Between 2010 and 2021, Africa received $607.7 billion in aid, with the highest ($58.4 billion) coming in 2021. Africa also gets the lion's share of global aid, with 30% coming to the continent annually.
This article estimates that aid to the continent since 1960 has reached $1.2 trillion.
However, there hasn't been a corresponding change in the living standards of Africans living on the continent; some even say aid is hurting Africa.
Given the many instances of misappropriation of aid in Africa, it would be safe to say a significant portion of aid to the continent has been mismanaged. The aid embezzlement scandal in Uganda and the illegal $800 billion outflows from Africa are only two examples.
This is why Adedeji Owonibi, COO and Co-founder of blockchain solutions company, Convexity, and his team, have developed CHATS — Convexity's humanitarian aid transfer solution — to track who gets what, when, and where.
After consulting for international NGOs on fiscal forensics, Owonibi realised there were a lot of fraudulent activities going on when it came to aid distribution; this was when the idea for CHATS was buried in his mind.
CHATS is a solution that addresses the issue of aid disbursement by tracking aid delivery from the donor to the NGO, field agents, and all the way down to the beneficiaries.
Convexity CTO, Charles Okaformbah, said, "CHATS will help everybody be accountable to the donor, who will get a chance to see how their money is being used."
How does CHATS work?
CHATS is a suite of platforms with four sides — one each for the NGOs, donors, vendors, and beneficiaries.
On a call with Techpoint Africa, Okaformbah explained how each platform worked, starting with the NGOs.
With CHATS, NGOs can create campaigns and see how beneficiaries are reaping the benefits of the campaigns in real time.
Once a campaign is created on the platform, an NGO has the option to create a form. Field agents then populate the form with the details of targeted beneficiaries.
The details include a government-recognised means of identification and biometric information. To make sure field agents are recording real people, Okaformbah added that the system is equipped with machine learning software that makes sure the photos taken are of living humans and not pictures.
Once the NGO has the beneficiary's details, it can control the disbursement of money, palliatives, or any other form of aid from the NGO dashboard.
The dashboard also allows donors and NGOs to customise the amount of aid each beneficiary gets based on their information.
For example, the NGO can customise the system to pay out a different amount to single beneficiaries and those with families.
There's also task-based aid which means the NGO could support people with aid after they've completed a task.
The vendor's side of things
Okaformbah described the vendors as those contracted or hired by an NGO to disburse aid to beneficiaries. He said the platform created for them is a way for them to "track and disburse payment." While the vendors have their platform, it is important that they are equipped with the right tools to confirm each beneficiary's claim.
Per Okaformbah, CHATS gives NGOs an option to use an NFC card to disburse aid. However, NGOs must ensure vendors have NFC-ready devices.
An NGO could also choose to let beneficiaries redeem their claims via the QR code option. This option requires the beneficiary to generate a QR code that will be scanned by the vendors.
"The beneficiary is given this QR code by the NGO, so they can just print it out. Each QR code is unique to the beneficiary. When scanned, you can see the names of the beneficiary and the amount allotted to them."
There's also the SMS token option.
With this option, the NGO sends a token to the beneficiary via SMS, which they present to the vendor.
The beneficiary's platform
While registering beneficiaries for a campaign is done by field agents, beneficiaries can also register themselves. However, they will still need to be verified by an NGO after they have registered.
"This is basically for those who are tech-inclined. The beneficiary can onboard themselves for a campaign, and what this does is reduce the beneficiary onboarding time."
Okaformbah added that the beneficiary app also serves as a mobile wallet allowing them to receive monetary aid on the app and withdraw to their bank accounts or mobile money wallets.
The blockchain side of things
Blockchain is used to track the movement of aid and information on CHATS. The platform even accepts donations in cryptocurrencies.
However, the team behind CHATS is more concerned with the simplicity and usefulness of the platform rather than highlighting the technology that makes it work.
The NGOs' donors will also be getting a platform that will help them monitor their donations. However, it won't be available until the end of 2023.
Okaformbah explained that they'll also have the option to withdraw their funds if they are dissatisfied with how the NGO is running the campaign.
Convexity has already received pre-seed investment for CHATS from the UNICEF Venture Fund.
Uyoyo Ogedegbe, Convexity's Investment and Business Development Partner, added that there has been a lot of investment interest in CHATS and a seed investment round for the platform is already underway. He said the platform is also being positioned to handle universal basic income (UBI) for Nigeria, an income system he believes Nigeria and many other countries could be adopting soon.
However, only time will tell if CHATS can change the narrative around aid in Nigeria and make sure that those who need it get it.