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Blockchain-Based Mobile Banking App Humaniq is Now Active in 21 African Countries

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Humaniq 21 African Countries

The blockchain-powered mobile banking platform Humaniq is now active in 21 African countries where it offers low-cost mobile banking to the underbanked and unbanked populations. Its app is currently available in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa, Kenya, Senegal, Zambia, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Guinea, DR Congo, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Liberia and Equatorial Guinea.

An expansion into more markets is planned. However, expanding into new African markets is not that easy for Humaniq.

Africa’s Lack of Cryptocurrency Regulations Slows Down Humaniq’s Expansion

The main reason why Humaniq is not active in more markets yet is that the startup has to comply with the regulations in every country it operates in.

Humaniq

From a regulatory perspective, both the blockchain and cryptocurrencies operate in what Humaniq calls a “legal void”. Simply put, there are no laws or regulations that have been established to govern the use of the blockchain and cryptocurrencies in most countries in Africa. For most countries, digital currencies are neither legal nor illegal although there are certain governments that have issued warnings to their citizens about their use to with some countries like Namibia outrightly banning cryptocurrencies.

Another important factor that Humaniq has to put into consideration is being compliant to the privacy and user data protection laws. This is because the Humaniq app, just like any other app you use on your phone, deals with a lot of sensitive information such as biometric identities and phone numbers.

For this reason, Humaniq stated in a blog post that it “needs to be very careful to respect all existing standards for data safety. With that said, we are fully compliant with the recently enacted EU GDPR laws, which can be considered as the toughest user data protection legislation in the world”.

How Humaniq Adds New Launch Countries

Before Humaniq can allow users to use their wallet in a country, it must first whitelist that country. This means that the company has to be 100 percent sure that government of a given country will consider their activities fully legal.

Humaniq went on to explain: “Initially we created a list of 10 countries, chosen according to criteria such as large population size, low incomes, and low banking services penetration. Then, we began searching for local law firms that specialised in the financial sector, requesting a legal opinion on whether our services will be allowed in their country. As mentioned before, the most important factors were the regulations on user data protection and the legal status of cryptocurrency, taking into consideration our emission system as well.”

Unbanked

While this procedure was a set standard procedure for Humaniq, it meant that it had to wait for several months for each country request which slowed their launch operations in any new country. The team ended up adding more countries that they were interested in expanding in and the list grew to 40 countries. Even with more countries of interest, there were countries that the company could still not launch in because either there was no legal clarity or they faced immediate rejection.

Although the team remains hopeful and believes they will be able to solve the problem through additional work, they also acknowledge the fact that it will take more resources and time, especially in Africa. This is because, besides the legality surrounding blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, Humaniq carried out research to get a better understanding of its users in different African markets and the results revealed that some of the issues facing these markets when it comes to financial inclusion include the lack of a common language, literacy level, no trust and people in emerging markets will generally not use cryptocurrencies for paying for paying for things like goods.

Besides legal issues, there are also other non-legal factors that have to be considered when a business wants to launch into any new market. While whitelisting a country is an easy matter and can take less than a day, getting the citizens to start using your services, however, does not take a day. People will not just use your product because it is available to them. There is a need to run marketing campaigns that combine the use of traditional and digital marketing for each new market separately.

Future Plans

HumaniqAlthough Humaniq has picked up the pace for whitelisting new countries and plans to continue the same way, their focus will not just be on the African continent. It is also targeting Asian and South American countries.

“It’s important to remember that Africa is not the only continent with large amounts of unbanked people, and we are excited to be making the jump soon! In fact, the expansion into Asia and America will be somewhat faster, as it’s much easier to find the required information by ourselves, compared to most African countries. We will, of course, keep developing our African presence through providing more use cases and more available countries as well: our eventual aim is to cover all of Sub-Saharan Africa,” the company stated in a blog post.

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Nairobi Securities Exchange May List Africa’s First Cryptocurrency ETF

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Africa's First Cryptocurrency ETF

Kenya-based Badoer Group ADK ETF is gearing up to launch a crypto-based exchange traded fund (ETF) on the Nairobi Securities Exchange in the first quarter of 2019. If their application is successful, it would become Africa’s first cryptocurrency-backed ETF.

Africa’s First Cryptocurrency ETF

Badoer GroupBadoer Group ADK ETF, a private company incorporated in October, is reportedly finalising an ETF listing arrangement on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE), according to a report by Business Today.

If approved, the NSE would regulate Badoer Group ADK ETF, giving ordinary investors regulatory protection to invest in the asset. About 50 percent of the total ADK in supply, which is 12.5 million ADK, would be available for the ETF.

The founder of ADK, Ricardo Badoer, has reportedly met with the NSE’s commercial director, Ms. Bahati Morara, and the head of Innovation and Project Management, Mr. Irungu Wagema to finalise the ETF listing arrangement.

The NSE is one of the leading securities exchange in East Africa with 66 listed companies and over $20 billion (KES 2.10 trillion) in market capitalisation.

Road to the First ETF

In 2018, there have been debates about whether or when a Bitcoin ETF will get launched. Many believe it will allow investors to diversify their investments without actually owning the assets tracked by an ETF. While others think it is just a distraction to the development of the technology.

Last month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had stopped accepting public feedback on their Bitcoin ETFs policy review. The market regulator postponed decisions or denied applications to list various ETFs. The SEC cited issues like the volatility of bitcoin and rumoured manipulation of prices as obstacles.

However, in Sweden, XBT Providers already provide bitcoin and ether as exchange-traded products (ETP) on Nasdaq Stockholm, a major Swedish exchange. ETFs are one of the investment vehicles under ETPs.

Having crypto-based fund will make sense to many investors who were cautious of putting their money in an unregulated cryptocurrency market. ADK’s anticipated move with an African-based ETF could open the market to a lot more African investors and institutions.

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Egypt’s Central Bank is Considering Issuing a Digital Currency

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Egypt central bank digital currency

Egypt has reportedly joined the list of countries that have started studying the issuance of digital currency as an option or alternative for their fiat currencies. That makes Egypt one of the few sovereign countries in Africa to consider a national digital currency option, which is somewhat surprising given the country’s negative stance towards cryptocurrencies.

The “Egypt Coin”

egypt bitcoin exchangeThe Cairo-based news outlet, Amwal Al Ghad, reported that the sub-governor of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), Ayman Hussein, confirmed the prospect of government-issued virtual currency in a conference in Abu Dhabi. He said the bank is conducting a study in collaboration with some international financial institutions.

However, he did not disclose details about the proposed currency and did not address whether it would be traded between banks only or issued to the general public.

Amwal Al Ghad says the bank believes the digital currency could “lower the cost of banknote issuance and use of cash.”

State-Issued Digital Currencies

Many central banks all over the world have considered issuing their own digital fiat money, rather than support cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

In July 2016, the Bank of England became one of the first institutions to analyse the possibility of state-issued virtual currency. Followed by central banks in Canada, Russia, China and Sweden among others, as well as the European Central Bank.

However, Tunisia was the first country in the world to put their national currency on a blockchain in a trial in 2015. The eDinar initiative did not receive enough backing to go beyond proof of concept but highlighted the interest of central banks in testing a blockchain-based currency system.

The following year, various news media wrongly reported that the Senegalese government issued a digital currency on the blockchain. It had issued an e-currency, the eCFA, but it was not created on a blockchain.

Making State-Issued Digital Currencies Work

The use of this progressive financial technology is a positive step forward to help unbanked people in Africa. Also, it could aid electronic payments and support a cashless society.

Still, some people have questioned the approach of these countries. Centralised blockchains with power concentrated with the central banks could impose limitations on general adoption. The allure of the blockchain technology in the first place is decentralisation, giving people freedom from the traditional centralised banking system.

The impact of a central bank issuing its own cryptocurrency is potentially disruptive, even on the business model of commercial banks. The most practical approach for most central banks, it seems, is to restrict the use of cryptocurrency within an inter-bank context.

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Cashaa Announces Launch of Global Crypto Accounts for Businesses and Individuals

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Cashaa
Images by Cashaa

Cashaa, a London-based blockchain startup, has announced the launch of its global multi-currency crypto-friendly accounts for businesses and individuals, which will take place on November 28, 2018.

What is Cashaa?

CashaaCashaa was launched in 2016 to ease the challenges that were being faced by bitcoin remittance companies such as country-specific regulations, KYC/AML requirements, illiquidity of exchanges among others, will be able to bank all kinds of individuals and businesses from startups based in garages to large businesses or exchanges with revenues in the millions.

Unlike most bitcoin remittance businesses in operation today, Cashaa uses a peer-to-peer model that lets local traders manage fiat currency exchanges with the cryptocurrency feature of the whole transaction occurring in the background.

Talking about the planned launch of its gobal accounts, Cashaa stated in a press release: “The Crypto community has continuously been denied support from high street banks who like to talk and sponsor blockchain events but in reality do not want the blockchain revolution to happen. To speed up our mission to “Bank the Unbanked”, starting from the Crypto community, we have merged our wallet release with the account plans – this first version of Cashaa will be launched on November 28, 2018.”

Cashaa’s Business Products and Fund Security

Cashaa has five business products with different tiers for both businesses and individuals. The five different products are Blue, Basic, Smart Value, Premier and Advance. Each product membership is different for both individuals and businesses in terms of monthly limit.

Cashaa

All the accounts will require CAS tokens to function apart from the free account. CAS is also listed on several exchanges such as Idex and HitBTC, among others. The first release will see Cashaa users get:

  1. Multisig crypto wallet for Bitcoin, Ether and CAS tokens
  2. Accounting and auditing features
  3. Banking product details with different membership plans
  4. Pre-registration for the membership plans
  5. Onboarding business users for the banking services
  6. Deposit CAS token holding period to activate the accounts

Since Cashaa will have business and individual accounts that will potentially have millions of dollars in them, the startup has opted to go with a 100 percent fund protection scheme with European Central Institutions. This means that all deposits made through Cashaa will be kept in a segregated account with the Bank of England to ensure that Cashaa does not risk or invest their users’ money in any way.

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