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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.

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The Sun Exchange Partners With Powerhive to Deliver Energy Access to Rural Kenya

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Sun Exchange Powerhive

The Sun Exchange has partnered with Powerhive for a new initiative that is set to utilise the crypto-economy to boost energy access in rural Kenyan communities.

Currently, there are more than one billion people that live without electricity which severely hinders economic development and basic human rights such as education, safety, health, and security. The South Africa-based startup Sun Exchange and Powerhive share a common mission that is meant to eliminate global energy poverty by blending “sustainable, decentralised solar power with innovative technologies and financial instruments such as blockchain and digital currencies.”

PowerhivePowerhive, through the partnership with the Sun Exchange, has been named as the exclusive recipient of proceeds designated for the solar project pre-financing from the sales of the Sun Exchange SUNEX digital token. The funds will be used by Powerhive to build solar-powered rural electrification mini-grid projects that will include revenue and livelihood enhancing programs across sub-Saharan Africa.

Besides providing the utility-grade power to rural communities, Powerhive also runs different wealth generation programmes such as the Ku Ku Poa initiative, which is a solar-powered chicken incubation. Having the available solar power put to productive use propels overall economic development and prosperity. This ensures access to energy will always remain more affordable to the purchasing consumers.

Safe Energy for All

Sun Exchange PowerhiveSpeaking of the partnership, Abraham Cambridge, founder & CEO of the Sun Exchange, said: “The cryptocurrency community is made up of inspired individuals eager for more than just financial gain. Our partnership with Powerhive underscores the SUNEX token sale opportunity to support a crypto project geared directly towards reducing global inequality and climate impact. Together, we are working towards a world where no one is forced to cook with unsafe kerosene or wood-burning stoves, no child has to worry about how they will study after dark, and lack of energy access ceases to propel cycles of poverty.”

Cambridge went on to say: “Over the past seven years Powerhive has built a vertically integrated platform that allows us to identify, construct and operate the highest quality and lowest cost solar-powered microgrids in Africa. At the heart of all of our projects are the community which we serve. By providing the power platform first and then layering in productive use programmes, we create a virtuous cycle of economic and personal empowerment which create long-term goodwill with the community and steady profits for them and for our investors.”

The Sun Exchange allows anyone across the globe to earn income through their online solar panel micro-leasing platform while helping to bring clean, sustainable, affordable solar power to different organisations such as hospitals, schools, businesses and NGOs in emerging markets. Currently, the Sun Exchange is running a public token sale for its new digital token, SUNEX, which is meant to make the user experience of the Sun Exchange members more lucrative and rewarding.

Benefits of the SUNEX token include:

  • Opportunities to receive up to a 20 percent return in tokens by staking SUNEX tokens into the Sun Exchange Solar Power Insurance Fund (SPIF)
  • Access to discounts and lease bonuses when using the Sun Exchange platform, which has been live and operating successfully for several years
  • Bancor protocol integration ensures SUNEX token liquidity
  • Because Sun Exchange is an affiliate of the SolarCoin Foundation, members earn three digital currency income streams (BTC, SUNEX & SLR) when utilizing the platform
  • SUNEX is priced against the US dollar and can be purchased by credit card

Sun Exchange PowerhiveThe Sun Exchange was recently selected by the United Nations Development Program to pilot blockchain-based solar finance in Moldova. In addition, it also won the Mondato Award for Social Impact in sub-Saharan Africa and has been named the best Blockchain Business in Africa for the past two years running at the African Fintech Awards.

You can find out more about the Sun Exchange’s token sale here.

*Readers should do their own due diligence before taking any actions related to the mentioned company, product or service. BitcoinAfrica.io is not responsible, directly or indirectly, for any loss or damage caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any content, product or service mentioned in this article.*

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Ghana Partners with IBM to Create a Blockchain-Based Land Administration System

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Technology giant IBM and the Ghanaian government have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to replace the existing centralised and paper-based land registry process in the West African nation with an entirely new blockchain-based land administration system.

Applying the Blockchain in Land Administration

Blockchain-based land administrationAccording to the general manager for IBM Middle East and Africa, Takreem El-Tohamy, the application of blockchain technology in land administration in Ghana will help the country to build a modern, verifiable, and immutable land registry. It will also increase transparency, security, investment, access to loans, and mitigate fraud.

“We are doing this with a group of Ghanaian business partners, ensuring the transfer of know-how and technology,” stated El-Tohamy.

IBM will collaborate with the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources to create a white paper for the implementation plan, according to a report by GhanaWeb. The MoU has a second phase, which entails the improvement of port logistics and processes.

El-Tohamy elaborated: “For the ports, investments based on blockchain smart contracts can help advance the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (PAC-DBIA) objectives to improve US-Africa commercial relationship as modern customs and port logistics systems are critical for improving trade facilitation.”

Blockchain Technology in Africa

The blockchain technology conversation has been taking place in Africa through gatherings such as the World Blockchain Summit held in Nairobi, the Africa Blockchain Conference in Kampala, and the Next Einstein Forum held in Kigali as African thought leaders in the sector encourage adoption.

Additional blockchain technology highlights this year, which indicate that Africa is taking the technology seriously, are the successful trial of South Africa’s central bank Project Khokha, Kenya’s launch of a blockchain and artificial intelligence taskforce, and Uganda’s plans to do the same.

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The State of the Blockchain in Uganda

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Blockchain in Uganda

Uganda is home to a growing cryptocurrency community. The capital Kampala was host to the Africa Blockchain Conference in May, which attracted a number of local and international blockchain enterprises and highlighted the country’s ambitions in becoming a blockchain hub. This article will explore the state of the blockchain in Uganda including the regulatory climate, notable startups and what the future may hold for the blockchain in the East African country.

The Potential for the Blockchain in Uganda

The blockchain is a decentralised, immutable and public digital ledger that records transactions across a distributed network of computers, which makes it de facto impossible to alter any records without altering all subsequent blocks or getting consensus from the network. Blockchain technology has gained global attention as it aims to build trust into systems used for transfer of value and any kind of data.

Digital currency adoption in Uganda has been on the rise with a number of investors, freelancers, and entrepreneurs in the space. In addition, the Blockchain Association of Uganda organises regular meetups and events where cryptocurrency enthusiasts can discuss opportunities and address challenges.

Regulatory Stance Concerning Blockchain Technology

Blockchain in UgandaDespite a growing cryptocurrency presence in the country, local regulators have not warmed up to the use of digital currencies. The Bank of Uganda has in the past warned against the use of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin citing the lack of consumer protections and a proper regulatory framework to govern their use. The central bank also warned investors about investing in MLM schemes like OneCoin, which are quite pervasive in Uganda.

However, things seem to be changing with policymakers and leaders looking to embrace blockchain technology and reap its benefits.

During the Africa blockchain Conference held in May the President of Uganda, Yoweri K. Museveni urged the Bank of Uganda to be more receptive about cryptocurrencies and to research on its potential benefits. He publicly endorsed blockchain technology explaining it would be useful for critical areas of the economy such as food production, service industry, manufacturing just to name a few.

Also, the Ugandan ICT minister announced at the conference the setting up of a Blockchain Taskforce to review the opportunities presented by blockchain, challenges, and advise the government on how best to utilize the technology. The setting up of the taskforce shows regulators in Uganda are becoming more receptive towards blockchain technology and its many applications.

Blockchain Startups in Uganda

There are a number of local and international startups that are harnessing blockchain technology to solve local problems in Uganda. While the Bank of Uganda’s position on cryptocurrencies remains unchanged, the regulator has given cryptocurrency trading platforms some leeway to operate.

This has given local entrepreneurs an opportunity to open cryptocurrency exchanges to serve the growing retail market. One such exchange is known as CoinPesa. Founded in 2018, CoinPesa is a cryptocurrency exchange and wallet that was formed to serve the needs of the global market while also providing access for the African user. The Kampala-based startup seeks to solve problems African users face when using international exchanges such as high fees and need for bank accounts. The company improves the user experience by integrating with familiar local payment methods such as mobile money and agency networks. CoinPesa also plans to release a utility token to be used on the exchange through an ICO slated for Q3/2018.

Apart from local exchanges, Ugandans will soon be able to trade cryptocurrencies on the leading global digital currency exchange Binance. The platform has launched a new cryptocurrency exchange in Uganda that enables crypto-fiat trading in local currency. The move comes nearly two months after Binance formed a partnership with CryptoSavannah, Made in Africa initiative, and Msingi East Africa to promote development in Uganda.

Wala, a blockchain powered platform that intends to offer barrier-free banking solutions to the unbanked in emerging markets, launched its money transfer app in Uganda. The zero fee app provides users with access to remittance services, credit and savings solutions on the platform. The services are enabled by the Dala token, which facilitates near instant micropayments at no fees. The company partnered with Spire to pre-install Wala in over 30 million smartphones across its markets. In addition, Wala partnered with Block Commodities, FinComEco, and the Dala Foundation to lend $10 million worth of Dala tokens to small-scale farmers in Uganda.

CryptoSavannah is another blockchain organisation in Uganda that is at the forefront of spearheading initiatives that promote blockchain technology in Africa. The organisation is forming strategic partnerships with the government, private sector, and international sponsors to develop the local blockchain space and thus create jobs and opportunities.

The Future of Blockchain in Uganda

Warnings from regulators against the use of cryptocurrencies have not slowed down Ugandans’ appetite for acquiring digital assets. With high unemployment rates witnessed among the youth in the country, many Ugandans are turning to digital currencies like bitcoin for investment and trading.

Furthermore, the Ugandan Government is looking to leverage blockchain technology to improve efficiency in public service delivery and provide easier access to critical public services.

In light of the success of the recent Blockchain African Conference in Kampala, combined with Binance’s arrival in the country and the launch of several new local blockchain initiatives, it would not be surprising to see more local blockchain startups emerge as well as international blockchain startups entering this market. This, in turn, would help to boost digital currency adoption and the development of value-adding blockchain solutions for Ugandans.

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