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Meet Africa’s Blockchain Startups: SureRemit

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SureRemit

International remittances have played an important role in the growth of Africa’s emerging economies. Diaspora Africans have been using traditional money transfer services such as Western Union and MoneyGram to send money to relatives back home. However, the high fees involved are making them an unattractive option for customers, who are now opting for blockchain startups like SureRemit that enable cheap international remittances.

Offering Non-Cash Remittances Powered by Blockchain Technology

SureRemit is a Nigeria-based startup that provides Remit (RMT) tokens for diaspora users to buy instant shopping vouchers and pay utility bills for family and friends across Africa. The company leverages its merchant network in Kenya, Rwanda, and Nigeria together with international partners, to allow immigrants to send e-vouchers that are redeemable for goods and services at any of the pre-approved merchants. Users can also pay bills on behalf of their loved ones anywhere in the world.

Users can download the SureRemit app available for Android and iOS, and present tokens as payment for services such as utilities, online shopping, student tuition, just to name a few. The company will use blockchain partner Stellar’s platform to host the tokens.

SureRemit aims to make money from businesses who pay a fraction of each token transaction and ultimately redeem the tokens – minus the fees – for cash from the company. For users, this means there will be no purchase or transfer fees for tokens above face value.

Low Fees, Instant Transfers

According to SureRemit co-founder Samuel-Biyi, the company’s RMT tokens are more suitable for remittances than bitcoin due to zero fees and faster transaction times. Presently, bitcoin is less viable for payments and individual money transfers brought about by scalability issues in the bitcoin network. With numerous people sending and receiving the cryptocurrency, it is taking longer to confirm transactions and fees have become more costly. The fact that Remit token transfer fees are passed down to the businesses will make it an attractive option for users.

Speaking to Techcrunch, Samuel-Biyi asserts that SureRemit’s merchant network view the fees as the cost of accessing a new group of customers. He states,

“We’re a big channel to connecting them to the multi-billion dollar market of remittance inflows, [….] so our model is transferring costs of remittances to the merchant side away from the sender side.”

The World Bank estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa pays roughly 10 percent per every $200, making it the most expensive region in terms of remittance fees. Marvin Liao, a partner in 500 Startups, which is among SureRemit’s backers, believes there is potential for the company’s blockchain-based approach in Africa,

“The fees are horrible, and Western Union is ripping off people who can least afford it. It’s a huge market…and a lot of these basic financial and commerce needs that people have are still not being addressed effectively,” he says.

SureRemit’s blockchain token has less risk of being used for money laundering when compared to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. Since you cannot redeem it for cash and it is tied to particular merchants, it is unsuitable for money laundering and thus regulators should have no problem giving it the green light.

The company plans to launch operations in the Middle East and India during the second quarter of 2018. For now, the startup seeks to grow its African presence by using its predecessor SureGifts’ merchant network to roll out its new blockchain-based remittance platform.

Blockchain Technology

Bancor Set to Launch Blockchain-Based Community Cryptocurrencies in Kenya

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Bancor in Kenya

The Bancor Network has announced plans to launch a network of blockchain-based community currencies in Kenya. The launch of community cryptocurrencies is meant to help curb poverty through the stimulation of both local and regional commerce as well as increased peer-to-peer collaboration.

This new project will enable communities within the East African nation to create and manage their own digital tokens, through the utilisation of blockchain technology, thereby, closing the barriers that have historically existed to prevent the use of community currencies.

Will Ruddick, Bancor’s new Director of Community Currencies, will manage the project from Nairobi where he has lived for over a decade. He also runs a non-profit foundation known as Grassroots Economics, which oversees community currency programs in six different locations in Kenya that serves more than 1,000 local businesses and 20 schools. Ruddick, together with his team, will make use of the Bancor Protocol to expand Grassroots’ existing paper currency system into a blockchain-based network that intends to decrease poverty and build stable markets through the use of local currencies. Ruddick said:

“When communities have the same right as nations to create and manage currencies, they will unlock their full potential.”

Co-founder of Bancor, Galia Benartzi, said in a press release: “We have seen the crypto world generate roughly $400 billion for new currencies, and we believe the same mechanics can be applied to help communities create wealth on a local level through the use of blockchain-based community currencies that fill regional trade gaps, enable basic income and food security, and promote thriving local and interconnected global markets.”

Bancor’s Project Plans

Bancor in KenyaBancor will be seeding its first currencies by donating some of the capital it raised during its $153 million token sale in June 2017. The Bancor Network enables anyone to create digital currencies that contain one or more balances in a connected currency. This allows integrated currencies to be replaced with one another without the need for a counterparty. The currencies also have built-in mechanisms that are built to algorithmically calculate prices based on the supply of the currency and adjusts effectively to its use.

The Bancor Network is already being utilised daily to process more than $20 million conversions in digital currencies and is now set to be rolled out to disadvantaged communities across Kenya.

Plans for the launch of the project include:

  • First pilots in the two largest slums in Kenya: Kibera and Kawangware.
  • Grassroots will leverage its network of local businesses network to circulate the currency by giving discounts and additional benefits to customers who use it in their transactions.
  • As more people buy and hold the local currency, its market cap is expected to increase, hence create wealth and purchasing power for its holders.
  • Anyone will be able to buy and sell the community currencies (including community members) using other digital currencies or major credit cards with transactions processed via the open source Bancor Protocol, enabling users worldwide to support the communities from afar.
  • A balance in a stabilised “parent” cryptocurrency still under development will – at the start – be pegged to the Kenyan Shilling (KES) and allow for exchanges between the network of local currencies at algorithmically calculated prices.

Impact Investing Tools

In an attempt to build an alternative Grassroots Economics community currency network in Kenya about eight years ago known as “Bangla-Pesa”, Ruddick, an American-born physicist, was jailed by the Kenyan authorities. He would later relaunch the community currency network in partnership with the government of Kenya. Both he and the Bancor team have been vocal on the potential of community currencies to curb global poverty using a bottom-up approach for sustainable economic development.

This project is part of growing efforts from a wave of blockchain startups to use blockchain technology, smart contracts, and cryptocurrencies to build the next generation of aid and impact investing tools.

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Blockchain Technology

Tanzanian Blockchain Community to Hold First Blockchain Event on June 30

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Tanzanian Blockchain Community

The Blockchain Tanzania Community has organised the first blockchain event in the country to be held on June 30, 2018, at the University of Dar es Salaam from 10 am to 1 pm.

The event will be a commencement seminar where Blockchain Tanzania will share its objectives, vision, and mission with the public and other stakeholders.

The Blockchain Tanzania Community brings together professionals, companies, academicians, and regulators such as the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) and the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA).

The organising chairman Rutazaa told BitcoinKe:

“As a community, we aspire to create an environment where youths will be inspired to engage and learn, investors favoured to invest, and regulators encouraged to fairly regulate, so blockchain, for what it is, can revolutionise our country.”

Tanzania is joining the ranks of other East African countries such as Uganda and Kenya that are embracing blockchain technology. For instance, Uganda is set to establish a blockchain taskforce while Kenya already has a functioning taskforce.

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Blockchain Technology

Non-Profit Partnership Harnesses Blockchain to Assess Impact of Conservation in Madagascar

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Conservation in Madagascar

Two non-profit organisations, the ixo foundation and Seneca Park Zoo Society, have partnered to measure the impact of global conservation initiatives using blockchain technology.

The ixo foundation has developed an open-source protocol using blockchain technology, which enables anyone around the world to create an impact claim. The claim is then assessed by a human evaluator or dataset to become a verified impact claim which can be used as proof to access funding.

South Africa-based ixo foundation is a software development organisation founded by Dr. Shaun Conway while New York-based Seneca Park Zoo Society is the non-profit partner of Seneca Park Zoo.

The First Collaboration

The partnership’s first project will involve recording animal and insect regeneration in Madagascar’s regenerated forests using sensors and the blockchain. The sensors will be linked to ixo’s blockchain to collect data and verify it. Impact tokens, which can be used to get funding with verified proof of impact, will then be created.

Seneca Park Zoo Society and Stony Brook University have been using the sensors to test their effectiveness in assessing ecosystem well-being in reforested areas on the island.

Dr. Conway, founder and president of the ixo foundation, said: “Our partnership with Seneca Park Zoo Society is a proof of concept, showing how all manner of conservation projects can record the impact they are having. By utilising the ixo Blockchain for Impact, they will be able to record evidence of change as verified impact data, which demonstrates what counts for sustainable social, environmental and economic development.”

“We will use this data to grow the fundraising and public education potential of zoos and aquariums, reinforcing the value of zoos to our communities. We look forward to our first collaboration in Madagascar, which will allow us to measure the positive impact of renewed forests through biodiversity measurements and increased human health using the ixo Blockchain for Impact,” said Tom Snyder, director of programming and conservation action, Seneca Park Zoo Society.

The two organisations will collaborate further to assess the effect of global conservation initiatives and boost funding for zoos and aquariums.

Creating an Extensive Database & the Amply Project

Conservation in MadagascarDr. Conway established the ixo foundation after he acknowledged the difficulty of finding sufficient data when planning a project. The non-profit organisation, therefore, aims to develop a verified database, in the next 13 years, covering all the targets set out to attain the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Ixo’s protocol has already been used in a project, dubbed Amply, that aims to track student attendance in rural South African schools. Rather than using a paper attendance sheet, teachers use a mobile app to record students’ turnout. The records are essential to schools because they can be used to access government subsidies.

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