A delegation from the US House Financial Services Committee met the Swiss Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner to discuss digital currencies this week. The issue of the moment: Libra. The proposed cryptocurrency – the launch of which is being led by Facebook (US:FB) – was announced in June and is planned for launch in 2020. Facebook is not the only founder; it is joined in the Libra Association by 27 other companies, non-profit and academic organisations. The cryptocurrency’s blockchain will be built upon a network of validator nodes, each of which will be controlled by a different partner.
So far, there is only one UK-listed company in the Libra Association. Vodafone (VOD) joined the project because of its compelling mission to reach the ‘unbanked’ – the 1.7bn adults across the globe without access to traditional banking services. The telecommunications company already owns M-Pesa, a digital banking platform used in eight African countries and lauded as one of the most successful mobile financial services in the developing world. It sees Libra as the next step.
According to Vodafone, it is seeking to learn about cryptocurrencies and improve global financial inclusion, not specifically to make a return. The Libra Association identifies as a not-for-profit organisation, but there is a potential payback from interest on the Libra Reserve (a basket of assets upon which the currency will rest). Founding members such as Vodafone will receive ‘Libra Investment Tokens’ as a security.