how defi is banking the unbanked

The just concluded GeckoCon 2022 conference had several talking points. However, the session titled “Banking the Unbanked” was one of the standout moments of the event. The DeFi market has grown into a bigger industry capable of several possibilities, one of which is improving financial accessibility.

Banking the unbanked entails helping individuals overcome barriers to enjoying financial services offered by the crypto space, especially the DeFi sector. While a lot has been done to improve financial inclusion.

Therefore, this session featured some of the projects working towards banking the unbanked. Leah Callon-Butler, director at Emfarsis, moderated this session. The panelists included:

  • Angelo Kalaw, Partner, Research & Innovation at Celo
  • Beryl Li, Co-founder & Finance at Yield Guild Games
  • Ian Estrada, CEO & Co-founder at XLD Finance
What’s Banking the Unbanked All About?

The session began with a brief introduction of each panelist and their respective projects. The speakers went on to share how their individual projects are helping to offer financial services to regions where they have been difficult to access.


Moderator Leah then quizzes the panelists on the true aim of banking the unbanked and if it is just limited to having bank accounts. Beryl, the co-founder of Yield Guild Games, explained banking the unbanked by highlighting the importance of the Play-to-Earn gaming model. Therefore, P2E gaming, according to Beryl, grants crypto users in Asia the financial freedom to do what they like with the funds they earn through blockchain-powered applications.

Moreover, P2E gaming rewards offer in-game assets to players. According to Beryl, this model became extremely popular during the pandemic. Lots of people were able to redeem their assets and convert them into their local currencies to purchase food, and necessities, and increase their savings.

Since many people lost their jobs and were unable to work due to the lockdown measures at the time, crypto became an alternative way of earning. Lots of these activities occurred without bank accounts. The goal of the P2E model was to unlock the financial potential of the blockchain industry. It was not just to make payments easier but to provide a way of earning.

Angelo, a partner at Celo, explained the concept of banking the unbanked as the ease blockchain provides to financial activities. According to him, blockchain technology offers endless financial possibilities without the need for centralized authorities or figures. Remittances became one of the most recent use cases of blockchain as people found it easier and cheaper to transfer money through crypto.

Is it Possible for People to Earn Crypto and Spend in Crypto Without Having to Convert to Fiat?

Ian, CEO, and co-founder at XLD Finance responded to this question with optimism. According to him, many crypto users in Asia prefer to receive payments and spend directly in crypto rather than fiat. Although there are still miles to go before fully achieving these, Ian believes direct crypto usage is a core part of the future.

While crypto has successfully developed use cases for receiving crypto, Ian noted that the industry needs to create more use cases for spending crypto. He proposed the Alipay model, in which merchants were required to accept payments in Alipay digital wallets.

What Are the Challenges You Face With Accessing Onboarding in Your Space?

Onboarding for crypto is not as smooth as users would want. And during the session, the moderator, Leah, asked each panelist to share some of the challenges they face with onboarding new users.

Responding to the question, Angelo Kalaw highlighted different instances where Celo tried to onboard new users to the industry. He noted that one key observation was the locals’ preference for physical cash and skepticism about the technology. To remedy this, Celo began to emphasize crypto education, introducing concepts such as crypto wallets to the locals and teaching them the importance of seed phrases. According to Angelo, enlightening the locals on basic blockchain activities was one of its biggest onboarding challenges.

Sharing YGG’s onboarding experience, Beryl noted that most play-to-earn players were formerly unbanked and even new to crypto. Many of them improved their crypto knowledge by learning how to cash out their rewards or compound their earnings. According to Beryl, there’s been an impressive increase in the learning curve.

In other words, many newbies are motivated to learn how to use DeFi protocols and other tools in the system because of the added incentive of knowing how to run their transactions.

What Can Users Look Forward to in the Coming Months?

Closing the session, Ian outlined a couple of products that XLD Finance intends to roll out in the coming months. According to him, the firm is currently building APIs to enable payments in emerging markets across Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa, and some parts of the Middle East. XLD is working to improve and ensure that crypto is spendable and there is little barrier to accessing DeFi facilities.

For Celo, Angelo noted that the payment infrastructure is focusing on regenerated finance and issues such as climate change. Cele plans to make DeFI easier for its community members and improve their overall experience.

Finally, Yield Guild Games, one of the biggest P2E gaming guilds, helped popularize the concept of play-to-earn. However, according to Beryl, the organization plans to incorporate other innovations such as move-to-earn, learn-to-earn, and sing-to-earn. YGG is also working on its governance structure as a DAO and product, which it will announce in the next quarter.


This session showcased how crypto is fast becoming an alternative to people and making financial services available. Lots of people have become aware of the crypto industry due to some of the products these projects offer. Despite the many areas left uncovered, it is safe to conclude that crypto is helping to onboard the unbanked.

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