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The World Blockchain Summit in Nairobi Highlights Africa’s Blockchain Ambitions

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World Blockchain Summit Series

Kenya was the place to be on March 22-23 as the city was host to the first edition of the World Blockchain Summit Nairobi. The event was aimed at connecting cryptocurrency enthusiasts, global blockchain experts, startups and investors to discuss blockchain technology and its applications. The event was held at the Laico Regency Hotel and was attended by over two hundred delegates.

Demystifying Blockchain Technolgy and its Applications

The summit began with a keynote address from John Karanja, founder and consulting lead at BitHub Africa. The Nairobi-based startup is a blockchain accelerator that focuses on incubation of blockchain startups that are solving key challenges within Kenya and Africa. His address sought to educate the audience on the use of network-centric protocols and how blockchain technology can liberate Africa from inflation and fluctuating fiat economies.

Speaking to BitcoinAfrica.io on the sidelines of the conference, Karanja stressed that BitHub Africa has organised many meetups and events for the past two years educating young people on the potential for decentralised technologies. He explained the startup was working on creating an ecosystem for blockchain developers and teased about the launch of an academy in July, which will train developers working on financial and energy products on the blockchain.

On his thoughts about the Summit Karanja said:

“The World Blockchain Summit is a great series of conferences and my colleague Chris (BitHub Community Lead) participated in the Dubai Conference, so we partnered with [Trescon] to have the event in Nairobi Kenya. As you know, Kenya is a hotbed for innovation and we need to become leaders in blockchain technology whether we are talking about cryptocurrencies or applications on the blockchain. It is important for us to build the skills of our people and develop this space more, so the summit is great it has brought the speakers together, people from different fields including government and we need to see a lot of innovation happening in this space.”

The next speaker to take the floor was Eagle An, the co-founder and President of Bankorus, a crypto wealth management platform that uses both AI and blockchain technology. His technical presentation touched on the potential of crypto wealth management in the next few years as more investors look to diversify into digital assets but lack the necessary experience to manoeuvre the volatile markets. An asserted that China and the U.S. will be the largest crypto markets in the next five years, which bode well for Bankorus which is based in Beijing, China. Founded in 2013, the company manages assets worth $30 billion with over 200,000 of the world’s most wealthy clients.

The next presentation was from Dr Bitange Ndemo, a former ICT Permanent Secretary in the Kenyan Government and head of the recently constituted Blockchain and AI Task Force. During his speech focused on the age of digital transformation brought about mobile adoption and scaling blockchain applications for Africa, he reminded the audience that Kenya had its own version of a rudimentary cryptocurrency in the form of Bonga points. Bonga points is a loyalty scheme from the local telco Safaricom, that rewards users with points which users can redeem for airtime or data services, or use to purchase certain products.

“We are not in the business of acquiring platforms but we are in the business of setting up policies. Blockchain technology is an opportunity for Africa to leapfrog its own problems. In six months of digitisation of the lands registry, revenue jumped from 800 million to 9 billion. This is without blockchain. With blockchain, cases of corruption will decline,” he added.

The Summit proceeded to a panel discussion, which was moderated by Mir Haque, CEO and Founder of Aphaea Capital, United States. The subjects discussed were how the government and private sector can work together to harness the power of blockchain, the potential to unlock the credit market for developing world through blockchain technology and models for governments to transition to this new digital economy. The audience was treated to some light moments by Bitange Ndemo as a panellist when he said: “If Africa traded with itself, we would have so much capital in the continent. The money that flows out of Africa to be hidden in foreign countries is ten times of more than the money that comes in form of aid. I lost hope in the African Union when they developed vision 2063 when most of us will be dead.”

Another panellist, Sean Nowak, Managing Partner at Zephyr Acorn, stressed that clarity in cryptocurrency regulation in Kenya was needed to spur blockchain innovation. According to Kiprono Kittony, National Chairman, Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) many organisations have shied away from cryptocurrency due to lack of understanding but also the crypto unfriendly environment. Eric Mwangi, Venture Partner for the UK and Africa in Blockchain Global said: “With blockchain and cryptocurrency, we can’t run away from literal campaigns.”

World Blockchain Summit Nairobi

Images by BitcoinKe

This was followed shortly by another panel discussion touching on demystifying blockchain in Africa. Phoebe Musomi, Marketing and Communications Lead for Pesabase, expressed that blockchain had the ability to solve some of the challenges Africa faced when it came to financial inclusion. She shared statistics showing over 98 percent of Africans owned a mobile phone and the continent had the fastest growing internet infrastructure making an ideal breeding ground for blockchain innovation. Cedric Wachira, CTO of CedKoin explained cryptocurrency technology had the potential to replace local mobile money transfer platform MPESA since it could provide users with unlimited transactions.

However, Rosemary Koech Kimwatu, a Legal and Regulatory Specialist at Oxygene MCL, Kenya, said while blockchain technology is promising there is still need for regulation as no financial product can operate in ambiguity. She told BitcoinAfrica.io at the conference:

“I think the summit has really created insight, it is not so much about the hype around blockchain technology but people actually get to see use cases from all over the world. We have seen a land registry system and other platforms coming up [….] but I think it has really been great because it has brought down the conversation to a practical level for everyone.”

The panel discussion was moderated by Micheal Kimani, Chairman of the Blockchain Association of Kenya and included Christian Kakoba from BitHub Africa and Nikola Stojanow from CBDO, Liechtenstein. After a short networking luncheon Muhammad Salman Anjum, founder and CEO of Feelogical Solutions LLC, UAE took the panel through the evolving landscape of blockchain regulations. His speech was followed by a technical presentation from Hamid Rashid, CEO of Finterra who elaborated on his company’s social solution for blockchain.

Rashid explained to the audience about one of the company’s exciting products, the Endowment Chain, which allows participants to create project proposals to develop endowment properties. Other parties can fund these proposals by contributing funds. Once the project objectives are met the proposal is accepted and a specific number of Endowment tokens are created and distributed to the project backers.

In an interview with BitcoinAfrica.io, he talked at length about his lessons from the summit,

“Attending this event in Nairobi is an eye-opener for me. I wasn’t expecting the blockchain or crypto-scene in Africa to be this exciting. To me, this is very similar to what was happening in South East Asia almost a year ago, so I think Kenya and Africa is on the right track and I find the people here are extremely receptive of the idea [….]. They welcome this technology and are very customer oriented which is really surprising to me. They are very customer oriented even better than Malaysia or India and are willing to try since a lot of times in the Middle East people are receptive to blockchain technology but are not willing to try.”

Other notable sessions included a block chat panel discussing the impact of blockchain technology on social and economic sectors in Africa. The panel included Eugene Mutai, cryptocurrencies evangelist and miner, Stephanie Zoo from BitPesa, among others, and was moderated by BitcoinAfrica.io writer Angeline Mbogo.

The summit’s first day concluded on a positive day even topping the Twitter trend list for Kenya.

Discussing Innovative Blockchain Projects

The highlights of the second day of the conference were presentations from public figures and entrepreneurs on groundbreaking applications of blockchain technology. The day began with a keynote address from Jeff Berwick, Chief Editor of the Dollar Vigilante. He gave an insightful speech about cryptocurrencies giving power back to the consumer and bolstering financial inclusion in developing nations. The next speech was from Muhammad Arafath, the Executive Director of Apla Blockchain, which focused on how blockchain can transform governments.

In a BitcoinAfrica.io interview during the conference, Arafath explained Apla blockchain is an original blockchain platform created specifically for the case of building decentralised applications for government and corporate ecosystems.

He shared his thoughts on the summit with BitcoinAfrica.io:

“World Blockchain Summit by Trescon is doing a really fantastic job. It’s not any other blockchain conference where you pick and pull everyone to come and speak. I think they have done a good job in bringing the right mix of people. The right people in authority, the right level of information and the conference organisers have put in a lot of effort in identifying the set of topics to be spoken about…” he states.

“The biggest takeaway for me from the conference will be Africa is the biggest market for blockchain technology because when we look at developed economies they have already invested in the latest infrastructure and technology but as we know technology is always evolving,” he added.

World Blockchain Summit Nairobi

Fernando Wangila, the Deputy Director (ICT and Innovation) of the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), Kenya took the floor next to deliver a keynote speech on how the blockchain is helping to change government services. He explained how the NTSA was leveraging blockchain technology to streamline traffic registration and operations. Wangila also participated in a panel discussion on the future of ICT in the African market moderated by Daniel Nyairo, a blockchain writer, with other panellists being John Karanja from BitHub and John Walubengo of the Kenya blockchain and AI taskforce.

As the conference came to close, Mithun Shetty, Trescon’s Managing Director, told BitcoinAfrica.io:

“The Dubai edition was Middle East’s biggest blockchain summit when we did it last year and moving on this year we are doing this blockchain summit in ten different cities all over the world. This is the first leg in Nairobi and it has already become Africa’s biggest blockchain summit. So it’s great to see the level of participation from all different kinds of people, sectors and governments, people coming from the corporate world, startups and regular people who are interested in blockchain and want to learn more.”

Blockchain Technology

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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