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Zimbabwean Government and FinComEco Sign MoU to Push Innovation in the Agriculture Sector

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Zimbabwean Government and FinComEco Sign MoU

The Zimbabwean government, under the guidance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (MoFAIT) and the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement (MLARR), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Financial & Commodities Ecosystem (FinComEco) to develop an array of platforms, initiatives and projects meant for the Zimbabwean agricultural markets.

FinComEco is expected to provide services, capacity building, financing and enablement solutions from supply to demand for the agricultural market in Zimbabwe. The partnership is expected to develop into a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA), which will be subject to approval under the new Joint Ventures Act that was established and came into effect in January 2018.

FinComEco is a company that utilises blockchain technology to provide solutions that improve food security and economic diversity that are tailored for different countries. The company is enabled by a scalable, centralised, decentralised and hybrid technology solution that is made possible by its partner, GMEX Group. FinComEco, MLARR and other local partners involved are expected to start a joint venture company that will create high impact initiatives meant to accelerate agricultural value chain effectiveness through the delivery of strategic value-added services that include an electronic Warehouse Receipt System (eWRS), exchanges, trading platforms, electronic banking, training, and capacity building. This will all culminate in the establishment of a blockchain-based commodities exchange.

Creation of Job Opportunities

Zimbabwean Government and FinComEco Sign MoUThe directive will also aid in the identification of project opportunities in high growth segments in the agricultural sector to work together with the right partners such as international development agencies and development finance institutions as well as companies in the private sector. Moreover, there will be investments in new and existing warehouses with linked logistics and infrastructure.

It is estimated that FinComEco value-add in Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector will be worth more than $1.5 billion over a period of five years in terms of GDP growth, which will result in a significant economic and social impact for the nation with the GDP per capita of Zimbabwe expected to grow by 1.5 times between 2018 and 2022. The partnership is expected to create close to 90,000 job opportunities in the agricultural industry. According to the Farmers Union, every one job created in the farming industry will create seven more jobs in other similar sectors. The FinComEco is therefore expected to have more benefits with the effects being felt in other industries such as construction and the establishment of both new direct and indirect jobs. Over a five-year period, the country is expected to experience an additional 630,000 jobs across different industries.

FinComEco Benefits to Zimbabwe

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Rtd Hon Major-General (Rtd) Dr. Sibusiso Moyo, said,

“This collaboration marks the beginning of Zimbabwe’s participation in international trade, which is the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy.”

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, the Rtd Hon. Perence Shiri, added, “This collaboration sets Zimbabwe on track to becoming the bread basket of Africa and beyond with access to international markets. The FinComEco initiative will promote a viable sustainable agricultural and horticultural sector, by optimising productivity in addition to ensuring ongoing food security and job creation for our country.”

The Co-Chairman of FinComEco and CEO of GMEX Group, Hirander Misra, backed their sentiments by saying, “We are delighted to be working with the Government of Zimbabwe to facilitate positive economic and social impact for farming communities and related sectors. The whole FinComEco ecosystem will be based on the set-up of the Zimbabwe Commodities Exchange, optimising agricultural inputs, facilitating access to finance and credit facilities, provision of warehousing and logistic facilities to enable GDP growth and job creation.”

Blockchain Technology

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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Blockchain Technology

IBITx Launches New African Brand to Focus on Blockchain Incubation

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IBITx

IBITX Software Inc., a cryptocurrency exchange service and crowdsale software provider, has launched its new African brand called AFRIBITx.com. The company aims to position itself as an incubator for the development of blockchain concepts and companies in Africa.

A New Blockchain Incubator for Africa

IBITx is a digital currency exchange that matches investors with token sales on a single platform for ‘offerings’ as well as a free market trading system for all aftermarket cryptocurrency purchases and sales.

In a company press release, IBITx CEO Rose Marie D. Araos said:

“Our intention is to launch in partnership with a financial service provider a regulated environment in at least 2-8 African countries to start ideally by June 2018. The system’s skeletal structure is available for testing, however, we are still endeavouring to negotiate with regulated brokers and regulatory organisations as to which country will house the first African blockchain incubator, exchange, and crowdsale system.”

The new brand, AFRIBITx aims to become the exchange, crowdsale, and blockchain incubator brand for Africa. IBITx Software will harness its talent pool of blockchain developers in Philippines, India and South Africa with the objective of developing cryptocurrencies and decentralised technologies across the African continent.

The company also plans to put in place revenue sharing partnerships with local brokers, which will see them handle management and custody of the various local markets.

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Blockchain Technology

South African Startup Vio Digital Launches Blockchain-Powered Money Transfer App

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Vio Digital

Vio Digital, a South African fintech startup, is launching an Ethereum blockchain-powered money transfer app that will go live in May 2018.

Vio Digital is offering a new form of international money transfer that enables people to transfer money from anywhere in the world with zero transfer and exchange fees. Moreover, Vio Digital has not set a foreign exchange markup, which translates to affordable money transfers for users. Vio Digital, therefore, eliminates the price barrier that Africans in the diaspora face when sending money back home.

“For people sending money home to their families, additional processing and admin costs can be crippling. Our app uses technology to give people safer and more convenient ways to move their money. Technology like the blockchain means we can take cost out of the system to give people cheaper ways to move their money,” Praga Govender, CEO and founder of Vio Digital, stated.

Vio Digital held its initial coin offering from February 19 to 2 March 2, 2018, where the startup managed to raise approximately $1.2 million in ETH.

How Does the App Work?

The startup’s app is currently available in the Google Play Store and will initially be available in Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. To use the app all you need to do is download it and register your account by completing the KYC process. You will then receive a Vio wallet address, which you will use to make money transfers.

The next step is topping up your wallet by buying Vio tokens using Visa or Mastercard. Once you have done that, you can send or receive money. To cash out, convert the Vio tokens into your local currency and then transfer the amount to your linked Visa Debit card through Visa Direct. The Vio app also features a transaction history to keep track of your transfers, exchanges, and top-ups.

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