British telecom giant Vodafone is the latest firm to pull out of the Libra Association, the non-profit body overseeing the Facebook-led digital coin, bringing the total number of early backers to withdraw from the project to eight.
Vodafone Walks Away
Both Vodafone and Libra confirmed the news last week with the departure appearing to be amicable, despite several high profile withdrawals last year coming across as less than friendly. The telecom company now says it intends to dedicate resources previously allocated for the project to its own well-established digital payment service M-Pesa, which it plans to expand beyond the six African nations currently served.
Vodafone’s decision to leave the Libra Association does not appear to be driven by regulatory concerns or scrutiny leveled at the project, unlike PayPal, Mastercard, or Visa, all of which cited the intense criticism of the proposed digital asset as a key factor in their decisions walk away. However, Vodafone is the first company to depart the association since its official inception in Switzerland last October.
Libra Down to 20—For Now
In a statement, a Vodafone spokesperson said the company believes it can most effectively bring affordable financial services to the unbanked and underbanked by focusing on M-Pesa. “We have said from the outset that Vodafone’s desire is to make a genuine contribution to extending financial inclusion,” the spokesperson said. “We remain fully committed to that goal.”
Now down to 20 members, The Libra Association said it intends to admit new members in 2020, with over 1,500 companies currently on a waitlist for membership. Dante Disparte, Libra’s communications chief, said, “although the makeup of the Association members may change over time, the design of Libra’s governance and technology ensures the Libra payment system will remain resilient.”
As M-Pesa currently accepts a number of different currencies for remittance, the possibility that it may accept cryptocurrencies, including Libra, remains open. “We will continue to monitor the development of the Libra Association and do not rule out the possibility of future cooperation,” a Vodafone spokesperson said.
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