Leveraging Blockchain for Financial Inclusion

UNICEF's Innovation Fund announces first cohort of blockchain investments building solutions toward financial inclusion to receive funding in USD and/or cryptocurrency

Cecilia Chapiro, Investments Lead & Sanna Bedi, Innovation Fund Officer, UNICEF Innovation
Lucia Maria Hernadez Perez an 11 years old living in Zinacantan Chiapas, Mexico, looks out from her home's split door with the bottom closed and the top part open.
08 June 2021

The UNICEF Innovation Fund announces 8 new startups developing open-source, blockchain-based solutions toward greater financial inclusion.

The new cohort will receive equity-free investments in USD and/or cryptocurrency through the UNICEF CryptoFund and year-long mentorship with UNICEF’s technical and programme experts and partners.  

This round of investments marks the first time a cohort is receiving both USD and cryptocurrency as well as the first cohort with over 50% of the companies being female-led. The cohort also expands the Fund’s portfolio to Rwanda and Iran.

Given the current global climate and a dramatic shift to a digital world as a result of COVID-19, open-source solutions that address critical needs for society are more important than ever.

This cohort has been selected in response to a call for applications issued around creating digital tools for people to access decentralised financial instruments, marketplaces, and decision making mechanisms to empower local communities to engage with systems in new ways. The Fund received more than 400 submissions from over 70 UNICEF programme countries.

Rumsan Associates
UNICEF Innovation Fund investee Rumsan interacting with users.

Xcapit (Argentina) is building a platform that increases easy, safe access to financial services, including planning, gamified savings, and wealth management tools.

Read more about their work here.

Grassroots Economics (Kenya) is integrating an emergency response+recovery platform where responders and communities can access digital payments and life-saving information, while also remotely tracking key performance indicators for projects. 

Read more about their work here.

Somish Blockchain Labs (India) is building an open, permissionless protocol for decentralized governance, creating decision-making structures for DAOs.

Read more about their work here.

BX Smart Labs (Mexico) is developing a decentralized app for saving circles, leveraging smart contracts to automate user payments and withdrawals.

Read more about their work here.

Leaf Global FinTech (Rwanda) is developing a virtual bank for refugees and vulnerable populations, allowing for storage and transfer of assets across borders.

Read more about their work here.

Rumsan Associates (Nepal) is developing a digital cash & voucher assistance management system, using mobile-based blockchain tokens for emergency response+recovery programs.

Read more about their work here.

KotaniPay (Kenya) is developing a platform for transfers, remittances, savings, withdrawals, loans, and payments and integrating solutions for users to easily interact with crypto.

Read more about their work here.

Treejer (Iran) is an open protocol that connects tree funders to rural planters, using decentralized finance, NFTs, and smart contracts to unlock opportunities in climate finance and rural development. 

Read more about their work here

These investments are the second cohort of blockchain solutions and are part of UNICEF's larger explorations of blockchain technology, including using smart contracts to increase organizational efficiency and transparency, leveraging innovative financing models to distribute resources, and incentivising and encouraging the creation of open-source digital public goods in the countries where UNICEF works.

UNICEF Innovation Fund

Launched in 2016, the Fund is specifically designed to finance early stage, open-source technology that can benefit children. The core motivation of the Innovation Fund is to identify “clusters” or portfolios of initiatives around emerging technology - so that UNICEF can both share markets and also learn about and guide these technologies to benefit children. We invest in solutions clusters around $100 billion industries in frontier technology spaces, such as blockchain, virtual and augmented reality, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

Learn more on the UNICEF Innovation Fund website.

UNICEF CryptoFund

The CryptoFund is a pooled fund of bitcoin and ether. It is a part of UNICEF's Innovation Fund, with the distinction that investments made through the CryptoFund are denominated in crypto. By sharing the public records of crypto transfers, the CryptoFund aspires to create visibility for the donor and the public, adding a layer of transparent accounting to the donation and investment processes. The CryptoFund is a prototype fund for UNICEF to explore the use of digital currencies, and what it means to operate in a digitally-financed future.

Learn more on the UNICEF CryptoFund website