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Uganda’s ICT Ministry Set to Appoint Blockchain Taskforce

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Following a successful Africa Blockchain Conference, held at the Serena Hotel Conference Center in Kampala, Hon. Frank Tumwebaze, the Minister of ICT and National Guidance, said that his ministry will appoint a taskforce to explore how the Ugandan government can utilise blockchain technology.

The conference was hosted as a partnership between the Blockchain Association of Uganda and Uganda Blockchain TaskforceUganda’s Ministry of ICT and National Guidance with a wide range of discussion topics such as cryptocurrencies and digital assets, governance, cybersecurity, regulation and policy, risk and investment opportunities, innovation and technology among others.

Speaking at the conference during his introductory remark, Tumwebaze said: “I have agreed with the Blockchain Association of Uganda, that in the coming weeks, the Ministry will appoint an advisory task force of eminent people on blockchain to further assess the opportunities of the technology and challenges, and advise the government on how to harness the technology. Blockchain technology like any other innovation will successfully take root in Uganda. If you push technology away, others will adopt it.”

Blockchain’s Potential

According to PC Tech Magazine, the Chairman of the Blockchain Association of Uganda, Nkwame Rugunda, was quoted saying, that the “blockchain sits at the fourth stage of Industrial revolution and will significantly redefine our human and social progress because it addresses the critical underlying fabric that defines our human interactions which is trust”.

Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni, opened the two-day conference stating that it was necessary for blockchain technology to be studied in-depth to identify the risks and find ways of curbing the risks while enhancing the benefits.

Uganda Banks to Adopt Blockchain Technology

Following the two-day conference, the Uganda Bankers Association (UBA) announced that banks in Uganda will adopt the technology to help lessen operational risks and costs.

In an interview with the Daily Monitor, UBA’s Chairman and the Managing Director at Stanbic Bank, Mr. Patrick Mwehire, said that while the technology had potential risks, there were certain facets that can be leveraged in the banking sector. He said:

“Aspects such as data processing, settlements and payments [are good] and anything that reduces costs and risks is good for us.”

While Rugunda spoke on how the blockchain can fasten payment settlements as its secure, happens in real-time and all data is available on the blockchain, Mwehire spoke on how the technology can be utilised in settling inter-bank payments that typically take about two to three days. Mwehire went on to ask: “We [banks] face high operational cost of up to 70 percent. Therefore, if there is a way we can eliminate them, why not?”

The directive to form a taskforce by the Uganda Minister of ICT and National Guidance comes just three months after Kenya’s ICT Minister, Joe Mucheru, formed a taskforce that is meant to study how the Kenyan government can leverage the blockchain.

Blockchain Technology

Zippie Rolls Out Blockchain-Based Mobile Solution for Africa

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Zippie
Images by Zippie

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

ZippieAfriDelivery, 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.

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Blockchain Technology

Medici Land Governance Signs MoU with Liberia’s Ministry of Finance to Digitise Government Services

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Monrovia
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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

Liberia BlockchainThe 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.”

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South African Reserve Bank to Conduct Central Bank Digital Currency Feasibility Study

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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

South African Reserve BankDeveloped 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.

CBDC Policies

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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