The London-based startup, which launched the first bitcoin wallet specifically for Caribbean users in June of this year, are now in talks with the Jamaican central bank to receive regulatory approval to set up a Bitcoin exchange in Jamaica to support a mobile-money network that aims to increase financial inclusion for the Caribbean’s large unbanked population.
According to Caricoin, around half of the Caribbean’s population, about 20 million people, do not have access to banking services. It is this segment of the Caribbean’s population that Caricoin aims to reach with their zero-cost mobile money transfer service and mobile bitcoin wallet. The remittance market, which amounts to over $2 billion per annum to Jamaica alone, is also an area where Caricoin wants to gain market share by severely undercutting the 10 percent average remittance fee charged by the large money transfer operators when transferring money to the Caribbean. Also, the company announced in August a partnership with mobile money top-up service BitRefill to allow Caribbean users to purchase mobile phone minutes using bitcoin.
Caricoin’s adviser on Caribbean regulatory matters, Karsten Becker, stated:
“There is a great need in Jamaica specifically for something that can cater to the unbanked and that open up e-commerce to the average small business,”
Becker also said that Caricoin’s pilot program, which involved injecting $50,000 of free bitcoins for Caribbean users into its system, was a success. Users from a range of Caribbean islands spent their bitcoin on mobile top-ups and to shop online.
Unlike many other central banks, the Bank of Jamaica is taking a positive stance towards the digital currency and is open to working with Caricoin to aid their efforts of creating a mobile money system for Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean.
Livingston Morrison, Bank of Jamaica’s deputy governor in charge of technology, stated:
“We have had some exploratory discussions with them, talking about the regulatory framework and the process that would have to be engaged in order for them to secure approval so they can offer the service.”
He also noted that the Jamaican central bank “stands ready to look at any proposal” that Caricoin puts on the table, signaling the central bank’s willingness to support Caricoin’s Bitcoin-based ambitions in Jamaica.