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Meet Africa’s Blockchain Startups: Blockchain Academy

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Blockchain Academy

The Blockchain Academy is an educational institution that enables individuals, entrepreneurs, developers, and organisations to learn about the innovative potential of bitcoin and blockchain technology. Founded in 2015 and based in Cape Town, the Blockchain Academy offers training courses on cryptocurrencies, the blockchain, and their future applications to attendees in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Demystifying Bitcoin and Blockchain Technology

Despite growing global recognition of bitcoin and its underlying technology, the blockchain, there is still a lot of confusion about the nature of bitcoin and how it works. To address this uncertainty, the Blockchain Academy was formed to help people understand how the technology can be used to develop innovative systems and processes for businesses, as well as how to use it to create their own applications to handle various functions.

The training courses are tailored to meet the needs of attendees from different professional backgrounds such as operations and treasury professionals, compliance and accounting, finance, technology, legal and market professionals. The sessions usually run for a full day and clients can choose the mode of training they prefer, either on-site training, classroom training or online training.

Classroom sessions are provided at the Academy offices in Bandwidth Barn, in Woodstock, Cape Town, and AlphaCode Club in Sandton, Johannesburg. Clients can also enroll for online training on the Academy’s website, as well as participate in sessions via Google Hangout.

Presently, there are five courses being offered at the Academy, catering to bitcoin newcomers, developers, and financial institutions. They include:

  • Bitcoin and Blockchain Beginner course: This course targets those new to cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, and covers the basics of bitcoin technology, its development and adoption worldwide.
  • Blockchain Advanced course: The course strives to further explain concepts about bitcoin and the blockchain outlined in the initial course.
  • Blockchain for Developers Course: The course aims to deepen understanding of the blockchain and help enable one to develop applications on it.
  • Blockchain for Financial institutions Course: The course provides participants with insight on how organisations are leveraging blockchain technology and its possible uses.
  • Ethereum Beginner Course: This course is intended for people who want to learn more about Ethereum and how it can be used to develop smart contract applications.

Moving into New Markets

The Bitcoin Academy has so far held its educational courses in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and India. In March 2017, the Blockchain Academy announced that it is partnering up with the Satoshi Centre to provide bitcoin education in Botswana through a course that was held in May. But the Blockchain Academy is not stopping there.

Talking to BitcoinAfrica.io about the future of the Blockchain Academy, the company’s founder and Managing Director, Sonya Kuhnel, told us:

The Blockchain Academy […] is thrilled about all the global interest in cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. 

Our recent partnership with Anglo African in Mauritius, and our training provided to the Central Bank of Swaziland are significant steps towards expanding into other countries. Our new online training programs are also an important part of offering our courses to as many people as possible. 
 
This is a very exciting space to be involved in and provides many opportunities for incumbents and individuals to experiment with this emerging and disruptive technology.
The Blockchain Academy is not only preaching the benefits of bitcoin and blockchain technology but, more importantly, is educating individuals, startups as well as large institutions on how to implement this new technology to improve systems and operational processes. The Blockchain Academy is, therefore, providing a much-needed service that could potentially help African nations become future leaders in blockchain technology.

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3 Ways Governments Could Use Blockchain Technology to Oppress its Citizens

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blockchain technology to oppress

The blockchain has many applications for the public sector that can improve the quality of government services, safeguard property rights, prevent fraud, and cut red tape while improving transparency. However, what is not often discussed, is that malicious governments could also use blockchain technology to oppress its citizens.

This article highlights how governments could potentially misuse the blockchain to reduce the individual liberties of its citizens and suppress those with opposing views.

When a Sovereign Digital Currency Means Tracking All Financial Transactions

Blockchain-based decentralised digital currencies have the potential to enable economic, political and social freedom. Conversely, the emergence of sovereign centralized “cryptocurrencies” – issued by central banks – contradicts everything that bitcoin and the blockchain stand for and hoped to fix.

agentThe main goal of cryptocurrencies was to decentralize power, not to boost existing authorities. With centralized state-run blockchains, power is heavily concentrated as governments maintain control over the entire network.

Government-controlled cryptocurrencies could impose dangerous limitations on citizen’s civil freedoms, including pervasive anti-privacy measures.

By being able to track every single financial transaction, citizens would lose their financial sovereignty and the personal freedom that comes with spending one’s money on whatever a citizen wants.

Having every single transaction tracked would inevitably lead to mass financial data collection to determine behavioural and spending patterns of each individual in the country, which could be used against them, should they become at odds with the government or someone with close government ties.

When Blockchain-based Digital Identities Are Used to Track Digital Footprints

One of the most impactful developments in the blockchain industry has been the advancement of secure digital identities. Identification is needed for everything from voting to health care. For the over one billion people worldwide who do not have a legal form of identity, digital identities can provide a much-needed solution.

Digital identities can be stored on a blockchain, which can then be used to handle information such as a patient’s medical records, which can be easily and safely accessed by a health care provider when they are seeking care.

However, if a malicious government has full control of the digital ID system and all its citizens’ data, it could use this to track each citizen’s digital footprints. For example, if the social media accounts, financial services, mobile payment firms accounts of citizens are bound to their digital identity, the government could very easily track individuals’ movements in real-time.

This already happens to a degree in countries like the U.S and U.K. as we learned from Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks. Every day, intelligence agencies collect hundreds of millions of emails, texts, and phone calls and can collect and sift through billions more. The surveillance technology for tracking and identifying people is booming as is governments’ appetite for it. Add in the current digital tracking systems with facial recognition software and digital identities, and this endangers citizen’s right to privacy.

Blockchain-based digital identity systems thus need to be implemented with care and the oversight of the network should not be limited to the government as the potential for misuse is huge.

When Digital Identities Are Used to Create a Social Credit Scoring System

surveillance

Credit scores dictate a person’s involvement in the financial system, including loan or mortgage approvals, interest rates, and insurance rates. It can impact someone’s ability to rent an apartment or secure a credit card, for example.

China’s latest surveillance efforts include a social credit system that aims to rate each citizen’s social value according to their actions.

Drawing data from government agencies, court verdicts, and even mobile payment firms, the scheme assigns each person an individual score. Failure to repay debts or smoked on a train, you could land on a blacklist posted on a public website. The plan is to rate citizens by their financial and legal histories, their online behaviour, education records, and employment activities.

If such an oppressive social credit scoring system is implemented and interlinked with blockchain technology, the data stored on the system would become immutable and easily shareable with permissioned third parties, such as corporations, who could, in turn, limit low-ranking individuals’ ability to live freely even further.

Such a system could be used by governments to oppress its citizens especially those seen as having a lesser value or those that threaten its power. The blockchain could potentially amplify the oppressive nature of such a social credit scoring system.

Keep Your Leaders in Check

While the blockchain was created to decentralize power, the unfortunate reality is that as the technology has evolved, there are now ways it could be used to make oppressive governments more powerful.

Hence, it is important to stay mindful of how the blockchain can be misused when you hear of your government implementing a new blockchain initiative and to speak up if the initiative could go turn into a tool of oppression.

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Peer-to-Peer Exchange Remitano Introduces Bitcoin Cash (BCH) Support

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Remitano Introduces Bitcoin Cash
Image by Remitano

The peer-to-peer trading and remittance platform, Remitano, has introduced bitcoin cash (BCH) support on the grounds that it has cheaper transaction fees than bitcoin.

Remitano is based in Seychelles and operates in Nigeria, Kenya, the US, Cambodia, Namibia, Uganda, Tanzania, Mexico, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. The exchange charges a trading fee of 0.5 percent and has managed to substantially grow its user base since it has entered the African market. Remitano also supports tether (USDT), ether (ETH), and bitcoin (BTC).

“While Bitcoin has been suffering from high transaction fees, Bitcoin Cash offers a far cheaper transaction fee. It can, therefore, be more easily used as daily, P2P electronic cash,” Dung Huynh, Remitano’s co-founder said.

“We believe that Bitcoin Cash can foster crypto payment to the next level and are, therefore, proud to be the first major P2P exchange that offers this to our users.”

Remitano has joined other companies that have been embracing bitcoin cash (BCH) such as Cointext, which allows users to send BCH through text message without an Internet connection and the bitcoin cash Tipprbot, whose use has been increasing in popularity among the bitcoin cash community in recent weeks.

Bitcoin Cash (BCH) to Fork Again

Bitcoin cash (BCH) is expected to fork again on May 15, 2018, where its block size will be increased to 32MB compared to bitcoin’s limit of 1MB. By increasing the block size, transaction speeds will increase and transaction fees will be kept low.

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Golix Plans to Launch ICO but Zimbabwean Regulator Rings Alarm Bells

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Golix ICO

The Securities Exchange Commission of Zimbabwe (SecZim) has warned investors against investing money in unregulated exchanges and securities following plans by Golix to issue a multi-million dollar initial coin offering (ICO). According to sources, the Harare-based cryptocurrency exchange is seeking to raise a minimum of $10 million. The company would be the first bitcoin startup in Zimbabwe to use this innovative way to raise funds.

The ICO Boom

An initial coin offering (ICO) is a revolutionary way to raise the capital needed for new cryptocurrency projects by issuing a percentage of the initial coins supply among early-stage investors. Similar to investing in a company’s stock, the value of the new coin linked to the digital currency project has the potential to gain in value as the project performs well. Once successfully launched, the new coins or tokens can be traded on cryptocurrency exchanges.

Globally, ICOs have appealed to blockchain companies as the next big thing in corporate fundraising and speculative investing. In 2017 alone, over $4 billion dollars were raised through this new form of fundraising.

However, ICOs have faced hurdles in the form of financial regulators, central banks, and governments which are concerned about the disruptive nature of cryptocurrency technologies and their potential for illegal uses. Last year, both China and South Korea banned ICOs.

ICO to Fund Regional Expansion Amidst Regulatory Pressure

Golix, which traded over $1 million worth of bitcoin last month, is looking to launch its ICO by the end of March, or latest in the second quarter, according to sources. The company which recently enabled Ether and Bitcoin Gold trading on its digital currency exchange intends to raise money to fund its entry into other African markets.

However, Securities Exchange Commission of Zimbabwe (SecZim) CEO, Tafadzwa Chinamo cautioned the public against dealing with unregulated exchanges and securities as there is no legal recourse in case of mishaps.

“Investing in cryptocurrencies in Zimbabwe is a personal decision. The SecZim advises against investing in securities that are not regulated for a few obvious reasons. Investment in cryptos in Zimbabwe is not protected by any law in any way,” Chinamo stated.

According to Chinamo, unlike IPOs which are governed by strict rules that foster transparency and disclosure and ensure investors are not misled by fraudulent persons who float worthless securities, ICOs usually operate in a legal grey area, though this is largely in part due to the lack of cryptocurrency regulation in Zimbabwe.

Locally, companies launched IPOs are required to submit registration statements, financial statements dating back five years, and are also required to undergo valuation by independent financial advisors to determine the fairness of the quoted IPO share price. These disclosures are subject to review for compliance by the market regulator.

ICOs, on the other hand, operate on the fringes with little or no regulatory oversight. Usually, startups launching ICOs will release a technical whitepaper explaining their project and will market their token sale in the hope that prospective investors will buy into the project.

Having said that, many Zimbabweans may choose to ignore the warnings as the cryptocurrency mania takes root in the country. A few months ago the high demand for bitcoin on the local exchange drove the price to almost double of where it was trading at on international exchanges. The demand was buoyed by a debilitating liquidity crunch and acute cash shortage in the country that has affected individuals and businesses who want to engage in commerce and international trade. Hence, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin remain popular among Zimbabweans as an alternative currency and as an investment, which could, in turn, help Golix’s ICO funding ambitions.

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