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Why is Africa Slow to Adopt Bitcoin?

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Africa Slow to Adopt Bitcoin

With 54 countries in one continent, the adoption and integration of bitcoin in Africa will and continues to happen at different tempos. Although bitcoin has shown massive potential globally, its uptake in most parts of Africa has been and continues to be slow.

For bitcoin to experience massive adoption in Africa, co-founder and CEO of Regenize, a South African startup, Chad Robertson, believes that educating people on how bitcoin works is the key.

Regenize aims to motivate people to recycle things and in exchange they get rewarded with virtual currency that they can use to purchase various goods. The recycling services are monthly and come at a fee. Customers are then rewarded with the virtual currency that they can use on Regenize’s mobile voucher platform.

Since Regenize’s launch in 2016, the startup has had a positive impact on the people of South Africa. Still, Robertson firmly believes that different industries will influence the uptake of digital currencies.

In an interview with Disrupt Africa, he is quoted as saying,

“Using bitcoin as a means of purchasing everyday goods will be determined by the adoption rate of your larger retailers. However, for the financial services sector it has a high uptake due to reduction of costs when transferring bitcoin.”

Factors Hindering the Adoption of Bitcoin in Africa

According to Robertson, several factors make the adoption of bitcoin and other virtual currencies slow in Africa.

Education and Awareness

In his view, education and awareness are mandatory if bitcoin is to scale in Africa.

“Specifically, in South Africa, we have such a huge gap that keeps on growing regarding wealth but also knowledge on the ever-changing tech landscape. If I’m sitting in a coffee shop in the CBD, it’s quite likely someone will know what bitcoin is. However, head down to the Cape Flats or townships, and it’s highly unlikely that there’ll be many people who are aware of this,” he went on to say.

“However, this lack of education and awareness could be drilled down further on to find the root cause. There are too many people living in poverty in South Africa and Africa. They simply cannot think about using bitcoin as it’s not relevant to their needs. The local spaza shop does not accept bitcoin so how will someone get their bread or milk? Schools don’t accept it for school fees. You cannot buy electricity with bitcoin to keep your lights on. So why would they care or want to be educated on it?” he asked.

In Robertson’s view, there is need to develop solutions that work for everyone and not just the minority if bitcoin and other digital currencies are to have significant momentum.

“If you look at the available places one can spend bitcoin in South Africa, it makes sense why it’s the minority who’s focused on it,” he added.

Security and Visibility

Another factor that needs to be addressed before digital currencies can be fully adopted is security which ties back to education.

“There are many people who have been scammed on the internet, especially those who are digitally uneducated. Therefore, there is a fear and a stigma around using the internet as a place to transact,” stated Robertson.

On the other hand, Africans are used to the normal brick and mortar institutions where they can go and make their inquiries. Digital currencies are decentralized and lack visibility hence raising certain questions.

Robertson said, “With bitcoin, there’s no visible place to lay a complaint or an enquiry. I would think change management would play a large role in the transition from using a bank. For generations, people have given their money to the bank and there’s a trust as the bank is a brick and mortar institution. With bitcoin, people might have fears of what happens to my money? Who do I complain to?”

According to him, for more African nations to come on board, the focus shouldn’t be on change but on the people and their needs.

Smartphones and Data Access

The founder of the South African startup, The Sun Exchange, Abraham Cambridge, believes that the most basic hindrance to bitcoin adoption is access to data and smartphone adoption since bitcoin transactions rely on internet access. The Sun Exchange uses bitcoin to crowdfund for solar projects.

“Feature phones don’t really cut it, but it is just a matter of time. With smartphones getting cheaper every day, soon anyone in Africa will be able to use bitcoin services where data is available,” Cambridge said.

“To help reach this point, at The Sun Exchange we are developing hybrid solar/data access projects with cryptomines embedded into the infrastructure. This will ensure that remote villages get energy, communications and their own digital currency money supplies in one fell swoop.”

Despite these setbacks, Cambridge’s optimism on the future of the blockchain technology is significantly high.

“This stuff is just getting started. Think global, free to use, secure computer systems‎ that run autonomous businesses, data storage, and energy transfer. Whole governments will be running on blockchain applications. The UAE city of Dubai has already set a target of being 100 percent running on blockchain by 2020 so we are really not far from this world,” he noted.

“Smart contracts running on self-driving cars that ‘bid’ for their position in traffic is just one of many incredible ideas I have come across that will change every aspect of our civilization.”

Although Africa is slow to the adoption of bitcoin or any other digital currency for that matter, countries like Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa are already a step ahead. Moreover, the University of Cape Town in Windhoek, Namibia is set to be the first in Africa to offer a postgraduate degree that teaches about bitcoin come January 2018.

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Coindirect Now Allows You To Buy Cryptocurrencies in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya

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Coindirect

Kenyans, Nigerians and South Africans will now be able to buy and sell cryptocurrencies on Coindirect after the exchange platform announced the launch of their services in the three African countries.

Coindirect is an exchange platform that prides itself on being one of the fastest and easiest ways to trade digital currencies online. The exchange that is now live in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, was built to make cryptocurreny trading simple. The platform offers a wide range of local-to-cryptocurrency transactions in its marketplace, with the availability of 25 distinct digital coins. Currently, in its initial launch phase, there will be additional countries where Coindirect.com will be launching in early 2018.

“We are extremely excited to be offering our customers across the globe the ability to buy popular cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and Ethereum in their local currencies,” says Basil Bielich, Coindirect.com Director.

“By simplifying and demystifying the process of purchasing cryptocurrencies, we hope to accelerate their adoption across the globe,” he added.

While some exchanges may need cryptocurrency owners to own multiple wallet accounts, Coindirect.com allows users to buy and sell multiple currencies using one wallet account. It provides its users with a secure trading environment coupled with full wallet support and instant transfers. Using local currencies, customers can also purchase altcoins as well as exchange them using different currencies. This has resulted in an increased daily trading volume with users converting between altcoins and bitcoin.

The exchange locks prices at the point of sale thus making transactions instant. While bitcoin purchases might be complex, Coindirect.com’s use of the escrow system eliminates the purchase barrier for such digital coins.

Properly Regulated

While the majority of the digital currency trading platforms are unregulated, the case is different with Coindirect.com. Registered with the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority and with offices in both the Isle of Man and London, Coindirect.com is professionally regulated having been founded by a consortium of technology investors based in South Africa and the United Kingdom.

With bitcoin having gone mainstream in 2017 and raising a global interest on digital currencies leading to rapid adoption of cryptocurrencies, there is need to have regulated exchanges that can reduce fraud and theft risk as well as loss of trade.

Commenting from the E-Business Innovation at Isle of Man Government, the Head of Operations, Brian Donegan said: “The arrival of Coindirect.com on the Island is a further example of how our digital economy value proposition and quality regulatory framework continues to attract digital currency exchange companies of the highest caliber.”

Users will also be able to carry out random trades of up to ZAR R15,000 / NGN 400,000 / KES 100,000 without the need to upload their personal identification documents.

With Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa having very active cryptocurrency ecosystems, the move is expected to help in the adoption of digital currencies as well as give users in the named countries alternative options to buy cryptocurrencies.

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Australian Company Urges Nigeria To Put Gold Supply Chain on the Blockchain

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Gold Supply Chain on Blockchain

The Australia-based company African Mutual Resources has implored Nigeria to utilise blockchain technology in the gold mining supply chain to enable the West African country to foster its diversification drive and attain a more sustainable economy.

Lee Purves, director of Africa Mutual Resources (AMR), said in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that blockchain technology is a transparent and smart technology that would boost the confidence of both buyers and sellers in the gold business.

“What [blockchain technology] does is that it absorbs data from along a supply line, whether it is gold, digital location or the source and put it in the blockchain. Everybody involved in the chain will see what is there. If I am a gold seller or gold buyer, you don’t need to trust me anymore because the trust is in the system. You will see all the documentation. You can see what you have and I will see what you have,’’ he stated.

Partnership with the Federal Government of Nigeria

Purves revealed that his company would be willing to collaborate with the Federal Government of Nigeria to implement the blockchain in the gold mining sector. He went on to add that a similar system had already been invented in Israel.

Dr. Ade Kukoyi, Chairman of African Mutual Resources, stressed on the need to have Nigeria utilise the technology as it belongs to part of the global community. He mentioned that research had been done on Nigeria and a lot of revenue was being lost to artisans not working mainstream.

“One thing we observed is that Nigeria government is losing a lot of revenue to activities of those that are in the “shadows’’, those not operating in the mainstream.”

“One such is in the mining sector and specifically gold. Reportedly, Nigeria is losing as much as 1.4 billion dollars in activities surrounding the illegal gold mining. The blockchain technology is reformatory; it will transform the way business is done and the underline theme of the technology is trust. Distrust activities will be brought to an end through blockchain technology if the Nigeria government will adopt it,’’ he remarked.

Furthermore, Mr. Kukoyi said that the company would partner with the Nigerian government to boost the levels of the two gold laboratories to become attractive to the global economy. He expressed his concerns over the fact that the Jos and Kaduna gold laboratories had gotten no recognition from the world market economy.

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Meet Africa’s Youngest Blockchain Entrepreneur: Token Media’s Elisha Owusu Akyaw

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Youngest Blockchain Entrepreneur

In Africa, the number of entrepreneurs working on cryptocurrency and blockchain businesses is on the rise due to a growing global appetite for blockchain-based solutions and crypto-commerce. An example of this would be the story of Africa’s youngest blockchain entrepreneur, Elisha Owusu Akyaw.

Becoming a Blockchain Entrepreneur at a Young Age

Elisha is the founder and CEO of Token Media, a Ghana-based cryptocurrency marketing company. Founded in 2017, the company aims to assist new and existing blockchain projects to reach their target audience using global best practice marketing solutions.

Token MediaInterestingly, most people would agree that Elisha does not fit the profile of your typical entrepreneur. The 16-year-old is looking to carve his own niche in advertising with a particular focus on blockchain projects, at a time when his peers are mostly concerned with school or other social activities. He first came across cryptocurrencies on TV, fell in love with the technology and decided the opportunities presented in the space were too good to be ignored.

About what developed his interest in cryptocurrencies he mentioned this in an interview with BitcoinAfrica.io,

“I got into the cryptocurrency space after I saw a news item about bitcoin on TV and then decided to check it out. The idea of financial freedom and an entire economy based on the blockchain appealed to my curiosity, which caused me to investigate about bitcoins and cryptocurrencies as a whole. After research, I then looked at how I could apply my skills in the field and later joined the DASH community and started the first DASH commercial blog.”

Establishing his Mark on Blockchain Advertising with Token Media

Elisha’s foray into digital currencies could not have been at a more opportune time when big players like Goldman Sachs and Google recognise the untapped potential of blockchain technology. Meanwhile, startups are developing other uses for blockchain technology to secure information from tampering and allow users to access the entire record of transactions.

Elisha identified the need for PR services for established companies as well as new market entrants. With this in mind, Token Media was conceived. He states his inspiration for starting the company was,

“I watched a lot of cryptocurrency related videos and I remember watching one that spoke about bringing businesses from other industries into the blockchain industry, which got me thinking about a PR solutions company. After the boom of ICO’s and the popularity of cryptocurrencies, the need for proper marketing services in the space has become very important which lead to the birth of Token Media. Our solutions are unique because we blend affordability and quality.”

Token Media offers a variety of services primarily in public relations, ICO marketing, and social media management. Under public relations the company creates, publishes and distributes press releases, working with notable partners such as BTC Manager, Merkle, and Hongico just to name a few. With ICO marketing, the core activities are public relations and investor relations. Social media management involves spreading the message about various blockchain projects on popular social media channels.

According to Elisha, the company which began operations in June last year has so far worked with several clients such as PIVX, Komodo, Local World Forwarder, and SmartCash. Token Media has helped raise over $40 million in token sales through its marketing services and has worked with cryptocurrencies with a combined market capitalisation of over $1 billion.

While this may seem impressive for a company less than a year old, for Elisha this is just the beginning,

“In the future Token Media aims to be more than a marketing solutions firm. We are working on new projects that include an initial coin offering startup platform, content distribution, and creation on the blockchain and a blockchain related content platform that integrates all media formats,” he said about his future plans.

Challenges Faced and Advice to Aspiring Entrepreneurs

However, a journey into entrepreneurship is not without its hiccups and blockchain businesses are no exception. For Elisha, a persistent problem has been the presence of few platforms in Africa with cryptocurrency integration which makes moving money around quite hectic. Until recently he couldn’t find a decent cryptocurrency exchange in Ghana that offered excellent services with reasonable fees.

With cryptocurrency adoption in the continent still at its infancy stage, most Africans have to contend with international peer-to-peer exchanges like Localbitcoins and Remitano to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. While the exchanges support millions of dollars in trades every day, users are often faced with above market rate prices when buying bitcoin and other digital currencies. Lately, though, we are seeing more localised exchanges coming up across the continent that supports local currencies.

However, the biggest challenge according to Elisha has been unpredictable nature of market regulators. He says,

“Another problem that is getting bigger is the silence on the part of most governments on the continent on the regulation of cryptocurrencies. Regulators on the content seem not to understand the fundamental concepts of blockchain technology and may take rushed decisions that will hamper the growth of the blockchain industry in Africa. As an entrepreneur, it makes it hard for me to plan with this high level of uncertainty at play.”

The reality is the legal status of cryptocurrencies remains undefined in most African countries with regulators regularly sounding warnings against its use. The lack of a policy framework pertaining to digital currencies creates an environment of uncertainty for blockchain enterprises and hampers digital currency innovation across the continent. Hopefully, African governments which are more receptive towards blockchain technologies will involve stakeholders like Elisha in coming up with structures that can assimilate cryptocurrencies into local ecosystems.

For now, the Accra-based entrepreneur has split his time between growing Token Media and his studies. His advice to other young aspiring African cryptocurrency entrepreneurs is:

”There is a lot to be done in the blockchain space in Africa. Identify the problems around you, fix the problem and you will have a winning project or product in your hands. Let’s all work together to bridge the gaps on the continent, educate the masses and help the continent grow.”

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