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Senegal Launches National Digital Currency

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Senegal launches digital currency

African digital currency innovation is on the rise as Senegal plans to join Tunisia as the world’s second country to have a digital national currency. The eCFA, the name for the new currency. 

The eCFA is a brainchild of a partnership between eCurrency Mint and the Banque Régionale de Marchés (BRM). The duo, in a public statement, defined the eCFA as “a high-security digital instrument that can be held in all mobile money and e-money wallets.”

The statement also stated that the new currency would be more secure than other conventional bills or coins. “It will secure universal liquidity, enable interoperability, and provide transparency to the entire digital ecosystem in WAEMU (West African Economic and Monetary Union),” read the statement.

The developers of the Senegalese digital currency say that it is protected through sophisticated cryptographic protocols to beat any form of imitation or counterfeiting. Pro-eCFA pundits also confirm the safety of the currency, adding that it is more transparent and easier to regulate through the central bank.

But the eCFA is not a “normal” cryptocurrency and it is entirely different from bitcoin as the new Senegalese e-currency has a Central Bank for regulation. 

Why Senegal Is a Fertile Ground for Digital Currency

Senegal embraced the idea for several reasons. For instance, the country is well positioned as far as the West Africa financial system is concerned. Their CFA franc is common in 14 nations on the continent, most of which are former colonies of France. Its value has a guarantee from the French government.

The Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) is the official regulator for the CFA franc, and it has already set the rules of using e-currency in its member states. This makes the region more receptive to the idea of digital currency than any other place on the continent.

Proponents argue that it may take a shorter period to for Africa to bridge the gap between its economy and that of developed nations by bypassing some stages of technology. This way, the continent is likely to embrace the latest forms of technology without having to go back to the earlier methods, and this makes the ground even for them. That is why the Tunisian and Senegalese governments are ready to dare the implementation of a national digital currency.

Also, many people in the region are unbanked, which means they might be more flexible to use digital currency than official bank account holders in the world. Although the success of the idea is not a guarantee, the fact that many people rely on mobile money more than on bank accounts makes it more acceptable.

Universal Cryptocurrency for Africa?   

In the second phase of actualisation, the BCEAO, which regulates the distribution of the eCFA, aims at reaching out to Benin, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Togo and Burkina Faso. Speaking to Business Wire, BRM’s CEO Aliune Camara said:

“We are committed to bringing digital financial services and true financial inclusion to West Africa. We can now facilitate full interoperability between all e-money payment systems. This is a great leap forward for Africa.”

Editor’s Note: The original version of this story stated that the eCFA was issued on a blockchain. However, that was not the case.   

Blockchain Technology

Mauritius-based Horizon Africa Launches Blockchain Education Platform for Africans

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Horizon Africa

Mauritius-based technology firm Horizon Africa has launched a new platform aimed at educating Africans about blockchain technology and encouraging startups, corporations and public sector institutions to utilise it.

An Ethereum-based Network for Africa

Horizon AfricaHorizon Africa is an Ethereum-based blockchain platform that offers blockchain solutions and facilitates DApp development. The Horizon Africa Blockchain Network (HABN) aims to apply blockchain to a number of industries including fintech, digital healthcare, education, governance and more.

According to the company’s co-founder, Suyash Sumaroo,

“Even though the public Ethereum (blockchain) has been available for years, the blockchain landscape in African countries has not developed much. There is a gap which is being filled by Horizon Africa. Its focus is not about creating a network or increasing the value of its token, but instead to allow people to learn about using the network. Building prototypes and ultimately real solutions is a large part of the mission,” he stated in an ITWeb Africa interview.

To make this dream a reality, Horizon Africa aims to involve African developers in the creation of blockchain solutions. The HABN network will provide a ‘test bed’ for local developers to design and deploy DApps that solve specific challenges in areas such as identity management, land registry, supply chains, gaming, and agriculture.

Sumaroo believes the uptake of blockchain-based products in Africa will increase within five years. He argues that Horizon Africa’s platform will play an important role in enabling African companies, startups and governments to learn about the technology, develop an implement blockchain systems.

Investing in Jobs of the Future

The platform launch comes after comments shared by the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, at the 2019 Mo Ibrahim Governance Week, where he urged African governments to move away from “investing in the jobs of the past, but rather in the jobs of the future.”

He stated that Africa should position itself to maximise on the opportunities brought by digital technologies such as blockchain, AI, big data analytics, and 3D printing. Sumaroo mirrors the same belief and reiterates that blockchain technology will play a critical role in industries such as finance, agriculture and the public sector in the future of Africa.

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How to Bridge the Gap Between Blockchain Hype and Adoption in Kenya

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Blockchain Hype

The blockchain has garnered a lot of hype thanks to its potential to disrupt various industries from healthcare and banking to the supply chain and elections. However, there is still a huge gap between blockchain hype and actual implementation.

BitcoinAfrica.io spoke with Kingsley Ndiewo, CEO of Nairobi-based blockchain development and education startup Funtrench, to hear his views on how this gap can be bridged.

Awareness is Everything

The first step towards moving from a lot of talk about what the blockchain could do to adoption is awareness. According to Ndiewo, the Kenyan government and the private sector should spearhead the sensitisation of civil servants, policymakers, and the public.

Nairobi“When government functionaries are well-informed about the technology itself then they can better push for adoption within government bodies and recognise the benefits that accrue from widespread adoption. Institutions such as NITA and TVET can be equipped to train blockchain skills at a vocational level through private sector partnerships,” he said.

The National Industrial Training Authority (NITA) and the Technical and Vocational and Educational Training (TVET) programs focus on instilling hands-on skills to learners. Ndiewo believes that for blockchain technology adoption to actually happen, hands-on training is important as well.

Moreover, for real blockchain adoption to take place in Kenya, the private sector needs to develop market-ready blockchain solutions.

“Only by well-implemented and viable solutions being in use can adoption become possible. A sensitised government will provide opportunities for the private sector to implement blockchain-based solutions,” he added.

To this end, little is being done towards increasing awareness and executing blockchain-based solutions in Kenya.

For instance, the Kenyan government created a Blockchain and AI Taskforce in 2018 whose report is yet to be released publicly while only a handful of companies – such as Twiga Foods and the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) – have announced partnerships for blockchain-based solutions.

Leading by Example: Blockchain Solutions and Education

With less than a year in the blockchain space, Funtrench is eager to make a change with its three blockchain-based solutions, Ndiewo noted.

Funtrech

The first solution the technology company is working on is a portable DLT. This solution will offer a portable solar-powered blockchain network.

The second solution is SACCO Chain, a mobile app that seeks to solve the challenge of fractional ownership of machinery, vehicles, and other assets.

Ndiewo explained: “Fractional ownership is a key aspect of table-banking and SACCO operation in Africa. The solution will manage member elections on investment and administrative decisions and manage revenue distribution and virtual meetings.”

The third solution is Ganji, a cross-border payments and asset exchange platform. The solution solves the issue of cross-border trade in Africa and the high-cost of remittances.

Additionally, Funtrench has partnered with US-based certification company Blockchain Training Alliance (BTA) to offer blockchain education courses such as Blockchain Business Foundations, Blockchain Security Professional, Blockchain Solutions Architect, Blockchain Developer Hyperledger, and Blockchain Developer Ethereum.

The Nairobi-based startup is also working with organisations such as Oshwal College, AkiraChix, BlackRhinoVR, Kesholabs, Hyperledger Community, Kenya’s Blockchain & AI Taskforce, and Botlab to promote the blockchain and other emerging technologies in Kenya.

Most Kenyan Companies Will Adopt Blockchain in the Next Five Years

In the next five years, the Funtrench CEO envisions an environment where most businesses, including SMEs, will have deployed blockchain solutions in their operations. Moreover, he expects that blockchain solutions in Kenya will be prevalent in government agencies where they will be used to enhance transparency and secure data.

“We expect that blockchain solutions will be as commonplace as databases and their benefits will be more deeply understood by the general public. This will increase confidence in systems that employ blockchain technology and subsequently increase demand for blockchain-savvy professionals,” Ndiewo concluded.

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Linum Labs Announces Decentralised Healthcare R&D Funding Platform ‘Molecule’

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Molecule Platform

Blockchain development company Linum Labs has announced the launch of a decentralised open-source funding platform to fast-track innovation in pharma called Molecule.

The Molecule Platform

Linum LabsLinum Labs, which deals with blockchain-based solutions in healthcare and identity, has created the Molecule platform in order to bring together industry, patients, and scientists in an open collaborative market where drug development can be advanced.

The open platform allows participants to contribute funds towards drug development, thereby, achieving Lunum Labs’ goal of distributing cost and risk.

To achieve this, Linum Labs is leveraging blockchain technology and open science to build a fair and accountable market-based platform for the research and funding of pharmaceutical intellectual property.

The Decentralised Answer to the Pharma Research Monopoly

Molecule aims to solve the problem of the monopolisation of research in the pharmaceutical industry, reduced trust, and the expensive, risky, and slow nature of drug development.

Paul Kohlhaas, CEO of Linum Labs, stated: “The pharmaceutical industry faces an innovation crisis caused by the challenges around drug development and the monopolisation of IP. Bringing a drug to market is a high-cost, high-risk, and slow endeavour, and it is generally large organisations that single-handedly shoulder these burdens, leading to massively inflated prices and a lack of innovation.”

Molecule solves these challenges by offering a low-friction crowdsourcing research and funding platform that reduces risk to investors and IP creators in an inclusive environment.

“Molecule enables new economic incentive models for distributed R&D that leverage open science, Web3 and bonding curves to create a fair and accountable market-based platform for the discovery and funding of pharmaceutical IP. The ecosystem aims to align all stakeholders to collaborate in order to move away from environments where only ‘blockbuster drugs’ get approved for development, and towards a more patient-focused approach,” Kohlhaas added.

Development

Molecule

Linum Labs AG started building Molecule in early 2018 on behalf of Swiss non-profit, the Molecule Foundation.

The next stage of “development will include further iterations of the initial proof-of-concept, leading into a minimum viable product,” Linum Labs writes in a statement. This stage will be backed by a financial round that will begin in the second quarter of 2019.

Linum Labs is presently hiring and looking for partners to back the Molecule platform.

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