Telecom Giant Vodafone Says Goodbye to Facebook-Led Libra Project

Siamak Masnavi

On Tuesday (January 21), British multinational telecommunications conglomerate Vodafone became the eight company to break up with the Libra Association.

On 18 June 2019, when Facebook first officially introduced the stablecoin project Libra, we were told that the Libra Association is an independent not-for-profit membership organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and that there were 28 founding members, "a group of diverse organizations from around the world."

On 4 October 2019, PayPal quit the Libra project.

Four days later, on October 8, two senior U.S. Senators—Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH)—wrote letters to the CEOs of Visa, Mastercard and Stripe in order to share their "deep concerns" about Libra and the Libra Association because important questions about the risks posed by this project "remain unanswered." They also wanted these companies to consider how would they be able to manage these risks before going ahead with this project given that Facebook has not yet proven to U.S. Congress or to financial regulators "that it is taking these risks seriously." 

Then, on 11 October 2019, according to reports published in Bloomberg and in the Financial Times, five more organizations—Visa, Mastercard, eBay, Stripe, and Mercado Pago—followed PayPal's lead and withdrew from the Libra Association. 

Three days later, Bloomberg reported that Booking Holdings, the leader in online travel, had become the seventh founding member to quit the Libra Association. 

Well now, according to a report by Coindesk, it looks like Vodafone has decided that it is time to say goodbye to the Libra Association, saying that it wants to focus its efforts on the international expansion of its payment service M-Pesa, which is already "Africa's most successful mobile money service."

A Vodafone spokesperson is quoted as saying:

We have said from the outset that Vodafone’s desire is to make a genuine contribution to extending financial inclusion. We remain fully committed to that goal... We will continue to monitor the development of the Libra Association and do not rule out the possibility of future cooperation.

And Dante Disparte, Head of Policy and Communications and Vice Chair at the Libra Association, said (via a statement):

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.

Although the Libra Association originally intended to launch Libra sometime in the first half of 2020, it seems that the launch could be delayed due to the need to address the concerns expressed by financial regulators around the world. 

Yesterday, while speaking at the Blockchain Central panel held by the Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC) at World Economic Forum 2020 (held in Davos, Switzerland), Disparte told Coindeks reporter Joanne Po:

We’d rather go slow and get it right, than assign a deadline to launch that keeps us from solving the problem of payments for those who need this solution most.

 

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