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The Nigeria Blockchain Alliance Conference Shows Nigeria is Open to Cryptocurrencies

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Nigeria Blockchain Alliance Conference

The Nigeria Blockchain Alliance Conference 2017 – organised by the Cryptographic Development Initiative in Nigeria (CDIN) – was held on the 23rd and 24th of November in Lagos. The conference brought together blockchain entrepreneurs, policymakers, and cryptocurrency enthusiasts to discuss how blockchain technology and decentralised digital currencies can be leveraged to boost the economy in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

The Deputy Governor for Economy Policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Joseph Nnanna, gave the opening speech. He stated that the theme ‘National Development in the Era of Distributed Technology & Digital Currency’ offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the impact of financial technologies and digital currencies on financial system stability and economic development.

He also expressed confidence in how the distributed ledger technology can help Nigeria improve payments, system efficiency, and help eliminate incidences such as counterfeit currencies.

Nnanna, however, also stressed the need for an appropriate regulatory framework as the government is mindful of the potential challenges such technology could pose.

“Distributed ledger and digital currencies can lead to boom-bust in the domestic assets market. Cyber crimes and other security breaches in payment system platform can be amplified if we’re ill-prepared in developing an appropriate framework for seamless utilisation of the technology,” he said.

Also speaking at the event was the CBN Director for Banking and Payments, Dr. Dipo Fatokun who stated that the Central Bank of Nigeria is excited about the opportunities and prospects that comes with blockchain technology, especially for financial inclusion.

“The CBN is currently holding broad industry consultations on distributed ledger technology and cryptocurrency use cases and regulation, innovators forums hold regularly and it is planning to implement a Regulatory Sandbox regime,” Fatokun said.

Another Speaker from the CBN was the Chief Information Security Officer Dr. Rakiya Mohammed who is part of the committee set aside by the central bank for distributed Ledger technology (DLT) and digital currencies. She also reiterated that the CBN recognises what is happening and stated that announcements will be made early next year in regards to digital currency regulation.

“We’re about to receive an approval of the framework for regulating the top players in the bitcoin ecosystem in Nigeria,” she stated.

Nigeria Blockchain Alliance Conference

Image by CDIN

The two-day event attracted over two hundred attendees from different backgrounds which included experts from Microsoft, Stellar, and blockchain startups.

One of the interesting topics discussed was the high growing interest the Nigeria’s bitcoin ecosystem is witnessing. According to the research carried out by Lucky Uwakwe, co-founder of Blockchain Solutions Limited, Nigerian trade around 10 billion nairas worth of cryptocurrency each month.

Paxful CTO, Artur Schaback, stated that 35% of their traffic comes from Nigeria which amounts to one-third of the Paxful’s peer-to-peer exchange community.

Furthermore, Earnest Mbenkum, founder of Fintech Ltd based in Cameroon, expressed optimism saying that 2018 will be the year that Africa puts itself on the map in terms of blockchain technology and innovation, which will offer African economies a golden opportunity to catch up with top economies.

“The difference between then and now is that this is the first time that a revolutionary technology and invention is no longer limited to Western countries. Blockchain technology is available to anyone all over the world at the same time including the African continent,” he stated.

The conference was brought to an end by closing remarks of the founder of CDIN, Fadele Adeolu, who said that he is astonished at how fast the blockchain ecosystem has grown in Nigeria to become what it is today.

“I must confess that the activities in this space today are far beyond my imagination. As a cryptographer, I could not imagine that terms like public and private keys could become a discussion of the general public in 2017. The reason being that even IT professionals don’t usually find those terms friendly. Believe me or not, crypto trading and investment did the magic.”

The Nigeria Blockchain Alliance conference showed that Nigerian policymakers are open to new innovation from the blockchain and cryptocurrency space, which, of course, bodes well for the local crypto community and its startup scene.

Blockchain Technology

National Bank of Egypt Joins Blockchain Banking Consortium R3

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National Bank of Egypt Joins R3

The National Bank of Egypt (NBE) – Egypt’s largest and oldest bank – has joined R3, the leading blockchain banking consortium. The move by the National Bank of Egypt is in line with the country’s national digital transformation strategy as well as in support of the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) direction to encourage the adoption of innovative financial technologies in the financial services.

R3’s global network encompasses over 200 financial services firms, technology companies, banks, and trade associations. R3 also works with a number of regulators and central banks across the globe and provides its partners with access to Corda – an enterprise-grade distributed ledger platform for finance and commerce.

The partnership with R3 will enable the National Bank of Egypt to explore the innovations blockchain technology can provide to the banking sector. In addition, the bank will also be able to train its staff to use Corda, have access to all research and technical meetings with multinational banks and entities, and be part of an existing blockchain proof of concepts in different banking applications.

“By joining this initiative together with world banks and companies, we will be able to closely monitor and engage directly in global blockchain developments,” Hisham Okasha, NBE chairperson, stated.

“We can better assess the value this technology can bring to the banking industry and the impact it can have on faster and more cost-effective services to our customers for future implementation.”

The NBE will also have an opportunity to present a project paper to R3 that will detail its plans on how it plans to utilise blockchain technology in one of its banking services in collaboration with other international and regional banks.

David Rutter, CEO of R3, affirmed in a statement: “The addition of the National Bank of Egypt to our ever-growing Corda network enhances our engagement with the global financial industry, particularly in the MENA region. Our partners are developing cutting-edge blockchain applications on Corda that will change the way the world does business.”

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Can the Blockchain Help to Preserve Kenya’s Forests?

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blockchain kenya forests

Over the years, Kenya’s forests have been continually overexploited, which has not only been detrimental for the environment but also has affected food security in the country due to the diminishment of Kenya’s water catchment areas.

Kenya’s major economic activity centres around agriculture and thus heavily relies on rain. The forest cover, that is currently less than 10 percent, is quickly diminishing and the climate, wildlife, streams and human population are being affected.

The Mau forest is East Africa’s largest water forest. It is the largest drainage in the country because it receives the highest amount of rainfall in Kenya. The Mau forest has distinctive plant and animal species that have generated billions of dollars for various industries. An example of that would be the numerous pharmaceutical drugs derived from ingredients found in rainforests. The issue, however, arises when the countries of origin see none of the benefits. As the forests are plundered daily, the countries see little or no benefit.

According to Business Daily, one way to tackle this issue would be for the Kenya Forest Research Institute to map all complex life in Kenya’s forests by sequencing the genomes of the forests’ unique plants, animals, and microbes. This biological “big data” could then be made available for scientific and/or commercial use to ensure that profits generated from the forest are shared equally. This could open up a new bio-economy that could be much more profitable, inclusive and sustainable, more than existing forest industries.

Blockchain Technology and Forestry

A challenging project such as this could be made possible through the use of blockchain technology. All the pieces of biological data from our forests could be securely recorded and given a digital fingerprint that is completely traceable. Anytime data is used or sold, the transaction would be recorded on the blockchain for all stakeholders to see.

This would make sharing the benefits from the forest fairer by making it possible to track whoever uses the bio-data and what it was used for, then distribute the gains back to their country of origin. This also gives incentive to the local community to play a more active role in preserving their forests.

A project of this magnitude, however, would face several challenges. Identifying the lead agency for the project – either from the central government or county governments – immediately poses a leadership issue, especially in regards to the level of transparency that would be required. Furthermore, all main Kenyan wildlife and forest associations would have to work together and share data freely amongst each other.

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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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