Providing support to developing countries and economies is not a new concept. Many people, companies, and foundations have been trying to help the developing economies to be integrated with the rest of the world. Helen Hai, Goodwill Ambassador of UNIDO and head of Binance Charity Foundation, has been heavily involved in helping developing countries achieve economic transformation and she has shed some light on her journey so far.
After her studies in London, Helen has returned to China as a chief actuary for Zurich Financial Services in China. While working in the financial industry Helen recalls the time of personal reflection, looking for a purpose in life. And in 2011 she had made the decision to leave the financial sector and start her entrepreneurial journey to help developing countries achieve financial transformation.
“in 2011 I went to Ethiopia, started as an entrepreneur, opening a factory and creating 4000 jobs. This led me to understand how to support Africa's economic transformation and job creation through industrialization. In 2013 I was being appointed as first Chinese advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, to support the government with industrial relations strategy and Investment Promotion. In 2014 I formed an NGO called Made in Africa Initiative.”
As you can see Helen was quite busy actively working towards the economic transformation of Ethiopia. The idea behind this initiative was to use Asian industrialization model of economic transformation for Ethiopia and afterwards for other African countries. This journey has led Helen to become the Goodwill Ambassador of UNIDO in 2015 to promote industrial relations strategy.
For Helen and her team, core mandate since 2011 has been to support the economic transformation for bottom billion. For the past 8 years, they have been using the model of the industrialization that happened in Asia for African countries.
Her journey in technology and more specifically in blockchain, had started with meeting the CEO of Binance, Changpeng Zhao which eventually let to Binance Charity Foundation.
“When I met the founder of Binance CZ, he was very supportive of my vision in terms of using blockchain to support the economic transformation of bottom billion and that is why we have formed a Binance Charity Foundation.”
Before elaborating on technology, Helen spoke about the third industrial revolution which was dominated by the internet. However, she states that despite the huge leap forward that humanity took in terms of development, the world didn’t become a better place.
“While we are celebrating the technological advancements, we are having today the world did not become a better place, because 1% of the population started holding 90% of global wealth of the world and Poor people become poorer. That is why we had the vision, that we are at the beginning of the fourth Industrial Revolution, where blockchain is the core technology and it’s time to think, what can we do differently.”
Helen's conclusion from this observation was that they needed industry shapers, people that do not simply donate the money for the bottom billion but come up with solutions on job creation and economic transformation through technology.
Helen has also shared her thoughts specifically on the blockchain technology.
“I think, in terms of blockchain this is a very early stage of the technology. We are still in the stage where we are looking for applications. Very much like in the 90s, when the internet emerged, we had no idea that we would see all these applications, so this is not something that we know the end result of. It is actually going to become a revolving process.”
In regards to technology, Helen and her team found applications that are very efficient to support the bottom billion:
One application is making charity transactions transparent. Helen thinks that this application is of vital importance since corruption and leaking baskets have been an issue in developing countries for centuries. She said those issues prevent a lot for countries to develop since they do not receive donated funds fully, or on time. There is no real infrastructure for the funds to be transferred transparently to the beneficiaries. Also, the fact that there are a lot of institutions involved in the transactions as “the middle man”, increases the risk of corruption.
Helen believes that blockchain can be a very effective tool in addressing the issues mentioned above because in its essence blockchain is transparent. This technology can guarantee the financial flow to be transparent all the way to the end beneficiary.
She has also shared her thoughts on Cryptocurrencies and how they plan to use them to address the issues in developing countries.
“I don't think crypto is going to replace fiat, but I think that it is going to be a great complementary to fiat. The bottom billion, they are being excluded in the current financial structure, and this is where I found the financial inclusion. Opening crypto wallet and allowing financial transactions between the bottom billion and the rest of the global population, will empower them and give them access in the global economy.”
Connecting the bottom billion to the global economy through cryptocurrencies was exactly the project Helen and her team initiated. More specifically, they used blockchain to make donations for kids in an African school, so they can have lunch everyday and she has a very interesting reason why they chose lunch.
“Community has spent a lot of money on education for African kids. They don't know the preconditions, that a lot of kids that went to class with an empty stomach weren’t able to focus on their studies. So with this, I think we are doing a very basic humanitarian support, free lunch for the kids, so they can concentrate on their education.”
According to Helen, it takes $6 to give lunch to one kid in Africa for the entire month, which adds up to $72 in a year. After making this calculation, Helen and her team opened crypto wallets for the kids parents, so every kid has their own individual identity to receive the funds. Since all the transactions will be recorded on the blockchain, delivery of the funds can be ensured.
This project doesn’t just end with kids, they have actually opened crypto wallets for the food suppliers and people involved in the supply chain, creating liquidity and challenging any kind of corruption within the system.
“What I truly believe in my personal experience that we are lacking in this industry, is for the people to take the technology to the end beneficiary, to work with them on the last mile solution. Instead of sitting 1000 miles away thinking about what is good for these people. Our focus is to really be on the front, working with end beneficiaries to develop right applications that will enable them for the mass economic transformation and job creation.”
The vision for the future that Helen and her team have is to find the model that will support economic transformation for the bottom billion.
In the past, they were using the second industrial revolution model as a tool for economic transformation. Now they want to use blockchain for the same purpose. They want to use this technology to support the end-goal, which is an economic transformation for the bottom billion and job creation. She believes that this is the best way for the world to become sustainable in the long run.