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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.

Blockchain Technology

Kenya’s Financial Institutions Want Blockchain-Based Financial Products Approved

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blockchain-based financial products

Dr. Patrick Njoroge, the Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) revealed that the central bank is receiving several applications from financial institutions in Kenya soliciting the approval and licensing of blockchain-based products and services.

His statement comes at a time when most financial institutions in the country are busy trying to find ways of addressing the disruption caused by blockchain technology. As it stands, both market regulators and key industry players in the financial sector are considering regulations and guidelines for the blockchain, virtual currencies, and online forex trading.

Speaking during a gathering of investment professionals, Dr. Njoroge said: “A number of banks are currently working on products (and services) hinged on blockchain technology and we think that they offer a lot of promise. We are not anti-innovation or anti-cryptocurrency. We support innovation but are concerned about the impact on financial instability and the inherent risks. CBK is working with central banks all over the world to identify the risks and find ways to mitigate them. The weakest link is where problems in our financial system will start.”

The blockchain was initially designed as an underlying technology for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin but has over the years been utilised to help streamline the delivery of products and services in different sectors by governments and corporates.

Alternative Investment Schemes

The move by financial institutions in Kenya to solicit for the approval of blockchain comes two months after Joe Mucheru, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for ICT announced a blockchain taskforce that was formed to give recommendations on how the government can leverage the blockchain.

Dr. Njoroge went on to say that most online forex trading transactions tend to happen outside the central bank of Kenya’s jurisdiction. Last year saw Kenya’s Capital Markets Authority issue new regulations meant to curb risks that are linked to online forex and cryptocurrency trading. So far, there only exists one firm in the country that has an online foreign exchange license.

The National Treasury’s Director General, Public Investment and Portfolio Management, Esther Koimett, said there is a special interest by the national treasury on issues that affect the financial sector in Kenya and that alternative investment opportunities are progressively becoming crucial in resource mobilisation. She went on to add: “Last year the government launched the M-Akiba Bond as an alternative way for Kenyans to invest in Government Securities. Such alternatives need to be encouraged.”

A speech read on behalf of Bernard Ndung’u, the chairman of the Public Sector Accounting Board (PSAB) by Lazarus Kimang, stated: “Due to the ever-changing investment environment, there is a need to improve and continuously enhance the skills of financial analysts employed within government institutions. This will ensure that public sector entities are provided with sound advice on investment alternatives and strategies that derive them maximum returns.”

The PSAB chairman went on to share his concerns about other investment schemes that would make people vulnerable to fraud cases as well as the difficulty that financial market players would encounter in assessing different investment opportunities such as bitcoin.

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UNICEF Invests in Blockchain-based Early Child Development Startup Amply

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UNICEF Invests in Amply

The UNICEF Innovation Fund has announced its first investment into a South African startup called Amply, which leverages blockchain technology to better manage early childhood development services.

Founded on the IXO blockchain protocol, Amply is a UNICEF-backed application that is creating a universal shared ledger for impact data. Early child development (ECD) centers can record and validate pre-school attendance claims. The government of South Africa is then able to exchange these claims with subsidies, which create accountability and makes the funding process more transparent.

Based in Switzerland, the IXO blockchain is a project that is building the needed technology for the impact investment space. Its technology is meant to scale impact measurement as well as allow for the invention of digital assets known as Impact Tokens that are supported by verified impact data.

The Amply Platform

The Amply system enables every child to have a mobile digital identity that verifies their existence, records the history of their education and enables them to receive the benefits that they deserve. Known as the digital identity protocol, the system is already changing the way pre-school children are registered in South Africa.

AmplyThe system has been built in such a way that it stores the digital identity and personal details of each individual child privately allowing only for the child or their parent to have control. Since the pilot was launched in 2016, about 85 ECD centers have recorded over 61,000 digital attendance, especially in the Western Cape region. Pre-school teachers, through a verifiable claim format, are now able to collect data on attendance through the mobile application developed by Amply, as part of a pilot project. The verifiable claim format is a systematised template that allows for the exchange and use of information across datastores, which helps break down information silos between various stakeholders. The validated attendance claim is then tokenised as a digital asset that a given ECD center can exchange for subsidy grant funding from the government.

According to TechBullion, the digital data captured by Amply has metadata – location, date and time of collection – that has a mathematical proof marking that proves the claim comes from a given origin. This way, the data has a built-in error checking that makes it possible for an external authority to validate the entry without the need to know what is contained in the data. The mathematical proof tied to the metadata is free from any tampering.

In most ECD centers today, teachers are forced to use a paper-based system that cannot be verified. As such, the centers are forced to submit lengthy attendance reports whenever they need to claim subsidies for the services rendered to the Department of Social Development. The government is, therefore, forced to spend a massive amount of time in auditing the attendance reports which makes it a long and expensive process. Besides, stakeholders such as NGOs, ECD centers, the government and other institutions are unable to utilise the information available in the analog reports to come up with comprehensive analytics and program optimisations.

However, with the availability of the global data ledger by Amply, all stakeholders can now have access to crucial information such as where and how the services are being delivered which will help them to plan better and allocate resources. Besides, the data ledger has brought about increased trust in the funding ecosystem which has resulted in increased funding for needy children while saving the administration money and time.

While education is the main focus for Amply at the moment, there is excitement for potential applications that will tackle access to government subsidies, healthcare, food and other goods and services sector. Data collected via Amply has the potential to help improve the consistency and quality of services that South Africans receive. And for Amply, it is just the beginning as they are looking to expand to more schools in the country to help the more than 3.5 million children that are currently not receiving pre-school education.

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BlockCerts Targets Africa Through New Blockchain Strategic Alliance in Mauritius

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Blockcerts Blockchain Strategic Alliance Mauritius

BlockCerts has announced the formation of a Blockchain Strategic Alliance in Mauritius to target the African market.

BlockCerts, a private blockchain platform developed by Seattle-based Finaeos, will be promoting blockchain initiatives in Africa in partnership with Rogers Capital, the fintech arm of the Mauritius-based Rogers Group.

Timothy Vasko, founder and chief architect of BlockCerts, said in a press release: “This is an exciting step for BlockCerts. Through our operations in Mauritius and working with the team of Rogers Capital, we will be bringing new blockchain innovation and infrastructure functions, to generate new opportunities for growth, inclusion, and advantage to the African population businesses, and governments as blockchain evolves to serve the combined population 1.3 billion people.”

According to the World Bank, Mauritius is the easiest place to do business in Africa while the African Development Bank has rated the Island as the most competitive on the continent. The country is also aiming to become the new Singapore by becoming an investment and trade hub for global investors wishing to set up their operations in Africa.

Mauritius also showed its determination in becoming a trade hub when it joined 43 other African nations in signing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) signed in March 2018.

“We are excited to begin operations with Rogers Capital, as the market potential for building blockchain infrastructure is massive when considering the 2.5 billion people who are seeking new inclusion and opportunity in [the] supply chain, payments, and fintech, which can all be served on the BlockCerts blockchain,” Vasko stated.

Vasko also said BlockCerts’ sister companies have been incorporated and operating successfully in India as technology providers for five years. The company has now expanded to Africa where it will provide the continent with technology platforms from its operations in Mauritius.

“This area is committed to becoming a world force, improving the lives of millions, and enhancing trade and transparency through blockchain. We couldn’t [be] more excited to bring BlockCerts forward with our partners from Mauritius,” he added.

“We are very pleased to have the involvement of BlockCerts with Rogers Capital in bringing blockchain to our Corporate, Technology and Financial services – while we continue on the path to pursue new opportunities. […] Blockchain is the next big wave that will propel the world stage forward. We are committed at Rogers Capital, to be a leader at the head of the surf with BlockCerts to power our blockchain initiatives,” said Rogers Capital CEO Kabir Ruhee.

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