On March 17, 2017, BitSoko held the first ICO Summit in Kenya. The three-hour event attracted over 50 attendees and was well-received by the Kenyan startup scene as the main theme of the event was focused on how ICOs can help Kenyan startups to meet their funding needs.
In Africa, Nairobi – the capital of Kenya – has turned into a hotspot for startups, especially in the technology sector. The fact that blockchain technology is applicable in various sectors has made it possible for upcoming startups to find ways of utilising the technology for the solutions they seek to provide. This was evident on Saturday when six local startups pitched their solutions to attract investors and raise funds for their businesses through tokenisation.
Key speakers during the event included Michael Kimani from ChamaPesa, George Maina from Oseko & Ouma Advocates LLP, and Mr. Apollo who spoke at length on the advantages and risks that ICOs have in the cryptocurrency crowdfunding space in the country.
What is an ICO?
An initial coin offering, also known as an ICO, a token sale, a crowdsale or a token generation event, is a new form of funding that (predominantly) blockchain startups are using to raise capital for their venture. In an initial coin offering, a startup runs a crowdfunding campaign where it selling a newly-issued digital token in exchange for bitcoin (BTC) or ether (ETH). The future value of the digital token is then linked to the performance of the project. In that sense, an ICO or very similar to a stock IPO, except for the fact that the new digital token does normally not constitute a share in the company and its value is only indirectly linked to the success of the company.
While speaking on ICOs in Kenya, Chris from Coinweez compared an initial coin offering to table banking in Kenya that has been used over the years to fundraise for various projects including settling of school fees, weddings, and medical bills. While acknowledging that ICOs are a new concept that is quickly becoming mainstream he said,
“The ICO model can be modified to suit our needs in Kenya and Kenyan companies can have a smart way of raising money for their businesses.”
His sentiments were backed by Mic Kimani who felt that chamas in Kenya are “missing a technology to power what they are doing”. Kimani, who is part of the blockchain based app, ChamaPesa, said that the app is meant to give chamas a superior way for not only storing and earning but investing their money through the use of the blockchain.
He added, “ChamaPesa will connect different chamas to allow for borrowing of money as well as raising of money using ChamaCoin. The app will go beyond the Kenyan market and can be accessible by any agent network, which allows for borrowing of money hence having the ICO aspect. All chamas will be on the blockchain and anyone can be able to check the amount of money their chama has.”
Regulatory Framework and Risks in ICOs
For some people, the summit was a way for them to learn about what the regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies and ICOs looks like in Kenya. To answer this, George Maina from Oseko & Ouma Advocates LLP helped define what the regulatory landscape in Kenya is when it comes to digital currencies and ICOs.
Maina said: “As much as ICOs are not regulated in Kenya, it is not illegal to invest in bitcoin or any other digital currency and one can’t get arrested for it.” In the same breath, he added that bitcoin is not legal tender in Kenya. He also advised those seeking to invest in ICOs to do so at their own risk as there are currently “no laws on how disputes on the blockchain are solved.”
Apollo spoke about the risks that those investing in ICOs should be aware of. As there is no legal framework for ICOs currently in Kenya, one can raise money from anyone for their blockchain startup, terrorists included. At the same time, some startups do not divulge the amount of money they raise form the ICOs while others are just ideas that have no clear roadmap on the length of the project.
According to Apollo, more than 50 percent of companies that raised capital using the ICOs in the past one year were scams. Apollo also touched on the security issue relating to ICOs saying, “around 10 percent of startups seeking to raise funds through ICOs have been hacked and keys to where people can send them money changed simply because the companies seeking to crowdfund focused on getting money and forget about security.”
He advised those considering investing in ICOs to have “a high risk of tolerance as there is a chance that one could lose all their investment.” He went on to say that there is no insurance when it comes to investing in ICOs and it is important for people to do due diligence and ensure the startups they are investing in are legitimate.
“I hope that we get to a place where everyone can be able to raise money using ICOs,” he concluded.
Upcoming Startups Using ICOs to Crowdfund
The event also several Kenyan startups pitch their solutions in order to raise money for their startups through tokenisation, which refers to the digitising of business assets. Some of the startups that pitched include HAIL-A-HUSTLE, an e-commerce platform that seeks to develop business potential through its diverse products, and Usafi Sanitation, a startup that wants to improve sanitation and improve human dignity by providing schools and communities with proper sanitation by installing eco-friendly toilets and eliminating pit latrines. Other startups included Nairobi Cloakroom, Farm Books, and Mazingira Safi.
ICOs present an interesting and exciting way for startups and other established companies in Kenya and Africa at large to raise money to either start or expand their businesses. As the ICO market continues to grow, it is only a matter of time until more African startups will jump on this new opportunity to receive funding, which is often hard to come for local startups on the continent.
Particl Launches Decentralised Marketplace With Zero Commission Fees
Privacy-focused cryptocurrency project Particl has launched a decentralised marketplace with zero commission fees. The new e-commerce platform is leveraging blockchain technology to compete with the likes of Amazon and OpenBazaar.
Privacy and Zero Commission Fees
The new decentralised marketplace respects user privacy and does not require personal information from its users. The platform only requires a shipping address. Moreover, the decentralised nature of the Particl marketplace ensures that no commissions are added to sales as is the case on Amazon.
According to an article on Big Commerce, fees for sellers can be as much as 45 percent of a product’s cost on Amazon. Particl’s zero-free model, therefore, enables sellers to significantly increase their revenue and lower their prices to stay ahead of the competition while still making a profit.
“Using a combination of P2P and blockchain technologies, Particl Open Marketplace can provide a verifiable private shopping experience that ensures no user data can be created or collected by any party other than the one you are transacting with. The Particl protocol also brings the cost of buying and selling online to the bare minimum as no central entity can charge fees,” said Particl’s Project Marketing and Strategy Manager Paul Schmitzer.
How Particl’s Decentralised Marketplace Works
Particl is uniquely approaching fraud and trade insurance through the use of a double deposit escrow system without intermediaries and with zero fees. This system is based on MAD game theory where two parties deposit PART coins as collateral into a smart contract. Once the transaction between them is complete, the coins are released back to the parties and no fees are charged. This system allows users to be in control of their transactions and to eliminate fraud.
Since the marketplace is decentralised, the protocol generates all listing fees and redistributes them to the global network of users.
Particl is made up of three components: an untraceable multi-purpose privacy coin, a private decentralised marketplace where users can shop with cryptocurrencies, and a platform where developers can build decentralised applications.
Particl allows a wide range of cryptocurrencies and uses atomic swaps and third-party integrations to convert these coins to PART during transactions. The company will soon add more payment options to its marketplace.
In 2018, Bitcoin Africa talked to Particl’s spokesperson Desi-Rae about the project. Read the full interview here.
South Africans Can Now Buy Ether (ETH) Using Rand on Luno
Global cryptocurrency exchange Luno has now enabled crypto traders in South Africa to buy ether using rand on its platform.
Trading on Luno
Luno offers users an easy and safe place to buy bitcoin and ether and to learn about cryptocurrencies. The exchange has more than 2.7 million customers across 40 countries.
Luno also has a dedicated Ethereum series on its learning platform to help users make informed investment decisions.
Commenting on the new launch, Luno’s General Manager in Africa, Marius Reitz, said: “The direct Ethereum/Rand pair will make it quicker, simpler, and cheaper for customers to interact with and use Ethereum on the exchange. We are working on a number of enhancements to our platform and this pairing has been introduced in response to demand from our customers. Previously, customers could buy Ethereum through our instant buy option but having this ability directly on the exchange makes it faster and cheaper for traders.”
According to Reitz, Luno makes sure that every coin listed in its exchange has undergone due diligence. “There are over 2000 cryptocurrencies. However, many of these are scams, so customers need to trust that the exchange they use has verified the track records of cryptocurrencies available on their platforms. Luno limits the currencies on offer to those on which we have completed extensive research and due diligence and we are satisfied with their credibility in terms of security and adoption. Luno will be adding additional cryptocurrencies to its platform later this year,” he explained.
“Individuals in these markets cannot afford to, and should no longer need to, pay high exchange rates, accept national currency devaluation or lose out when they simply transfer money. Access to a more inclusive financial system will enable people everywhere to think of new and better ways of exchanging value and technology allows this,” Reitz elaborated.
Luno plans to upgrade its platform, expand its team, and open new offices in expectation of the next surge in the value of cryptoassets.
Emerging Markets More Likely to Adopt Cryptocurrencies from Global Brands, Luno Study Says
A new study by digital asset exchange Luno indicates that emerging markets are more likely to adopt cryptocurrencies from global brands. This finding was collected from a survey called the ‘Future of Money’ carried out between May 17, 2019, and June 7, 2019. The survey interviewed over 7000 respondents from Nigeria, South Africa, the United Kingdom, France, Indonesia, Italy, and Malaysia.
Emerging Markets, the Future of Money and Libra
According to the ‘Future of Money’ survey, the early adopters of cryptocurrencies are likely to come from emerging markets. The findings, therefore, show a close connection between emerging markets and the future of money confirming the view that those with “less appear to take greater financial risks.”
These results come at a time when Facebook recently announced that it will introduce Libra, a new digital currency in 2020. The aim of Libra is to help people make financial transactions online, especially in emerging markets where banks are not servicing the population as well as they should be.
Luno’s CEO Marcus Swanepoel said: “As some of the world’s largest tech giants announce they are launching cryptocurrency coins, we believe developing markets will be the lead adopters. Our research shows that in these markets people are more financially savvy because they have to be, which means that they need and understand the benefits the new coins can offer.”
To further show why the future of money could have a greater impact on emerging markets, data from the survey indicated that 33 percent of people in Indonesia are more likely to remain within a set budget compared to 0 percent in the UK.
Additionally, the number of people that establish a monthly budget is 80 percent in Malaysia, 65 percent in Nigeria, 73 percent in South Africa, 74 percent in Indonesia, and 54 percent in the UK. Asked why money is crucial to them, the respondents said it was to secure their families’ well-being (60 percent) and to pay for education. This answer was given by 25 percent of the respondents from Nigeria compared to 8 percent in the UK.
Luno is a global cryptocurrency company headquartered in London and with offices in South Africa.
Crypto adoption will probably take place at the grassroots level than at the institutional level, Swanepoel observed. He based this argument on the findings that most people from emerging markets will probably seek financial advice from family, friends, and colleagues than from government organisations.
“It is very clear that if money is not simply a ‘nice to have’ and is vital for your future, then you spend more time understanding it, managing it, preserving it and to an extent being creative with how you maximise the use of it. Therefore, if a cryptocurrency can provide a secure and cheaper means of exchanging value better than the existing system, it will be used. This is why we believe that as new cryptocurrencies linked to global brands are introduced, they will find an important audience in emerging markets,” Swanepoel added.
Luno’s study paints a clear picture of what the future of money could look like. However, certain factors such as Internet connectivity could inhibit the fast adoption of crypto in developing markets.
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