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FORUS Unveils Blockchain-based Digital Asset Exchange

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FORUS

On December 6, 2017, FORUS launched their Global Digital Exchange in an event held at the Rand Club in Johannesburg, South Africa.

FORUS’ brainchild, the Global Digital Exchange, is a universal utility blockchain and ecosystem solution that seeks to give a single, trusted, universal, user-authentication platform for both the banked and unbanked regardless whether they are making transactions on the web or on mobile.

FORUS, which stands for Free, Open, Real-time, Ubiquitous and Secure, aims to bring financial inclusion to the needy and minority communities in South Africa by providing them with a solution that has been designed to ease poverty, create a productive economy and sustainable return for investors while at the same time creating sustainable wealth yields for the communities utilising the platform.

Designed by engineers from South Africa, FORUS is expected to launch globally in March 2018 in South Africa, the Caribbean, and the USA.

FORUS founder, Sonny Fisher, while speaking at the event, stated:

“This could fundamentally change how we do business in South Africa, Africa and the entire world. We are looking to create a sustainable marketplace within an ecosystem that includes everyone into the digital economy.”

FORUS Financial Inclusion Plan

FORUS’ aims to make it possible for those previously left out from the orthodox financial system to be part and parcel of it by facilitating access to a host of financial services such as banking and savings among others for millions of people.

The payment service will be made accessible to all merchants, corporate enterprises, banks, application developers and financial institutions. In addition, the free payment gateway designed with an integrated advertising platform will be usable by anyone.

The inclusive solution will have:

  • A free e-wallet utility for real-time small payments that can be done anywhere at anytime
  • An e-commerce utility for hawkers/informal shops/small enterprises using any device
  • The ability to pay and receive money for free from anyone, anytime, anywhere
  • Shares for the first 200,000,000 FORUS Foundation Members in an internationally listed company
  • Access to funding, low-interest loans, financing for business expenditure as well as capital
  • Community/collective related clubs that can raise collateral for extensive funding projects
  • All investment fully underwritten and insured

According to Fisher, ubiquity is one of the main obstacles facing such platforms. By making use of leaders in the banking space, key partners and other large member organisations in South Africa and beyond, FORUS aims to sign up more than 100 million members to curb the issue of ubiquity. Member sign-ups will start on 16 December 2017.

The FORUS community includes both international and local organisations such as: Ecentric Payment Systems, Solutions AE, Community Investment Base, the National Apex Co-operative of South Africa (NACSA), Laphum’ilanga Transport Services, National Association of Co-operative Financial Institutions of South Africa (NACFISA), IPM – Integrated People Management, Raiffeisen Confederation and DGRV- German Co-operative.

Functionality of the FORUS Platform

The FORUS platform, with its core design built on distributed ledger technology, will generate revenue through its advertising, discounts on buying groups and loyalty to cater for the whole ecosystem. FORUS’ business model, therefore, allows for real-time revenue returns for the communities involved.

The FORUS platform will use Mahala Digital Media and MahalaTV – a content management and distribution network –  to generate revenue through authorised advertising while utilising the more than 100 million FORUS members as one targeted potential avenue through the AI-driven advertising and content.

The Mahala Digital Media and MahalaTV platforms will make use of FORUS’ secure quick response code (SQR) to allow every magazine, video, webpage, social media platform, newspaper ad, a point of sale or billboard to act as a retail point of purchase. Anyone owning a FORUS wallet can quickly photograph or scan the code and immediately purchase whatever is on sale with no transaction costs being incurred by both the customer and merchant.

Due to its sustainable functionality and versatile nature, the FORUS solution is already gaining acceptance by a diverse set of key partners globally.

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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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