As of 2018, the World Bank estimates that there will be 143 million internal climate migrants in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America by 2050. In other words, 143 million people will move from their current homes to another town or city within their country due to the effects of climate change.
But even if displacement occurs primarily within a country, that can lead to unrest. And that, ultimately, further displacement and migration to other regions and countries. As a result, the world will continue to have a fluctuating refugee crisis.
One thing we can do to help ease people into their new countries of refuge? Encourage them to invest in cryptocurrency now.
A Case Study: Syria
At the beginning of 2010, the Syrian pound was around 45 pounds to 1 U.S. dollar. In 2015, at the height of the refugee crisis in the EU, the Syrian pound was at 188 pounds to 1 U.S. dollar. At the beginning of 2020, the exchange rate was around 515 Syrian pounds to 1 U.S. dollar.
Any money that refugees had at the beginning of the crisis was (and still may be) in Syrian bank accounts. When they flee, they may bring a modest amount of cash. But in order to escape their country successfully, they have to bring assets that have more stable value, such as jewelry. By the time they reach a country where they will register, they likely have very little with them.
And because they just fled a country in crisis, there’s a good chance that they cannot access their bank accounts. As a result, no matter how much money they may have in the bank, they may not be able to transfer it to their new bank account.
Even if they could make the transfer, the currency has greatly depreciated in value due to the country’s situation.
I’ll be upfront: I don’t know much about cryptocurrency, and I haven’t invested in it (yet). But with the minimal amount of knowledge I’ve gleaned, it really excites the philanthropist in my heart and the closeted anarchist in my soul.
To start, the value of cryptocurrency is determined by significantly more factors than a fiat currency.
For example, when the UK left the EU in January 2020, the Euro’s value against the US dollar dropped. The change wasn’t a significant percentage, but there was an immediate effect nonetheless.
The value of a cryptocurrency, however, is in constant fluctuation. It certainly wasn’t immune to the COVID-19 crisis. For those of us who like to play it safe and have some sense of stability in our lives, that’s a terrifying thought.
But for anyone whose life is already in flux, its decentralized nature may actually provide a sense of security.
People around the world hold a stake in any given cryptocurrency. Plus, because it has no central bank or authority, its value can be influenced by numerous factors. In other words, just because a war is breaking out in one country, it doesn’t mean it has a significant effect on the cryptocurrency’s value.
Even migrating “the right way” from a developed country, opening a bank account in a new country can be a real obstacle. In 2015, a Hungarian developer created an app to provide digital identities to refugees, which can help with AML/KYC regulations.
Banks could also help, but if most aren’t working with crypto or digital currencies (or have branches in conflict areas to begin with), there’s not much they can do.
Crypto for Refugees
Preventing conflict and displacement is, of course, the ideal solution to any refugee problem. But the fact is that there will be global displacement and crises. We also know which populations are most vulnerable to our current climate crisis.
I propose that there be a global effort to help vulnerable populations create crypto wallets and buy cryptocurrency. Additionally, more people need to participate in the cryptocurrency market so that the currencies may remain stable (and valuable).
Then, in the event of displacement or crisis, migrants just need to remember their access codes.
Consider the Syrian refugee crisis again, but imagine this: a family flees their home for Germany. They memorize their access codes to their crypto wallet and bring a modest amount of valuables and cash to get through their journey. It’s a long, arduous journey, but once they reach Germany, they need to open a bank account.
At this point, they could purchase a smart phone with a temporary SIM card or login in from a public computer to access their crypto wallet. Then they can exchange their crypto for fiat, or deposit it into a German bank account. Alternatively, they can find a crypto ATM and make the withdrawal in fiat.
No matter what, they still have access to their money in a nearly neutral currency.
What You Can Do
One of the key components though to this master plan is that more than just vulnerable populations need to purchase cryptocurrency. But this could be a great way to support vulnerable populations in a tangible way.
It may not be as sexy as buying reusable shopping bags or going vegan, but it’s an investment in people that can have a very real impact on the immediate future.
Does cryptocurrency and climate change interest you? I’d love to connect with you!