From 0 to 30,000 Weekly Users: First Steps to Building Decentralized Financial Infrastructure

The Access Network story begins with technical creativity, ambition to tackle challenges that others may not touch, and a perspective that the world is on the verge of radical technological transformation. Throw blockchain into the equation, and the world will be set for a level of cross-continental collaboration between everyday people, governments, and institutions of all types.

A group of women near Ngaye Mekhe walking 10 miles into town to get their product produced for sale.

Here’s the fundamental problem that we’re tackling.

Today, there are approximately 2 billion people in the world who are left out of economic opportunities due to not having access to formal financial services. In Africa, where 80% of the population is unbanked, this trend is the norm rather than the exception.

Within this context, Access is building a financial services network that facilitates local economic development through on-demand mobile banking and connects service providers with financial inclusion pathways.

Financial Needs of Africa

Africa is the ideal testbed for developing and testing a new banking system. Established financial services companies fall short in meeting the unique needs of communities and individuals. Continent-wide, centralized financial systems are broken due to:

  • Fraud
  • Unaffordable interest rates
  • Identity theft
  • Predatory lenders

Despite these challenges everyday people still need capital to build their livelihoods, start businesses, pursue new economic opportunities, and manage everyday costs of living. There’s a human need for access to financial infrastructure. There’s also a market opportunity for products and services to reached unbanked populations who currently transact in cash and rely on personal networks for capital.

Penda, an Atlas agent in Mekhe, collecting a deposit from her client.

Emerging solutions, such as telecommunication companies that offer mobile money, have collected billions in transaction fees as middlemen, with rates as high as 10% to send money into Africa and 17% to send money within Africa.

There’s a gap in the market that hasn’t been resolved.

What could a solution look like, given advancements in technology and the untapped investment potential the region (think: solar, infrastructure, IoT, manufacturing, small businesses)?

Introducing Access Network

Access brings a new, decentralized solution to an otherwise monopolistic landscape. Our thesis is that infrastructure sits on the shoulders of people. Africa’s financial infrastructure begins at the community and individual levels.

CEO Mickey Costa and Senegal VP of Business Development Cheikh Tagué watching a presentation ceremony for the new Atlas cereal mill

The platform consists of a mobile money solution and app marketplace. Connecting with local economies on their terms, Access Network identified banking agents as ideal distribution partners for this technology. These individuals are digitally empowered and able to exchange both fiat currency and cryptocurrency. They have a high degree of trust with community members, manage shared capital, facilitate loans, and protect against fraud.

The Access platform:

  • Facilitates microloans to local entrepreneurs
  • Connects financial products and services to unbanked populations
  • Is built on existing transactional activity
  • Uses blockchain, token economics, and smart contracts to build useful tools for the ecosystem
  • Leverages existing social practices, communications networks, and consumer hardware
  • Supports existing banking agents and financial needs of communities

Supporting 30,000 Unique Weekly Users

Access was built by the team behind Atlas Money, a peer-to-peer branchless banking platform that is utilizing the protocol to incentivize growth and offer additional financial applications. They built an on-demand peer-to-peer banking network with over 30,000 unique weekly users. Thus, new financial services can be immediately adopted by an active network in Senegal and Ghana. ACX tokens unlock premium features for users, like free money sending, and can be earned through users driving community efforts.

Co-Country Manager Kwesi Asemanyi with a client in the Ashaiman market

Furthermore, the Access development portal is a decentralized ecosystem of tool development that sources and funds solutions to real world problems. The Access Incentive Pool uses smart contracts that algorithmically distributes ACX tokens to community members to vote on apps that solve for the problems that best suit their need.

The team is supported by strategic partners such as Barclays Africa, as well as groups such as Draper Associates, 1517 Fund, MITS Fund and Partech Ventures.

Join Our Journey

We’re spearheading a financial revolution, with key backers and partners. Become a part of the movement today:

Website: https://acxnetwork.com/
Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/acx_network/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ACXnetwork/
Twitter: @ACX_Network

Contributors Statement
This work was a collaboration between the entire Access Network team, ranging from the CEO to CTO, COO, Chief of Staff, and other members of leadership.
Emily Burchill, Shannon Wu, Ritika Puri, and Karissa Domondon created this story.

Disclosure
The opinions expressed are those of the authors and are no guarantee of the future performance of any Access Network fund or service. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as investment advice.

This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.