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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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Mauritius to Receive World’s First Digital Asset Custody Regulatory Framework

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Digital Asset Custody Regulatory Framework

Mauritius is set to receive the first digital asset custody regulatory framework in the world, according to an announcement by the country’s Financial Services Commission (FSC). The framework will be effective from March 1, 2019.

The Digital Asset Custody Regulatory Framework

On September 17, 2018, digital assets were recognised as an asset class for Sophisticated and Expert Investors by the Financial Services Commission, Mauritius (FSC). This was followed by the FSC issuing a consultation paper with the intention of getting public and stakeholder feedback on the proposed Custodian Services (Digital Asset) License regulation, as BitcoinAfrica.io reported in November 2018. The license enables its holder to offer custody services for digital assets.

“In revolutionising the global FinTech ecosystem through this regulatory framework for the custody of Digital Assets, my Government reiterates its commitment to accelerating the country’s move to an age of digitally-enabled economic growth. As an African country, we look forward to fostering further innovation and bringing more prosperity to the region,” said Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius.

The regulatory framework will make Mauritius the first jurisdiction to create a “regulated landscape for the custody of digital assets. Holders of the Custodian Services (Digital Asset) License will equally have to comply with the applicable framework for AML/CFT, in line with international best practices,” the announcement read.

Support for the Regulatory Framework

Digital Asset Custody Regulatory FrameworkAccording to the FSC, the regulatory framework was created after consultations with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the regulation and governance of digital financial assets.

The Chief Executive of the FSC, Harvesh Seegolam, asserted: “The FSC is committed to implementing enabling frameworks which facilitate the development of the Mauritius IFC. We continue to collaborate with our international counterparts and stakeholders in introducing the appropriate regulatory mechanisms.”

The Bank of Mauritius is also in support of the regulatory framework. The bank’s governor, Yandraduth Googoolye, said: “The Bank of Mauritius is supportive of innovation in the financial services sector. Banks, depending on their respective risk appetite, are encouraged to develop business relationships with players in the Digital Assets segment.”

In light of this announcement, the custody services license regulation could create a thriving cryptoasset industry in Mauritius, which could help position the country as the go-to digital asset investment hub on the continent.

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Ghana’s SEC Mulls Over Cryptocurrency Regulation Framework

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Ghana Cryptocurrency Regulation

Ghana may soon receive a cryptocurrency regulation framework that would enable local bitcoin startups and exchanges to operate legally and without the threat of a potential regulatory crackdown.

Cryptocurrency Regulations in Ghana

According to News Ghana, the country’s financial regulator, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), is contemplating regulating cryptocurrencies. The commission is also considering licensing exchanges dealing with digital assets.

The news comes at the backdrop of the increasing number of fraudulent “crypto” investment schemes in the West African nation. Last year, over 100,000 Ghanaian investors were reportedly victims of a crypto investment scam called Global Coin Community Help (GCCH), which saw the investors lose 135 million Ghanaian Cedi.

The SEC Deputy Director General, Paul Ababio, said: “[…] Desist from dealing with these crypto entities. […] When you choose to go there you are on your own. We have adopted a wide range of changes on it and we are still doing our research and gathering information. We welcome any input that people might have to help us formulate a view on how we should deal with it in Ghana.”

The State of Cryptocurrencies in Ghana

GhanaLike many central banks in Africa, the Bank of Ghana has warned citizens against investing or transacting in cryptocurrencies due to the risk involved.

Frances Van-Hein Sackey, the Secretary to the Bank of Ghana, in response to the GCCH scam, wrote in a statement: “Anyone who does business with these entities does so at his or her own risk and the Bank of Ghana will not be liable for the refund of any deposit lost by a depositor.”

The current state of cryptocurrency in Ghana could, however, change if the SEC regulates the sector, according to a report by GhanaWeb. The SEC ‘Ababio said that Ghana’s Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) is probing three cryptocurrency companies whose operators are currently missing in action.

“[…] It has been very preliminary and it is a new area of our work that we are going to be quite strong on as well. We will be coming out shortly with a lengthier statement and we will name some of these firms,” he stated.

Furthermore, Ababio revealed that some of these firms operate online and do not have a physical presence. These firms will be classified as illegally operating in the investment sector, he added.

What Could This Step by the SEC Mean for Ghana?

According to the CEO of Modulus, Richard Gardner, the move by Ghana’s SEC is commendable since regulation of the sector will provide standard rules for exchanges to operate by. He believes that this will make the industry viable while protecting consumers from exchanges that engage in market manipulation, abusive trading, and money laundering.

Gardner also noted that the public and private sectors should work together towards creating these regulations.

“The best way to regulate an industry, especially one which is so technical, is to bring together those involved in the private sector, along with those from the public policy side. Together, we can usually find a way to encourage industry growth while protecting consumers,” he said.

Regulations can have a substantial impact on the local bitcoin startup community. Hence, it will be interesting to follow these developments in the coming months as they could mean the difference between Ghana establishing itself as an African leader in the cryptocurrency space or not.

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Places in Africa Where You Can Find a Bitcoin ATM

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Places in Africa

There are currently over 4,000 Bitcoin ATMs across the globe. The majority of them are found in the United States. Africa, however, is also home to a handful of Bitcoin ATMs. In this article, you will discover the complete list of places in Africa where you can buy bitcoin with fiat currency using a Bitcoin ATM.

What Are Bitcoin ATMs?

Bitcoin ATMs function like traditional cash machines with the difference being that instead of cashing out money from your bank account, you can buy and, in some cases, sell bitcoin against local fiat currency.

Zimbabwe bitcoin atmIn 2013, Canada received the world’s first Bitcoin ATM in the Waves Coffee Shop in Vancouver. Then, the following year, the first machine in the United States was introduced at a cigar bar in New Mexico. Two months later, Coinme installed another one in Washington that came with a money transmitter license. Since then, the market for Bitcoin ATMs started to steadily grow.

Today, North America leads the pack with 71.9 percent of Bitcoin ATMs, followed by Europe with 23 percent and Asia with 2.3 percent while Australia and Africa have a meagre 1.3 and 0.1 percent respectively.

Bitcoin ATMs in Africa

In total, there are currently nine reported Bitcoin ATMs in Africa. 

South Africa

South Africa, as a leader in bitcoin adoption, is home to five cryptocurrency ATMs that are situated in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Nelspruit and Cape TownOn Average, these ATMs can dispense between a minimum to a maximum of 100  to 1 Million South African rands (ZAR). Most ATMs require identity verification if you are buying more than 5,000 rands.

Nonetheless, none of these ATMs dispenses cash as they operate only fiat-to-crypto. One bottleneck that might discourage people from using the ATMs is high fees ranging from 8 to 14 percent.

Kenya

Kenya received its first Bitcoin ATM last year in the country’s capital, Nairobi. Operated by the BitClub Network, it is also a fiat-to-crypto only ATM and a minimum of 500 Kenyan Shillings worth of bitcoin and litecoin can be purchased using the machine. 

Uganda

The Kampala Post Office hosts Uganda’s only Bitcoin ATM, which is run by KIPYA Bit2Big, a local Blockchain company. Ugandans can use the ATM to buy bitcoin, bitcoin cash and ether.

Zimbabwe

Golix, the first ever cryptocurrency exchange in Zimbabwe and one of the biggest in Africa, also runs a Bitcoin ATM.

Based in the Golix offices in Harare, this machine provides an essential service in a cash-strapped country since it allows buying and selling of bitcoin, bitcoin cash, and litecoin.

Djibouti

Somewhat surprisingly, there is also a Bitcoin ATM in Djibouti. The currently only Bitcoin ATM in the small East African country is located at Appart Hôtel Moulk.

Interestingly, the ATM’s operator, Group DOS, plans to introduce two more Bitcoin ATMs in Djibouti. Group DOS CEO, Eleyeh Issa, told BitcoinAfrica.io that two new Bitcoin ATMs will be set up in the coming weeks, one at the airport and one at a shopping mall. 

While Bitcoin ATMs tend to come with high fees, which makes them less appealing purchase option for larger investors, they do help to push adoption among smaller investors who want to get started with their first bitcoin investment.

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