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How Kenya’s ICT Ministry is Embracing the Blockchain

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Kenya's ICT Ministry

Kenya’s ICT Cabinet Secretary, Joe Mucheru, recently announced that his ministry is in the process of creating a blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) task force. The main objective of this task force is to promote efficiency and transparency in the public and private sectors.

The blockchain, which is bitcoin’s underpinning technology, is a decentralised digital ledger that securely and transparently records, stores, and transfers data in an immutable manner. Artificial intelligence (AI) allows machines such as computers to learn from experiences and carry out human-like tasks with the knowledge they acquire.

The Task Force and Creation of Digital Jobs

According to a report by Kenyan Wall Street, the task force will comprise of “local blockchain startups, experts, academics, researchers, local ICT experts, various regulatory bodies, lawyers, and representatives from a number of corporates including IBM.”

The task force will be expected to promote and adopt the blockchain and AI. The comprehensive strategy, which is the guide for the task force, will research and test the different applications of the blockchain and AI. The government expects to use these applications to increase efficiency and transparency in product and service delivery. In addition, the task force will offer support to blockchain startups as well.

“We are an enabler, so we allow technology to create efficiency, transparency, and even innovation. I also want to make sure even as we look at the future, we are not left behind in such an area. For instance on the blockchain, […] or the hashgraphs. We want to be part of that growth. We missed out on the internet, [but we shall not miss out on the blockchain],” CS Mucheru stated during an interview with Citizen TV.

As reported by KTN News, CS Mucheru also mentioned plans by the ministry to create digital jobs for Kenya’s youth and to instill the relevant skills to enable them to work on digital tasks remotely.

The Blockchain is Slowly Going Mainstream in Kenya

The Ministry of ICT is not alone in its interest towards the blockchain. Several banks, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Lands are already testing the technology. Additionally, the governor of the Central bank of Kenya, Dr. Njoroge showed support for the technology during a press briefing last year.

But What of Digital Currencies?

Blockchain technology could be going mainstream in Kenya, but regulators are still adamant about digital currencies. However, a recent report by Citibank ranked Kenyans fifth as the largest bitcoin holders per capita in the world. These statistics could be an indication that bitcoin is also going mainstream.

In an interview with Citizen TV, CS Mucheru said that he is an advocate for digital currencies.

“I think [the Central Bank of Kenya has] a role and a responsibility to play and I do not think we are going to be fighting about it. […] Whether we want to be a part of it or not, it is not our choice; the world is already moving in that direction. […] We need to take that risk,” he stated.

While testing the applications of blockchain technology in the public and private sector is a huge step for Kenya, implementing these applications could have a great impact on Kenya’s economy. What’s more, continuous research and experimentation in blockchain technology beyond the five-year term of the current government should be prioritised.

Blockchain Technology

Nigerian Blockchain Startup SureRemit Raises $7 Million in Biggest African ICO To Date

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Sureremit ICO

SureRemit, a Nigerian blockchain startup, has raised $7 million during its token sale held from December 8th to February 8, 2018, to develop its non-cash remittance platform.

A Succesful African ICO

SureRemit, which is majority owned by GreenHouse Capital, a Nigeria-based fintech holding company, utilises blockchain technology to allow diaspora Africans to make non-cash remittances to their families back home.

This is facilitated by the Remit token (RMT), a utility token designed on the Stellar Network. RMT tokens are used within the SureRemit platform and can be transferred between users. The tokens can be supported by wallets and traded on exchanges that already host Stellar lumens.

The Remit tokens were floated to early investors during the Pre-ICO at the start of the year. Pre-sale investors benefited from a 40 percent discount on RMT tokens which are presently retailing at 50 RMT for $1.  According to SureRemit Director, Samuel Biyi, participants in the ICO can expect the platform to use the funds raised to ramp up its operations by adding more merchants to its network. The company also plans to grow its team and bring in experienced professionals who can build and manage merchant relationships.

In an interview with E-Labz, Samuel Biyi acknowledged they have been attempts in the past to create non-cash services for different use cases but SureRemit has now applied the concept to the remittance sector. He states:

“We are looking to be the first coordinated effort into creating the product that is specific to that use case (non-cash remittance) not just you know becoming a hybrid of something else so we are aggregating local, physical merchants as well as utilities and channels [….] so I think we are the first major effort at running a global non-cash remittance platform.”

RMT tokens will be used within the SureRemit ecosystem to access vouchers and pay bills. Users will be able to create an order for a voucher to be delivered to the recipient via SMS or email, by selecting a country and the right merchant category and paying for the process using their Remit tokens. Upon receipt of the order, the token will be frozen until the voucher is sent from the SureRemit system. Once that occurs, the token is transferred to SureRemit.

Diaspora users can purchase instant shopping vouchers and pay utility bills for friends and relatives across Africa. For seamless remittances, the company relies on its merchant network in Nigeria, Rwanda, and Kenya, together with international partners to send e-vouchers that can be redeemed for goods and services at any of the affiliate merchants.

Attracting Top Investors

A number of prominent cryptocurrency investors participated in the funding round including Hashed, South Korea’s largest cryptocurrency fund. Hashed’s decision to back SureRemit’s pre-ICO token sale signals a growing interest for corporate investors in the potential of blockchain technology to solve remittance challenges in emerging markets where the large swathes of the populace remain disconnected from financial services. The fund has previously supported blockchain-based projects like Ethereum, Simple Token, and Airswap.

Kelechi Nwokocha, a member of the GreenHouse investment team, mentioned in a New Telegraph Online article,

“The implications of growth capital outside of equity financing is huge. It means SureRemit can scale its operations without additional capital from existing shareholders. SureRemit is just one of our 10 fintech enabled portfolio companies that can potentially leverage blockchain to address a specific market gap, particularly in Africa. We’re happy to take the lead on blockchain and cryptocurrency implementations on the continent.”

SureRemit aims to in the future integrate RMT tokens acceptance directly to the network’s partners, which in turn they can convert to fiat money and thus enabling token transfers to happen directly to the merchant’s balance.

The SureRemit ICO has been the most successful token sale in Africa to date and will likely encourage more offerings of this kind on the continent this year.

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Blockchain Technology

The South African Reserve Bank Launches Blockchain PoC for Interbank Settlements

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South African Reserve Bank Launches Blockchain PoC

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) announced that it is launching a proof of concept for blockchain-based interbank clearing and settlement in partnership with New York-based blockchain startup ConsenSys.

This proof of concept is part of the central bank’s broader fintech initiative, which includes setting up a regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies, which is expected to be finalised this year, as well as a to investigate the applicability of ‘innovation facilitators’. ‘Innovation facilitators’ is being used as a term for startup accelerators, innovation hubs, and regulatory sandboxes.

Interbank Clearing and Settlements on the Blockchain

“The aim of this project is to gain a practical understanding of DLTs through the development of a proof of concept (POC) in collaboration with the banking industry. The objective of the POC is to replicate interbank clearing and settlement on a DLT which will allow the SARB and industry to jointly assess the potential benefits and risks of DLTs. The POC involves the processing of wholesale payments using Quorum, an Ethereum enterprise DLT,” the SARB’s statement reads.

ConsenSys will assist the central bank as its technology partner with the setup and design of the blockchain infrastructure for the proof of concept.

However, the SARB highlights in its statement that this blockchain project does not mean that South Africa’s payment systems will be moved onto a distributed ledger anytime soon.

“This does not imply a radical move to DLT for the country’s national payments infrastructure, but rather a structured approach to understand the implication of using a tokenised asset on DLT technology to transfer value,” the statement adds.

In other words, these fintech initiatives are being undertaken to aid the central bank in the formulation of appropriate regulatory frameworks for new financial innovations in South Africa.

A full report about the blockchain proof of concept will be released to the public in Q2/2018.

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Land Layby is Holding Masterclasses in Nairobi to Introduce Kenyans to the Blockchain

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Blockchain Masterclasses

Land Layby (LLB), a blockchain startup at the forefront of incorporating the blockchain in the African real estate market, is set to hold free monthly blockchain masterclasses in Nairobi throughout the year with the aim to educate more Kenyans on the applications of blockchain technology.

Land Layby is organising these masterclasses to bridge the technological knowledge gap that currently exists in Africa. In order to keep pace with the rest of the world, Africa needs to understand emerging technologies. In addition, the Chief Innovation Officer and founders of Land Layby have been residing in Western countries for over a decade, from where they have observed Africa’s readiness to absorb knowledge on innovations.

Landlayby KenyaLand Layby has invested in blockchain research and user application. Presently, the company is about to launch an MVP for their blockchain-powered land registry platform. Therefore, the facilitators of these classes are very knowledgeable with blockchain applications and class attendees will learn from their experiences.

What Will Be Taught at the Masterclasses?

Land Layby Technologies, the company running the masterclasses, will facilitate a chapter a month. The curriculum is as follows:

  • Chapter 1: Basics of Blockchain/Open Day
  • Chapter 2: Blockchain and cryptocurrencies (ICO, TGE etc)
  • Chapter 3: Blockchain and the law (Restrictions, loopholes, policies, patenting ideas etc)
  • Chapter 4: Blockchain in Africa (Now and in the future)
  • Chapter 5: User cases and applications in different sectors
  • Chapter 6: How to identify the best Blockchain startups to invest in

The masterclass will have different venues that will be communicated via LLB’s social media within the course of the class series. The open day was held on January 27, 2018, at Land Layby’s Nairobi office. Interested persons will have to wait until the date of the next class is announced.

The masterclasses are open to everyone. That means that the classes target non-blockchain experts, non-IT experts, businesses and financial firms that want to adopt the technology, and university students taking computer-related courses.

What Are the Benefits of Attending the Masterclasses?

At the masterclasses, attendees will gain the knowledge required to participate in the wider blockchain conversation, the ability to conceptualise blockchain use cases and recognise ways to invest or take part in blockchain-related projects. Additionally, after completion of the masterclasses, attendees who will have sat through all the sessions will receive a certificate of participation.

The facilitators of the masterclass will be different stakeholders in Land Layby’s Fintech arm such as developers, lawyers, and crypto economists. The company will announce the names and qualifications of the facilitators in due time.

How Can You Register for the Masterclasses?

The registration process is simple and straightforward. Simply visit Land Layby’s website and call the office number that is listed or click ‘GOING’ on the events page on social media.

Through Land Layby’s monthly masterclasses, Kenyans will have the opportunity to learn more about the blockchain and its applications.

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