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What is Particl and Why Should You Know About It? – An Interview with “Crypto Ramble”

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Particl
Images by Particl.io

BitcoinAfrica.io reached out to Particl spokesperson Desi-Rae, who hosts a YouTube channel called Crypto Ramble, which focuses on cryptocurrencies, privacy, and the Particl Project to find out more about the highly innovative privacy-focused cryptocurrency project and how Africans can benefit from it.

Desi-Rae is a native Jamaican turned New Yorker who first learned about cryptocurrencies in 2013. She started to become actively involved in the cryptocurrency community in early 2018 when an advisor at Particl asked her if she would like to create digital content to spread the word about the project.

What is Particl and how does it differ from other privacy-focused cryptocurrency projects?

Particl is a privacy coin that is currently building its first decentralised application (DApp): an online marketplace. The project is unique because of how its privacy technology is built, and the impact it will have on the world.

Particl uses RINGCT, initially developed by Monero, which allows transaction amounts and sender information to be hidden. Particl also provides recipient anonymity. RINGCT provides one of the highest levels of anonymity among privacy coins, compared to Dash’s CoinJoin for example, and without some of the disadvantages of other privacy technologies, such as a trusted setup.

ParticlFurthermore, because it is built on the Bitcoin codebase, this gives a stable and well-understood environment for the development of DApps and inclusion of new developers in the future. There are other achievements of the project, such as it being the first to implement hardware cold-staking, that highlight the innovation and talent of the development team.

In terms of its impact, the privacy and selling features it offers with e-commerce are unique. The marketplace is the first of its kind, due to the privacy offered by RINGCT, and additional governance and escrow services. It means that users can transact with each other without the power imbalance and subsequent threats that come from using the platforms of private companies. It solves current e-commerce and finance issues such as higher barriers to entry for sellers, exploitation of sellers’ sales data, global payment infrastructures being exclusive, and needing middlemen to provide escrow services.

Particl is also, conspicuously, one of a few cryptocurrency projects that are well beyond its idea stage. The coin’s privacy features were recently audited, and the marketplace has a testnet build already available with a usable product coming soon. It is a stellar project, building secure technology, and with a pragmatic product on the horizon.

What is your role at the Particl project?

Desi-Rae CryptoRamble

I’m a Particl spokesperson and community member. I help bring awareness to the project by creating visual and written content that others can watch and read in order to discover what the project is about, how it works, and why they should get involved. I also introduce the project to as many people and contacts as I can.

I make content for Particl within the context of Crypto Ramble, a web series that focuses on cryptocurrencies, privacy, and Particl.

Why did you choose YouTube for your channel as opposed to some of the new video streaming alternatives out of the crypto sector?

I chose YouTube because I was already familiar with using YouTube as a platform to share my content. I also post Crypto Ramble videos on other platforms but have not done any live streaming in a solo capacity.

There will also be an audio podcast as an alternative to video content, coming soon.

How important is privacy for you and for cryptocurrency users, in general?

PrivacyPrivacy is very important to me. We are slowly allowing ourselves and future generations to be ensconced in an age of rapid technological change that is shedding basic tenets of self-sovereignty, such as privacy, due to the lure of convenience. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I would think that privacy is important for cryptocurrency users in general.

The spirit of cryptocurrency is to create a new form of institution, a decentralised one, that is not beholden to the corporate interests that dominate the status quo. Bitcoin was not just made to create a new form of money, but a trust-less form of money.

A lack of privacy equates to the same institutional powers being able to maintain that status quo. It is important to realise that privacy is not just desired by bad actors. It is a fundamental human right that is also identified by reputable institutions where these standards are established.

Particl is currently ranked 237th on CoinMarketCap and is not in the top ten largest privacy coins measured by market capitalisation. Why do you think that Particl has not managed to get more traction from investors?

Particl has an amazing development team, amazing being an appropriate word. This does not necessarily translate to the desire to generate hype while focusing on development. The project garnered a lot of attention at its start and there has been a proliferation of cryptocurrencies during and after that time. Investors and enthusiasts may not fully understand the space or may be looking for projects that they can quickly find promoted information on.

My personal assessment is that there is a lot of noise in the cryptocurrency space and that the project will make its mark again when it is ready to, with the right deliverables.

How can Africans benefit from what Particl has to offer?

Africans can benefit from what Particl has to offer by using the technology in ways that are useful to them. Cryptocurrencies allow users to take control of their personal finances and send money directly to others without the barrier of distance, and without the need to trust in companies. They can get their money across in a timely fashion and to the right people, without the stress of inefficiency or overcurious assistance.

Moreover, at this stage where cryptocurrency or blockchain as cryptocurrency is finding its feet as a new form of technology, the opportunity is there to learn how to use it and leverage the technology to deliver solutions to people in the untapped niches that make up their environment.

Particl is not just a privacy coin but a platform, with a software development kit (SDK) in the works. In a similar fashion to using a decentralised currency, Africans can use a decentralised marketplace that offers privacy, useful transaction features, and ownership of their data. They can use it in ways that are useful to themselves and their communities.

Does Particl have plans to move into the African market? Are there any existing initiatives in this regard?

Africa

As Africa is a big continent with many people self-identifying with different parts, this is an interesting question to answer. A central hub for Particl is South Africa, so Particl already has its feet firmly planted in Africa. Particl is more than open to bringing in new community members.

Particl is currently focused on the development of the project but will be focused on marketing and new projects in the future. We are open to making any new contacts. Perhaps your readers could even start thinking about potential products they would like to sell on the marketplace!

Where can people find out more about yourself and the Particl project?

People can find out more about me at http://cryptoramble.com and find out more about Particl at http://particl.io. There are links on the Particl website to various communication channels. Finally, you can follow @cryptoramble on YouTube, Twitter, and Steemit to stay up to date.

Features

The Benefits of Cryptocurrencies On Africa’s Economy

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BitOasis

Societies today are seeing a progressive shift in the direction of a cashless system. This progress puts digital currencies as the imminent future of both commerce and banking. 

For African countries, such as Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, there is starting to be a feel for digital currencies – mainly bitcoin – in society. Additionally, the blockchain is perceived as the eventual solution to Africa’s present issues and economic growth. Industries in Africa are gradually understanding the basics of blockchain and how it works.

Bitcoin ETF ProposalsIn advanced environments, the rate of approval of cryptocurrency is relatively slow. This is because the financial sector is standing as an obstruction to its utilisation. However, in Africa, these digital currencies are gradually being tested and accepted.

A significant reason for this is because it allows the African community to rise above the typical monetary institutions and establishments. The banks located in cities are also difficult to access from secluded, provincial villages with ease. The increased cost of transaction also adds to the reasons why financial services are limited amongst the African community.

Right here is where cryptocurrency comes in.

Cryptocurrencies provide added opportunities to the African economy. This is major because it is not being scrutinised or controlled by either the Government or financial institutions. 

Digital currencies have the ability of rendering assistance to people in under-developed areas. There is an authentic need for a much more protective method of making digital payments and even loans for little transactions.

What Do Cryptocurrencies Offer Africa’s Economy?

As a non-scrutinised digital currency, cryptocurrency provides flexibility in the economy and a chance to carry out transactions involving diverse monetary markets all over the world.

Cryptocurrency is greatly protected and provides alternatives to the typical banking and transactions. The benefits and opportunities for this technology in Africa include;

  • Alternative Banking for the Unbanked

Cryptocurrency is perfect for unbanked African citizens because it is easily accessible and secured compared to the typical currencies. Also, making use of cryptocurrency accounts allows easy payment for services rendered and utilities.

Approval of this computerised banking allows the building of a virtual financial history which is necessary for the receipt of loans. It can be used for investment in diverse business opportunities.

  • Privacy

Digital currencies are modelled to be decentralised with no central point of failure. They are not subject to management by the Government meaning that nobody can freeze your account at will maybe due to legal problems. Cryptocurrencies are immune to the ineffectiveness and disturbances of the Government.

  • Cross-Border Payments

Top international establishments believe that crypto trade between countries in Africa can act as a spur for an increase in the economy. Even more, digital currency can now back both international cross-border trade.

Local businesses know the importance of cryptocurrencies and how fast and effective it is for cross-border payments. This includes some products and services rendered in the increasing market in Africa.

Additionally, the easy access to a tremendous customer base through cryptocurrency approval provides a possibility for rapid growth in sales. 

Wrapping It Up

It is worthy to note that cryptocurrency is gradually gaining traction in Africa. This is turning the continent into a leader in the current monetary revolution and has the potential to boost Africa forward in its economic development. 

This guest post was contributed by Ibe Emmanuel, CEO and co-founder of BitBata.

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Features

How FinTech Companies Changed Africa

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FinTech Companies Changed Africa

Although Africa’s economies may be lagging behind its more developed counterparts, it seems that the continent is not immune to the global fintech revolution. Africa started witnessing a substantial surge in fintech startups in 2015. The total funding from venture capitalists spiked by 51 percent to $195 million between 2016 and 2017, with fintech funding accounting for a third of the amount. That’s a significant amount given that total global funding for seed-stage companies, early-stage venture capitalist rounds, and VC rounds was $851 million, $7.137 billion, and $6.9 billion respectively. 

Currently, there are well over 300 startups in operation all over the continent — 94 operate in South Africa, 74 in Nigeria, and 56 in Kenya. It’s not a surprise that these three countries are spearheading the fintech revolution in Africa as they are considered the top three investment destinations in Africa.

Regional comparisons in fintech adoption show that South Africa is in the lead with around 35 percent of fintech startups concentrated in the region. West Africa follows close behind with around 34 percent.

Africa’sfintech industry to a large extent owes its existence to the development of M-Pesa, a Kenyan-based mobile money transfer service that has given Kenyans the ability to access financial services away from banks. Currently, the platform supports over 25 million customers in over ten markets in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The number of M-Pesa users has grown by 32 percent from 17.12 million to 22.62 million as of June 2017. The massive success enjoyed by M-Pesa has influenced other FinTech companies to join the finance sector to develop financial solutions such as those offered by M-Pesa.

Fintech Implementation in Africa

Fintech companies in Africa are mostly focusing on two broad categories:

  • payments and transfers;
  • lending and finance.

Of the two categories, payments and transfers have recorded an influx of startup companies compared to the others. Reports show that a majority of these startups focus mainly on simplifying the process of sending and receiving money.

Some fintech companies in Africa that are taking major steps in revolutionising the finance sector in Africa include (aside from M-Pesa):

  • Flutterwave has operations in over 36 countries and is partnered with 10 African banks. It provides payment technologies and infrastructure to Africa’s largest financial institutions. Today, Flutterwave has processed over $1.2 billion in payments. The primary goal of Flutterwave is to provide solutions for enterprises, entrepreneurs, and banks alike. It presents its customers with no special, annual, or upfront project fees. Instead, Flutterwave bridges the digital payments gap that exists between users and banks. Their Nigerian customers can execute money transfers directly into several bank accounts without any hassle.
  • Pezesha, initially launched in Kenya, is a peer-to-business micro-lending marketplace made up of low-income borrowers. In Africa, formal credit services are hard to attain, and on top of that, they have incredibly high interest rates. Therefore, most Africans are unable to secure reliable credit facilities that they can safely payback. Users of Pezesha can acquire instant loans on their mobile phones via SMS provided that minimum criteria are met. Apart from low-income earners, Pezesha also extends its services to SMEs that make up 80 percent of Africa’s employment. It not only drives up the economies of the continent but ensures the continued existence of small businesses across the continent.
  • Cellulant, a digital commerce and payments service provider, is well established and operational in 11 countries. The company works with over 90 banks. The Cellulant ecosystem has support for over 100 million customers. As of January last year, the company served roughly 12 percent of Africa’s mobile consumers who utilise the platform to make payments. This year, Cellulant raised $47.5 million from a collection of investors that included Satya Capital, TPG Growth, Endeavour Catalyst, and the Rise Fund.
  • Tala, a mobile technology company that’s providing access to credit by putting mobile credit services into the hands of consumers, is operational in several countries in Africa and outside Africa. The company leverages an android app that collects data from each consumer, determines their credit score, and disburses a loan in <10 minutes. So far, the company has disbursed over a million dollars to individuals in East Africa and outside Africa.
  • Numida, a digital financial services company situated in Uganda, won the Kampala Seedstar World Competition in 2017. The company boasts of a 99 percent repayment rate and has since disbursed about 190 loans to 135 Ugandan SMEs. Other than providing small unsecured loans to small businesses, the firm helps these businesses digitise their financial records through the Numida app. Through the Numida app, Numida can assess a client’s creditworthiness and then issues an appropriately sized unsecured loan.

Potential of using Fintech in Africa 

FinTechAfrica is an immense continent with different economies supporting a total population of about 1 billion individuals residing in 54 sovereign countries. Surprisingly, only about 17 percent of the entire African population is banked. With nearly 80 percent of the total population still unbanked (and up to 95 million unbanked adults in Sub-Saharan Africa alone), Africa offers a unique breeding ground for the development of the fintech industry. A significant underbanked population ensures that fintech will most likely be an enabler of financial inclusion.    

Innovation takes time and is often a collection of economies and nations that have the financial capability to invest, research, and develop on a broader scale. African nations, not having the same capabilities as developed nations, are provided with a unique opportunity that they can leverage. They can ‘jump’ inferior and redundant stages of technology advancement and go straight to adopting innovations. For example, currently, millions of Africans are in possession of mobile phone devices without ever going through the hassle of owning a landline at all. A phase that already-developed nations could not have skipped.

Technology is a crucial driver of businesses and entrepreneurship today. Due to this, financial procedures have been developing extremely fast, and there is an immense transformation in many aspects of financial processes. The Internet penetration rate in Africa recently stood at around 35.2 percent while the mobile penetration rate in the continent stands at 44 percent. Out of these two, Kenya emerges as the strongest African country, as it has an internet penetration rate of 85 percent and a mobile penetration rate of 95.1 percent.

According to GSMA, mobile money accounts in Africa have surpassed traditional bank accounts. Mobile money accounts have been on the rise, with statistics showing a steady growth in numbers from 0.2 million to 277 million between 2007 and 2016. The number of active bank accounts in Africa was 178 million as of December 2015. This huge difference in numbers indicates the potential that Africa offers to fintech startups focused on providing payment solutions. Technology innovation coupled with increasing Internet and mobile penetration rates have made the growth of African fintech companies a possibility. Subsequently, this has substantially increased investor interest in the sector even further.    

Africa Welcoming Innovation

The fintech revolution in Africa is not a PR stunt. Fintech companies are attracting a previously unbanked population while at the same time retaining already existing traditional bank customers. Digitisation is helping financial institutions deliver digital financial products and services to a greater number of customers across the continent.

Increased dependence on these innovative fintech companies is projected to reduce demand for bank services. Subsequently, this could lead to bank branches shut down, with only a few remaining as destinations for problem resolution, advice, etc. For example, Kenya’s M-Pesa mobile payment services have made it possible for P2P mobile payments to be made both locally and internationally.

These startups are redefining the industry’s perception of what it means to be called a bank. Not only do they offer bank-like services, but they also avail loans, process financial transactions, and innovate much faster than banks.

Africa is hopping onto the fintech bandwagon, learning from the experiences of developed economies such as Asia, America, and Europe, and even leapfrogging past unnecessary steps, straight to modern innovation. 

This guest post was contributed by Paweł Tomczyk, founder of the blockchain-focused content marketing agency Cyberius

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Features

To the Blockchain And Beyond: Are Security Tokens the Third Wave in Fintech?

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third wave of fintech

In a competitive landscape, Initial Coin Offering (ICO) funding has become a tough nut to crack. With various ICO scandals leaving a sour taste in investors mouths, more sophisticated offerings such as Security Token Offerings (STOs) find themselves subject to increased scrutiny.

The challenge lies in their unfamiliarity amongst most financial professionals. Despite being a model closer to traditional financial products, adoption and understanding in mainstream finance continues at a slow pace.

While the mainstream has been tentative to adopt security tokens, they have recently gained unparalleled popularity in the cryptocurrency industry. Security tokens, security-type certificates or tokens registered under a legal and regulatory framework, are seen by several key industry players as a more legitimate way to perform ICOs.

However, beyond this, security tokens also have the potential to completely revolutionise global financial practices like securities tokenisation.

For securities trading, the benefits of blockchain boil down to three key areas: circulation and liquidity, versatility and security and the securitisation of new assets.

Circulation and liquidity

The current structure of the securities market means that cross-border transactions are limited to a few exchanges only, and can often be slow and costly – trade reconciliation work has to be done manually, along with other labour intensive database tasks. Token exchanges have the potential to solve this – they now operate 24 hours, 365 days a year, trading is relatively liquid and transactions are settled in the same working day with no clearing period, otherwise known as ‘T+0’.

Furthermore, these tokens can be traded in Satoshi units, which have nine decimal places – enabling smaller trades to be done and lowering the investment threshold, meaning more people can invest than ever before.

Should we apply this technology to the securities market, it would have the potential to solve the circulation and liquidity problem, as well as making transactions easier by removing cross-border restrictions.

Versatility and security

Industry adoption of security tokens could also provide some strengths when it comes to versatility, as they can have a high degree of interoperability. By tokenising any form of asset, you open it up to be traded for a much wider range of things, like security tokens, utility tokens or digital currencies, rather than just another security token.

The decentralised ledger system also means that it would be more difficult to hack compared to a centralised server system, making ownership of the tokens more secure.

In addition, security tokens offer more security than other cryptocurrencies, as everything is linked to the individual’s ownership. For Bitcoin, if you are a victim of a hacked account or someone gets hold of your private keys, the Bitcoins in question would most likely be gone and the chances of you proving ownership of the Bitcoins are slim.

However, due to a tangible underlying asset, security token hacks take a different form. While hacks could lead ownership to be debatable, the asset in question will still be there. And as long as the company issuing the security tokens has been through sufficient Know Your Customer (KYC) checks, ownership can be resolved. Furthermore, stealing a security token from someone would leave a transaction record on the blockchain, which is the digital equivalent of leaving your fingerprints all over the crime scene.

Securitising new assets

Tokens are unique in that that they can securitise various forms of assets including both tangible and intangible assets. This has already had some success, with the recent auction of Andy Warhol’s 14 Small Electric Chairs, an iconic contemporary art piece featuring an electric chair, allowing art lovers to buy a share in the painting.

This would also contribute to liquidity and interoperability of assets, as these small units can subsequently be traded. This goes beyond art – in the future we can expect to see assets like office buildings operating on a fractionalised ownership model, allowing smaller investors who previously would not be able to afford investment in this asset class to participate.

A ‘super’ future for securities?

blockchainAs a result, not only do securities tokens provide a safer and more sustainable alternative to the ICO model, but they also have the potential to revolutionise the traditional securities market, possibly opening up the idea of ‘super securities’ further down the line.

Through blockchain technology, securities can be made more accessible, liquid, and secure by removing third-party risk and lowering transaction costs. Should the trend continue, we could see security tokens becoming standard practice, eventually replacing existing securities to become ‘super securities’.

With this in mind, those who herald security tokens as third wave in Fintech may well be right, particularly when it comes to revolutionising securities trading. However, how we approach this next technological step is crucial. If implemented correctly, security tokens could significantly improve existing processes and make investment accessible to all, bringing positive change not only for the future of cryptocurrencies, but also for the wider financial markets.

This guest post was contributed by Jack Chia, MD of Cryptology.

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