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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

Blockchain Association of Africa, AfriPlains Digital And Blockchain Worx to Launch Blockchain Innovation Centres Across Africa

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Blockchain Association of Africa

South Africa-based Blockchain Association of Africa will collaborate with Afriplains Digital and Blockchain Worx to equip Africans with blockchain education, tools, and expertise to shape the continent’s future.

The Partnership

Africa Next Big MarketThe partnership aims to promote technology education, community outreach, and local talent in order to increase blockchain adoption across Africa. As a result, the three partners envision that these efforts will contribute business value to the continent.

To achieve this goal, the partnership will establish Blockchain Worx’s Blockchain Innovation Centre in Tanzania, South Africa, Rwanda, and Uganda.

The Chairwoman for the Blockchain Association of Africa, Yaliwe Soko, said: “Africa is no longer the Dark Continent, and everyone is looking at Africa now. Blockchain will ensure that Africans are now stakeholders in what the continent has to offer and it all starts with education. This partnership will ensure that the upcoming generation is equipped with the right skills and expertise to move the continent further.”

The Blockchain Association of Africa is an organisation that brings together blockchain stakeholders from across the continent to drive collaboration, innovation, and education while Afriplains Digital is a next-generation technology services company based in Tanzania. The company uses technologies like the blockchain to solve business and socio-environmental issues.

Blockchain Worx is a FinTech-RegTech venture with its headquarters in Singapore. Blockchain Worx offers solutions such as anti-money laundering transaction monitoring systems and securities tokenisation platforms.

The Blockchain Innovation Centre

The Blockchain Innovation Centre will help both private and public institutions to understand and leverage the blockchain.

The innovation centre offers a wealth of knowledge, ready-to-use development tools, and a set of PoC/demo applications that help institutions to deploy their own blockchain innovation labs in a short period of time. These resources help institutions with understanding the technology and building and evolving applicable use-cases.

“We are super excited to team up with the Blockchain Association of Africa and Afriplains Digital to deploy our premier Blockchain Innovation Centre solution across communities and local chapters in Africa. We truly believe that Africa has potential to lead the way for the rest of the world and showcase how to effectively leverage and make use of technological advances for sustainable and inclusive growth,” said Sumantra Naik, co-founder, and COO of Blockchain Worx.

The Potential of Blockchain Technology in Transforming Africa’s Economies

According to an article by Briter Bridges, blockchain technology could be what Africa needs to catch up with developed countries. While this impact is yet to be seen, interest in the blockchain across the continent is depicted through events, communities, blockchain trials, and government support.

Merlin Van Lawick, Director of Afriplains Digital, observed: “As the interest in blockchain technology gains momentum across Africa, […] it becomes imperative that we build the necessary infrastructure and ecosystem [to] create awareness, provide effective tools to develop skills and talent locally, and create innovative use-cases that are truly designed to solve the problems that we as African businesses and society experience.”

The Blockchain Innovation Centre could, therefore, be one of the steps that will help Africa to catch up with developed economies.

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Closing the Blockchain Gender Gap in Africa: An Interview with Blockchain Ladies Africa

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blockchain gender gap

Building permissionless, decentralised networks are some of the founding principles of the blockchain revolution. These networks allow people (especially those disadvantaged by the current system) around the world to build products and create wealth without the approval of gatekeepers.

Women are a huge proportion of the world’s population underserved by the current financial infrastructure, which would make their involvement in the blockchain industry the highest in the world. However, that is not the case.

Bitcoinafrica.io had an exciting chat with Doris Ojuederie, the founder of Blockchain African Ladies (BAL) and organiser of the biggest women’s blockchain conference in Africa, about the current level of participation of women in blockchain in Africa.

The Blockchain Gender Gap

Doris Ojuderie

Image by Blockchain African Ladies

There are thousands of blockchain projects mostly run and used mainly by men. But considering that blockchain projects are built to be used by diverse demographics, it only makes sense that the industry has a variety of perspective.

“Women participation in blockchain is improving, but we aren’t there at all. So many are yet to know that a technology like this exists,” Doris Ojuederie was quick to say.

She went on to explain that the main issue is that the majority of women are “not in places of information where they will obtain information about the blockchain tech,” and thinks participation is currently at just 35 percent.

Even this small number seems optimistic as data compiled by Coin.Dance suggests that women make up less than ten percent of engagement related to Bitcoin. Even in other areas of blockchain other than technology, like legal services, marketing, and sales, trading, or user support in crypto companies, there is still low participation from women.

Women Role Models And Awareness Could Bridge the Gender Gap

You cannot be what you do not see. Lack of women role models is regarded as one of the limitations to the representation of women in the blockchain industry.

“The very few women disruptors aren’t very vocal with their activities. Being vocal will motivate other women to love to learn about this technology,” Ojuederie said. Also, she gave mainstream media some knocks for doing too little in projecting the work of the few women building innovative projects in the industry.

Some women have been vocal about their work in the crypto industry though. Women like Doris Ojuederie, whose non-profit organisation (BAL) organises conferences, workshops, webinars, and online training for women and is currently offering a scholarship to women to become blockchain developers. Bitcoinafrica.io was at the BAL’s Blocktech Women Conference in Lagos, which provided women with practical skills in crypto trading, computer programming, and other opportunities.

There is also Alakanani Itireleng, founder of Satoshicentre, who is one of the pioneers of bitcoin in Africa, and Ire Aderinokun, the co-founder of peer-to-peer exchange Buycoins, who recently tweeted an opportunity for women interested in crypto trading, among many other women who have helped accelerate adoption on the continent.

Encouraging More Women

Ojuederie believes that the blockchain community could help women participate by:

  • Giving the few women disrupting the space more media coverage
  • Supporting and sponsoring programmes and events that encourage women participating in the blockchain ecosystem
  • Organisations should include a good percentage of women in their teams, as advisors, developers, and executives

If you want to learn more about women in blockchain and the work of BAL, visit Blockchain African Ladies.

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BanQu is Leveraging the Blockchain to Give Refugees a Digital Identity

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BanQu

BanQu, a software company focused on eradicating global poverty, is leveraging blockchain technology to provide refugees with a digital identity so that they can continue to take part in society.

Linking Refugees to the Global Economy Using Blockchain Technology

Refugees and displaced persons can continue to live their lives independently thanks to the BanQu blockchain-based solution, which allows them to store their information on a distributed ledger. That means that with their information digitally stored and accessible from anywhere, they can look for jobs, apply for loans, and run their own businesses, thereby, contributing to the host country’s economy.

Hamse Warfa got the idea for this solution after experiencing the refugee life in the Daadab Refugee Camp in Kenya. After escaping Somalia with his parents during the civil war at the age of twelve, Warfa knows how it feels like to have one’s life turned upside down so suddenly, Fair Planet reported.  His parents, once thriving business people, were now dependent on charity.

“I want all refugees to be able to build transaction-based economic identities that allow them to thrive, including getting loans, and accessing credit for things like businesses and eventually homes. BanQu is for the world’s poor, refugees, and stateless people so they can live their lives like the rest of us,” Warfa stated in an interview.

How it Works

BanquTo use the BanQu blockchain solution, a user creates a digital profile via a mobile phone where they enter their information. A third party, who must also be verified, verifies this information, which is then stored on the blockchain. A user can access his or her information at any time.

Users can also store their financial transactions, health records, education records, and credit histories on the BanQu app, thereby, enabling them to participate in the global economy.

Furthermore, the BanQu blockchain solution also benefits organisations and governments that interact with refugees. For instance, the BanQu platform allows governments to track aid resources that have been disbursed to the target population.

More than 25,000 people across four continents are using the BanQu solution and the company is striving to reach more than 100 million underprivileged people by 2028.

Dr Riby Okoth, a lecturer at the School of Security, Diplomacy, and Peace Studies at Kenyatta University in Kenya, said: “Having the refugees, for example, use their digital footprint to access financial services or job opportunities as the rest of the population not only reduces the culture of dependency but also opens up the global economy to more participants who are growing it rather than depending on it.”

According to the UNHCR, there are about 68.5 million people displaced from their homes and among them about 25.4 million refugees and approximately ten million stateless people.

With BanQu’s blockchain solution, these people could have the chance to live normal lives where they can access education, healthcare, loans, and employment.

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