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Egypt’s First Blockchain-focused Incubator to Launch in April

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Egypt’s First Blockchain-focused Incubator

NU TechSpace, Egypt’s first blockchain-focused incubator, is expected to launch on April 15. It is a collaboration between Nile University and the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT).

The launch confirmation details were given to Wamda by Mariam Yassin,  the partnerships & fundraising specialist at the Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Competitiveness Center of NU TechSpace. The technologies that the incubator will focus on include the blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, among others.

“With the rise of Blockchain applications worldwide, along with the supportive environment in Egypt that fosters entrepreneurship and innovation, this year, many startups started to grow in Egypt using cognitive and blockchain technologies. That’s considered to be the third industrial revolution. We present a framework by which to explore where cognitive technologies can benefit in creating new business models,” Yassin stated, disclosing that the country’s increase in blockchain startups was the driving force for them to launch the incubator.

The space is located at Sheikh Zayed City in Giza at the Nile University premises and will help startups to improve their business model, products and will prepare them to scale globally by allowing them to capitalise on the research capacities and facilities available at the university. The startups will also be connected with the Nile University network that includes investors, mentors, staff and alumni. Although the program’s budget cannot be disclosed, it was founded by Nile University and a ‘national initiative’.

Program Cycle for Incubated Startups

Yassin explained that every cycle of the incubation program is designed to support projects over an eight to nine-month period, which starts from the proof of concept stage to the ready product stage. During that period, budding startups will work in a risk-reduced environment so as to have their operational company ready to market their services and products.

“During the first cycle, we will focus on financial technology in order to support in generating a sustainable business model in high potential industries like banking, retail, insurance, corporate applications, etcetera,” Yassin added. The first round will see 15 startups get shortlisted with ten getting incubated.

The incubation hub will provide product management sessions, operational management sessions, human resource management sessions, sales strategy sessions and scaling strategy sessions. Besides the coworking space that the university will provide, the startups will also receive other services such as: extensive business training by industry experts and faculty members, mentoring and coaching from the university’s networks, access to faculty as consultants or mentors for regular consultations, networking events with ecosystem partners and industry leaders as well as professional services such as communication, marketing, operations, governance and legal assistance as well as human resource and recruitment. The space will also enable the startups to collaborate with the university’s students to test their products and pick interns.

Besides all the services that the startups will receive, the program will give each startup funding of up to $8,500 (150,000 Egyptian Pounds) and a $120,000 IBM Bluemix Cloud Platform. The program will run every year with one open cycle that is expected to support ten startups.

NU TechSpace Partnerships

Talks of having the NU TechSpace begun during the Egypt Blockchain Day, which was held in January of 2017. It was the first blockchain applications event to be held in the country. The aim of the event was to discuss the structure of the blockchain development technology, opportunities and business models.

Yassin explained: “During the event, our partner Novelari (an Egyptian accelerator) announced the first Extensive Blockchain development bootcamp in Egypt that will take place at Nile University, in cooperation with NU Techspace.” Apart from Novelari, the incubator’s community partners include Wuzzuf, Consensys and IBM. Yassin concluded by saying they have plans of expanding TechSpaces across Egypt to boost the talent pool of blockchain and cognitive developers in the country.

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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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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