Much of the world exists outside the flow of global trade and finance. This is a near-unsurmountable barrier for emerging economies, and possibly the greatest barrier to their self-sufficiency.
The Ethical Payments Foundation, which was set up in 2019 as a non-profit NGO, aims to break down this barrier with a pragmatic approach to the complexity of the problem.
“We have to understand the breadth of the difficulties these regions face,” says the Foundation’s CEO, Jem Shaw. “No single organisation can overcome all of them, at least, not while those organisations focus on their own specialisms. There has to be an integrated approach, powered by an interlocked blend of technologies, processes and grass-roots activities. That can only come from mutually supportive partnerships, where the participants adapt to fit into a gestalt solution.”
“It’s no good fixing the puncture if there’s no fuel in the tank, the battery’s flat, and the tax has run out”
Shaw believes that a lasting solution is impossible while organisations address only their own area of specialism.
“It’s no good fixing the puncture if there’s no fuel in the tank, the battery’s flat, and the tax has run out,” he told CTMfile, “And you can’t get any of those fixed as you’ve no money because you can’t sell the load of produce in the back you want to take to market.”
The problems and EPF’s solution
Many impoverished countries hold natural resources that could provide for all of their inhabitants. But the range of problems that prevent their export massively hinders their chance of prosperity.
- For much of the last decade, global banks have been withdrawing correspondent services – a near-essential element of cross-border trade – from vast regions of the world. Having paid penalties in the region of $26 billion over the last ten years for non-compliance with anti-money-laundering and anti-terrorism regulations, they’ve chosen not to deal with regions they regard as high-risk.
- Child labour, poor health and safety, exploitation and even worker kidnapping are known to exist in some emerging countries. Many established world buyers refuse to deal with these regions while such conditions exist. But those conditions will never improve if the regions can’t join mainstream world trade.
- Many emerging world industries are major polluters. For example, artisanal gold mining releases large amounts of mercury into the environment. But the technologies to reduce their environmental impact aren’t affordable if they can’t sell their minerals.
Conflict and Corruption
- Administrative corruption is a known factor in some of the affected regions. This can complicate transactions and add an extra layer of risk and expense. Civil war is distressingly common, and terrorist organisations like ISIS are known to be moving into the void left by the lack of access to mainstream trade.
“Answers do exist for all of these – and other – problems. But they lie in different organisations.”
Shaw contests that any permanent solution can only come from a pooling of resources and expertise.
“Answers do exist for all of these – and other – problems. But they lie in different organisations,” he said. “The Foundation is working with a number of technology providers, political leaders and other NGOs to bring together a sound, commercially viable platform that opens up sustainable prosperity for the world’s most excluded regions.”
Opportunities for global buyers
The Foundation hopes to be able to host a multi-party webinar in June to show global buyers how they can profit safely from the opportunities in the world’s emerging economies.
“Financial integrity ultimately drives out virtually all of the evils prevalent in emerging economies,” Shaw maintains. “If we remove the barriers to prosperity, then there’s not just reduced opportunity for corruption, but reduced dependency on it for basic survival.”
EPF aims to join up the silos of disconnected expertise to create ethical payment channels and sustainable business models that provide prosperity and fair opportunity right across the globe.
CTMfile take: This approach is inclusive in every sense. It will open up the opportunity by joining up disparate skill sets into a coherent and commercially persuasive proposition. Banks, payment and treasury service suppliers, and all types of corporates should definitely support this initiative because 1) the emerging economies are going to suffer dreadfully from the COVID-19 crisis, and 2) these markets represent the biggest growth opportunity left.
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