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Nigerian Startup Kora is Leveraging the Blockchain for Low-Cost Cross-Border Money Transfers

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Kora

Kora, a new Nigerian blockchain startup, is utilising the blockchain to enable cross-border money transfers in Africa.

Dickson Nsofor, founder and CEO of Kora, was moved to develop the network while working in the United States as it was hard for him to transfer money back to Nigeria while there. Nsofor said: “It was faster to drive cash to Ghana than to transfer money using a digital channel. And I thought to solve this problem.”

Using the blockchain, the Kora team have managed to find a better way of cutting down the time it takes to make settlements. Since March this year, the Kora remittance service has been undergoing testing and is expected to go live in September 2018. Nsofor and his team plan to add more services than their current offering in future.

Currently, Kora is targeting people who are banked and live in underserved populace. They also have plans to tailor their services for the unbanked people in Africa.

Blockchain Technology Regulation

While payments are Kora’s main focus, for now, the company believes the blockchain can be used to digitise and empower other sectors like the insurance and loan services and is, therefore, testing other ways in which they can utilise blockchain technology. Kora has also created a token system to incentivise users using their platform to make money transfers.

Kora Network

Image by Kora.Network

There has been a lot of push and pull when it comes to regulating cryptocurrencies in Africa. A recent report by Ecobank found out that most African countries are taking a “wait and see” approach towards cryptocurrency regulation. Nigeria has not been any different.

However, Nsofor believes that the blockchain has a lot of potential and that businesses and regulators alike should not fear it. Accepting and acknowledging the technology by African governments would mean that the African continent does not adopt the technology late.

In order to support the adoption of the blockchain in Nigeria, Nsofor said his company is ready to support any blockchain project done by the Central Bank of Nigeria. He believes there is a need to test the technology’s local relevance in all sectors of the Nigerian economy. Naivety or little or no knowledge of the blockchain by African governments could be the two main factors that would cause Africa to miss on the opportunity of adopting the technology. It is for that reason that Nsofor wants African governments to allow and try exploring blockchain technology.

Gideon Orovwiroro, the Head of Operations in Africa at Kora, agrees with Nsofor’s sentiments and believes the greatest hindrance to the technology besides the lack of knowledge by African governments is regulation. In an interview with Techpoint.africa, he said: “A lot of African governments would rather adopt the sit-and-look approach, as opposed to being proactive which is keeping the continent back.”

Kora is keen on working with mobile money operators, licensed mobile transfer operators, businesses in the money service industry as well as banks. Their intention is to work with them using the regulatory framework that the different organisations have developed while waiting until the blockchain gets regulated. The startup is also planning to get a Payment Solution Service Providers license.

Why Africa?

According to Nsofor, there being no African Internet billionaires was the main reason why Africans were late to catch the Internet bubble during the early days and is why he is so keen on championing for the adoption of blockchain technology.

In May 2018, the Kora Network was able to raise $12 million in an initial coin offering (ICO). Looking at the kind of money transfer infrastructure that Kora wants to build, their goal within the next five years is to become “the first $5 billion tech startup in Africa”. And that is not all. They plan “to have a major stake in the financial service market” in Africa in the near future controlling micro-insurance, microcredit and credit scoring among others.

Kora’s game plan is to ensure financial communication within Africa is easy and that there is no currency or distance barrier. Besides, there has been an increase in the number of Global Internet companies that have built payment features interested in the African market a move that is more than welcomed by Nsofor as he believes his startup will be able to compete with them or get acquired.

“The end goal is to be the leading Pan-African digital banking solution provider from Africa by 2022. We want to be controlling payments, remittance, and digital banking across the continent.”

Blockchain Technology

Linum Labs Announces Decentralised Healthcare R&D Funding Platform ‘Molecule’

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Molecule Platform

Blockchain development company Linum Labs has announced the launch of a decentralised open-source funding platform to fast-track innovation in pharma called Molecule.

The Molecule Platform

Linum LabsLinum Labs, which deals with blockchain-based solutions in healthcare and identity, has created the Molecule platform in order to bring together industry, patients, and scientists in an open collaborative market where drug development can be advanced.

The open platform allows participants to contribute funds towards drug development, thereby, achieving Lunum Labs’ goal of distributing cost and risk.

To achieve this, Linum Labs is leveraging blockchain technology and open science to build a fair and accountable market-based platform for the research and funding of pharmaceutical intellectual property.

The Decentralised Answer to the Pharma Research Monopoly

Molecule aims to solve the problem of the monopolisation of research in the pharmaceutical industry, reduced trust, and the expensive, risky, and slow nature of drug development.

Paul Kohlhaas, CEO of Linum Labs, stated: “The pharmaceutical industry faces an innovation crisis caused by the challenges around drug development and the monopolisation of IP. Bringing a drug to market is a high-cost, high-risk, and slow endeavour, and it is generally large organisations that single-handedly shoulder these burdens, leading to massively inflated prices and a lack of innovation.”

Molecule solves these challenges by offering a low-friction crowdsourcing research and funding platform that reduces risk to investors and IP creators in an inclusive environment.

“Molecule enables new economic incentive models for distributed R&D that leverage open science, Web3 and bonding curves to create a fair and accountable market-based platform for the discovery and funding of pharmaceutical IP. The ecosystem aims to align all stakeholders to collaborate in order to move away from environments where only ‘blockbuster drugs’ get approved for development, and towards a more patient-focused approach,” Kohlhaas added.

Development

Molecule

Linum Labs AG started building Molecule in early 2018 on behalf of Swiss non-profit, the Molecule Foundation.

The next stage of “development will include further iterations of the initial proof-of-concept, leading into a minimum viable product,” Linum Labs writes in a statement. This stage will be backed by a financial round that will begin in the second quarter of 2019.

Linum Labs is presently hiring and looking for partners to back the Molecule platform.

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Raise Launches Africa’s First Security Token Platform

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Raise Token Security Platform
Images by Raise

On February 14, 2019, financial technology company Raise announced the launch of the alpha version of its security token platform that is being developed with the aim to tokenise assets in Africa.

The Raise Token Security Platform

The token security platform by Raise is the first security token product to be developed and launched in the African continent.

RaiseA security token is a digital representation of a real-world financial asset such as a land title or share certificate that is built with blockchain-based technology. This makes them very secure digital assets that ease fundraising, lower the costs of cross-border transfers and compliance.

According to the company press release, Raise is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) tool built for funds, law firms and companies to securely digitise partnership units, share certificates, and real estate assets. The platform is able to develop customised digital securities that can be programmed with key performance indicators, custom data and limited partnership or shareholder information.

The co-founders of Raise, CEO Marvin H. Coleby and CTO Eugene Mutai, made the announcement at the annual Africa Tech Summit that was held in Kigali, Rwanda.

Growing Potential for Private Markets

Coleby, an entrepreneur and securities lawyer from the Bahamas, emphasised the potential for more accessible and liquid private markets by saying:

“Today, it’s difficult to move shares between funds and companies. Navigating regulatory requirements, tracking securities ownership and raising financing can be difficult. We have to check and verify a multitude of complex requirements and documents to move assets that many of us already own. This makes private markets expensive and slow to operate – it can take weeks to transfer shares between consenting parties. As a result, private markets are not nearly as liquid as public markets, immobilizing assets and restricting financial inclusion. Blockchain technologies can encode compliance requirements and ease document processes that make private markets difficult to navigate.”

“We’re excited to contribute to a global movement to simplify private markets and securities innovation with this new product and look forward to further development updates this year. This is especially true on the African continent, we strongly believe that fluid and efficient capital markets can create enormous wealth for millions of people and transform intra-African trade,” he added.

Future Plans

The Raise’s platform is mainly targeting the private capital markets sector and is currently working with a list of companies, law firms and private funds to officially launch its platform later in 2019.

So far, Raise has partnered with Africa Legal Network that is an association of 16 corporate law firms to develop a continental regulatory framework for security tokens. The partnership led to the launch of the African Digital Asset Framework, which is an open-source project designed to create standards for blockchain technologies.

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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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