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Blockchain-Powered Flying Taxis May Take Off in Nairobi Soon

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Flying Taxis

As we see the rise of more startups using blockchain to drive transformation across the digital information ecosystem, they are helping to increase awareness of the technology in sectors that range from financial services and the supply chain to infrastructure and public policy. One of these sectors is the transport industry.

The McFly.aero blockchain project has begun the setup of its blockchain-based infrastructure for flying taxis in 23 cities across 13 countries, with Kenya and Nigeria being the two African countries on the list. This comes at a time when importing, owning, and flying a drone has been legalised in Kenya as long as users operate within the regulations set by civil aviation authorities.

This move makes Kenya the third country on the continent after Rwanda and South Africa to have a legal framework in place for the remotely controlled aircraft. The drone regulations were gazetted last year and paved the way for widespread use. Previously, imported drones before the legal framework came into effect were confiscated by the Kenya Revenue Authority. Now, drone owners are able to register and pay for operation certificates.

Flying Taxis

Until very recently, the concept of the urban flying taxi was little more than a scene on sci-fi films. However, during April last year at the Uber Elevate Summit, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft were presented as a means to bringing profound changes to our cities and our lives. Currently, estimates say that a one and a half hour journey in the city could be slashed to around 10 minutes and the cost will vary in each market.

On their website, McFly.aero states that it is a technology and business incubator focused on the emerging urban air taxi market and that they have plans to deliver more affordable urban flight very soon and in more cities.  Business Daily Africa reports that the project will see twelve companies team up to develop the elements of the city air taxis, across the flying cars with Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOLs), energy and traffic management infrastructure.

As far as fares go, pricing will be based on the grid’s load, and transactions will be made in McFly tokens on the blockchain. The token, however, is not just a reward or billing mechanism. It is part of the core technology that will be used to measure the exploitation or usage of the vehicles.

The two/four-seater vehicles will either be on autopilot or have the passenger pointing directions and so far, there are two designs: Bartini, flying at 300km/h, and Hepard, which flies at 150 km/h. Both designs have a flight time of 30 minutes. They will be electric or hydrogen powered and manufacturers have the first test flights between March and May 2018.

Future Smart Cities

The use of blockchain comes as the ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru set up a taskforce headed by former Information principal secretary Bitange Ndemo to explore the use of distributed ledger technology and artificial intelligence for development in Kenya. The urban flying taxi concept intersects between aviation, blockchain and smart cities. This could change how cities work, where people live and how they travel. It could also give rise to new tourist and leisure opportunities.

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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