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5 Ways Blockchain Technology Can Help Africa’s Development

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blockchain technology can help Africa

Blockchain technology has garnered substantial global media attention since the beginning of this year. This trend can also be witnessed in the African media landscape who has covered this new technology intensively. In as much as the blockchain may not be the much-awaited savior in all aspects of human life (contrary to what some ‘over-zealots’ preach), there are several features and functions inherent with the technology that can go a long way to better the lives and societal systems of mankind.

In fact, there are several solutions that blockchain technology has to offer, which is desperately needed by the African continent to better the lives of its citizens and to increase the economic and social development of African nations.

Remittances

Blockchain technology through the use of cryptocurrencies or tokenized fiat currency can help reduce and even possibly eliminate the bottlenecks that pertain to traditional money transfer systems. The issue of delayed transactions with platforms such as SWIFT, Western Union, Money Gram and some mobile payment systems can be solved using blockchain technology as it is able to provide higher transaction speed than its peers. With blockchain, thousands of dollars can be sent from one point of the globe to another within minutes or even seconds. Additionally, the costs of these blockchain-based money transfers tend to be significantly lower than traditional systems.

By the end of 2015, it was estimated that yearly remittances of Africans in the diaspora back to the continent stood at a figure of $35.2 billion. The associated cost of these transfers, however, made up about 10 percent of the amount. This meant that a significant amount of those monies ended up with third-party service providers instead of getting to intended beneficiaries. Blockchain-based money transfers should have significantly lower fees and are peer-to-peer, which means that third-party institutions that rake out a significant chunk of the remittance can be eliminated since money can be sent directly from the

Blockchain-based money transfers should have significantly lower fees and are peer-to-peer, which means that third-party institutions that rake out a significant chunk of the remittance can be eliminated since money can be sent directly from the diasporan to his or her beneficiary.

Identity Management

The problem of proper identification and citizen data management seems to be a general debacle with most countries on the continent. Countries like Ghana and Nigeria embark on a regular vicious cycle of public sector payroll purging all in “efforts” to weed out “ghost names”. This issue can be effectively addressed if blockchain technology were to be applied.

Blockchain technology can neither be altered, manipulated nor can its data be erased as such its implementation in solving the issue of citizen identity in Africa seems like a very plausible option that should be considered by governments. By making use of cryptographic hashing and blockchain technology, individual citizens can be identified by a set of codes that will be almost impossible to hack due to the decentralised nature of the technology.

For example, US-based blockchain startup Civic leverage Bitcoin’s public blockchain to deliver identity management solutions for business and individuals. African governments can leverage the services of such players to not only solve their pestering public wage bill discrepancies, but it can be escalated to help address issues of citizen authentication and identification.

The Electoral Process

On a continent where election results and outcomes are often disputed, it is increasingly becoming important to have full-proof electoral systems to help keep the sanity of societies and communities. There have been several instances where disputed election results have led to violent agitations causing loss of lives and properties.

In the last elections that happened in The Gambia, for example, it was observed that voters made use of stones to cast their ballots, a process of this nature may not only be rife with inefficiencies, but it also goes against the ethic of privacy that should generally characterise an electoral process. Voters were expected to drop their stone ballots in containers for aspiring candidates much to the visibility of other voters and officials.

Blockchain’s public and transparent nature can be applied to electioneering just as with the case of citizen identification. Voters will be able to electronically cast their votes faster and results could be collated almost immediately with little or no disputes since the platform is practically immune to manipulation and data on it can be generally regarded as valid because the eligibility of citizens by way of age and other criteria can be assured.

Land Title Registration

The case of land and its attendant ownership issues is an albatross around the necks of most landlords and aspiring land owners in Africa. Blockchain technology comes in handy to help address this challenge and in fact, some African companies like Bitland are already contributing their quota in this regard.

With the power of blockchain technology, Bitland aims to streamline and automate the entire process of land registration to provide a better system of records immune to human manipulations and shenanigans. Bitland helps existing and aspiring land owners as well as other stakeholders with the services of surveying and recording of deeds onto Bitshares blockchain.

Transparent Government Expenditure

Going against the grain of what is popular in the news about crypto-transactions being shrouded in secrecy, more often than not the opposite is the case. Bitcoin transactions are actually available on a public ledger and can be viewed by all. This presents an opportunity for unrivaled transparency and can be translated into the system of governance in Africa.

Being a continent that is plagued with government officials allegedly misappropriating public funds, it would be a milestone for African nations (as well as Western nations for that matter) to introduce blockchain technology into track government spending.

The introduction of blockchain technology into governance would help the ordinary citizen track government spending and know what their taxes are being used for. The blockchain would be able to fight public sector corruption way more effectively than any legislative instrument enacted by parliaments would. Government spending could be followed in real-time and past transactions could be quickly called-up without the need to wait for annual audit statements before resource misappropriations can be uncovered.

Governments across the globe are increasingly off-loading aspects of their operations onto the blockchain and it is only fair and progressive that African governments follow suit for the ultimate benefit of their citizens and posterity.

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IBM and Twiga Foods Partner to Offer a Blockchain-Enabled Microcredit Solution

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Blockchain-enabled Microcredit

IBM Research in partnership with Twiga Foods announced a new microcredit solution that is now ready for rollout following an eight-week pilot. The pilot saw the two companies utilise the blockchain-based financing system to process 220 loans to recipients with the average lending amount of approximately $30 per recipient. The loans were for four to eight days with a one and two percent interest rate respectively.

The solution came about when Twiga Foods – a mobile-based supply platform for Africa’s retail outlets, kiosks, and market stalls – was looking to expand its logistics services into a total market ecosystem by adding financial services for its customers.

Grant Brooke, Twiga Foods Co-Founder said, “Previously, we were focused on helping farmers distribute bananas, tomatoes, onions and potatoes to 2,600 kiosks across Kenya, but we soon realized that we could help them sell even more produce with access to working capital. It’s simple, if the food vendors can sell more, we can distribute more, growing both of our businesses.”

Twiga Foods begun working with IBM Research in Nairobi late last year to establish a blockchain-enabled finance lending platform that could foretell a vendor’s credit score. Isaac Markus, a researcher on the inclusive financial services group at IBM Research in Kenya, said: “We analysed purchase records from a mobile device and then apply machine learning algorithms to predict creditworthiness, in turn giving lenders the confidence they need to provide microloans to small businesses. Once the credit score is determined, we used a blockchain, based on the Hyperledger Fabric, to manage the entire lending process from application to receiving offers to accepting the terms to repayment.”

Benefits of the Blockchain-based Microlending Platform

With the blockchain, the lending process is transparent to all parties involved. Blockchains are immutable which helps in reducing fraud since no one person can add to the blockchain without agreement from the entire network. Also, blockchains can make use of smart contracts that are executable in real-time, therefore, reducing the time it takes for loans to be manually processed and issued. The technology will also help address the financial woes that informal and small businesses encounter when looking for cash to re-invest in their businesses.

The eight-week pilot saw the loan order size increase by 30 percent with each retailer having an average of a six percent increase in their profit. All 220 loans were executed through mobile phones and deposited directly towards the businesses’ working capital. If a retailer had an order delivered, they would then get an SMS with loan options that they could use to finance the order. The retailer would then respond to the SMS confirming the loan option they wanted.

“We had several iterations of the platform based on feedback from the retailers. The SMS-based solution provided an effective channel for a diverse set of users, some with limited IT literacy, to access financing for their orders,” stated Andrew Kinai, the lead software engineer on the project at IBM Research.

Following the successful pilot phase, the platform will first be rolled out to traders in Nairobi and then target SMEs across Africa by the end of 2018 with expansion into new sectors.

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IBITx Launches New African Brand to Focus on Blockchain Incubation

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IBITx

IBITX Software Inc., a cryptocurrency exchange service and crowdsale software provider, has launched its new African brand called AFRIBITx.com. The company aims to position itself as an incubator for the development of blockchain concepts and companies in Africa.

A New Blockchain Incubator for Africa

IBITx is a digital currency exchange that matches investors with token sales on a single platform for ‘offerings’ as well as a free market trading system for all aftermarket cryptocurrency purchases and sales.

In a company press release, IBITx CEO Rose Marie D. Araos said:

“Our intention is to launch in partnership with a financial service provider a regulated environment in at least 2-8 African countries to start ideally by June 2018. The system’s skeletal structure is available for testing, however, we are still endeavouring to negotiate with regulated brokers and regulatory organisations as to which country will house the first African blockchain incubator, exchange, and crowdsale system.”

The new brand, AFRIBITx aims to become the exchange, crowdsale, and blockchain incubator brand for Africa. IBITx Software will harness its talent pool of blockchain developers in Philippines, India and South Africa with the objective of developing cryptocurrencies and decentralised technologies across the African continent.

The company also plans to put in place revenue sharing partnerships with local brokers, which will see them handle management and custody of the various local markets.

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South African Startup Vio Digital Launches Blockchain-Powered Money Transfer App

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Vio Digital

Vio Digital, a South African fintech startup, is launching an Ethereum blockchain-powered money transfer app that will go live in May 2018.

Vio Digital is offering a new form of international money transfer that enables people to transfer money from anywhere in the world with zero transfer and exchange fees. Moreover, Vio Digital has not set a foreign exchange markup, which translates to affordable money transfers for users. Vio Digital, therefore, eliminates the price barrier that Africans in the diaspora face when sending money back home.

“For people sending money home to their families, additional processing and admin costs can be crippling. Our app uses technology to give people safer and more convenient ways to move their money. Technology like the blockchain means we can take cost out of the system to give people cheaper ways to move their money,” Praga Govender, CEO and founder of Vio Digital, stated.

Vio Digital held its initial coin offering from February 19 to 2 March 2, 2018, where the startup managed to raise approximately $1.2 million in ETH.

How Does the App Work?

The startup’s app is currently available in the Google Play Store and will initially be available in Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. To use the app all you need to do is download it and register your account by completing the KYC process. You will then receive a Vio wallet address, which you will use to make money transfers.

The next step is topping up your wallet by buying Vio tokens using Visa or Mastercard. Once you have done that, you can send or receive money. To cash out, convert the Vio tokens into your local currency and then transfer the amount to your linked Visa Debit card through Visa Direct. The Vio app also features a transaction history to keep track of your transfers, exchanges, and top-ups.

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