Why International Money Transfers Are One of Cryptocurrency’s Most Killer Apps
Each year, millions and millions of people around the world are sending a significant portion of their earnings from the country where they work to their country of origin, representing billions of dollars in value.
Due in large part to the global migration crisis, money transfers sent home by migrant workers, referred to in the financial industry as remittances, have been on the rise for a number of years. According to the World Bank, they reached a new record in 2018 at $689 billion, a 10.3% increase from 2017. The UN’s International Labour Organization estimates there are a total of 164 million migrant workers worldwide.
But figures and statistics like these, as impressive as they may be, don’t come close to capturing the the full story behind the trend. They don’t tell us anything about the real human experiences of what it’s like to leave behind your family and everything you know for a strange place, the struggles and dangers you face on the way there, about living a life cut off from your country and your community.
The life of a migrant worker is very often a difficult one, and unfortunately, it is precisely these people, those who can least afford to pay high fees for financial services, who are the ones paying the highest price for the services they and their families depend on. The average cost of sending $200, according to the World Bank, remains high at 6.9%, despite recent technological advances. Most often, that percentage is even higher in the world’s poorest regions. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, remittance fees average 9%, and can go as high as 20%.
Even at 9%, remittance fees can represent a significant burden in the world’s poorest regions. Take The Gambia for example, where remittances sent to the country make up a stunning 21% of the nation’s gross domestic product. An estimated 48% of Gambians live below the poverty line, meaning they live on less than $1.90 per day. The fees subtracted from a $200 remittance in this case could equal several weeks of a family’s income.
But international remittances are a lifeline not only for migrant workers and their families back home, they make up a significant part of the economy in many developing countries, as we’ve already seen in the case of The Gambia. Bill Gates once pointed out that even a modest reduction in remittance fees could unlock as much as $15 billion for developing economies. The money saved by reducing remittance fees could go a long way in boosting these economies from the ground up, reducing the very pressures that fuel the migrant crisis to begin with. To help get us there, the UN has set the ambitious goal of reducing global remittance costs to 3% by 2030 as part of their Sustainable Development Goals.
But meeting this goal won’t be possible without significant technological disruption. The current cross-border money transfer industry is a bloated dinosaur of legacy inefficiencies and scalability issues. Payments have to be mediated by a convoluted network of large, small, and midsize money transfer operators and the banks that actually carry out transaction settlement, all of which are subject to complex regulatory burdens for monitoring and compliance. Combine this with a patchwork system of legacy technological infrastructure and you get a system with high overhead and slow processing times. And there’s no easy fix without overhauling the whole system.
It’s time for a new approach
That’s where cryptocurrencies come in. There’s a huge opportunity here, not only to disrupt the remittances industry, but to drastically reduce the fees that disproportionally affect the poorest among us.
Replacing the outdated remittances infrastructure with a cryptocurrency-based system can drastically improve processing times and keep billions of dollars in value in the hands of those who earn it and their families, and boost developing economies around the world.
With tools like Lite.IM, we aim to make it as easy as possible for people to make this transition. With Lite.IM, anyone with a mobile phone, even if they don’t have access to the internet, will be able to send and receive cryptocurrency payments anywhere in the world, quickly and at a very low cost.
By offering the service via SMS messaging and the social media/instant messaging apps people around the world are already using on a daily basis, we want to lower the barrier to entry and make it simple even for everyday, non-tech-savvy people to send and receive funds with cryptocurrency.
But this is just the beginning. Advanced off-chain state management solutions (read more about this here) will one day allow us to process cryptocurrency payments for even lower fees than today, instantly with no need to wait for blockchain settlement. And we’re also working on ways to provide cryptocurrency access on the local level around the world.
For those who rely most heavily on money transfers, this transition can’t come soon enough.
To try out Lite.IM, our full-featured BTC, ETH, LTC and ZTX wallet for social and messaging apps, just send any message on the platform of your choice: Facebook Messenger, Telegram, or SMS (US/CAN only: 760–548–3460).