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Africa Blockchain Conference 2018 Highlights Opportunities and Use Cases for Blockchain in Africa

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Blockchain in Africa

On May 23 and 24, 2018, Uganda was host to the Africa Blockchain Conference. The event succeeded in bringing together a mix of blockchain entrepreneurs, policymakers, academics, cryptocurrency enthusiasts, and investors to discuss opportunities and use cases for the blockchain in Africa.

The event was held at the Kampala Serena Hotel Conference Centre and was organised by the Blockchain Association of Uganda in partnership with the Binance Foundation, Uganda‘s Ministry of ICT & National Guidance and CryptoSavannah.

The Potential for the Blockchain in Africa

Africa Blockchain ConferenceThe conference began on the morning of May 23 with a registration and networking session amidst tight security. Delegates were seated by 9am for a welcoming address from Kwame Rugunda, the Chairman of Blockchain Association of Uganda.

He proceeded to welcome the first keynote speaker Euvin Naidoo, the Head of Financial Institutions, Thomson Reuters. Naidoo‘s talk was focused on blockchain technology and the 4th Industrial Revolution disruption.

He defined blockchain technology as “trust that is distributed” and said that the blockchain is trying to solve the Byzantine’s generals problem. Naidoo explained that with distributed ledgers the issue of double counting was solved by algorithms and computing power. According to him, the rise of decentralised technologies would complement the use of firewalls since protection is in a distributed format.

Most importantly, Naidoo explained what IoT (Internet of Things) would mean for the future. “We are in a world of the Internet of decentralized autonomous things. The Internet of Things is growing exponentially and with that KYM (Know-Your-Machines) becomes more important to establish trust between machines,” he stated. He asserted with the advent of IoT, KYC (Know-Your-Customer) and KYM was important to scaling the Internet of Things.

In closing, he summarised that blockchain technology would usher in trust and make local systems more efficient. He added,

“In the old world, the big fish ate the small fish in the new world the fast fish will eat the slow fish […]. We are in the world of the agile thinker.”

The second keynote address was from Dr Bitange Ndemo, the Chairman of the Kenya Blockchain and AI Taskforce. Ndemo expounded on the role of blockchain technology in Africa’s transformation. He set the tone of the conference with the proclamation “Nobody can develop Africa but Africans.” A sentiment that was shared by other speakers and panelists. He explained that blockchain technology would streamline supply chains to reduce food waste in the continent, build a vibrant creative economy, create wealth, make governments more efficient and reduce corruption.

“Blockchain works well to eliminate the middlemen,” he asserted. Ndemo also mentioned that Kenyan authorities were working to build a trusted identity platform for government agencies to make it easy to identify and share information about citizens.

His speech gave way to a panel discussion on how blockchain is changing government and business in Africa. The two keynote speakers were included in the panel alongside Christoper Bates, CSO of BitLand, Louise Wigget, Executive Director at Global Trade Solutions, and Leonardo Gammar, CEO of Agora. The panel discussed the need for African solutions for African problems by drawing on blockchain use cases from their respective fields and industry.

According to Ndemo, blockchain technology could democratise government data and promote transparency thus leading to trust between governments and their people. Naidoo reiterated the same reminding the audience how the public lost faith in financial institutions after the 2008 economic crisis, but blockchain technology could change that by offering people more control over how their data is disseminated and used.

The Panel discussion was interrupted by the arrival of two distinguished guests: the President of Uganda, H.E President Yoweri K. Museveni and Ameena Gurib-Fakim, the former President of Mauritius. They were welcomed by the Chairman of the Blockchain Association of Uganda and the agenda shifted to opening ceremonies with Uganda‘s Minister of Communication, Frank Tumwebaze, making remarks before inviting Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, the Governor of the Bank of Uganda onto the stage.

The Central Bank of Uganda Excerises Caution

With many in the audience eager to hear the central bank’s position on cryptocurrencies, the governor’s speech was a repetition of the negative stance taken by most regulators in Africa and across the globe. He lectured the audience on the basics of money and economics then went ahead to clarify the Bank’s position on cryptocurrencies stating: “Money is a medium of exchange, a measure of value, a store of value … it will be risky to invest in cryptocurrency that is unregulated and undermines the role of central banks.“ He insisted that cryptocurrencies to not have the privilege of a legal tender and anyone investing in them was doing so at their own risk.

His comments seemed to dampen the mood for delegates who were hoping for positive news from policymakers regarding the use of cryptocurrencies. However, the next keynote speaker Frank Tumwebaze, the Ugandan Minister of ICT, took a more reconciliatory tone and announced the setting up of an advisory task force to review the benefits of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Tumwebaze reminded the policymakers that if they ignored technology, others would take it up and it would end up disrupting them.

“The task force will explore the advantages of (blockchain) technology as well as assess the challenges and advise the government on how to harness fully the opportunities, and how to mitigate the challenges….and you can be assured the view of the governor will be and must be represented on this task force,” he stated.

His speech was followed by a keynote address from former president Ameenah of Mauritius, who gave a useful case study of blockchain technology being used to identify and keep records of plant varieties.

Uganda‘s President Endorses the Blockchain

Finally, President Museveni took to the podium and gave a differing opinion to that of his Central Bank Governor. He dismissed the governor’s old school of thought as irrelevant in this day and age but instead encouraged him to be “inquisitive and not be dogmatic.”

MuseveniHis positive sentiments were well received by the audience and would become the greatest highlight of the conference. Museveni proceeded to explain the development of money from its rudimentary form thousands of years ago to the present fiduciary system controlled by central banks. He likened blockchain technology to the cooperative movement, where people work together for a common goal and anyone who breaches the group’s trust is expelled.

He gave an example of how the cooperative movement in Uganda failed because the few who had the knowledge took advantage of the many who were illiterate. However, with the blockchain, all participants in the movement would be equally knowledgeable and thus have a stake in the platform. While he acknowledged the Governor’s cautionary approach to digital currencies and admitted the need for further discourse. He believes the convergence of blockchain technology in areas such as food production, manufacturing, service industry, etc. would be useful.

“Blockchain technology will go a long way in providing important solutions to record management in areas of land, finances, revenue, health and public,” President Museveni stated.

He believed Africa was ready for the digital age. With those few remarks, the president officially opened the conference amidst applause from delegates.

African Blockchain Use Cases

The afternoon programme had presentations on use case demos from InfiniChains and Blockchain Technologies Africa on their track and trace solution to prevent counterfeit drugs in Uganda. Another interesting use case was from Bitland, who are using blockchain for land titles registry in Ghana and Mauritius and looking to enter the Ugandan Market. Bitland CSO, Christopher Bates stated, “Bitland is a land registry application on blockchain that maintains immutable decentralised and distributed land records.”

There was also a keynote address from Urs Arbischer, Swiss Impulse, focused on the opportunity for Africa on the global economy. He stressed that for blockchain projects to succeed in Africa they would have to find sustainable ways of funding. Ultimately, Arbischer believed that education would also play a crucial role if the blockchain revolution is to succeed in the continent.

“In order to make Africa successful, we need to create a mentoring and coaching infrastructure for the next wave of entrepreneurs.”

The day came to a close with breakout sessions involving speakers and panelists discussing various topics and networking amongst themselves. There was also a pitch competition organised by Binance Foundation and CryptoSavannah and moderated by Aggie Konde, CEO of Msingi.

Kwame Rugunda, the Chairman of the Blockchain Association of Uganda, shared his thoughts on the conference at a press briefing:

“I would like to encourage us to take keen interest and learn as much as possible (from international experts) even when they are no longer here we can continue to share the knowledge with others, on top of sharing it, we can apply it because blockchain has numerous applications.”

Blockchain Regulations and Crafting Policy

Day two of the conference had a number of notable keynote speeches and panel discussions centered around blockchain regulations and how the technology is being applied on the continent.

Llew ClaasenAmong them was a keynote address from Llew Claasen, Executive Director of the Bitcoin Foundation, which was focused on demystifying blockchain, bitcoin, and cryptocurrency. He admitted while cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology had many beneficial uses the reality was with any emerging technology they would always be potential for misuse. He gave an example of regulators in the US who are clamping down on cryptocurrencies and ICOs on the basis of the potential dangers and ignoring the achievements so far.

“What we are fighting for all the time is to say to regulators around the world, just wait! Just be patient we don’t even know what this stuff is ourselves,” he stated.

“Half the world population cannot be served by the current financial system. Blockchain gives us more option” he added. His sentiments were echoed by Alexia Hefti, Blockchain Tax Lead, Deloitte Canada who gave a talk on setting up the right regulation for a successful blockchain ecosystem.

She was of the opinion that we need legal frameworks that promote cryptocurrency and blockchain innovation but allow protection of consumers. Hefti gave examples drawing from her experience in the cryptocurrency space as a tax and regulation expert of countries that have come up with ways to govern digital currencies, ICOs and blockchain development without slowing down their progress. She stressed how regulatory sandboxes have been useful in a number of countries in helping regulators map out legal frameworks for blockchain technology.

Alexia Hefti

The discussion moved to a panel on regulation, tax, and policy that included a number of experts in the financial, legal and blockchain space.

Roland Haggins, Director, CARICOM, Barbados said: “Some regulators are taking a wait and see approach to not doing anything, that creates regulatory uncertainty, which is not necessarily good for these companies, businesses, and foundations. But some jurisdictions….have taken the lead by being agile and very vocal, they want to attract these businesses to their jurisdictions and as a result, they are receiving foreign investment and providing jobs.” he asserted.

In her contribution to the panel, Hefti also stated: “I think what is important from a Ugandan perspective when it comes to regulation…which area are we going to regulate? Trying to regulate every area makes no sense, are we going to be the country for crypto exchanges, are we going to be the country where ICO’s will occur in Africa, are we going to be the country for funds, where are we going to focus?”

Ultimately, the panelists agreed that self-regulation would be a first step towards allowing the markets to mature before establishing more structured legal frameworks.

Pitch Competition and Guest Speaker

Pitch CompetitionAs the conference drew to a close the winners of the pitch competition where announced by representatives from CryptoSavannah and Binance. The winner of the competition was Hilina Damte of G&H blockchain who walked away with a $5,000 cash prize. This was followed by a highly anticipated speech from Changpeng Zhao, Founder, and CEO of Binance, a leading cryptocurrency exchange worldwide and official sponsor of the event.

His talk was focused on what blockchain and cryptocurrencies can do for developing nations. He gave an example of how the sponsorship payment for the conference was done in cryptocurrency and transferred across a blockchain and received in good time by the organisers and at low cost. He joked if the same payment was made using banks perhaps the funds would not have arrived by the start of the conference.

Zhao took the audience through the Binance crypto exchange and some of its new initiatives that are being rolled out. He voiced his support for ICOs as means for raising funds for local startups and promoting technological development in Africa. He encouraged regulators in the continent to come up with favourable rules to promote this alternative means of funding citing countries where proper legal frameworks were drawing startup projects from around the globe to those locations.

Binance in UgandaOn what Binance’s aims to achieve in the long run, Zhao said:

“We believe that giving people access to cryptocurrency increases every individual’s freedom.”

With those remarks, he invited questions from the audience and later from the press in attendance. The conference closed with speeches from Mr Patrick Mweheire, CEO Stanbic Bank and Chairman of the Uganda Bankers Association and Hon. Frank Tumwebaze, Minister of ICT.

If you want to listen to any of the event‘s key speeches, you can relive the livestream here.

Blockchain Technology

HelloGold and Baobab Group Partner to Boost Financial Inclusion in Africa

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HelloGold and Baobab Group

Malaysian fintech savings platform HelloGold has partnered with Baobab Group to boost financial inclusion in Africa. The partnership will help the Asia-based company to enter the African market where it will offer financial products alongside Baobab.

The HelloGold and Baobab Group Partnership

BaobabHelloGold will leverage Baobab’s infrastructure and experience in offering digital financial services while bringing on board its gold-backed savings and products, according to DigitalNewsAsia. Moreover, the partnership will enable Baobab to scale its financial inclusion services on the continent via an integrated savings platform.

The integrated savings platform will enable users to purchase, invest, and save in gold via a mobile app. The use of the mobile app will make gold an easily accessible and secure savings option for customers.

Baobab currently operates in nine African countries, has 1,140 functional service points across Africa and has distributed over $1.1 billion loans to micro businesses, women, and the youth.

Arnaud Ventura, Baobab’s Group chief executive officer and founder, said: “We are pleased to announce this partnership, which will allow our clients to benefit from new digital services. The possibility to easily save and invest in gold is an additional key offered to our clients to unleash their potential. This collaboration with HelloGold will allow us to integrate this savings offer in the nine African countries we are working with.”

“Our partnership with Baobab demonstrates HelloGold’s capacity to provide financial solutions for our current and prospective partners. While we bring financial products on our technology, we support our partners in the building of their own offerings, providing differentiated value and services on their platforms,” HelloGold’s CEO Robin Lee commented in a statement.

Baobab enables its customers in Africa and China to manage their finances instantly, safely, and easily with its digital and mobile solutions. HelloGold offers its customers the opportunity to purchase and sell gold via an app. The physical gold is stored in secure and insured vaults in Singapore and it can be used as collateral for loans or as savings.

According to Lee, HelloGold applies blockchain technology in its financial products to make them affordable to customers.

Future Plans

HelloGoldHelloGold plans to establish gold vaults in Dubai and to offer its products in Indonesia and the Middle East this year. The company also recently launched in Thailand.

With mobile-driven financial inclusion in Africa on the rise, the two companies are positioning themselves to tap into the opportunities of the growing digital financial sector on the continent.

According to the World Bank Findex survey, financial inclusion grew from 23 percent in 2011 to 43 percent in 2017 in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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What to Expect at the Blockchain Africa Conference 2019

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Blockchain Africa Conference 2019

The Blockchain Africa Conference is scheduled to take place in Johannesburg between February 28 to March 1, 2019, and in Cape Town on March 6, 2019.

What to Expect at the Conference?

Currently, in its fifth edition, the Blockchain Africa Conference is an annual event that is organised by Bitcoin Events. The three-day event will see more than 800 plus delegates listen to more than 50 speakers from around the world.

Given that the African continent has a lot of challenges with doing business, the conference seeks to explore how blockchain technology can be used by different industries as well as organisations to streamline systems and processes to improve Africa.

As Bitcoin Events has organised two different conferences in two of the most popular cities in South Africa, attendees should expect a myriad of offerings. The three-day Johannesburg conference will focus more on “blockchain enterprise development, blockchain use-cases, self-sovereign identity, enterprise blockchain in finance, the future of banking, as well as challenges facing blockchain technology such as interoperability and scalability.”

Blockchain Africa Conference

The one-day Cape Town conference will focus on how the blockchain and digital currencies can be utilised to attain the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for economic growth and social inclusion by facilitating and enhancing access to a broad range of financial services that are crucial in the achievement of Africa’s economic growth as well as long-term poverty reduction.

The speakers lined up for the Cape Town conference will focus on how blockchain technology can be utilised for new social projects in different areas like decentralised services for identity, patient records, remittances, healthcare support, renewable energy, provision and distribution of aid and support, and community currencies, among other areas.

Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and Impact Training Course

artificial intelligenceAttendees of the Blockchain Africa Conference in both cities will also be able to take part in a two-day training session on blockchain technology and artificial intelligence (AI). For this, Bitcoin Events has partnered with Intelligent Impact and Blockchain Academy to offer the practical course that is meant for enterprises, development organisations, non-profits, corporates, governments and investment firms. Participants who attend the course will also be introduced to a wide range of emerging technologies.

List of Speakers

Bitcoin Events has selected a panel of speakers who are well-known globally for their contribution to the bitcoin and blockchain technology space. For both the Johannesburg and Cape Town conference, speakers lined up for the conference are people who have had their careers in the crypto space since it was started.

The list of Johannesburg speakers include:

  • Farzham Ehsani, CEO and Co-Founder of VALR.com – Master of Ceremonies
  • Brian Behlendorf, Executive Director of Hyperledger Project – Keynote Speaker
  • Charlene Chen, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at BitPesa
  • Mandla Magagula, Blockchain Consultant at Rand Merchant Bank
  • Tanya Knowles, Chair of the South African Financial Blockchain Consortium
  • Ntuthuko Bhengu, Health Expert on the SA National Planning Commission and a Chartered Director (SA)

The list of Cape Town speakers include:

  • Didi Sehume, Project Lead and Strategist at Hume Est/ MC & Moderator – Master of Ceremonies
  • Marcus Swanepoel, Co-Founder and CEO of Luno
  • Monica Singer, Creator of Opportunities at ConsenSys
  • Kwame Rugunda, Chairman of the Blockchain Association of Uganda
  • Simon Dingle, CEO of Inves Capital, South Africa Radio Presenter
  • Lorien Gamaroff, Founder/CEO of Bankymoon and Co-Founder/CEO of CentBee

Get Your Ticket

From 2014, the Blockchain Africa Conference has been known to bring together thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders to discuss the future of the blockchain and crypto in the African continent.

Tickets are already on sale. You can purchase your Johannesburg ticket here or for Cape Town here.

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Africa Blockchain Alliance Joins Hands with ConsenSys Academy to Offer Blockchain Developer Program in Africa

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ConsenSys Academy

The Africa Blockchain Alliance (ABA), headquartered in South Africa, has joined hands with ConsenSys Academy to offer a blockchain developer program in Africa. The aim of the program is to produce highly-skilled Ethereum developers in response to the high demand for blockchain experts worldwide.

The Blockchain Developer Program

ConsenSys Academy focuses on promoting Ethereum education globally while the Africa Blockchain Alliance focuses on policy advocacy and facilitating awareness in blockchain technology. The blockchain developer program, which will be offered online, will begin on March 1, 2019, and will run for three months.

The program will include fresh and improved content created from the feedback of former ConsenSys graduates. It will cover smart contract development, DApp development, best security practices, and Ethereum concepts.

Participants will undertake the course for about ten to fifteen hours per week inclusive of four to five quizzes and a project. Once graduates have successfully completed the program and the project, they will receive certificates on the Ethereum blockchain.

ConsenSys AcademyThe Africa Blockchain Alliance in conjunction with its network of partners will provide support through meetups, community events, mentors, and in-person sessions in hand-picked African cities.

The founder of the Africa Blockchain Alliance Ben Onuoha stated:

“I am particularly excited about this initiative as this is our contribution to helping bridge the global blockchain knowledge gap in order to help meet the demand for blockchain developers as well as creating more diversity in the blockchain world. This program also has the potential to create employment for the graduates. Finally, blockchain expertise in Africa owned by Africans to deliver blockchain solutions is lacking and we are excited to be leading the charge in this regard.”

Registration

The blockchain developer program is open to both individuals and organisations from anywhere in Africa. Registration for the program can be done on the Africa Blockchain Alliance’s website.

Learners are required to have a stable Internet connection and a computer running the latest versions of Linux, Mac OS X, or Windows.

The Benefits of the Blockchain Developer Program

The graduates of this program will benefit in various ways such as gaining the opportunity to work for global companies, getting mentorship from developers in the Ethereum ecosystem, and becoming certified blockchain developers.

The program will also enable organisations to create blockchain developer expertise in-house, work on ideated use cases, and access certified and experienced blockchain developers.

The blockchain developer program comes at a time when African countries are reacting positively to blockchain technology with the plan to use it in various sectors. Therefore, this program could provide the talent pool African countries need to implement the blockchain.

If you want to learn more about blockchain development, you can check out our guide on ‘How to Become a Blockchain Developer‘ and our review of the best blockchain online courses.

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