Making Cents International, a social enterprise that fosters human potential and advances economic opportunity globally, and Kiva, the largest microfinance crowdfunding platform in the world, are building Hawiyati (“My Identity” in Arabic) as the digital identity solution for refugees, migrants, and national populations in the Middle East and beyond. Hawiyati is a localized and contextualized implementation of Kiva Protocol, an open source technology platform that provides a globally-interoperable identity and verifiable credit history that individuals control and can take with them wherever they go. Hawiyati will enable financial institutions to better verify the identity and creditworthiness of clients, and thus to expand outreach to new market segments. Hawiyati will scale current pilot operations in Jordan and Lebanon to the MENA region and beyond. The aim of Hawiyati will be to serve and add value to at least 25 financial and non-financial institutions and provide up to 500,000 users with valuable digital economic identities by 2025.
Making Cents is currently piloting a digital identity solution for Syrian refugees, Filipino migrants, and host populations in Jordan and Lebanon. The “Hawiyati” solution provides users with an opportunity to verify their foundational identification (government or UNHCR issued) digitally, record their credit transactions with participating financial institutions, and upload important documents through a “digital locker” function. The pilot is supported by SANAD, the MENA fund for Micro, Small and Medium enterprises, as well as FMO, the Dutch Development Bank, and is powered by BanQu’s digital identity platform. Leading microfinance institutions Al Majmoua in Lebanon, Microfund for Women and Tamweelcom in Jordan, as well as the International Rescue Committee in Jordan, are participating in the pilot. To date, 800 individuals have been registered on the platform and 1,500 will be registered by mid-2019. Financial institutions have been eager to participate since they see Hawiyati addressing a key challenge, while refugees and host populations recognize the value of being able to store and share their credit information. Kiva Protocol is currently being implemented in Sierra Leone and has been used to create identities for over 5 million Sierra Leonean citizens.
Making Cents and Kiva’s initial experiences have indicated the path forward for broader financial inclusion of vulnerable populations. Making Cents will establish Hawiyati as an independent entity, registered in the US with its main office in Amman, Jordan. Hawiyati will offer Kiva Protocol to financial institutions in the region as a foundational platform that will help them comply with KYC requirements, provide accurate information to assess applicant’s credit worthiness, and mitigate flight risk among mobile populations. Hawiyati will initially focus on serving refugees as a means to help them secure livelihoods and facilitate their return or resettlement. Over time, efforts will expand to include important migrant groups and vulnerable populations in Lebanon, Jordan, and beyond.
Hawiyati’s primary customers are financial institutions – microfinance institutions, banks, and credit bureaus – that are expanding outreach into underserved markets. Microfinance institutions will serve as the initial market, especially those currently serving or planning to serve refugees and migrants. Hawiyati will offer these institutions immediate value as a means to mitigate risk and to gain access to capital through Kiva’s World Refugee Fund. Over time, as the number of verified identities increases, they will be able to use Hawiyati as part of their KYC and credit assessment process, improving their underwriting process. Banks seeking to go “down market” and credit bureaus planning to enrich their databases with additional information will be targeted next.In addition, Hawiyati will develop and introduce other value-added services between users, such as identity checks, loan facilitation, and non-financial services. The cost of using the Hawiyati service will be free to the individual borrower, although additional paid premium services may be considered at later stages. By 2025, Hawiyati will aim to work with at least 25 financial and non-financial institutions and provide up to 500,000 users with valuable digital economic identities by 2025.
Potential refugee impact
Approximately 2.5 million Syrian refugees continue to reside in Lebanon and Jordan. Though they demand financial services to improve their livelihoods, they are not being served since financial institutions don’t fully understand the market and are concerned about flight risk. Without finance, refugees struggle to improve their livelihoods and financial institutions are prevented from accessing a large and potentially profitable sector. More broadly, according to the World Banks’ Findex, less than 50% of MENA countries’ populations are banked, mobile money penetration remains low, and access to credit remains scarce. While inclusion rates are low across all demographics, low income populations, women, and economic migrants have the highest rates of exclusion and can most benefit from a digital identity.
Hawiyati aims to affect change at multiple levels:
- Individuals: Improve the livelihoods of more than 500,000 nationals, refugees, and migrant workers by facilitating their access to financial and non-financial services as well as employment opportunities.
- FIs: Enhance the capacity of MFIs to provide vulnerable populations with effective, data-driven, services.
- Ecosystem: Contribute to the infrastructure that will facilitate financial sector deepening, especially for low income and mobile populations.
Yazeed Sheqem: Yazeed is seasoned executive with over ten years’ experience in the region and deeply knowledgeable about the information technology field in the Middle East. Most recently, he led the growth of Souktel, a leading ICT4D company in MENA, as their chief strategy officer. Yazeed will serve as the CEO of Hawiyati, based in Amman, Jordan.
Timothy Nourse: Tim is a financial inclusion expert with over 20 years’ experience who has established microfinance institutions in the Middle East and Africa, and led financial sector development projects in the region. He leads Making Cents International as President and will serve on the board of Hawiyati.
Hawiyati is an initiative of Making Cents, a for-profit social enterprise based in the US. It will be established as a subsidiary in 2020.