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Economic Passports for Smallholder Farmers and Informal Waste-Pickers


BanQu is the first ever blockchain-based (patented) Supply Chain & Economic Passport platform that enables transparency, traceability, equity and sustainability for farmers (especially women), workers, waste pickers living in extreme poverty. BanQu has also become the leading platform for ensuring COVID-19 supplies are reaching the most vulnerable nations and communities in the MENA region. BanQu is being used in 40+ countries across over 1 million last-mile-first-mile beneficiaries today.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Problem: Almost 2 billion people live in extreme poverty. At least 200 million of them work tirelessly in the circular packaging economy picking up our bottles, paper, plastic; in the smallholder farmer supply chain growing coffee, cocoa, maize; and in application service management companies (ASMs) mining cobalt, tin, gemstones. Despite their importance, they are invisible and discriminated against- especially women. These workers are unbanked, shunned and ignored by the global economy. The BanQu solution creates a traceable, transparent and equitable supply chain that empowers these people and enables them to break the cycle of extreme poverty permanently.

Solution: Economic passports for waste-pickers, recyclers, smallholder farmers and ASMs. We are a software-as-a-service, patented, non-crypto blockchain platform that connects global brands to their last-mile-first-mile supply chains. Our unique platform ensures that the poorest can prove their existence in the supply chain of circular packaging, mining and agriculture via a simple SMS message in the local language and payments made in local currency.

Benefits/Impact: BanQu is for-profit-for-purpose SaaS company. Hence we deliver a double bottom line with 3 KPIS:
1. Real-time visibility to raw materials and finished good from source to post-consumption.
2. Non-crypto blockchain audit trail certifying the materials as well as the people in the last-mile-first-mile - empowering the poorest by reducing extreme poverty and creating gender equality.
3. Compliance KPIs to meet Extended Producer Responsibility requirements; ESG goals and UN SDGs.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

1. We are operating at scale and are a commercially profitable company. Deployed in over 40 countries, we have over 1 million last-mile-first-mile beneficiaries.

2. We have a patented non-crypto blockchain ledger, allowing us to be more "green" than other blockchain platforms.

3. BanQu is integrated with banks and mobile money, meaning all payment transactions are in local fiat currency.

4. Smallholder farmers, ASMs, waste-pickers own their data. BanQu does not own their data unlike other blockchain startups.

5. Given that all supply chain transactions are delivered to the last-mile-first-mile via SMS, no smartphones are needed.

6. BanQu is a digital platform that allows us to scale rapidly across multiple sectors and create immediate social and economic impact.

7. Our live case studies with brands like Coca-Cola and AB InBev have proven that we have evolved beyond a mere "pilot" technology.

What is the current status of your innovation?

Our company is over five years old with proven clients, profitable revenue and real-world impact. We are now in our growth phase.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

Three examples are important to mention. Firstly, AB InBev use BanQu across seven countries for smallholder farmer empowerment, recycling/reuse of bottles, waste-picker empowerment, and human rights compliance/feedback. Secondly, the Islamic Development Bank use BanQu across 30+ countries to ensure their Covid-19 response & remediation is fully transparent and auditable. Lastly, Coca-Cola use BanQu in South Africa to financially empower informal waste-pickers.

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

Smallholder farmers have experienced an increase in livelihood income, bankability, access to mobile money, and affordable agricultural inputs. For waste-pickers, the payment platform confirms materials and income, and ensures economic inclusion and auditable accounting for buyback centers. What is more, real-time M&E for school attendance have made an impact on child-labor reduction. Lastly, companies & MDBs benefit from traceable and transparent deployment of capital and sourcing of materials.

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

Two specific examples can be offered here. Firstly, smallholder farmer income has tripled ( and secondly, 200,000 kilos of recyclables tracked and traced in less than 6 weeks (

Challenges and Failures

Key challenges we face everyday include:
1. "Greenwashing" has led companies to performatively take advantage of ESG targets, while not following up in an actionable way.
2. Blockchain is still confused with crypto-currency and bitcoin.
3. Lack of market understanding that last-mile-first-mile smallholder farmers/waste-pickers can (and majority of the time they do) use sms-only phones to prove their participation in supply chains.

Conditions for Success

1. Brands, especially fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) need to take their extended producer responsibility (EPR) seriously.
2. Supply chains need to prove that child-labor is indeed being eliminated.
3. Mobile money adoption as a means to create gender equality.


Given our scale and success over the past five years with major corporations globally we believe BanQu will continue to grow and lead the for-profit-for-purpose way with a view to meeting the UN SDGs.

Lessons Learned

Three key lessons are important. Firstly, smallholder farmers and waste-pickers have a right to prove their existence in global supply chains. Secondly, technology for the sake of technology is not good. Hence at BanQu we deliver "economic passports" to the poorest via SMS. Lastly, supply chains will not be sustainable if they are not traceable, transparent and, most importantly, equitable.

Anything Else?

Our goal is to enable 100 million people out of extreme poverty and be a profitable $100MM USD SaaS company.

Project Pitch

Supporting Videos

Year: 2016
Level of Government: Other


  • Implementation - making the innovation happen
  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

Innovation provided by:


Date Published:

23 September 2021

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