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Meet Africa’s Blockchain Startups: Cryptogene

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Cryptogene

Cryptogene is a Nigeria-based startup that is building a hub to bring blockchain technology to the mainstream in Africa through education and the development of blockchain tools for individuals as well as organizations.

Cryptogene was founded in mid-December 2016 by a passionate crypto-enthusiast Bashir Aminu as a telegram community where people of all nationalities were welcome to share verifiable sources of information towards building interesting cryptocurrency and blockchain-based technologies.

In an interview with BitcoinAfrica.io, founder “Bash” (as popularly called by the members of Cryptogene’s telegram group) explains how Cryptogene aims to utilize cryptocurrency and its underlying technology to improve business and social infrastructures in Nigeria and beyond.

BitcoinAfrica.io interviewed Bashir, co-founder of Cryptogene, to find out more about this new African blockchain startup.

Cryptogene Bashir Aminu

How did you come to establish Cryptogene?

Last year in December, I had an argument with the billion coin (TBC) supporter about whether TBC was a viable cryptocurrency or not. This was a telegram group that I was in. After laying down my points and convincing everyone that it wasn’t and was, in fact, a scam, I had a lot of messages from people asking me to create a group just for the cryptocurrency market, which I did on the 14th of December last year. That’s basically how Cryptogene came to be.

What makes Nigeria the right place for this kind of innovation?

The blockchain can potentially transform the way we interact with each other and our environment. It could potentially revolutionize banking, government, etc. Nigeria is ripe because we currently have a lot of youths with great ideas and wonderful visions and no one to help them accomplish their goals. A lot of things are still based on who you know. Blockchain can eliminate that.

Centralization breeds corruption and abuse of power especially when you are dealing with centralized systems controlled by humans which affect the lives of many people

Take a look at resources for example. Imagine oil and gas were equally distributed or decentralized around the world. You would not have all these senseless wars or a handful of Nigerian families controlling all the oil wealth.

The future is about putting people and humanity first. This is what Cryptogene aims to achieve. It’s meant to give everyone a fair chance. It doesn’t mean there won’t be competition or reward for hard work. It just means that everyone has a fair chance of succeeding if they put in the same amount of effort and time.

What are the areas of immediate focus for Cryptogene?

Right now, our focus is the following

1. Educate
2. Adopt
3. Implement

1. We educate citizens on what blockchain is all about. What its potential is and how it can help them in their daily lives and businesses.
2. We get into the adoption stage. After we have educated, we have to now convince them that what we’ve educated them on is actually worth it.
3. Implement. After education and adoption comes implementation. Getting things on the ground for blockchain and cryptocurrency use in real life cases.

What are some of the milestones you’ve achieved in your 6 months? And looking forward, what are you excited about?

Over the past 6 months, we’ve witnessed phenomenal growth. We’ve had upwards of a thousand sign-ups on cryptocurrency trading sites like Poloniex and Bittrex, and many of these signups come from people that came from a background of investing in HYIPs and other Ponzis. Cryptogene has been able to change their mindsets towards more use cases. The trading group has grown in leaps and bounds in just a few months. We also have the exchange. It has become a safe haven for buyers to meet sellers and conduct cryptocurrency transactions without fear of being scammed.

For the future, I look forward to a future in which Cryptogene will become a reference point for all cryptocurrency and blockchain activities in Africa and indeed the world at large. I see Africa as a hub for cryptocurrency, where the new generation of startups will spring up and take the world by storm.

It’s been suggested that blockchain may be able to help solve long-standing problems in Africa, which area is Cryptogene interested in?

The economic development of many African countries is dependent on the success of local SMEs receiving the financial support they need to grow. This is where blockchain could prove particularly beneficial. Our platform would allow entrepreneurs share their ideas and get crowdfunded. This is our major play, which is why it’s the final step in our roadmap. We intend to make sure we have enough people understand the potentials of blockchain technology so as to adopt and then finally implement it in their businesses.

What do you see as the biggest challenge to adopting blockchain technology in Nigeria?

I think the biggest challenge to adoption is regulation. The government has a huge role to play in getting this technology mainstream. Blockchain faces a hurdle in widespread adoption by pre-existing financial institutions if its government regulation status remains unsettled.

Are you optimistic about the future of blockchain technology in Nigeria and Africa in general?

Optimistic, yes. Blockchain is going to give Nigeria and indeed Africa what it lacks and has been hampering its development for too long.

1. Transparency: With more people getting to know the capability of the blockchain tech, it would not be long before the people demand such transparency in essentially everything, from the individual workplace to the affairs of the state thereby reducing corruption and eventually eliminating it.

2. Technology: It is arguably true that blockchain is the next technological revolution or fintech revolution and this means that Nigerians and Africans would have a stake in it and not be reduced to consumers but also contributors even at this early stage. We want innovative Africans that create and contribute positively to the growth of the world. An Africa that can look inward and solve its problems.

3. A Global Village: As is the aim of the internet and technology itself, Nigeria/Africa will be made into a more cohesive unit. This promotes peace as well as confidence in a stable business environment.

4. Economic advantage: With security and transparency, more entrepreneurs will seek ways to develop or invest in otherwise neglected sectors. Individuals also get to invest in sectors of their choice without being subjected to the popular corrupt oligarchy. This means an increase in economic and human value, combating poverty and promoting development.

You can find out more about Cryptogene and its activities on its website at Cryptogene.co.

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The Top 5 African Countries That Are Embracing Bitcoin

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African Countries

Bitcoin tends to polarise opinions between sceptics and believers, with almost no room for the middle ground. However, there’s a substantial demand for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in many Africa countries.

Do a quick search on Google Trends and you will see three African countries in the top ten of global search interest for the term “bitcoin.” This is a testament to the embrace of bitcoin in a number of leading African economies.

In this guide, you will discover the five leading bitcoin economies in Africa that have the most demand for digital currency as well as the most active local cryptocurrency communities.

South Africa

south africaBitcoin is popular among South Africans. According to their search interests on Google, they top the ranking for bitcoin. One particular group bitcoin appeals to is millennials. South Africa has a lot of them. Young people between the ages of 15 to 34 years old make up 20.6 million people – 35.7 percent of the total population, according to Statistics South Africa’s 2018 mid-year population estimate report. Combined with the fact that the country has one of the highest internet penetration rates in Africa, the country has become a sweet spot for many cryptocurrency exchanges.

The online multi-asset broker, eToro, reported a 671 percent increase in new users trading between January and November 2017, and a 574 percent increase a year before. LocalBitcoins, one of the largest peer-to-peer (P2P) bitcoin marketplaces in the world, saw over 600 percent increase in trading volume between January and December 2017, according to data from CoinDance.

The latest report by Ecobank on the state of cryptocurrency regulation in sub-Saharan Africa shows only two – South Africa and Swaziland – have a favourable stance on cryptocurrencies. The bank analysed 39 African countries.

The South African Reserve Bank has stated that virtual currencies pose no significant risk to financial stability, price stability or the National Payment System.

Africa’s second-largest economy has been struggling to stand on both feet for the past two years; the economy has refused to grow. In light of this, bitcoin has become a haven from the political and economic turmoil.

Nigeria

buy bitcoin in nigeriaIn Nigeria, many local traders and activists believe this is an opportunity to liberate themselves from a flailing economy using digital currencies and blockchain technology.

The main driving force for Nigeria’s strong bitcoin adoption could be tied to the prolonged dollar shortage in the country in 2016 and 2017. The government had devalued the currency and inflation was at rising rapidly. Bitcoin was a viable means for Nigerians to work around the lack of access to foreign exchange and also preserve their money from being eroded by inflation.

In the week of August 19, 2017, LocalBitcoins’ trading volume crossed the 1 billion naira mark (about $360 million) in Nigeria. The exchange’s weekly trading volume has not traded less than that amount since then. Local crypto exchanges have also been on the rise in the country giving more people access to a broader range of cryptocurrencies.

Zimbabwe

ZimbabweThe situation in Nigeria is not too dissimilar from Zimbabwe. A cash-strapped economy, failing currency and depleted foreign exchange markets saw locals turn to bitcoin as a store of value. Golix, the leading crypto exchange in Zimbabwe, says it processed bitcoin transactions worth around $1 million during October 2017. The price of bitcoin had once risen more than double the average price in other countries in 2017.

However, in 2018, the relationship between financial regulators and crypto businesses have been strained. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) decided to ban all local financial institutions from servicing cryptocurrency businesses. There have been court cases and more back and forth between the country’s leading crypto exchange, Golix and the RBZ, but as it stands it is difficult for local exchanges to operate within the country’s borders.

Young Zimbabweans – desperate to overcome the foreign currency and liquidity challenges plaguing the country – have found innovative ways around the ban though. Recently, Cryptogem Global defied the ban and opened a branch in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. Remitano and LocalBitcoins have also been servicing crypto fans in Zimbabweans.

Kenya

KenyaA Citibank research in December 2017 ranked Kenya among countries with the largest bitcoin holdings worth $1.63 billion, approximately 2.3 percent of the GDP.

The East African country has one of the highest bitcoin trading volumes in Africa. The weekly trading volume on LocalBitcoins jumped by almost 429 percent in 2017 and has only dipped by 19 percent this year despite bitcoin losing two-thirds of its value.

Also, local innovators have launched cryptocurrency systems to support payments and cross-border transactions, as embodied by initiatives like BitPesa.

Kenya is also one of the few countries in Africa with a Bitcoin ATM. Others are Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Djibouti.

Ghana

buy bitcoin in GhanaGhanaians began the year 2018 with a statement from the Bank of Ghana (BOG) cautioning the public about the use of bitcoins.

The central bank also expressed an interest in introducing cyber security guidelines to guide the use of digital currencies in the country. The central bank presented a bill referred to as Payment Systems and Services Bill to the Ghanian parliament. The BOG also hailed the potential of the technology behind bitcoin, blockchain.

A report earlier in 2018 shows Paxful, one of the prominent P2P exchange in Africa, monthly bitcoin volume in Africa is now around $40 million. The company’s most active locations are Nigeria and Ghana, the second and third largest markets respectively.

There are also several local bitcoin and blockchain startups, such as Bitland and BTCGhana.

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South African Man Beaten And Tortured to Give Up Bitcoin Holdings

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A South African bitcoin trader was reportedly drugged, beaten, and tortured by assailants who wanted to gain access to his bitcoin holdings.

Facebook Invitation Led to Torture and Bitcoin Theft

According to local media, the incident happened on November 16 after the victim was invited by a man he met on Facebook to give a presentation on cryptocurrency. The same man who had invited him was present when the victim arrived with six other people in the room.

Identified only as Andrew, the victim trustingly entered the residence of his attackers in the afternoon. It was at this point that someone approached him from the back and covered his face with what is presumed to be a drug-stained cloth that knocked him out.

cryptocurrency tax regulationsAfter regaining consciousness he woke up in a different house and was surrounded by two women and three men. According to a report from the Meadowlands police, the victim was stripped of his clothing, tortured and assaulted.

Andrew also stated that the gang demanded his bitcoin password and his FNB (First National Bank) account details. All the while threatening to kill him and burning him with a hot iron if he failed to give up the information. He was at first reluctant to give up the information but gave in after they continuously tortured him.

After finally giving the details, he transferred R 800,000 ($57,789) worth of bitcoin to the account they provided him with. He also transferred a further R 100,000 ($7,224) from his bank account to their account. Apart from the bitcoin holdings and the money on the victim’s account, the robbers also got away with R 3,000 ($216.53) in cash, two laptops, and two Apple iPhones.

After the theft, the gang of robbers blindfolded Andrew and dumped him off at Kliprivier Road in Johannesburg. He is currently in the intensive care unit recovering after sustaining burn wounds on his body.

Crypto Related Crimes Are on the Rise

Unfortunately, the downside of cryptocurrencies gaining so much popularity means that people who trade in it are vulnerable to attacks. Cryptocurrency theft is a lucrative business for criminals especially since it is difficult to trace transactions.

This is not the first crime and will be a far cry from the last, as scams involving digital coin are being reported more often and violent attacks on known bitcoin holders have increased since 2017.

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Middle Eastern Bitcoin Exchange BitOasis Launches in Egypt and Morocco

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BitOasis

Dubai-based digital asset exchange BitOasis has announced that it has now opened its doors in Egypt and Morocco, expanding its operation to North Africa.

BitOasis Expands Into North Africa

BitOasisBitOasis has been serving the Middle East as one of the first exchanges to offer cryptocurrency trading for local currency and has now decided to expand into North Africa to provide Morrocans and Egyptians with the opportunity to buy bitcoin (BTC) and other digital assets.

Despite the recent rise in interest of cryptocurrencies in Africa, Moroccan and Egyptian markets rarely make the news. While markets like South Africa, Nigeria, and Uganda have cryptocurrencies exchange services set up shop, the North African countries have largely remained underserved.

Part of the reason Morocco did not previously have any exchanges could be because transactions using digital currencies are considered de facto illegal. A year ago the Moroccan central bank, and the country’s Foreign Exchange Office, Office des Changes, declared that transactions using digital currencies such as bitcoin constitute a violation of the country’s exchange regulations.

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts in Egypt have been facing similar issues. From the Central Bank of Egypt asserting that no organisations have authority to trade bitcoin, to Dar Al Iftaa classifying cryptocurrencies forbidden by Islam, bitcoin has had no easy ride in the North African country. Still, there has been a growing interest in Egypt for blockchain technology as well as cryptocurrencies.

BitOasis is now an excellent alternative platform to peer-to-peer exchanges to buy bitcoin in Egpyt and Morrocco. Moreover, Egyptians and Moroccans are now also able to trade LTC, BCH, BSV, XRP, XLM, ETH, ETC, and ZEC.

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