Kiva Protocol FAQ

When will Kiva Protocol roll out to the people of Sierra Leone?

The plan is to begin the implementation in 2019 and we expect for this first stage to take 3 years.

Does Kiva plan to work in other countries?

Yes, we hope to bring Kiva Protocol to other countries looking for identity and credit history solutions to expand financial inclusion. If you are interested in being a Kiva Protocol partner please contact us at contactus@kiva.org

Why did Kiva decide to develop Kiva Protocol?

For 13 years, Kiva has worked to provide financial access to the unbanked and underserved, becoming a trusted name with strong partnerships across the global microfinance industry. We know the issues of lack of Identity and credit history intimately and we identified that a systems-level change in these areas has the potential to unlock capital and opportunity for the communities we serve.

Why is the first Kiva Protocol launch in Sierra Leone?

Kiva selected Sierra Leone for first implementation of Kiva Protocol after considering 85 countries. One reason we selected Sierra Leone is that it currently only has one credit bureau that covers 2,000 people– less than 1 percent of the country’s population – and only 20 percent of the population is banked.

The president of Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio, was also enthusiastic about this project from the start. President Bio is committed to reducing the country’s reliance on international aid and advancing the country’s infrastructure, including upholding a promise to provide civil identification to all. He is focused on visionary and innovative solutions that will help move the country forward, and is committed to building an inclusive and sustainable economic system that works for all citizens.

Kiva has also worked in Sierra Leone with microfinance partners since 2007, and has crowdfunded more than $12 million in loans to citizens of Sierra Leone. We are excited to build on that successful track record and expand our work in service of Sierra Leoneans.

How does Kiva Protocol work?

Kiva Protocol is a digital identification system designed to use distributed ledger technology to give people secure and complete ownership of their personal data and information.

At a high level, this is how it works:

When any lender (Kiva partner or not) makes a loan, this will send the borrower a signed verifiable claim with the details of that loan. The borrower accepts the verifiable claim and posts it to their private credit ledger in their digital Kiva wallet. The same happens with a repayment – when a borrower makes a repayment, the lender sends a verifiable claim that the borrower approves and posts to their ledger.

This enables all credit events to be captured in a single ledger, with access to the digital wallet controlled by the individual. For example, if someone has verified credit history with a local lender or Kiva Field Partner and wants to apply for a loan from a national bank, they can grant that bank one-time access to their credit history. However, no institution or the government can access the information without the owner approving. The system is also very low cost to operate, eliminating the type of fees that might prevent people or institutions from using other credit reports.

People can either access their digital wallet through an application on their cell phones, or can work through a microfinance institution or government “agent” who is already working in their community. These agents will be able to use the application online or offline.

How is Kiva Protocol funded?

The Sierra Leone implementation of Kiva Protocol will be made possible by generous external grants, separate from donations made to our operating expenses.

How does this help the people of Sierra Leone?

In Sierra Leone, 80% of the citizens are unbanked and can’t access the financial services they need. Two of the major barriers to accessing financial services are a lack of formal identification and a lack of verifiable credit history.

The Kiva Protocol initiative in Sierra Leone is designed to address both of those barriers by issuing digital identification to all citizens in a digital wallet, and enabling formal and informal institutions to contribute to a person’s verifiable credit history. This means that a wide range of financial transactions, from bank loans all the way to credit with a local shopkeeper, can be recorded in an individual’s credit history.

Recording financial records from the ‘informal economy,’ like a local shopkeeper’s credit, is critical because people who are unbanked aren’t currently able to leverage their history for business loans, education or even basic medical services. They are forced to operate in a cash-only economy that is risky, unpredictable and keeps families trapped in cycles of poverty.

Kiva Protocol is designed to allow unbanked people to fully leverage the transactions they are already a part of, and it’s secure and centered around borrowers’ needs. Because it will be built with distributed ledger technology, it’s designed so that each person’s information will be controlled solely by them. No one can access a person’s digital wallet through Kiva Protocol without the owner granting access.

How can I as a Kiva lender participate?

The Kiva Protocol rollout in Sierra Leone is planned to begin in 2019 and is expected to take 3 years. Once it’s complete, you can help borrowers build their credit history by making loans on Kiva. Your loans will provide not only needed capital, but will help borrowers build towards a future where they can access other financial services as well.

In the meantime, you can also donate to Kiva’s operating expenses to help fund innovation at Kiva. This project in Sierra Leone will be funded by generous external grants, but our work researching and developing innovative solutions to the global challenge of financial inclusion can always benefit from more contributors like you.

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