2.7 billion people worldwide do not have access to credit and services by banks or other formal financial institution. They are the unbanked and underbanked.
Most unbanked and underbanked people live in countries with developing economies. Many are living in poverty. It’s often impossible for them to prove their identity, open a bank account, access credit, own property, or even access healthcare. They are cut off from modern financial services and, by extension, the global economy.
In 2014, Ashish Gadnis witnessed these challenges first-hand. While volunteering in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he found himself in the middle of an argument between a local bank representative and a Congolese farmer. Because this farmer was a woman, and because she didn’t have proof of her identity, the representative refused to bank her. But he said he would bank Ashish.
“This lack of financial inclusion keeps people trapped in poverty,” says Ashish, BanQu Co-Founder and CEO.
Headquartered in Austin, Texas, BanQu (it’s pronounced BankYou) is an economic-identity technology solution. BanQu’s blockchain-powered secure platform helps provide unbanked people with a verifiable economic identity and transaction history. The company’s goal: create “dignity through identity” and enable a path out of extreme poverty for millions of people.
In the case of unbanked farmers, the BanQu platform can help them verify their land ownership, project their yield, net fair prices for their crops, and track their sales. All this information helps them form a verifiable economic identity, which they can leverage to progress beyond their current financial position. All that farmers need to use BanQu is a basic, SMS-capable cell phone.
In 2018, BanQu joined 100+ Accelerator — a sustainability accelerator by Anheuser-Busch InBev in partnership with Highline BETA. 100+ Accelerator is helping startups like BanQu accelerate a path to a commercial deal with AB InBev. The program’s pilot provides mentorship, training, and funding to speed paths to a pilot with AB InBev for the 21 participating startups.
Through the 100+ Accelerator, BanQu sees the potential to impact the thousands of small scale farmers AB InBev works with directly every year. Many of these farmers lack access to affordable financial products or business infrastructure. This limits their ability to provide an adequate income for their families. BanQu’s platform can offer these farmers a secure digital identity, while also increasing the visibility and traceability of AB InBev’s crop value chain.
The pilot partnership between the two companies focuses on farmers of cassava and barley crops used by AB InBev operations in Zambia and Uganda. The BanQu platform allows AB InBev to track its product through every step of the supply chain, from the small-scale cassava farmer to aggregated buyers to retailers. The record of transactions is etched on the blockchain. This real-time digital ledger offers AB InBev improved oversight, as well as the power to ensure that their supply chain is operating fairly.
“Through our collaboration with BanQu, we want to help small farmers access the financial tools that will enhance and grow their businesses. It is not only our social responsibility to lift up the entrepreneurs and communities that enable us to brew great beer, but it also helps us improve our own operations with better overall demand planning. BanQu is a win-win as it benefits society and our business.”
– Maisie Devine, Global Director AB InBev Sustainability Fund & Accelerator
Ashish says the biggest value for BanQu in participating in the 100+ Accelerator program has been the ability to dive deeper into the value chain when it comes to farmers. The hope is that the partnership will help BanQu accelerate its goal of enabling 100 million people out of extreme poverty by the end of 2023.
“Our goal is to strengthen this partnership across multiple crops and countries setting up a long-term, sustainable and responsible supply chain,” Ashish says. “AB InBev benefits when farmers are skilled, connected and financially literate. It couldn’t have been a better fit.”