Category Archives: WFP

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Charities Must Embrace Blockchain to Make Genuine Impact, Report Says

A report conducted by independent think tank Charity Futures concluded that charities have yet to engage with blockchain with the kind of urgency required to keep up with technological advances, writes Live Bitcoin News.

The study, ‘Nothing to Lose (But Your Chains)’, was clear in pointing out that the charity sector had as yet failed to tap significantly into available blockchain technologies.

Asheem Singh, former interim chief executive of the charity’s lead body Acevo, who commissioned the report, said that blockchain held great potential for charity organizations. “Blockchain could herald the sort of seismic changes in the charity sector as the digital revolution before it,” he wrote.

The report suggests that there is one area of significance where blockchain could make the most impact should it be employed. Foreign aid was singled out, noting that aid distributed by the UK government currently stands at 0.7% of GDP, which in 2016 was GBP 12.7 billion. International aid has been susceptible to corruption and bureaucracy in many receiving countries, which are exactly the kinds of problems that blockchain’s accountability can address.

Many charity organizations are dragging their heels regarding the new technology according to the report. “Despite the potential benefits, the charity sector is currently behind the curve on blockchain technology,” the study said.

The report recommends the use of DLT by creating a transparent, end-to-end supply chain for each project. This means that all those involved – government departments, NGOs, funders, charities, local offices, delivery partners, and the individuals receiving the benefit have access up to the moment information regarding the funds or supplies donated.

Some charities and NGOs are getting it right, however. Along with IBM, both the UN and the World Food Programme (WFP) are now proactively using blockchain to record transactions.

As previously covered by Bitcoin News, WFP has been employing the blockchain in a number of its projects and making a significant impact in the field as a result. In just one of its recent programs, the organization has distributed cryptocurrency-based food vouchers to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan, bypassing bureaucracy and getting aid to where it’s needed.

Singh feels that it is time charities came together with those actually creating the technology, in order to fully draw on its potential across the whole sector.

“It may be time for the sector to convene a high-level task force that brings together charity leaders and technologists… to articulate the contribution blockchain can and should make to the charity sector and the problems it is trying to address.”

 

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 18th to 24th May 2018

Africa and the Middle East

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.

South Africa

Public to face probes if they buy crypto from offshore exchanges: The South African Reserve Bank has issued latest guidance regarding buying and selling of cryptocurrencies in the country, according to latest instructions coming from the central bank. The bank doesn’t have a direct role in controlling cryptocurrencies in the country, but is issuing regulatory guidances on purchasing and selling of cryptocurrencies from foreign exchanges.

South African crypto investors are directed to purchase cryptocurrencies only from their discretionary allowance of  SAR 1 million or individual foreign investment of SAR 10 million per year. Companies are also banned from purchasing cryptocurrencies from the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) dispensation in the country.

The move will create further problems for cryptocurrency trading in the country but it is yet unclear how many South Africans actually use foreign exchange for buying cryptocurrencies.

First Bitcoin ATM opens in South Africa: The first Bitcoin ATM has been opened in South Africa by Northwold Spar in Johannesburg. While there have been other cryptocurrency ATMs in the country before, this one is the first fully functioning crypto ATM currently functional in the country.

George Neophytou, the GM of Northwold Spar said: “It is all awfully exciting. It will take away much the frustration of buying and selling cryptocurrency, and hopefully help make cryptocurrencies mainstream… It’s a different world there. Walking around in the streets of Germany you see signs with ‘Bitcoins accepted here’.”

Recent surveys in South Africa have shown that 25% of South Africans plan to invest in cryptocurrencies in the future and 15% said they would invest in mining equipment.

Kidnappers demand ransom in Bitcoin for abducted South African child: In a first, a 13-year old boy named Katlego Marite was abducted by kidnappers in Witbank, South Africa. The kidnappers left a note with a Bitcoin address at the scene and instructions to deposit the ransom if the parents wanted to see their child alive again.

The ransom was worth around USD 120,000 and is said to be the first known case of Bitcoin ransom in the country. It is unclear why the boy was specifically targeted. The parents had no idea what Bitcoin was and the case is currently under investigation by the police. The boy was recovered on 24 May.

Zimbabwe

Exchange sues Central Bank for banning crypto trading: In reaction to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe banning cryptocurrencies, cryptocurrency exchange Golix has challenged the ban in the country’s top court citing the ban was illegal.

Golix is one of the three cryptocurrency exchanges active in the country and the lawsuit argues that the reserve bank has no authority to ban cryptocurrency since it requires legislation from the parliament to do so. The lawsuit goes on to claim that the bank has failed to manage its own currency and thus, it shouldn’t be forcing anybody else in trading.

Zimbabwe’s triple-digit inflation is believed to be caused by the currency mismanagement from the Reserve Bank and it will be interesting to see how the court responds to this request. Banks were prohibited in dealing with cryptocurrency exchange accounts although a 60-day grace period is still going on.

Ethiopia

Government signs deal with Cardano to introduce blockchain in agriculture: Ethiopia has become the latest African nation joining the blockchain revolution with the ministry of science and technology signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the CEO of Cardano Charles Hoskinson. The partnership will allow Cardano’s platform to be used for improving the domestic agriculture in the country.

While MOUs don’t have any obligatory standing, it is deemed as a positive development in the country.

Syria

WFP blockchain food vouchers reach 100,000 Syrian refugees: The World Food Programme (WFP) has announced that its cryptocurrency-enabled food vouchers have served more than 100,000 Syrian refugees currently residing in Jordan, according to Rightsinfo.

WFP is currently engaged in distributing food among the refugees who have fled a bloody civil war in the country that has been raging for six years leaving hundreds of thousands dead and tens of millions refugees.

The UN is partnering with IBM through the WFP to use Blockchain for recording transactions in a safe manner.

Robert Opp, the director of Innovation at WFP said: “Blockchain technology allows us to step up the fight against hunger. Through blockchain, we aim to cut payment costs, better protect beneficiary data, control financial risks, and respond more rapidly in the wake of emergencies… using blockchain can be a qualitative leap, not only for WFP, but for the entire humanitarian community.”

In addition to this program, WFP is also using other localized blockchain projects around the world.

Israel

BTC 1,000 seized in money laundering case: Israeli Cybercrime division has arrested a local citizen Hilmi Git on Monday for using 800 credit cards in fraudulent activities numbering over 20,000 and laundering the fraudulent money through Bitcoin.

The indictment in the Tel Aviv court read that the accused had laundered over USD 8 million in ten years through Bitcoin and that the state seized a whopping BTC 1,071 from him. This is one of the biggest Bitcoin-related criminal activities reported in the world with the BTC 2,000 arrest in Finland back in February still ranked as the biggest of them all.

 

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WFP Crypto Food Vouchers Reach over 100k Syrian Refugees

Since last year, the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed cryptocurrency-based food vouchers to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan, bypassing bureaucracy and getting aid to where it’s needed, reports Rightsinfo.

The WFP is just one of an increasing number of global institutions and non-profit organizations and charities adopting DLT in order improve the lives of those either caught up in humanitarian crises or simply in need of support.

Think tank Blockchain For Good, which cites 10 principles on its BC4G website as a company ethos, claim a first principle of “Blockchain is Trust, and trust is at the heart of blockchain“. It is an approach with others that can help to underpin a fairer society, helping with redistribution of wealth, and global human rights and humanitarian issues, and a form of redistributed power for the masses.

Along with IBM, both the UN and the World Food Programme are now proactively using blockchain to record transactions. IBM project manager Kathryn Harrison commented that the company was looking to become involved in projects that can make some social impact, exploring “opportunities to use this technology in areas that we can do some pretty substantial social good”.

Robert Opp, Director of Innovation at WFP, points out that it is this desire for “social good” which is driving the current use of blockchain technology by the organization, adding that:

“Blockchain technology allows us to step up the fight against hunger. Through blockchain, we aim to cut payment costs, better protect beneficiary data, control financial risks, and respond more rapidly in the wake of emergencies… using blockchain can be a qualitative leap, not only for WFP, but for the entire humanitarian community.”

WFP now has many small localized blockchain-based projects in progress around the world, such as providing lunches for Tunisian schoolchildren. Partnering up with startup Devery and the Tunisian government, the NGO has developed a more accountable tracking system for meal deliveries in that country, also delivering training for local workers on the ground.

A private company, London-based Provenance, is currently using DLT to support retailers and producers to trace origins of products and materials, ensuring that their source is entirely reputable and has no attachment to the current scourge of slave labor in some countries. The company claim that it is “working towards an open traceability protocol – that anyone can use to track the provenance of anything from coffee beans to a roll of fabric“.

Such technology offers consumers the opportunity to make wise choices, given the clarity that blockchain provides. Disreputable companies are thus given a greater incentive to change their operations to reflect ethical and humanitarian norms when dealing with their staff and workers on the ground.

A recent project overseen by the Provenance involved the seafood industry in Indonesia, where slave labor was being used to catch tuna. Other similar projects are becoming more common as blockchain’s accountable system of tracking shows its worth to NGOs and private companies globally.

Africa is the most expensive country to send money to, due to money needing to pass through expensive intermediaries such as Western Union. BitPesa, a Bitcoin payment firm, has created a platform to facilitate people working abroad to send money home to their families in sub-Saharan Africa and vice verse, both cheaply and efficiently.

Also due to a partnership with Germany firm Bitbond which uses blockchain for lending, BitPesa now helps small businesses find financing in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and Tanzania.

 

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UN Gets $2.4M from Belgium for Blockchain Food Plan

The World Food Program (WFP) announced on 19 April that it had received a USD 2.4 million contribution from Belgium towards a program to finance blockchain solutions to fight global hunger.

The Belgian donation will be used to expand research of the WFP’s blockchain solutions in addition to its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) project used for topographical data collection.

Belgian deputy prime minister and minister for development cooperation, Alexander De Croo, has calculated that more than 128 million worldwide will need humanitarian support this year.

“Only by finding better ways to deliver aid more efficiently will we close the gap between requirements and aid delivery on the ground,” De Croo said. “Belgium lauds the efforts of WFP to come up with innovative solutions to save more lives and help more people in need.”

WFP chief of staff Rehan Asad has expressed his gratitude towards Belgium, commenting that organizations must continue “to harness the most promising digital technologies in the service of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

Using blockchain technology is not new to UN agencies. In 2017 the WFP launched an Ethereum-based payment pilot in Jordan, ‘Building Blocks’, which allowed effective transfer of cash payments to Syrians in Jordan’s refugee camps.

The UN continues to embrace new technologies in its fight against poverty, displacement, and hunger. Drones have recently been used in Mozambique, where WFP-supplied aerial vehicles were able to send flood analysis data on ahead allowing mass movement of people before they could be affected by flooding, avoiding loss of life.

The WFP, with a declared challenge of “zero hunger by 2030”, is not the only UN agency to utilize blockchain technology. The UN Office for Project Services now has a blockchain working group which includes the UN Children’s Fund and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The WFP states that it has made “great progress” in reducing hunger around the world: “There are 216 million fewer hungry people than in 1990-92, despite a 1.9 billion increase in the world’s population.”

The World Food Programme is the food-assistance branch of the United Nations and the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security. According to the WFP, it provides food assistance to an average of 80 million people in 76 countries each year.

 

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