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How Bitcoin is Promoting Financial Inclusion in Africa

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bitcoin financial inclusion

Global interest in bitcoin is rising steadily with both institutional and private investors keen to generate a high return on investment from the rally that the digital currency has been witnessing since the beginning of the year. However, there is also a substantial amount of interest coming from the developing world where people are looking to acquire bitcoin to provide them with access to the global financial system.

Though bitcoin is giving investors the opportunity to make large amounts of profits, it has a unique set of characteristics that make it well suited to meet the needs of people in counties where there are barriers to financial services. 

Banking the Un(der)Banked

People in developing regions such as Africa may be unable to access services from established financial institutions. This is because financial institutions, such as banks, are required to operate under strict guidelines when it comes to the information they need from their customers. However, in many African countries, most people are unable to meet the customer onboarding requirements that banks have.

In countries experiencing political turmoil, it may be difficult for people to have access to their official documents due to a number of reasons. Displacement caused by political violence leads to loss of official identification. In addition, it is difficult to get a replacement because government services generally undergo a slump or a total stop during unstable times. This is a challenge as these are usually the same papers that banks and other financial institutions need in order to set up bank accounts.

Africa’s unbanked and underbanked are using bitcoin to mitigate this challenge. Bitcoin and other decentralised digital currencies are helping to give Africans access to financial services without the need to go through established financial institutions. This is because access to bitcoin is very simple in comparison to banks and other financial institutions. All that is required is a simple smartphone and access to the Internet and anyone can become their own bank.

In some counties, such as Nigeria, people are able to use bitcoin to purchase things online that would otherwise be unavailable to them. The country has laws regarding limits placed on foreign purchases. Currently, Nigerians can only make foreign transaction up to $100 per month using bank cards. Using bitcoin, on the other hand, people are able to overcome this obstacle since there are a number of retailers who now accept the cryptocurrency. All they need to do is buy bitcoin through an exchange and use their bitcoin wallet to gain access to the global market.

An Alternative Store of Value

In addition to facilitating access to purchasing things on a global scale, bitcoin is also giving people control over their finances. Many Africans do not have bank accounts because they lack faith in financial institutions. There is a belief that bank accounts are not trustworthy. Bitcoin is allowing people to store their money in such a way that they have complete control over it. Since the blockchain is decentralised, there is no central authority that controls the money. This removes a substantial amount of fear that is associated with storing money.

Bitcoin is also helping to provide a viable currency alternative in countries where there is financial turmoil. Zimbabwe, which is facing high levels of hyperinflation, has experienced a surge in people looking to acquire, as well as use, the cryptocurrency. This is because bitcoin can be used to facilitate international trade when there is cash shortage, which is exactly what has been happening in Zimbabwe over the past twelve months.

Moreover, Zimbabweans are using bitcoin to hedge themselves against the ever-soaring levels of inflation. They can purchase whatever amount of bitcoin that they can afford to and hold it thus ensuring the value of their money stays the same as opposed to keeping it in the country’s new legal tender, the Zimbabwean bond notes, which has been losing value since its introduction in late 2016. In addition, since the value of the cryptocurrency has been growing, people are also able to turn a profit on their bitcoin holdings.

Bitcoin is allowing people to have access to the global financial system when they are unable or unwilling to use the traditional financial services that are around them. This is giving many people the chance to participate on a global level as well as grow their net worth.

This article was published in cooperation with Paxful.

Bitcoin

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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