Dr. Patrick Njoroge, the Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) revealed that the central bank is receiving several applications from financial institutions in Kenya soliciting the approval and licensing of blockchain-based products and services.
His statement comes at a time when most financial institutions in the country are busy trying to find ways of addressing the disruption caused by blockchain technology. As it stands, both market regulators and key industry players in the financial sector are considering regulations and guidelines for the blockchain, virtual currencies, and online forex trading.
Speaking during a gathering of investment professionals, Dr. Njoroge said: “A number of banks are currently working on products (and services) hinged on blockchain technology and we think that they offer a lot of promise. We are not anti-innovation or anti-cryptocurrency. We support innovation but are concerned about the impact on financial instability and the inherent risks. CBK is working with central banks all over the world to identify the risks and find ways to mitigate them. The weakest link is where problems in our financial system will start.”
The blockchain was initially designed as an underlying technology for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin but has over the years been utilised to help streamline the delivery of products and services in different sectors by governments and corporates.
Alternative Investment Schemes
The move by financial institutions in Kenya to solicit for the approval of blockchain comes two months after Joe Mucheru, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for ICT announced a blockchain taskforce that was formed to give recommendations on how the government can leverage the blockchain.
Dr. Njoroge went on to say that most online forex trading transactions tend to happen outside the central bank of Kenya’s jurisdiction. Last year saw Kenya’s Capital Markets Authority issue new regulations meant to curb risks that are linked to online forex and cryptocurrency trading. So far, there only exists one firm in the country that has an online foreign exchange license.
The National Treasury’s Director General, Public Investment and Portfolio Management, Esther Koimett, said there is a special interest by the national treasury on issues that affect the financial sector in Kenya and that alternative investment opportunities are progressively becoming crucial in resource mobilisation. She went on to add: “Last year the government launched the M-Akiba Bond as an alternative way for Kenyans to invest in Government Securities. Such alternatives need to be encouraged.”
A speech read on behalf of Bernard Ndung’u, the chairman of the Public Sector Accounting Board (PSAB) by Lazarus Kimang, stated: “Due to the ever-changing investment environment, there is a need to improve and continuously enhance the skills of financial analysts employed within government institutions. This will ensure that public sector entities are provided with sound advice on investment alternatives and strategies that derive them maximum returns.”
The PSAB chairman went on to share his concerns about other investment schemes that would make people vulnerable to fraud cases as well as the difficulty that financial market players would encounter in assessing different investment opportunities such as bitcoin.
Zippie Rolls Out Blockchain-Based Mobile Solution for Africa
Blockchain startup Zippie has rolled out a blockchain-based mobile solution for Africa in collaboration with Zambia’s AfriDelivery, Musanga, and Tigmoo. The three online companies will use the Zippie mobile blockchain platform to reward their customers for making purchases, giving referrals, and using delivery services.
Rewarding Customers via Zippie
AfriDelivery, Musanga, and Tigmoo will start rewarding customers with airtime using the Zippie blockchain-based mobile platform enabling them to have more customers and to maintain the most loyal ones.
The rewards wallet is accessible on the companies’ websites or apps allowing customers to receive airtime in their blockchain wallets. Customers can also send this airtime to other people by sharing a payment link through chatting apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
“We are focusing our efforts on the continent where even the smallest earning opportunity can make the biggest impact. The rapidly growing smartphone adoption and online commerce, the young entrepreneurial population of which most work in the informal sector, and the leadership in taking mobile money into use offer a fertile ground for Zippie to take off on the continent,” said Pasi Rusila, COO and co-founder of Zippie.
Zippie is a white label super app whose goal is to democratise opportunity for everyone by enabling online businesses to reward their users.
Scaling Zippie’s Adoption in the African Market
According to Rusila, the first three partnerships will help Zippie to sell its blockchain solution to other online businesses.
“The market entry provides us the opportunity to get the Zippie platform to the hands of thousands of end-users within months. This enables us to gather the always-so-critical user feedback and steer the product development in the right direction, fulfilling genuine market needs,” he stated.
The company is confident that Zippie will have a positive impact on the lives of Africans by seamlessly transferring value between businesses and people.
“We are pleased to say that there are numerous other partnerships in the pipeline in several countries ready to start rewarding their users with mobile airtime and other valuable items,” Rusila added.
With Zippie, users are guaranteed security, the elimination of middlemen, and free sharing of rewards. On the hand, the process of integrating Zippie with a product is easy. Businesses are, therefore, assured of a seamless integration process.
According to UNCTAD, e-commerce in Africa is still lagging behind compared to the rest of the world. Zippie could be a solution that pushes more Africans to shop online.
Medici Land Governance Signs MoU with Liberia’s Ministry of Finance to Digitise Government Services
Medici Land Governance (MLG) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning in Liberia. The aim of the agreement is to explore the potential for the digitisation of current government services and the creation of e-government platforms.
The Pilot Project
The pro bono pilot project will support the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) and the Pillar II (Economy and Jobs) in the PAPD agenda. This is agenda is a Liberian government initiative.
Additionally, the pilot project will investigate how to shift Liberia to a digital and blockchain-focused economy and how to enable interoperability among government services.
MLG will also train Liberians through knowledge transfer as well as create jobs during the initial phase of gathering data and after the implementation stage where trained personnel will be needed to maintain the system.
Through the pilot project, Liberia joins countries like Rwanda and Zambia who are undertaking blockchain projects in partnership with MLG.
Ali El Husseini, the CEO of MLG, said: “Medici Land Governance’s work is a major component of Medici Ventures’ goal to create ‘a blockchain tech stack for civilization. Liberia is well-positioned to explore implementing a blockchain backbone for e-government, which connects the various government ministries as their services are digitised and brought online. This pilot project is an excellent opportunity for Medici Land Governance to demonstrate how we can tailor our products and services to the needs of Liberia’s government and economy.”
MLG is a blockchain subsidiary of Overstock Inc., a Utah-based online retailer and technology company.
Digitising Liberia’s Economy
According to the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel Tweah, the agreement with MLG is a sign that Liberia is ready to digitise its economy and move government services to a digital platform.
“We believe that the free pilot project when implemented, will showcase Liberia’s readiness to digitise the economy and migrate to an e-government platform that will facilitate full interoperability of the Government of Liberia services and systems,” he said in a press release.
Medici Ventures aims to introduce blockchain technology to existing markets in order to “eliminate middlemen, democratise capital, and re-humanise commerce.”
Patrick M. Byrne, Chairman of MLG and founder and CEO of Overstock, observed: “In 2019, I have been pleased and honoured to see African nations growing enthusiastic about the possibility of using blockchain to accelerate their development. Liberia now becomes the third African country to agree to give [our suite of blockchain-based land governance products] a try.”
South African Reserve Bank to Conduct Central Bank Digital Currency Feasibility Study
The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) is set to conduct a central bank digital currency (CBDC) feasibility study according to an expression of interest (EOI) issued on April 29, 2019. Through the EOI, SARB is looking for solution providers to offer technological infrastructure and skills to the project.
The CBDC Feasibility Project Charter
Developed in May 2018, the CBDC Feasibility Project Charter aims “to investigate the feasibility and desirability of central bank issued digital currency to be used as electronic legal tender, complimentary to cash.”
Additionally, the purpose of the feasibility project will be finding out how issuing a CBDC can support SARB’s vision of leading “in serving the economic well-being of South Africans through price and financial stability.”
The establishment of this project was as a result of a mandate the Currency Management Department of the SARB gave in 2016. The order required the selected team to investigate the case of a CBDC issued and backed by SARB.
According to the expression of interest, the CBDC feasibility project will be carried out in a contained innovation lab environment. The innovation lab will comprise of software, technical skills, infrastructure, and business skills. However, SARB makes it clear that the CBDC feasibility project is exploratory in nature and does not constitute any long-term plan or commitment to issue a government-backed digital currency.
The study only focuses on issuing the CBDC as an electronic version of cash as opposed to a universally accessible form of central bank reserve money or a central bank issued version of commercial bank account money.
CBDC Project Stages
The feasibility project will be carried out in the innovation lab in two stages. The first stage will be internally conducted and will entail testing principles, validating the feasibility of recommended technical solutions, and increasing the body of knowledge.
The second stage will extend participation to external banks and mobile network operators and potentially to payment service and niche technology providers. In addition, the set of use cases will be increased to incorporate the full value chain so as to establish the possibility of the solution to satisfy SARB’s objectives.
In the EOI, SARB makes it clear that there is no preference of basing the project on a distributed ledger technology platform, the blockchain, or existing traditional technology.
“It is envisaged that a solution could be based on any one or a combination of technologies,” SARB explains.
Some of the policies that will guide CBDC include:
- Only SARB must issue the CBDC as legal tender
- Commercial banks must issue the CBDC under SARB’s regulatory oversight
- Must enable the issuance and distribution of CBDC to commercial banks or licensed service providers
- CBDC must be issued on a one-on-one parity with the rand
- CBDC transactions must be free or low-cost to consumers
- CBDC must provide an incentive to increase its use
- CBDC must be accepted as a means of payment by all businesses and the government
- Consumers must be able to make transactions with CBDC without the need for a bank account
- CBDC must not be easily counterfeited
- CBDC must be scalable
- It should be possible to cancel a CBDC serial number that is proven to be a counterfeit
The CBDC feasibility project comes after the successful trial of SARB’s blockchain-based Project Khokha. Once the project is complete, SARB will decide on the next steps to take based on the outcomes.
Applications of the expression of interest will close on June 6, 2019, at 11:30 am.
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