How to send money to Lebanon and make it useful

Project Diaspora
Nov 9, 2019 · 3 min read
Credit: Ivan Debs

The biggest tragedy in Lebanon is folks not being able to access their wealth. Being late in paying tuition, not being able to buy medication, food, etc is a huge problem given that the banks are:

  • Insolvent
  • Imposing capital controls
  • Going to haircut our wealth

We would like to send money back but we’re not able to. If we send a wire transfer the money will be stuck in their bank account. Western union won’t help, sending piles of cash in a package won’t get there nor will sending it with a friend/family member.

We’d like to propose a different solution and we hope you can entertain the almost absurdity of this idea. Would love to hear your thoughts on how to get this to work.

So, biggest issues right now are

  • Inaccessibility of wealth
  • Inability to remit from abroad

And the biggest advantages of the unique situation within Lebanon:

  • Diaspora is large worldwide and is used to (and willing to) send money back
  • Smartphone penetration in Lebanon is high

What if we were to build a peer-to-peer payments network that allows the diaspora to send money back while enabling individuals in Lebanon to use that money freely (i.e. uncensorable).

Here’s how it could work (hint: it uses cryptocurrencies)

  1. Build a mobile wallet where individuals sign up and create a username while generating private keys on the device.
    For those new to the cryptocurrency space, private keys are the “passwords” to your money. They give access to your money but loosing them means losing access too. We’ll discuss how to avoid bad situations.
  2. Make it easy for the diaspora to fund their accounts with crypto. We have an idea potential solutions here.
  3. Allow peer to peer transactions by making it easy for users to find and send payments to others. Either by username (like on Instagram) or by phone number.

Back of the mind questions

Why a crypto currency?

They’re bearer assets and they’re uncensorable. The great invention of Bitcoin is the ability to allow two individuals to transact without the need for a third party intermediary. Owning a bitcoin means only you are control of it. The greatest advantage to this setup is instant transactions from abroad without having to go through insolvent banks and having the ability to actually use that money.

Which crypto currency?

We’d like to discuss this. Bitcoin is an early candidate, though weimagine the volatility in price may be an issue here. We can choose a stable coin, DAI would be a great option as it’s pegged to the USD and it’s decentralized (as opposed to USDC, GUSD, USDt, etc.. that all are centralized and come with certain risks)

How to ensure funds are not lost

A few wallets have already mitigated this risk by enabling password encrypted backups to iCloud/Google Drive. We think this would be a great option.

How do you get people using it

There are two parts to this question. First, we must make it easy for folks to sign up and fund their accounts. We believe this is feasible. The second part is making the funds on the system useful and this is where a network effect must be put priority. The more folks on the network the more useful the funds on the system are. A grassroots campaign to get merchants to sign up would complete the circle and go a long way. We would start with a push on Instagram.

What now?

This is still very much in ideation phase but we’re really excited about the prospect. Change doesn’t happen by waiting for someone to help, we must be the change we want to see in the world. We must take full advantage of what we have and build the future.

We’re going to be pushing this idea. Ideally we’ll have a proof of concept in the next 7 days. Would love for you to join and to hear your thoughts. We’re on connecting on a discord server.

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