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Femtech in Africa: Meet the Women Who Are Pioneering Blockchain Technology in Africa

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Femtech in Africa

It is an undeniable fact that technological advancements are helping to solve some of the world’s most pertinent problems. In Africa, e-learning, remote working, mobile money transfers as well as digital communication are just some of the areas through which technology is exposing people to new opportunities. This is especially true for Africa’s youth. 

While technology has become part of our daily lives, the technology space is still very much a man’s domain. There is a substantial disparity between the number of men and women working in technology, with the number dropping even further in places of leadership. There have been a number of studies that have revealed that women in tech, especially in positions of power, augur well for both the consumer and the company.

The rise of the FemTech movement is partly in response to this disparity. FemTech refers to women in technology. Additionally, it has connotations of the use of technology as a tool for female empowerment. While female empowerment is important across the globe, it is doubly so in Africa where it has been noted that female empowerment leads to better economic standing for the whole family according to a World Bank study

In Africa, there are a number of women making waves within the bitcoin and blockchain space. Whether they are from Africa or their projects have a specific focus on Africa, these are women who are harnessing the power of blockchain technology to spur on positive change on the continent.

Sonya Kuhnel

Sonya Kuhnel launched the Blockchain Academy in 2013 with the intention of educating South Africans about cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology, and their potential use cases.

“I became involved in the bitcoin/blockchain community because I believe that there is a huge amount of social good this technology offers and it could really change the way we transact and do business with each other. I therefore also decided to start Blockchain Academy as very few people really understood these opportunities at that time,” Kuhnel told Bitcoin Africa.

More specifically, Kuhnel believes blockchain technology can help fix one of South Africa’s most widespread and crippling problems. “In addition, because blockchain technology is so transparent, secure and decentralised, this technology could be used to combat fraud and corruption, which I felt very passionate about in South Africa where corruption is rife in the public and private sector.”

The Blockchain Academy holds training sessions for individuals, groups and organisations. Through the classes, participators gain an in-depth understanding of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.

While the number of women in technology is slowly growing across the world, Kuhnel is of the opinion that the cryptocurrency space within South Africa is lacking adequate female representation. She urges women to engage in activities that facilitate their interaction with the blockchain technology space.

“Women need to network and attend more social and business functions in order to meet and engage with people in the community. I am really not sure why there are generally so few women in this space but I am seeing this change in countries such as America where you see a lot more women attending conferences and events.”

Alakanani Itireleng

Alakanani Itireleng is an entrepreneur who founded the Satoshicentre to provide individuals and companies with access to information on bitcoin, blockchain technology, and the overall cryptocurrency space in Botswana. The Satoshicentre is an organisation that seeks to empower entrepreneurs with knowledge on blockchain technology in an effort to spur innovation.

Itireleng explained how she got involved with the blockchain space: “I learned about bitcoin in the beginning of 2012 when I was looking for ways to make money online to raise funds for my late son Pako. When he passed on I stopped searching or learning on bitcoin until 2013 when I just felt that I really need to study about bitcoin and find ways in which we can use bitcoin to empower people in Botswana. In 2014, I registered Satoshicentre as a blockchain technology hub, where we provide education on bitcoin and the blockchain, and also work on blockchain projects.”

The Satoshicentre has conducted a number of successful workshops. While the interest from the local bitcoin community is promising, Itireleng believes that

“African women in tech should endeavor to learn more about blockchain technology for the purposes of innovation as opposed to participating in the myriad of scammy get-rich-quick bitcoin schemes.”

“In [Botswana], most women [in the local bitcoin community] are currently more involved in bitcoin get rich schemes or cloud mining activities […] and less in understanding the underlying technology. This is something that needs to change,” she told Bitcoin Africa.

Tricia Martinez

Tricia Martinez is the founder of the new blockchain-based financial services platform Wala. It is a platform that seeks to provide financial services to those who are not able to access traditional financial services by leveraging blockchain technology to facilitate access to a number of financial services, all at a substantially lower cost than those witnessed at banks and other formal financial institutions.

Wala has created a crypto-token that is designed to facilitate cheap, fast, and easy microtransactions. In Uganda, as well as throughout the rest of Africa, micro-transactions are common due to low socio-economic status of many citizens. However, the high fees charged by traditional financial institutions automatically exclude many users. While bitcoin was originally designed to facilitate cheap and fast transaction, high fees and network congestion have made this impossible, thus the creation of the Dala token.

Martinez told Bitcoin Africa that she originally founded the company in an attempt to connect low-income Ugandan farmers to financial services.

Martinez believes that for all people, especially women in tech, to effectively function within a certain niche, they must be self-starters and showcase a significant amount of drive. “If there is one thing I have learned about being an entrepreneur, you must be proactive and make sure you are heard – even if that means starting from the bottom. Reach out to blockchain companies and experts to have informational interviews, take people out for a coffee to pick their brain, offer to be an intern and do the hard work,” she told Bitcoin Africa.

Moreover, because the blockchain and cryptocurrency space is relatively new, it is possible to participate in the community as long as one possesses an understanding of the technology and stays updated with all relevant happenings. Because of this, she urges women to not shy away from the space as participation is based on knowledge that is easily acquired.

“Remember, blockchain is still in its peak and hype. Everyone wants to get involved one way or another which means there is so much more competition in the space. However, due to blockchain still being in its infancy, a few months of experience in the space goes a long way.”

Elizabeth Rossiello

Elizabeth Rossiello is the founder and CEO of BitPesa an FX and payments platform that uses bitcoin to enable fast and cheap cross-border remittances. Founded in 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya, the platform is focused on frontier markets, more specifically the African continent. 

The company has been well received within the cryptocurrency space, receiving over $10 million in funding from investors and recently acquiring European money service platform TransferZero in an effort to grow the company’s offerings and expand its reach.

For Rossiello, being a woman in the male-centric technology space has not been without its challenges. 

“I’ve definitely felt I’ve had to work four times harder to prove myself than maybe I would have had to have if I weren’t female. People always ask me how can I do this when I have young children – and these are questions that men with children don’t face. I’m often the only female speaker at a conference!”

In addition to its business acumen, BitPesa is also notable due to the fact that its top three executives are women. This move is designed, in part, to show that women are able to participate just as effectively as men within the job market and more so in the technology space.  

“There’s recognition that it’s a problem, whether we see the whole system change so that it is easier for females to get funding etc… What I can say though, is that my experience has shaped BitPesa – at one point, our entire executive team was female! We hire a lot of women – In a way, we have become a point of refuge and we receive some of the best CVs in the industry from women who admire the ethos and are eager to join us,” Rossiello stated.

Connie Gallippi

Connie Gallippi created the non-profit organisation BitGive, which utilises blockchain technology to make charitable donations traceable in attempt to bring much-needed transparency into the charitable giving sector.  

BitGive has facilitated direct donations to charitable organisations around the world, totaling to over $30,000. Using BitGive’s GiveTrack platform, it is possible for donors to track where and when each dollar was spent. This system helps to reduce waste and mismanagement of funds leading to actual changes at the grassroots level.

For a long time, Africa has been the focus for a number of charitable organisations. However, NGOs and other charitable organisation are often regarded as fraudulent and corrupt. Due to mismanagement of funds, the public faith in charitable organisations is low.

While all organisations claim to be honest, it can be difficult to ascertain how donors funds are spent and how, if at all, any progress is made at the ground level. Following an introduction to blockchain technology through Satoshi’s white paper, Connie Gallippi decided to utilise the technology to create a foundation that could truly be kept honest and held accountable for donors funds. Gallippi said: “When I learned about bitcoin and blockchain in the early years, I was always fascinated and inspired. In 2013, I dove a little deeper into my understanding. At that point, I recognised the truly revolutionary potential of the technology on a global scale and wanted to leverage it for charity and global philanthropy. Within a few months, BitGive was launched and was the first official bitcoin non-profit.”

Gallippi believes the growing number of women in tech in the global market is an indication that women are interested in technology but may be discouraged due to a number of factors such as low media coverage.

“There are actually many women in the community, and it’s growing every day. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of women in the industry, many in leadership roles, representing all different areas of expertise, and they are shaping the direction of the space,” Gallippi told Bitcoin Africa.

“I would love to see the women in the industry be more visible, with speaking roles, involved in key community decisions and negotiations, covered in the media, and generally recognised a lot more. This is one way to encourage more women to join the community and help them feel welcome; in addition to dispelling a lot of the myths that you have to be any certain type of person or have any certain type of skills to get involved,” she added.

If you are a woman considering a career in technology but are somewhat hesitant as this is still a largely male-dominated field, you should take inspiration from these women who are pioneers in the blockchain space in Africa.

Furthermore, the blockchain industry offers a wide range of new innovations, open communities, and jobs opportunities as the blockchain is poised to play an integral role in the future of society. If you are considering a career in technology, you should definitely find out more about cryptocurrency and the blockchain and perhaps find your calling in this new growing technology sector.

Blockchain Technology

Pundi X Unveils New Blockchain Phone ‘XPhone’ in Kigali

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xphone

Singapore-based company Pundi X recently unveiled its blockchain phone, called XPhone, at the GSMA Mobile 360 Africa event in Kigali, Rwanda.

The XPhone

The XPhone features a blockchain-based operating system enabling users to make calls and send text messages without the need for a centralised service provider. This makes it the first phone that runs on a decentralised ecosystem while allowing users to make phone calls, send messages, and transmit data. Furthermore, users can switch between the blockchain mode, which is powered by Function X, and the Android mode.

“Telecommunications and Internet companies have derived tremendous value from controlling data. By decentralising apps, we can put this data onto a smart contract, effectively giving control back to creators and users. Much of what we call peer-to-peer or ‘decentralised’ services continue to be built upon centralised networks. We are changing that,” said Pundi X founder and CEO Zac Cheah.

PundiXAccording to Pundi X, each XPhone is “a node on the network contributing to the operation of the blockchain ecosystem. Content and connectivity are organised in a distributed, node-to-node manner.”

Pitt Huang, the co-founder and CTO of Pundi X, stated: “Scalability in blockchain is derived from the number and geographic spread of nodes. It is clear how achieving a critical mass in terms of scale will require something with a high utility for people. The XPhone, thus, has the potential to establish a large global pool of nodes.”

Pundi X aims to give back to users the control over how their data is used with Function X which keeps data secure and encrypted.

“Blockchain today is at a similar stage of development as the Internet in the early ’90s. Like the browser was to the Internet, a new kind of network and decentralised protocol like Function X will have a profound effect on blockchain, putting it in the hands of millions via a smartphone and returning control of their data to them,” Huang added.

Features

The XPhone will have a 5.65 inches screen, 6GB RAM and 128GB ROM, fingerprint sensor on the side, 16MP front camera, 48MP rear camera, 3500 mAH battery capacity, and the Qualcomm SnapdragonTM 660 Mobile Platform. The blockchain phone will retail for $599. These are, however, the minimum specifications. Both the design and specs can change.

The XPhone will also have an ‘X’ button on the side that enables users to easily access DApps when they are in blockchain mode.

“Blockchain-based calling and messaging is toggled on and off on the phone operating system, which builds upon Android 9.0,” the company explained.

Pundi X will produce and release 5,000 XPhones in late 2019. The company is open to partner with hardware and phone manufacturers that want to build their version of a blockchain phone powered by Function X.

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Blockchain Game Gods Unchained Launches Beta Version

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Gods Unchained
Image by godsunchained.com

Blockchain game Gods Unchained launched its beta version. The Ethereum-powered game, which was created by Fuel Games, has already sold four million virtual cards, generating four million dollars in revenue for the gaming startup.

God Unchained Beta

The Gods Unchained beta version will enable more players to “join the fray, collect cards, mint cards to the blockchain, and battle with others around the world.”

Co-Founder of Gods Unchained, Robbie Ferguson, said in a press release: “Gaming is a $100 billion per year market that has capitalised on leasing premium features to select individuals on their purchasing power. In almost every game, players are buying items, cards, skins, and upgrades which they do not truly own. Blockchain actually gives players digital-asset ownership by minting game elements to a blockchain. With Gods Unchained, we have captured the allure of traditional print card collectibles like Magic, married them with appealing visuals of digital games like Hearthstone, and added true ownership through the Ethereum blockchain.”

The beta will run through July where cards will be collected from packs. “Developers will monitor the performance of cards and measure the fairness of different deck combinations. This is to ensure that the game remains balanced, fun, and competitive. After the balancing beta, the development team will solidify card stats and activate peer-to-peer trading functions,” an official statement said.

Packs, Genesis Set, and World Championship

New players will get a starter deck to play the free game while players looking to expand their collection will have access to booster packs. In addition, during the pre-sale of the game, the developers have released a limited edition of the Genesis Set which has 380 special cards. The developers will terminate the Genesis Set after the beta closes and version 1 of the game launches. A new season of cards will follow the termination of the Genesis Set.

Ten percent of the sales from the packs will go towards the prizes for the first Gods Unchained World Championship. $430,000 has already been put aside for the championship.

Unlike traditional games where players do not own items they purchase in a game, the use of blockchain technology in Gods Unchained gives players real ownership to the items they buy or earn. This means that they can sell these items for digital currency or trade them with other players.

In order to create the blockchain game, Fuel Games raised $2.4 million from Coinbase Ventures, Sora Ventures, Nirvana Capital, and Continue Capital. The company is currently creating the Apollo Platform which will offer scalable blockchain infrastructure for world-class game studios.

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Blockchain Technology

OneWattSolar is Leveraging the Blockchain to Provide Renewable Energy to Nigerians

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Nigerian startup, OneWattSolar, is leveraging blockchain technology to provide low-cost solar energy to Nigerians to relieve them of the reliance on costly power generators.

Blockchain Payments

OneWattSolarWhen using OneWattSolar‘s clean energy solution, customers do not have to pay for the solar panel system setup. Instead, it comes with an Internet-enabled router that will collect data on energy usage to ensure customers are billed exactly for what they use and also alert the company of any potential problem.

The idea of using the blockchain for its solution is to allow transparency among all stakeholders and to reduce the costs involved.

“[The blockchain] provides transparency, you can see the utilisation of funds, how many systems we have purchased and how many are being used. On a traditional service using fossil fuels, energy usage is around 70 Nigerian naira ($0.19) per kilowatt. But the blockchain system is 50 percent cheaper than diesel,” Alagbe told CNN.

Africa Renewable Energy Industry

For decades, African countries – including Nigeria – have been plagued with a lack of power supply. According to a 2016 report, only four out of ten Africans have access to a reliable power supply. In 2017, Nigeria was ranked as the worst electricity supply nation while research conducted out by the World Bank shows 42 percent of Nigerians do not have access to electricity.

In a bid to tackle this problem, the renewable energy industry in Africa has been experiencing tremendous growth. Morocco plans to power over one million homes with a new solar power plant reported to be the largest in the world while Ghana announced plans to increase the consumption of renewable energy by 2030.

Video by Idea Seed Africa

OneWattSolar launched operations in January 2019. The clean energy startup hopes to supply more than one million homes without electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa with solar energy through blockchain by 2025.

OneWattSolar is a part of GoSolar Africa, a renewable energy company that has been in operating for the past eight years.

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