agricultural sector.

Mr Kwetey said FASDEP II is to ensure the vision to modernize agriculture and structurally transform the economy to improve food security, employment, reduce poverty, improve access to markets and ensure sustainable management of land and environment.

He said the FASDEP II adopts the commodity value chain approach to enhance productivity of all operators and the sector wide approach, to enhance the participation of key stakeholders in the growth and development of the sector.

Mr Kwetey commended AGRA for investing in the programme areas of agricultural technologies, especially seeds and soil health technologies, market incentives, land and property rights and climate change adaptation.

Dr Steven Were Omamo, Director of Policy and Advocacy, AGRA, said African countries in their Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme

Plans and other agricultural policy strategies, aim to attract private sector investment in smallholder agriculture.

He said excessive requirements for export or import licenses and permits increased costs for local businesses looking to access new markets and the extent to which they can respond to market demand signals.

Dr Omamo said the MIRA project was design to strengthen and sharpen African governments’ demand for regulatory reforms by supporting efforts to identify and assess regulations that affect private sector investment in smallholder value chains.

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Airtel reports $3.34 Bn in mobile money transfers in Africa in Q2-FY15

Airtel reports $3.34 Bn in mobile money transfers in Africa in Q2-FY15 | Remittances | Scoop.it
homestrings's insight:

Airtel Money reported a total customer base of 5.3 million in Africa for the quarter ended September 30, 2014, registering a significant 23.26% growth from 4.3 million customers in the previous quarter and almost three times the 1.8 million customers it reported for same quarter last year.

The total number of transactions however saw a significant growth (by 34.29%) to 131.2 million for the quarter. On a yearly basis, the total number of transactions have tripled.

 
The total value of transactions however saw an increase quarter on quarter to $3.34 billion, with the average value per transaction increasing to $25.50 for the quarter, and the average value transacted per customer for the quarter increasing to $24.75.

No Airtel Money data for India, yet again

Like the last two quarters, Airtel has stopped disclosing data related to its Airtel Money India business. The company had also not provided data to us last quarter, when we had requested them for it. The last available data on Airtel Money had indicated that in Q4-FY14, it had reported :
- an active base of 1.7 million users in India in Q4-FY14
- 38 million transactions
- Rs 1,364.2 crore transacted for the quarter.

Update: The only available information that we have on India: In its earnings press release, Airtel said that it invested Rs 20 crore in Airtel M Commerce Services Limited during the quarter ended September 30th 2014.
*
Note that the Reserve Bank of India has begun a process for allowing telecom operators and other stakeholders such as prepaid payment instruments services like Airtel Money, Oxigen, Itz cash card, Paytm and Mobikwik to set up Payment Banks, for enabling deposits for money transfer and payments.

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Kendy launches money transfer services in Kenya

Kendy launches money transfer services in Kenya | Remittances | Scoop.it
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The inflow of remittances into the country is set to go a notch higher after Kendy Money Transfer Limited, a Pan African Remittance Service provider launches its service in Kenya.

 

Kendy Money Transfer, recently issued with a license by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), will be offering several solutions to send money and make payments within Africa and abroad.

 

In Africa, the company will now cross transfer remittances between Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mali, Guinea Bissau, Benin, Togo, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Niger, Mauritania, Ghana and Gambia.

 

General Manager Caroline Rukaria says Kendy is looking at leveraging on innovative money transfer options to reduce costs and increase penetration within Africa.

 

“We have already established a presence in several locations in Kenya, where our customers can access our various services. This is an ongoing exercise,” Rukaria said.

 

The firm plans to widen its network and service delivery through partnering with licensed financial institutions such as banks, forex bureaus and mobile cash agents.

 

Some of the services provided by Kendy Money Transfer to recipients include cash transfers, bank deposits, mobile wallet and bill payments.

 

Rukaria noted that the potential for Africa remittance is huge but the market in Africa remains relatively underdeveloped.

 

“Africa has a huge share of cross-border remittances flowing through informal channels and significantly higher remittance costs, than most parts of the world,” she said.

 

Kenya is a key remittance market as it receives, on average, 60 percent of remittances to East Africa and an average of 10 percent of all remittances to the Sub-Saharan region.

 

According to the Central Bank of Kenya, remittances to Kenya increased by 8.6 percent to Sh10.6 billion in May 2014 compared to Sh9.8 billion in May 2013.

 

Europe and North America account for approximately 75 percent of remittance inflows while the rest of the world , including Africa, account for the balance.

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The Top Countries Receiving Remittances

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Statistically speaking, which countries receive the most remittances from the United States? An astonishing amount of money transfers from developing nations to home countries every year. Per a World Bank analysis in 2014, $436 billion annually makes its way through the remittance system. That’s up from $404 billion in 2013. Estimates suggest that it will hit $516 billion by 2016.

Remittances in Nepal are about double what the country generates in revenues from its own internal services and goods. 38% of all money that flows into the Philippines comes from remittances. India brought in $70 billion last year, China brought in $60 billion and the Philippines brought in $25 billion. That’s a huge chunk of these countries’ economies. Mexico took fourth place with $22 billion in 2013. Nigeria — home to about 100 million people, around one-third the size of the United States — brought in $21 billion in remittances. Egypt and Pakistan took in $17 billion and $15 billion in remittances, respectively. In East Asia, Bangladesh brought in $14 billion, while Vietnam brought in $11 billion. And the star-crossed Ukraine brought in $10 billion.

Those figures are staggering, but some countries are even more dependent on remittances. For instance, the Kyrgyz Republic gets nearly 31% of its gross domestic product from remittances. Tajikistan, meanwhile, gets more than half of its GDP from remittances.

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Isabella El-Hage's curator insight, March 18, 2015 1:54 PM

This article links to Unit Two through "remittances". Last year $436 billion in remittances were sent. It has increased from last year, and has been gradually increasing year to year due to more young people moving out of their home country to find work, and sending back home so money to support their family. In Nepal, remittances double what the country generates, and in the Philippines 38% of the revenue is made up of remittances. Some countries depend on remittances like the Kyrgyz republic and Tajikistan. There are many websites that help people send back money to their home family. I think since lots of countries and families depend on remittances, migrating out of the country to find jobs should be encouraged, since opportunities for jobs in other countries help people prosper.

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Remittances exceed FDI in Bulgaria

Remittances exceed FDI in Bulgaria | Remittances | Scoop.it
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Sofia. Remittances - the money sent home by migrants – totaled EUR 85.2 million in May this year, dwarfing the volume of foreign direct investment (FDI), it transpires from BNB figures. According to the central bank reports, remittances in the period January-May amounted to EUR 302.6 million down from EUR 369.3 million sent in the same period last year. May has been the strongest months so far for migrants’ money, while January was the weakest with just EUR 62.8 million sent back home. Trud Daily reads.

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Etisalat launches money transfer service in Gabon

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Etisalat has announced the launch of its mobile money service 'Flous' in Gabon. Flous, which translates to 'money' in several languages, enables customers to use their mobile phones as digital wallets. With Flous, customers can pay for bills, goods and services, transfer money to and receive from friends and family, withdraw and deposit cash, top-up mobile phones, and manage bank accounts. The service is offered in partnership with Orabank in Gabon. Etisalat and Orabank plan to enroll more merchants and agents to support the service. Upon registration, Etisalat and Orabank will provide customers with virtual bank accounts, enabling them to use their mobile phones as debit cards and manage funds directly from their handsets. The service, which requires a password for each transaction, is designed to give customers security and flexibility, enabling customers to access money 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

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Ripple LatAm opens up Latin America to easier remittance, cross-border payments

Ripple LatAm opens up Latin America to easier remittance, cross-border payments | Remittances | Scoop.it
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AstroPay, a payment services provider for companies like Facebook and Disney in Latin America, announced today the launch of Ripple LatAm, a new business that aspires to make international payments faster and easier by using the internet protocol known as Ripple.

Ripple LatAm, run by founder Andres Bzurovski, will help open the door for businesses across the globe to use Ripple for sending money — instantly and in their local currencies — to businesses and individuals in its coverage area.

If you’re unfamiliar, the Ripple protocol lets individuals or businesses send any type of currency across its network instantly. Like an email network, which allows you to send an email from Gmail to a Yahoo address, the Ripple network enables its users to store money in a wallet in their local currency then send it to someone else who receives it in whatever currency they prefer.

To make it easier to move money on Ripple, “gateways” like Ripple LatAm help individuals get set up on the network. Ripple LatAm users must past strict Know-Your-Customer (KYC) checks which normally take about a day to process, and require two forms of identification, proof of address and additional background checks. After answering a questionnaire to prove the money source is legitimate, the currency exchange or payment process is almost immediate.

According to Bzurovski, the company takes a two percent fee for transactions and an additional .5 percent fee to “cash-out” your currency. While it’s not free, Ripple LatAm could prove attractive compared to services like Western Union, which can charge eight percent to move money.

“It’s a huge deal, the fact that someone can do a foreign exchange from Brazilian Reals to USDs from the comfort of their home with a minimum spread of two perecent and immediately,” Bzurovski said. “And if we add to that, the possibility that that money could be sent anywhere in the world, from the comfort of their home and immediately, it’s a revolution for Latin America.”

At launch, the new company will cater to seven countries in the region, including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Argenetina and Uruguay, where the Ripple LatAm is based.

It’s not Ripple’s first expansion overseas either as payment protocol begins to catch on. Fidor Bank, based in Germany, recently introduced the Ripple protocol in its banking system to help facilitate international payments and currency transfers.
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Nigerian Bank Issues New Money Transfer Regulations

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced new guidelines this week for the operation of international money transfer services in Nigeria. The released draft includes new regulations on international money transfer services, and was released in line with its mandate for the development of the electronic payments system in Nigeria.

A Leadership article cited the document, which said that permissible operations of international money transfer services shall include allowable inbound and outbound international money transfer transactions.

Those transactions consist of acceptance of monies for the purpose of transmitting them to people living in Nigeria or another country, as well as cross-border personal money transfer services, the news source explained. Cross-border personal money transfer services include money transfer services towards family maintenance and money transfer services favoring foreign tourists visiting Nigeria.

“[The] money transfer services shall target individual customers mainly and the transactions shall be on ‘person to person transfer’ basis to safeguard against corporate customers which might structure their transactions into smaller amounts to circumvent the statutory reporting threshold,” the guideline stated.

“What’s Hot” is aggregated content. PYMNTS.com claims no responsibility for the accuracy of the content published by the original source.

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How mobile money is saving Africa $2bn annually

How mobile money is saving Africa $2bn annually | Remittances | Scoop.it
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Mobile phones have proven to be potential game-changers in boosting access to financial products and services to people in Africa. This is particularly true for those at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid as seen in East Africa. It has often been appraised based on its contribution to ‘banking the unbanked’, but mobile money has achieved much more, it has saved the continent nearly $2 billion previously lost annually to inefficient money transfer.


Read more: https://www.homestrings.com/news-and-analysis/2015/may/08/how-mobile-money-is-saving-africa-2bn-annually/#.VUyag_mqqko

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MasterCard expands mobile remittance services in Africa

MasterCard expands mobile remittance services in Africa | Remittances | Scoop.it
homestrings's insight:

MasterCard today made two announcements at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, that expand mobile remittance services in Africa. 

MasterCard announced an agreement with eTranzact International PLC, a leading Pan-African mobile banking and payment services company, to make international remittance services available to millions of consumers in Nigeria. The card network also announced a partnership with Steward Bank in Zimbabwe to make remittance services available to the bank's more than 1.5 million accountholders.

Under the eTranzact agreement, citizens will be able to securely receive international remittances to their eTranzact mobile money wallets or select bank accounts through the international transfer hub, HomeSend. A joint venture between MasterCard, eServGlobal and BICS, HomeSend bridges the gap between various entities globally — such as financial institutions, non-financial entities and mobile network operators — enabling Nigerians living and working abroad to send money from mobile money accounts, payment cards, bank accounts or cash outlets back home, according to a press release.

"For millions of Nigerians, the receipt of funds from friends and family is an important lifeline. HomeSend provides senders across the globe and the recipients in Nigeria with a convenient, safe, and cost effective money transfer channel," said Omokehinde Ojomuyide, vice president and area business head for West Africa at MasterCard.

Upon receipt of funds into their eTranzact mobile wallets, Nigerians can use PocketMoni, eTranzact’s mobile money platform, to pay bills, top up airtime, pay select merchants, cash out at agents or participating bank ATMs, and send money to any bank account, PocketMoni user, eTrazact card or mobile phone user.

MasterCard is also using HomeSend in the deal with Steward Bank. In the next phase of that agreement, Steward Bank’s sister company EcoCash will soon connect to HomeSend, enabling more than four million EcoCash mobile money customers to receive remittances into their mobile money wallets, after which they can pay bills, pay merchants, send money and cash out. Those who hold a MasterCard Debit Companion card linked to their EcoCash wallets will also be able to withdraw money from MasterCard-licensed ATMs and pay for goods and services at millions of merchants that accept MasterCard payment cards, both in Zimbabwe and internationally, according to the announcement.

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Remittances are more stable than other capital flows: World Bank

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WASHINGTON: Describing remittances as a significant source of inflows to many developing countries like India, which received maximum remittances in 2013, the World Bank has called for removing impediments to its flows arguing that remittances are more stable than other capital flows.

Read more: https://www.homestrings.com/news-and-analysis/2015/january/14/remittances-are-more-stable-than-other-capital-flows-world-bank/#.VLkMKUfF_K8

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A Final Look Back: The State Of Bitcoin Heading Into 2015 » Brave New Coin

A Final Look Back: The State Of Bitcoin Heading Into 2015 » Brave New Coin | Remittances | Scoop.it
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2014 In Review

The year 2014 has been one of maturity and growth for Bitcoin. The protocol is only five years old, but despite its relative youth, the sophistication of companies built around the Bitcoin protocol is rapidly increasing. Beyond technological advances, what has been most promising is the extraordinary progress in the quality of human capital driving Bitcoin. Entrepreneurs in the space have deepened their understanding and capabilities of working with global banking and payment systems, and veterans of other areas of the financial industry have also jumped aboard and are rapidly learning the ins and outs of Bitcoin.

Thinking back to this time last year, most people in the Bitcoin industry were unable to express compelling arguments as to why Bitcoin should be used over other payment methods. This communications challenge made it difficult for outsiders to put their faith in Bitcoin as a justifiably useful instrument. Within a single year, the conversation has shifted from monetary freedom as Bitcoin’s primary advantage to focus more on the blockchain as a distinctly revolutionary technology. Companies and individuals have placed an important emphasis on espousing the virtues of the protocol instead of just the currency. As entrepreneurs have dedicated a substantial portion of time in 2014 to assessing Bitcoin’s value proposition versus other payment methods out of necessity for their businesses, we are beginning to see early displays of its market impact. Successful conversion on the business level has stimulated growth in network usage, which is up over 50% by all metrics since August.

Investment

An indicator of Bitcoin’s potential value to the economy can be observed in the amount of venture capital being invested in the space. Viewed through this lens, 2014 was a breakthrough year. According to Venture Scanner, $424 million was invested in Bitcoin companies this year through December 1, 2014. That total is more than three times higher than the $94 million that was invested in 2013. The statistic also only includes announced investments–the actual amount is probably much higher. This growing investment in the space suggests that sophisticated investors see profitable use-cases for Bitcoin through the business models being pitched, and it also arms the industry with funding to see disruption through to success. Well-capitalized companies will continue growing their user bases in 2015, pulling transactions away from the financial system’s traditional payment rails.

Progress made on the US and global regulatory front played an important role in fueling investor confidence in Bitcoin investments. There is now far less uncertainty–and thus further confidence– in Bitcoin’s regulatory future than there was just one year ago. Both federal and state agencies have begun explaining potential licensing requirements, which provides clarity on how Bitcoin companies can operate legally in each jurisdiction. In the United States, there is no longer a question of whether Bitcoin will survive–something that we heard repeatedly from investors in 2013. Instead, we await final guidance on application submission procedures for state licenses. Additional progress from state regulators this coming should bring closure to this concern altogether.

Low Hanging Fruits

Heading into 2015, the international remittance market is “low-hanging fruit” for the Bitcoin industry. The 10% fees charged for small money transfers clearly highlights the economic friction in a $500 billion market. While incumbent companies that currently dominate the market are mounting defensive stances, the fact is that Bitcoin can provide the same solution to consumers at a fraction of the cost, especially via Bitcoin ATMs. Cost savings are not the only benefit, however. Superior compliance monitoring can be achieved through Bitcoin ATMs, making the technology competitive with current infrastructure on almost every level. There are over 300 Bitcoin ATMs in operation today, almost all of which were installed this year. Next year we can expect thousands of new Bitcoin ATMs to be deployed, and with other companies enabling cash-to-Bitcoin transfers at convenience stores, there will be improved remittance options available at new locations across the world. The sender-side market for Bitcoin remittances has developed, from scratch, in less than a year, and the receiver-side market will expand in 2015, completing the loop.

One of the exciting changes that took place in 2014 was a transformation in how people view Bitcoin’s position in the tech stack. This past year introduced a growing conversation on the future of Bitcoin as a protocol. Serving as an open standard for internet payments, Bitcoin has the capability to serve as the behind-the-scenes payment rails to virtually any money transfer. At this point in time, Bitcoin is purchased, held, and spent as a currency. In its current form, Bitcoin has shown to be highly beneficial for merchants, and yet it lacks a strong consumer value proposition, especially in comparison to rewards-based credit cards. To mitigate this advantage, we can expect to see the introduction of rewards programs for Bitcoin purchases in the years ahead. There will be friction in consumer adoption beyond remittances until Bitcoin wallet providers offer similar value associated with credit card payments.

Future Outlook

2015 will see important breakthroughs in the Bitcoin industry. Availability of state licensing will open in the United States, bringing further acceptance by domestic banks. Next, Bitcoin companies throughout the space are transitioning from their development stage to become fully operational. In 2015, companies in our industry will begin growing their businesses and will actually make money, which will in turn increase network usage, disrupt traditional payment methods, and fuel additional investment. Finally, this coming year will see the “tokenization” of the dollar and other fiat currencies through blockchain technology, routing more and more money transfers into the cryptographic realm.

We are only five years into a digital payments revolution, but it feels like the page is turning towards a new chapter in the industry’s lifecycle. The year 2014 established a solid foundation for Bitcoin’s longevity. A universal transformation in payment standards cannot happen overnight, but substantial progress is visibly taking place. The year 2015 will introduce new opportunities that serve as catalysts for exponential industry growth.

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Ripple Signs First Two U.S. Banks to Bitcoin-Inspired Payments Network

Ripple Signs First Two U.S. Banks to Bitcoin-Inspired Payments Network | Remittances | Scoop.it

Via bitcoins, Numistat
homestrings's insight:

Ripple Labs, whose bitcoin-inspired payments network allows institutions to conduct low-cost international money transfers without the intermediation of large Wall Street banks, has signed its first two U.S. banks as customers.

The two banks – 122-year-old CBW Bank of Topeka, Kansas and Cross River Bank of Teaneck, NJ – are  not national household names. Nonetheless, their embrace of the Ripple model marks a milestone for the Silicon Valley startup. And it could open the door for America’s embattled regional and community banks to recover control over a cross-border commercial banking business that was long ago ceded to bigger institutions.

Patrick Griffin, Ripple Lab’s executive vice-president of business development, said the system allows smaller banks to transfer money abroad by connecting to  existing Ripple clients, such as Fidor Bank of Germany. And they can provide low-cost cross-border transfer services to other small U.S. banks.

The big benefit, he said, is that smaller banks would no longer need to deal with “correspondent banks” such as J.P. Morgan & Co., HSBC Holdings, Standard & Chartered and Wells Fargo, to intermediate this business. That should also do away with the accompanying fees, foreign exchange “spread” costs and, most importantly, the large collateral commitments that the bigger banks periodically demand to act as the middleman.

“This is the first viable alternative to correspondent banking in about 40 years,” said Mr. Griffin in an interview. “Regional banks can now move money bilaterally to other regional banks without having to relay those funds through an intermediary.”

The software program that runs Ripple, known as its “protocol”, allows for direct fund transfers and foreign exchange transactions between institutions. A network of computers running that program works together through a system of consensus to ensure trades are executed, confirmed, cleared and settled, in multiple currencies. It promises small institutions the capacity to trust each other in a direct transaction without having to put up large amounts of capital to back up those transactions or outsource elements to big custodial and foreign exchange banks.  In theory, that should allow them to offer significantly cheaper foreign exchange and bank wire services to their customers.

This kind of “decentralized” network – which collectively takes on the work done by middlemen institutions in the traditional system  – has similarities to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. How? Its member computers work off a common set of software-driven rules to confirm transactions. But whereas transaction confirmations can take 10 minutes or more on bitcoin, it takes seconds on Ripple.

One other big difference: Whereas bitcoin’s system for confirming transactions is built on a network of independent miners who compete for bitcoins and are adding ever-more computing power in a bid to win that competition, the “validators” in the Ripple network contribute computing resources without direct reward and without the intense competition. The assumption is that they will be motivated by an interest in maintaining the integrity of the Ripple network for its own sake and thus that much of that work will be provided by gateway institutions such as CBW and Cross River banks and by other firms providing products over the Ripple protocol, such as new digital assets.  While anyone is free to download the software and play this role, these firms have a special interest in seeing Ripple succeed and so are expected to be especially motivated to freely act as validators of transactions.

In a statement, Suresh Ramamurthi, chairman and chief technology officer of CBW Bank said Ripple offered a way around an “antiquated” system.

“Today’s banks offer the equivalent of 300-year old paper ledgers converted to an electronic form – a digital skin on an antiquated transaction process,” Mr. Ramamurthi said. “We’ll now be one of the first banks in the world to offer customers a reliable, compliant, safe and secure way to instantly send and receive money internationally. “

And in a separate statement, Gilles Gade, president and chief executive officer of Cross River Bank, said “Our business customers expect banking to move at the speed of the Web, but with the security and confidence of the traditional financial system…Ripple will help make that a reality.”

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Africa Tech Trends: Bitcoin slowly but surely growing in Africa

Africa Tech Trends: Bitcoin slowly but surely growing in Africa | Remittances | Scoop.it
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Africa Tech Trends is a fortnightly column by Tom Jackson focusing on the most important developments in Africa’s technology industry, and examining how technology is changing the way business is being done on the continent.

Bitcoin in Africa

It is too early to say whether it will truly take off, but Bitcoin is arriving in Africa. The software-based online payments system – or cryptocurrency – is not backed by any central bank, but has nonetheless taken off across the world. Nor has it been short of controversy.

South Africa’s largest Bitcoin exchange BitX, which launched last year and operates in South Africa and Kenya as well as other countries, has now released a mobile app promoting better understanding and use of Bitcoin.

Ghanaian company Beam is another using Bitcoin, looking to undercut the likes of MoneyGram and Western Union, while Bitcoin ATMs are also arriving on the continent. The virtual currency is also being used to tackle the Ebola crisis. Beam has launched a Bitcoin Against Ebola website, which allows Bitcoin holders to make donations in support of relief efforts in Sierra Leone.

It is still early days, and much of what will dictate whether Bitcoin takes off in Africa depends on how it manages to hold up in the rest of the world. But Africa has a history of searching out alternative payment methods, so why not?

Doing more with mobile money

Everyone knows about the importance of mobile money to Africa. On a continent where less than 30% of the population are bank account holders, and fewer still own credit cards, mobile has become key. There are more mobile money accounts than bank accounts in at least nine countries in Africa. The biggest and most famous service – Kenya’s M-Pesa – has over 19m subscribers.

Now that mobile money is well established, the trend is towards how to do more with it. This column has focused before on inter-operability and making it easier to move money regardless of country or service provider. But operators are also adding extra services on top of simply being able to send and receive money.

Kenya’s Safaricom has led the way with this. Last week the company – which operates M-Pesa – partnered local start-up Dynamic Data Systems to launch payments tracking app M-Ledger. The app records mobile money transactions, with users able to view and manage past transactions. Data can be extracted into a spreadsheet.

Safaricom has been ahead of the game with these extra services for some time. In 2012, it partnered the Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) to roll out M-Shwari, which gives M-Pesa customers access to an interest bearing savings account as well as the ability to take out small loans. The 2013 launch of Lipa na M-Pesa enabled merchants to accept payments for goods and services from their customers.

However, Safaricom is not the only company at it. Tigo Tanzania in September launched Tigo Wekeza, which allows customers to earn interest on their mobile money balances. Customers can also recommend a non-profit beneficiary.

This wave of extensions of the use of mobile money, demonstrates the concept is here to stay and set to become more pervasive. Traditional banks must innovate to catch up, or become redundant for most Africans.

Bridging ‘digital divide’ in rural areas

Kenya’s Universal Service Fund (USF) has finally become a reality. Such funds are common in other parts of the world, and involve telecoms firms paying subsidies and fees to the fund. This money is the used to bridge the digital divide by rolling out telecoms services in rural areas.

The digital divide in Africa is gaping and real. The problem is that rolling out telecom infrastructure to rural communities is difficult, expensive and not sustainable for operators. Though it is certainly an admirable thing to attempt to connect rural communities, most providers find that the costs of rolling out connectivity outweigh the gains in terms of new customers. A USF is the best way Africa has yet found to deal with this problem.

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Twitter Users in France Can Transfer Money Through Tweets

Twitter Users in France Can Transfer Money Through Tweets | Remittances | Scoop.it
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The next time you want to wire money to someone, you can turn to Twitter — that is, if you live in France.

 

Groupe BPCE, one of the largest banks in France, is enabling money transfers via tweetsthrough its electronic money subsidiary, S-Money. The initiative was first announced last month and is reportedly scheduled to be unveiled at media event in Paris on Tuesday.

 

"Groupe BPCE is the first banking group to offer individuals a payment solution where they can transfer money with a simple Tweet," Jean-Yves Forel, CEO of commercial banking and insurance at Groupe BPCE, said in a statement in September. "This S-Money initiative opens up a whole new range of payment possibilities on the social networks.”

 

A source close to Twitter told Mashable that the arrangement was not a "partnership," but rather a third party arrangement, not unlike the way businesses like Starbucks and Amazon have used Twitter for various ecommerce promotions.


Twitter recently began testing its own "buy" button to enable purchases on the social network, potentially competing with Facebook and one day Pinterest for nascent social commerce space.

 

The payments space, however, is more mature and becoming increasingly crowded. Square, Venmo, Google and others all already offer for users to pay one another seamlessly. Venmo, in particular, turns the transaction into more of a social experience in the same way one could imagine it being handled on Twitter.

 

That's not say Twitter wouldn't be interested in pursuing a true peer-to-peer payments service, but for now, it's just letting banks experiment with it on their own.

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Jamaican Diaspora Remits US$16 billion over 10 Years

Jamaican Diaspora Remits US$16 billion over 10 Years | Remittances | Scoop.it
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Washington, DC -  Over the past 10 years, members of the Diaspora have remitted sixteen billion US dollars to Jamaica.

This was disclosed by Jamaica’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Hon. Arnaldo Brown while addressing the launch of the NE USA leg of the Mapping Jamaica’s Diaspora Project at a luncheon held at the Island Cuisine Restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland on Friday, August 15, 2014.

Minister Brown said this level of inflow from the Diaspora continues to demonstrate its commitment to the country. However, in addition to remittances, other aspects of the Diaspora are critical to the development of Jamaica.

“The Diaspora which has already been playing an integral role in nation building, particularly in the health and education sectors is now being invited to strengthen its cooperation with their land of origin in the areas identified in the national grow and investment agenda” Mr. Brown said.

The minister pointed out that last year, over 300 health missions visited Jamaica from the Diaspora. In addition, he said our schools also continue to receive tremendous support from organizations, institutions and alumni.

The minister pointed out that an estimated three million Jamaicans are in the Diaspora with the USA accounting for 1.8 million of that number. The UK and Canada account for an estimated 800,000 and 300,000 respectively.

The minister encouraged this vast number of individuals to log on atwww.mapjadiaspora.iom.int and participate in the Mapping Jamaica’s Diaspora survey. He said the goal is to have a 100,000 Jamaicans in the database by June 2015.

Minister Brown used the opportunity to inform the gathering that the sixth biennial Jamaica Diaspora conference will convene June 14 – 18, 2015 in Montego Bay under the theme, “Jamaica and the Diaspora, Looking for Growth and Prosperity”.

He said the main areas of focus during the conference would be investments, trade and social services.

Among those attending the launch was Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Stephen Vasciannie, Maryland House of Delegates Representative, Shirley Natham-Pulliam, President of the National Association of Jamaican and Supportive Organizations, (NAJASO), Rick Nugent, President of the Jamaica Association of Maryland (JAM), Noel Godfrey and President of the Jamaican American Bar Association (JABA), Ms. Joan Pinnock.

Minister Brown while in the USA had similar launches in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, with responsibility for the Diaspora, the Hon. Arnaldo Brown (center) and Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Stephen Vasicannie (back row 2nd left) pose for a photograph with some members of the Jamaican community residing in Baltimore who attended the launching of the NE USA leg of the Mapping Jamaica’s Diaspora Project at a the Island Cuisine Restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland on Friday, August 15, 2014.
(Photo Derrick Scott)

Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, with responsibility for the Diaspora, the Hon. Arnaldo Brown (center) and Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Stephen Vasicannie (back row 2nd left) pose for a photograph with some members of the Jamaican community residing in Baltimore who attended the launching of the NE USA leg of the Mapping Jamaica’s Diaspora Project at a the Island Cuisine Restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland on Friday, August 15, 2014.
(Photo Derrick Scott)

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Remittances up 5.7% in first 5 months to $8.9B

homestrings's insight:

Cash transfers from the country’s migrant workers rose in May in line with government expectations as Filipinos remained in demand to fill both skilled and unskilled positions around the world.

This supported expectations that domestic consumption, which remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) support, would stay strong this year, helping prop up economic growth.

“The sustained expansion in remittances during the first five months of 2014 was underpinned by the steady growth in remittance flows from both land-based workers with long-term contracts, and land-based and sea-based workers with short-term contracts,” the central bank said.

Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) released Tuesday showed remittances rose by 5.4 percent in May to $2 billion. The growth was slightly better than the 5.2 percent recorded in April.

Year-to-date, remittances reached $8.9 billion or 5.7-percent up from the same five-month period in 2013.

Economic managers expect remittances to grow by 5 percent this year to reach a record high $24 billion. Last year, these cash transfers made up more than 8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Remittances are also a strong driver of domestic consumption, which accounts for two-thirds of the economy.

Over three-quarters or 76 percent of remittances were from seven top markets, namely the United States, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong.

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Facebook improves app performance in Africa

Facebook improves app performance in Africa | Remittances | Scoop.it

Facebook has released a version of its Android app reducing the amount of data used as well as speeding up its performance on older phones, after conducting research on the app’s performance in Africa.

“A team of product managers and engineers travelled to Africa to examine mobile performance in developing countries. We purchased several different Android handsets to test the latest version of the Facebook app – and the testing process proved to be difficult,” said Alex Sourov, software engineer at Facebook.

He said intermittent data connections and lack of memory space on devices caused the application to crash.

“We even burned through our monthly data plans in 40 minutes,” he said.

However according to Sourov the Facebook engineers have incorporated numerous improvements into the new application.

The new app makes use of 50 per cent less data, has experienced 90 per cent fewer error reports, and is 65 per cent smaller than the previous version.

“We will continue to innovate to make the Facebook experience better in emerging markets, and share tools and information that can help developers build apps that work well on different handsets, network environments, and operating systems,” Sourov said.

According to the engineer, the Facebook team will also be expanding its playbook to other apps, such as Messenger and Instagram.

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Global remittances expected to surge 8 per cent a year

Global remittances expected to surge 8 per cent a year | Remittances | Scoop.it
homestrings's insight:

Muscat: The global remittance flow, which has touched $550 billion last year, is expected to grow by 8 per cent per annum in the next couple of years. 

Of the total remittance fund, $414 billion were received by developing countries, especially India, China, Mexico, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Pakistan. 

Sudhesh Giriyan, vice-president & business head of Xpress Money, said that India received $70 billion remittance fund from across the world, and a predominant portion of this fund came from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. As much as 45 per cent of overall remittances flowing to India came from the Gulf, which is showing continuous growth. 

Giriyan said Xpress Money has tie-up with over a dozen leading exchange houses in Oman, which have a combined network of over 200 branches. 

Xpress Money is among the leading international money transfer operators (MTOs) in the world today. "We operate in 150 countries across the globe for our cash to cash remittances. We also have cash to accounts service in 60 countries, which is a bigger segment. Besides, Xpress Money offers cash to card service."

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Egypt receives $22 bn in expats' remittances in 2014

Egypt receives $22 bn in expats' remittances in 2014 | Remittances | Scoop.it
homestrings's insight:

In 2012, Egypt was ranked 6th among developing countries in terms of remittances received from abroad.

Remittances from Egyptian expats in 2014 are up 22.2 percent so far as compared to the previous year, Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported on Thursday.

Al-Ahram reported that this year's remittances are worth some $22 billion compared to $18 billion last year, said Zeinab Hashem, head of the treasury department at the country's biggest bank, National Bank of Egypt (NBE).

According to the Egyptian Central Bank's statistics, the state saw $4.3 billion in remittances in the second quarter of the current fiscal year (which ends in June) 2013/14, up from $4.1 billion in the previous quarter.

In 2012, Egypt came in sixth in the list of top recipients of remittances transferred to developing countries, according to the World Bank

Meanwhile, Hashem pointed out that the NBE's portfolio for loans for small and medium enterprises has swollen to reach LE12 billion ($1.6 billion) in 2014, against LE4 billion ($0.5 billion) in 2004.


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