Companies working to overcome the challenge of two-thirds of Africans not having access to banking services are acknowledging the need to draw on the needs and experiences of African communities themselves.
A global vision, set by the UN, aims to extend banking to everybody in the world without access to a financial account by 2020. There has been progress this decade, driven by mobile money accounts, especially in East Africa, where more than a third of all people have one. And yet the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, based at the World Bank, has highlighted that only half of all new financial accounts being opened worldwide are being used. This has underlined to startups seeking to accelerate progress on this financial agenda that they must meet the real needs of the unbanked if they are to succeed.
Startups working in this space aim to serve the unbanked by making accounts easier to open. Blockchain technology means financial services can be deployed to more people more quickly because it removes the need for costly intermediaries. Biometric technology, meanwhile, means that those without identification can register with financial service apps and gain a digital identity.
One startup deploying such technologies says that deploying technology alone will not in itself ensure that new accounts are used.
“It is not enough for entrepreneurs to generate business ideas from afar,” says Alex Fork, CEO of Humaniq. “Proposed new solutions can be perfect on paper, but only those founded in listening to the real needs of Africans will succeed.”
This is why Humaniq runs a ‘global challenge’ to facilitate the development of new financial inclusion solutions, which invites social entrepreneurs to submit proposals for blockchain startups targeted at Africa’s unbanked. The challenge involves selected developer teams meeting the unbanked people who stand to benefit from new services in Kenya, in order to test and adapt emerging business plans.
Three projects selected for the first Humaniq expedition, which attracted a total of 450 entries, included a blockchain-based land registry project, a micro-venture capital loans system and a remote-workplace app. The challenge winners went on an expedition to Kenya as part of their efforts to build on the rapid take-up of mobile money in the East African nation. The idea was to develop further financial services that make use of smartphones which are increasingly available in Kenya. Already, more than a quarter of people own one, according to Pew Research Center survey last spring. The widespread adoption of smartphones in the nation over the next few years will mean that a wider range of solutions to be offered, beyond the transactions the mobile-based money transfer service M-Pesa makes possible.
To develop their plans, the winning entrepreneurs invited ideas for solutions to problems from communities in Kenya themselves in a more bottom-up way of developing new tech services.
For example, in places such as Nakuru, in the Great Rift Valley, Richard Beresford met business owners and farmers and heard from them that there was demand for loans, but these are not provided by traditional banks. He also heard interest in making bartering between farmers easier, and in bringing traditional goods, such as those sold by the Masai in curio shops, to a larger number of people.
“One of the things that are most important about blockchain is that it can help to create interactions between small groups of people at the bottom of the pyramid,” said Bereford.
A second winner, Chad Pasha discovered in Namanga, a town divided by the Kenya-Tanzania border, that a platform that facilitated the exchange of goods and information could help bring down barriers between people from the two nations and from different tribes and religions. “I think we have a great opportunity to do this,” he commented. The third, Grace Wong, in her meetings with Kenyans, was told that people felt that if young people had more information on new technologies and solutions, this “would create incentives for young people to create new opportunities for themselves,” she said.
Following the trip, the first winners will now refine their business propositions and move forward to initial coin offerings, the crowdfunded way of attracting investment for projects using cryptocurrency.
Humaniq concluded that the trip had deepened the understanding of the needs of businesses, young people, and others in Kenya. It has now decided to make the global challenge an annual event, with a second challenge due to be held later this year. The startup believes that this will allow it to both engage further partner developers, and also further potential users. The first trip allowed scores of organisations of thousands of people to feed in their ideas to the development of financial inclusion solutions, according to Humaniq.
As R. Beresford said on the results of the first expedition: “I’m very hopeful that all the different experiences we’ve listened to… can be analysed to produce a mobile app development plan that produces the product that can be used by the unbanked.”
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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