Facebook has today unveiled the details of its new cryptocurrency Libra, but it has also announced the launch of a digital wallet, Calibra, that it is targeted at the 1.7 billion people around the world without a formal bank account.
Available as a standalone app and also through both WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, Calibra will allow users to save the Libra digital currency, as well as send or spend it.
Set for launch in 2020, Facebook also plans to add additional services targeted at both individuals and businesses, including in-app bill paying and support for public transport payments.
As it uses Libra, which Facebook describes as a “global currency”, it will also not be subject to restrictions or limitations on cross-border use that traditional fiat currencies experience, allowing money to be instantly sent or received anywhere in the world.
Calibra targets developing world
Facebook is explicitly pitching Calibra to the developing world first and foremost, highlighting the significant potential market of people without formal bank accounts – currently around 41% of adults around the world, according to The World Bank.
“For many people around the world, even basic financial services are still out of reach: almost half of the adults in the world don’t have an active bank account, and those numbers are worse in developing countries and even worse for women,” Facbeook said in a press release.
“The cost of that exclusion is high — for example, approximately 70% of small businesses in developing countries lack access to credit, and $25bn is lost by migrants every year through remittance fees.”
In doing so, Facebook appears to be attempting to tap into a huge and largely under-targeted global market, and if it is successful, it has the potential to make Libra one of the most widely used currencies in the world. Whether that will be a good thing or not, however, is likely to be a topic of significant debate.