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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

What to Expect at the Blockchain Africa Conference 2019

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Blockchain Africa Conference 2019

The Blockchain Africa Conference is scheduled to take place in Johannesburg between February 28 to March 1, 2019, and in Cape Town on March 6, 2019.

What to Expect at the Conference?

Currently, in its fifth edition, the Blockchain Africa Conference is an annual event that is organised by Bitcoin Events. The three-day event will see more than 800 plus delegates listen to more than 50 speakers from around the world.

Given that the African continent has a lot of challenges with doing business, the conference seeks to explore how blockchain technology can be used by different industries as well as organisations to streamline systems and processes to improve Africa.

As Bitcoin Events has organised two different conferences in two of the most popular cities in South Africa, attendees should expect a myriad of offerings. The three-day Johannesburg conference will focus more on “blockchain enterprise development, blockchain use-cases, self-sovereign identity, enterprise blockchain in finance, the future of banking, as well as challenges facing blockchain technology such as interoperability and scalability.”

Blockchain Africa Conference

The one-day Cape Town conference will focus on how the blockchain and digital currencies can be utilised to attain the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for economic growth and social inclusion by facilitating and enhancing access to a broad range of financial services that are crucial in the achievement of Africa’s economic growth as well as long-term poverty reduction.

The speakers lined up for the Cape Town conference will focus on how blockchain technology can be utilised for new social projects in different areas like decentralised services for identity, patient records, remittances, healthcare support, renewable energy, provision and distribution of aid and support, and community currencies, among other areas.

Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and Impact Training Course

artificial intelligenceAttendees of the Blockchain Africa Conference in both cities will also be able to take part in a two-day training session on blockchain technology and artificial intelligence (AI). For this, Bitcoin Events has partnered with Intelligent Impact and Blockchain Academy to offer the practical course that is meant for enterprises, development organisations, non-profits, corporates, governments and investment firms. Participants who attend the course will also be introduced to a wide range of emerging technologies.

List of Speakers

Bitcoin Events has selected a panel of speakers who are well-known globally for their contribution to the bitcoin and blockchain technology space. For both the Johannesburg and Cape Town conference, speakers lined up for the conference are people who have had their careers in the crypto space since it was started.

The list of Johannesburg speakers include:

  • Farzham Ehsani, CEO and Co-Founder of VALR.com – Master of Ceremonies
  • Brian Behlendorf, Executive Director of Hyperledger Project – Keynote Speaker
  • Charlene Chen, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at BitPesa
  • Mandla Magagula, Blockchain Consultant at Rand Merchant Bank
  • Tanya Knowles, Chair of the South African Financial Blockchain Consortium
  • Ntuthuko Bhengu, Health Expert on the SA National Planning Commission and a Chartered Director (SA)

The list of Cape Town speakers include:

  • Didi Sehume, Project Lead and Strategist at Hume Est/ MC & Moderator – Master of Ceremonies
  • Marcus Swanepoel, Co-Founder and CEO of Luno
  • Monica Singer, Creator of Opportunities at ConsenSys
  • Kwame Rugunda, Chairman of the Blockchain Association of Uganda
  • Simon Dingle, CEO of Inves Capital, South Africa Radio Presenter
  • Lorien Gamaroff, Founder/CEO of Bankymoon and Co-Founder/CEO of CentBee

Get Your Ticket

From 2014, the Blockchain Africa Conference has been known to bring together thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders to discuss the future of the blockchain and crypto in the African continent.

Tickets are already on sale. You can purchase your Johannesburg ticket here or for Cape Town here.

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Africa Blockchain Alliance Joins Hands with ConsenSys Academy to Offer Blockchain Developer Program in Africa

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ConsenSys Academy

The Africa Blockchain Alliance (ABA), headquartered in South Africa, has joined hands with ConsenSys Academy to offer a blockchain developer program in Africa. The aim of the program is to produce highly-skilled Ethereum developers in response to the high demand for blockchain experts worldwide.

The Blockchain Developer Program

ConsenSys Academy focuses on promoting Ethereum education globally while the Africa Blockchain Alliance focuses on policy advocacy and facilitating awareness in blockchain technology. The blockchain developer program, which will be offered online, will begin on March 1, 2019, and will run for three months.

The program will include fresh and improved content created from the feedback of former ConsenSys graduates. It will cover smart contract development, DApp development, best security practices, and Ethereum concepts.

Participants will undertake the course for about ten to fifteen hours per week inclusive of four to five quizzes and a project. Once graduates have successfully completed the program and the project, they will receive certificates on the Ethereum blockchain.

ConsenSys AcademyThe Africa Blockchain Alliance in conjunction with its network of partners will provide support through meetups, community events, mentors, and in-person sessions in hand-picked African cities.

The founder of the Africa Blockchain Alliance Ben Onuoha stated:

“I am particularly excited about this initiative as this is our contribution to helping bridge the global blockchain knowledge gap in order to help meet the demand for blockchain developers as well as creating more diversity in the blockchain world. This program also has the potential to create employment for the graduates. Finally, blockchain expertise in Africa owned by Africans to deliver blockchain solutions is lacking and we are excited to be leading the charge in this regard.”

Registration

The blockchain developer program is open to both individuals and organisations from anywhere in Africa. Registration for the program can be done on the Africa Blockchain Alliance’s website.

Learners are required to have a stable Internet connection and a computer running the latest versions of Linux, Mac OS X, or Windows.

The Benefits of the Blockchain Developer Program

The graduates of this program will benefit in various ways such as gaining the opportunity to work for global companies, getting mentorship from developers in the Ethereum ecosystem, and becoming certified blockchain developers.

The program will also enable organisations to create blockchain developer expertise in-house, work on ideated use cases, and access certified and experienced blockchain developers.

The blockchain developer program comes at a time when African countries are reacting positively to blockchain technology with the plan to use it in various sectors. Therefore, this program could provide the talent pool African countries need to implement the blockchain.

If you want to learn more about blockchain development, you can check out our guide on ‘How to Become a Blockchain Developer‘ and our review of the best blockchain online courses.

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Ugandan Coffee Exporter is Putting Coffee on the Blockchain

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Uganda Coffee Blockhain

Ugandan coffee exporter Carico Café Connoisseur is now using the blockchain to verify shipments of its coffee. This move comes from a rise in demand by consumers wanting to know the origins of their products.

Finding Your Roots

According to a report by Business Day, coffee company Carico Café Connoisseur has started to track its shipments using blockchain technology. Mwambu Wanendeya, the CEO of Carico Café Connoisseur, stated that ‘Bugisu Blue,’ which arrived in South Africa last December, was a blockchain-certified shipment.

With blockchain certification, coffee lovers are able to follow the steps the coffee goes through using their smartphones. They can do this by scanning the QR codes or via a certification platform called Provenance.

Uganda Coffee BlockchainWanendeya says: “The idea is to give the consumer an appreciation of what happens on the journey and also to ensure that there are more linkages with the farmer. Traceability is important because people are increasingly concerned that […] farmers get rewarded for their work.”

From when farmers drop off their coffee at the collection centres to warehousing, to inspection by regulators and shipping, everything is recorded. This means that coffee drinkers can receive information such as the type of coffee bean they are drinking, their harvest year and which country it originates from.

Carico Café is already working with two farmer cooperatives with hundreds of members. This revolutionary move, Wanendeya thinks, could boost the farmers’ income by ten percent.

As he put it,

“Consumers are willing to pay more if they know where exactly the coffee is coming from.”

Currently, Uganda eagerly wants to increase their exports from current levels, which is good news for coffee farmers. Uganda is Africa’s largest exporter of coffee according to the International Coffee Organisation.

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