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Meet Africa’s Blockchain Startups: Blockchain Academy

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Blockchain Academy

The Blockchain Academy is an educational institution that enables individuals, entrepreneurs, developers, and organisations to learn about the innovative potential of bitcoin and blockchain technology. Founded in 2015 and based in Cape Town, the Blockchain Academy offers training courses on cryptocurrencies, the blockchain, and their future applications to attendees in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Demystifying Bitcoin and Blockchain Technology

Despite growing global recognition of bitcoin and its underlying technology, the blockchain, there is still a lot of confusion about the nature of bitcoin and how it works. To address this uncertainty, the Blockchain Academy was formed to help people understand how the technology can be used to develop innovative systems and processes for businesses, as well as how to use it to create their own applications to handle various functions.

The training courses are tailored to meet the needs of attendees from different professional backgrounds such as operations and treasury professionals, compliance and accounting, finance, technology, legal and market professionals. The sessions usually run for a full day and clients can choose the mode of training they prefer, either on-site training, classroom training or online training.

Classroom sessions are provided at the Academy offices in Bandwidth Barn, in Woodstock, Cape Town, and AlphaCode Club in Sandton, Johannesburg. Clients can also enroll for online training on the Academy’s website, as well as participate in sessions via Google Hangout.

Presently, there are five courses being offered at the Academy, catering to bitcoin newcomers, developers, and financial institutions. They include:

  • Bitcoin and Blockchain Beginner course: This course targets those new to cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, and covers the basics of bitcoin technology, its development and adoption worldwide.
  • Blockchain Advanced course: The course strives to further explain concepts about bitcoin and the blockchain outlined in the initial course.
  • Blockchain for Developers Course: The course aims to deepen understanding of the blockchain and help enable one to develop applications on it.
  • Blockchain for Financial institutions Course: The course provides participants with insight on how organisations are leveraging blockchain technology and its possible uses.
  • Ethereum Beginner Course: This course is intended for people who want to learn more about Ethereum and how it can be used to develop smart contract applications.

Moving into New Markets

The Bitcoin Academy has so far held its educational courses in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and India. In March 2017, the Blockchain Academy announced that it is partnering up with the Satoshi Centre to provide bitcoin education in Botswana through a course that was held in May. But the Blockchain Academy is not stopping there.

Talking to BitcoinAfrica.io about the future of the Blockchain Academy, the company’s founder and Managing Director, Sonya Kuhnel, told us:

The Blockchain Academy […] is thrilled about all the global interest in cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. 

Our recent partnership with Anglo African in Mauritius, and our training provided to the Central Bank of Swaziland are significant steps towards expanding into other countries. Our new online training programs are also an important part of offering our courses to as many people as possible. 
 
This is a very exciting space to be involved in and provides many opportunities for incumbents and individuals to experiment with this emerging and disruptive technology.
The Blockchain Academy is not only preaching the benefits of bitcoin and blockchain technology but, more importantly, is educating individuals, startups as well as large institutions on how to implement this new technology to improve systems and operational processes. The Blockchain Academy is, therefore, providing a much-needed service that could potentially help African nations become future leaders in blockchain technology.

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Fake Bitcoin Smartphone Apps Have Been Downloaded Over 10,000 Times

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Fake Bitcoin Smartphone Apps

Cryptocurrency users need to be aware of some of the dangers they face when using the Internet, and even tech-savvy bitcoin enthusiasts are not immune from harmful actions such as social engineering, phishing, and trojans. A common assumption is that apps downloaded from Google and Apple’s app stores, have been vetted by the service providers and are safe. However, nothing can be further from the truth as thousands of cryptocurrency users have come to realise.

The Case of the Fake ‘Poloniex’ App

While both Android and iOS platforms have had their share of unscrupulous developers, users on Google Play store are the most affected by fraudulent apps. An example of a fake Android app which has been downloaded by thousands of users is called Poloniex. Bearing the same name as the popular digital currency exchange it claims to be the official Poloniex app. No doubt users who only take a perfunctory glance before pressing ‘Download’ will be convinced by the familiar logo and screenshots from the real company.

However, a close examination will reveal the low user ratings of one star received from 162 user reviews. In addition, the numerous typos in the app description together with disgruntled comments from users highlighting theft of personal data and bitcoins should raise a red flag.

Surprisingly, the Poloniex exchange lacks an official mobile app and this explains why scammers have taken advantage of the void with their fake version of the app. Poloniex has done little to distance itself from third-party apps choosing to remain silent on the matter since 2016. Currently, there are five different imitations of Poloniex on Google Play alone, according to Bitcoin.com.

Fraudulent Apps a Real Problem for Internet Users

Scammy apps are not only isolated to the cryptocurrency space, it is estimated over a million people downloaded a fake version of Whatsapp from Google Play store.

Scams are evolving with new tricks being used to lure vulnerable targets; with reports of fake customer care telephone calls from digital currency exchanges Coinbase and Kraken. These hoaxes, have the potential to affect Africans using the open web to obtain and trade cryptocurrencies.

With bitcoin adoption in Africa still in its infancy stages, many users may find it hard to identify fake cryptocurrency apps. Already, the continent has had its share of digital currency scams in the form of bitcoin HYIPS and MLM schemes so it is highly advisable to take caution when downloading cryptocurrency apps to ensure they are real.

To avoid issues of fake bitcoin smartphone apps in their entirety, the safest bet would be to do all your bitcoin trading on your computer and use your phone for price updates and cryptocurrency news.

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Kenya Blockchain Event in Nairobi Records a Huge Turn Out

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Kenya Blockchain Event

December 10, 2017, saw a large number of bitcoin experts, enthusiasts, investors, newcomers, and traders converge at the Metta Entrepreneur’s Club Nairobi. The atmosphere indicated an increased desire among Kenyans to understand and discuss cryptocurrencies at length.

The four-hour discussion was detailed, explicit, and informative. Key speakers included Michael Kimani, Daniel Nyairo, Janet Kemunto, Damaris Njoki, and John Karanja among others. These cryptocurrency experts had a lot to share and plenty of advice to give. Thanks to their endless efforts, the crypto scene in Kenya is presently buoyant.

Is Bitcoin Valuable?

According to Michael Kimani, bitcoin is valuable.

“The bitcoin surge is more than just speculation. A substantial number of people are purchasing bitcoin because they believe in its future. These people are betting on the future because there is proof that the underlying technology (blockchain) actually works,” he said.

Is Bitcoin in a Bubble?

2017 has been a great year for cryptocurrencies.

“I have been in the technology sector for ten years and I have never seen anything grow as fast as cryptocurrencies have this year,” John Karanja, the founder of BitHub Africa, said.

The bitcoin price has risen by more than 1,500 percent in 2017. Surprisingly, altcoins like ether have risen by a higher percentage than bitcoin this year. Still, bitcoin is taking the lead with its current price of over $16,000. The recent surge has left many wondering: is bitcoin in a bubble?

In the opinion of Mutai, a software engineer, “Bitcoin is somewhat in a bubble because the underlying technology is being overlooked. Currently, the bitcoin price is keeping up with the pace of speculation.” Nevertheless, the self-taught tech expert believes that bitcoin is worth it in the long-term.

Where Can Kenyans Buy Bitcoins and Altcoins?

Expert recommended exchanges are Belfrics Kenya, Kraken, Bitstamp, and Bittrex. Other platforms such as peer-to-peer (P2P) markets are also great places for purchasing crypto.

Localbitcoins, Paxful, and Remitano Kenya are suitable P2P markets.

Tips On Cryptocurrency Investments

Advising clients on cryptocurrency investments is a full-time job for George Mang’eni, an experienced trader at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE). “Keep calm & HODL,” he advised attendees at the event.

Bitcoin investments are made through mining, trading, and HODLING (Holding On for Dear Life). Mang’eni recommends investors to conduct a fundamental analysis and create a portfolio before investing in cryptocurrencies. “Always invest in an asset that is higher than the inflation rate,” he said.

A fundamental analysis involves looking into the following:

  • Real-world application of the cryptocurrency
  • Researching the reputation and achievements of its developers
  • The big investors involved
  • Liquidity
  • Crypto supply limits
  • Transaction processing system

Security is a Priority

Any person who owns crypto knows that security is everything. The crypto scene has attracted a lot of scammers, hence the need for caution.

Daniel Nyairo, a cryptocurrency freelancer stated, “Scammers use social proof to steal from unsuspecting customers.” The social proof marketing technique is often used to make customers feel like they are missing out. “A person selling bitcoins to you while trying to influence your emotions should be a red flag,” Nyairo warned.

With regards to ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings), attendees were advised to research thoroughly before investing. “Investigate the authenticity of the names and images of those behind the project,” Nyairo stated. Furthermore, he emphasised the need to carefully scrutinise business models, business descriptions, and business processes of the companies launching ICOs.

The Three Kenyan Women Thriving in Cryptocurrency Trading

Kenya Blockchain Event NairobiAccording to Damaris Njoki, Juliana Mwangi, and Janet Kemunto, bitcoin trading is a rewarding employment opportunity. “We do not work for the money; the money works for us,” Kemunto said.

Juliana and Kemunto both left their jobs to take up bitcoin trading as a full-time job. “Cryptocurrencies are the future. I love what I do,” Juliana asserted.

Trading bitcoin requires two things: trust and 0.2BTC. “My job is not about meeting the margins; it is about the client,” Kemunto said. “My goal is taking care of the client and in turn, the client takes care of me.”

The main challenge that these women face is a low supply of bitcoins. Other than that, the demand for bitcoins is huge. “We have markets not only in Kenya but also in China and the UK,” Damaris said.

Meet Kenya’s Popular Miner Eugene Mutai

Mutai has been making headlines as the only crypto miner in Kenya for a while now. The millennial states that it took him two months to put his mining rig together. “For a non-tech savvy person, it might take longer,” he said.

Mutai mines Zcash and other altcoins. “I began with a modest budget and it took me around 8 months to break even,” he explained. Cloud mining is one and a half times more expensive than mining individually,” he added.

Two-thirds of what Mutai mines are his profits. The rest goes into electricity and Internet costs. Nevertheless, he faces two challenges that result in the loss of two months of mining yearly. “I need to back up my Internet in case my main connection fails me. On the other hand, I experience electricity blackouts on average twice every week,” he said.

Kenyan Regulators are Lagging Behind

Cryptocurrency regulation in Kenya is still a major topic mainly because little is taking place. “Kenyan regulators will find themselves playing catch up,” William Mutiso, a crypto trader said. Kenya has lost the business from startups such as Kipochi and BitPesa because of poor regulations.

“There is need to keep these conversations going to show regulators the extent of crypto interest in Kenya,” Eddie Ndichu, a cryptocurrency enthusiast, noted.

Upcoming Startups and Events

Despite regulation setbacks, the Kenyan crypto space is taking in new startups as fast as new ideas are conceivable. Some of the startups under the works are JijiPlan and Pesabase. Other startups like ChamaPesa are also about to launch.

Besides startups, Kenyans should watch out for upcoming crypto events such as a mining class that Mutahi will be teaching. The mining class targets those interested in mining as individuals as well as cloud mining.

** This article has been retrospectively corrected by the editor.

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Zimbabwean Exchange Golix Adds Ether and Bitcoin Gold to its Trading Platform

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Golix Adds Ether and Bitcoin Gold

While Zimbabwe has had its fair share of political woes this year, the adoption of cryptocurrencies in the Southern African country has continued to grow. This is evident by the increasing trading volumes on its local bitcoin exchange Golix.

In a bid to boost cryptocurrency adoption in the Southern Africa nation, Golix – Zimbabwe’s only local cryptocurrency exchange platform – has added bitcoin gold (BTG) and ether (ETH) to its trading platform. This brings the total number of digital currencies on the exchange to six.

In an interview with The Financial Gazette, Golix’s Growth Manager, Panashe Tapera said,

“It is our belief that digital currency will form the basis of the future of finance, our mission at Golix is to bring digital currencies to everyone in Africa.”

While adding Ethereum’s ether is a good move considering that it tops the charts on the top ten altcoins and is popular, the case might be different for bitcoin gold.

Bitcoin Gold’s Existence

The key reason for the creation of bitcoin gold was to decentralise bitcoin mining. Bitcoin gold came to be after an October bitcoin hard fork.

A hard fork is an irreversible blockchain split that occurs when there is a software upgrade that is enforced but is not supported by a segment of the network. Whenever a fork happens, a different form of bitcoin is created. In 2017, bitcoin experienced two hard forks.

Although by market cap it is a top ten cryptocurrency, bitcoin gold is not as popular as bitcoin or Ethereum globally. While the move by Golix is a smart decision and is aligned to their goal ‘to bring digital currencies to everyone in Africa’, the question on whether the demand for bitcoin gold will soar in Zimbabwe or not, is yet to be seen.

With about 70 percent of the population in Zimbabwe unbanked and looking at digital currencies as an alternative form of investment and a way of regaining financial control, the central bank of Zimbabwe still considers bitcoin illegal due to its lack of a legal framework.

As Golix continues to make efforts to push for adoption of cryptocurrencies, it is only a matter of time before the impact will be felt in Zimbabwe and in Africa.

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