As Facebook announced its new blockchain, Libra, and the token of the same name that will run on top of it, two things became clear – Facebook has a bigger picture and that picture doesn’t look good for the global financial system as we know it and Ghanaian businesses will be left behind for years until the Bank of Ghana lift restrictions on cryptocurrencies.
While the announcement is early days yet, the scope of the project the tech giant is embarking on is far-reaching and well thought through. It includes a new Facebook subsidiary, Calibra, and an independent consortium, Libra Association, backed by some of tech’s biggest companies.
The Libra Association’s group of 28 founding members includes Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, Uber, Lyft, Coinbase, and others.
Calibra will develop financial services and products around the Libra network, which will eventually be fully governed by the independent Libra Association. Calibra intends to start with a digital wallet for the Libra coin, which will let users transfer funds to each other, as well as store their tokens locally.
Notably, customers will be able to access the wallet functionality through a new standalone app on iOS and Android, or through Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp services. The Libra blockchain is expected to launch in full sometime next year.
“The central goal here really is financial inclusion,” Disparte told CoinDesk but is it?
The plan as we see it
Facebook has access to probably the largest database of human needs and wants. They know what we are thinking and what we really want and as much as the powers that be see that as a threat, the company is in a unique position to create the perfect financial powerhouse.
People need banks for two things basically – to save and then access credit when there’s the need. If I can access these services from my social media accounts including a powerful chat application like Whatsapp, why will I need a bank?
Already, the banking system in Africa is under siege from telecommunications companies who provide mobile money services. What Facebook is doing will only increase the pressure for banks especially those who are merely deposit-taking institutions.
The disruption that mobile money brought to the banking system in Ghana, for instance, is nothing compared to what Facebook is going to unleash.
Think about traditional money transfer companies like Western Union, Moneygram and the likes who struggle with the identities of payees thereby frustrating legitimate business transactions. What Facebook is implementing will effectively get rid of that problem because cryptocurrencies by their nature are peer to peer.
The question of how to monetize Whatsapp has been on the table for years not just for Facebook but small business owners who use the application for business. The Chinese had solved this problem with WeChat’s in-built payment system. With Libra, Facebook is able to leverage the immense popularity of Whatsapp for business especially with the introduction of Whatsapp Business to create the most powerful tool for small business owners.
The Bank of Ghana’s stance has to change
Calibra intends to follow guidelines issued by the Financial Action Task Force and other national regulators, and will not conduct business in jurisdictions which have banned cryptocurrencies outright according to the white paper issued on Tuesday.
This means that the position of Ghana’s Central Bank that cryptocurrencies are not recognized mediums for transacting any business will stop Facebook from rolling out in Ghana.
Facebook, however, admonishes authorities to open the space for companies with legitimate track records to lead the cryptocurrencies marketplace.
“Authorities charged with consumer protection have an important role to play in ensuring that all consumers, including the most vulnerable, can safely take advantage of financial innovation,” the fact sheet said.
If what’s happening with Loom is anything to go by, authorities cannot handle the internet and its unpredictability alone. Companies like Facebook can be very important allies in the fight to weed out unscrupulous entities and people who will fill the vacuum policies like the Bank of Ghana’s create.