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Meet Africa’s Blockchain Startups: BitMari

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BitMari App

BitMari is a bitcoin wallet provider and remittance service that seeks to deploy bitcoin technology to drive financial inclusion in Zimbabwe through diaspora remittances. The company aims to assist individuals and businesses in utilising bitcoin for financial transactions and international money transfers.

Bitcoin-powered Remittance Service

BitMari LogoBitMari was founded in 2015 by entrepreneurs Sinclair Skinner and Christopher Mapondera. While doing business in Zimbabwe, the two were constantly faced with the challenge of sending money internationally. The process was time-consuming and costly. Drawing from their technical background, BitMari was conceived to bring more control to ordinary Zimbabweans when it came to sending money overseas and vice-versa.

“Our goal with BitMari is not to just ease the pain of financial dependence and economic uncertainty, we wish to bring an end to that pain by offering more monetary control to the people,” says Mapondera in an EBONY.com article.

By signing up for an account or using the BitMari app, you can send money in the form of bitcoin to a recipient in Zimbabwe. The money can be accessed through a mobile wallet or at any local financial institution that partners with BitMari. The app also acts as a bitcoin wallet that handles your transactions and currency conversion requirements. The company’s value proposition lies in its ability to have low remittance fees compared to other money transfer services.

According to COINFOX, the company plans to expand into regional markets in the future. Skinner said,

“Zimbabwe was selected because of its high literacy rate, high cell phone penetration, high mobile banking usage and most importantly willingness to adopt new economic systems… A 10-year-old child in Zimbabwe knows more about FOREX than most adults in Europe and U.S.”

Blockchain-based Accelerator Program for Women Farmers

In its bid to increase the popularity of bitcoin in the region, the startup partnered with the Zimbabwe Bank of Agriculture in carrying out a women farmers accelerator program. The program seeks to give women farmers a jumpstart in agriculture, by raising funds through its crowdfunding campaign to equip them with farming inputs and tools. The program will help a group of 100 farmers to develop their skills as well as utilise blockchain technology to improve farming processes and have access to financing.

The startup managed to raise $17,000 from its crowdfunding effort by November 2016 for the program. Successful farmers will be linked to international investors through smart contracts.  In addition to its philanthropic efforts in the farming sector, the company also aims to tap into agricultural remittances in the region and applied for a remittance license from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe earlier in the year.

With Diaspora remittances making the bulk of money transfers in the region, BitMari is zeroing in on a somewhat stable market. The challenge the company faces is cultivating trust for digital currencies, especially when competing against more traditional money transfer services like WorldRemit, which is popular in Zimbabwe.

BitMari is developing partnerships with local institutions to strengthen its remittance network. Also, having a bitcoin wallet that is secure and easy to navigate helps to gain users who are used to the convenience of mobile money platforms. For Zimbabweans living in a world of volatile exchange rate fluctuations and financial uncertainty, digital currency might just be the option they need.

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Binance Launches Fiat-to-Crypto Exchange in Uganda

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Binance Launches in Uganda

Global bitcoin exchange Binance has launched a new fiat-cryptocurrency exchange in Uganda. The exchange will also be offering a reward of 0.5 BNB to the first 20,000 users that register on the site as part of its promotion in Uganda.

The announcement comes nearly two months after Binance partnered with Crypto Savannah, Made in Africa initiative, and Msingi East Africa to promote economic development in the East African country.

Changpeng Zhao and Yi He founded Binance in 2017 and raised $15 million through an initial coin offering for its ERC20 token BNB in July of the same year.

The exchange plans to move its offices to the island nation of Malta after the implementation of stricter regulations in China and Japan. In January 2018, Binance was the largest crypto exchange with a market capitalisation of $1.3 billion.

Binance in Uganda

BinanceBinance will also offer its Ugandan users a month of zero trading fees when trading goes online. The exchange will announce the opening for trading at a later date.

Users can find out if they have won any rewards by logging into their accounts and accessing ‘Distribution History’ in the Account Center. In addition, users will be required to complete ID verification to be able to withdraw funds from Binance.

Ugandan users will enjoy an exchange that offers fast transactions of up to 1.4 million per second and state-of-the-art storage technology for utmost security. The exchange also provides 24/7 customer support and has a user-friendly interface.

The presence of Binance in Uganda aims to boost financial inclusion in the country, which has increased from 28 percent in 2009 to 54 percent in 2013 according to its national financial inclusion strategy 2017-2022.

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LINE Corp to Launch Cryptocurrency Exchange BITBOX in July for Global Trading

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BitBox
Image by linecorp.com

The developers of popular messaging app LINE and LINE Group’s cryptocurrency and blockchain company LVC Corporation have announced that they are set to launch a new cryptocurrency exchange called BITBOX in July 2018. The Japan-based firm made the announcement during the LINE Conference 2018 held in Tokyo.

The New BITBOX Exchange

BITBOXBITBOX will offer over 30 high-demand cryptocurrencies to users globally with the exception of Japan and the US. The exchange will trade coins such as bitcoin, ether, litecoin, and bitcoin cash while charging low trading fees of 0.1 percent. BITBOX will support 15 languages, according to the company press release.

The selected cryptocurrencies for the exchange have undergone an extensive screening exercise and have been picked by an internal committee, promising users a convenient and safe trading experience. LINE will also incorporate its top security standards to the cryptocurrency exchange.

LINE Corporation CEO Takeshi Idezawa said:

“As a key part of LINE’s new financial services, BITBOX shows our commitment to fulfilling the growing demand for more diverse financial options. With BITBOX, LINE users will be able to access cryptocurrencies more easily, while also being assured of state-of-art security measures to protect their assets.”

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Nigerians Have Invested Over $5m in Cryptocurrencies Despite Regulator Warnings Says KureCoin Hub

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Nigerians Invest in Cryptocurrencies

Nigerians have invested over five million US dollars in the cryptocurrency market in the last couple of years according to data from Nigerian cryptocurrency platform KureCoin Hub.

The data shows that Nigerian retail investors are investing heavily in the cryptocurrency market despite warnings from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) against investing in an unregulated market.

KureCoin Hub’s co-founder and CEO Tega Abikure has criticised the stance regulators have taken and argues that the country will lag behind as other countries enjoy the benefits of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Abikure told New Telegraph:

“It is not a matter of whether the government likes it; it is about whether they need it. I am not sure the internet was liked when it first came. […] It is not a matter of whether they are going to embrace it; it is about when they are going to do so.”

Abikure observed that other countries such as Uganda and South Africa have already taken steps towards adopting blockchain technology while Kenya is pushing forward with a functioning blockchain taskforce.

“Nigeria is being left behind,” he noted.

The Blockchain as a Source of Foreign Direct Investments

Abikure also believes that blockchain technology could be a major source of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) in the next five to ten years. In addition, he is of the opinion that a lot of money is being made in cryptocurrencies on the continent with most of it leaving Africa’s economy.

On one of the benefits of blockchain technology, he said: “[The blockchain] is completely transparent and cannot be changed; it can be used to create a decentralised system of payment where the taxpayer had an unhindered access to the collector which is the government. It enhances revenue collection and removes the challenges of remittances.”

Blockchain technology can also improve the banking sector, the electoral process, the use of donations in charitable projects, and the supply chain, among many other use cases.

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