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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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Can Cryptocurrency Disrupt the Online Gaming Industry?

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online gaming industry

Cryptocurrencies have had a marked impact in various industries over the past few years, generating hype and controversy in equal measure.

When it comes to online gaming, there is ample opportunity for bitcoin and its contemporaries to cause disruption. But what shape will this shakeup take and how will this differ depending on the segment of the market that is affected?

Online Casino Sites

Bitcoin Gambling ICOsThe rise of digital gambling services has been fuelled in the recent past by the relaxing of regulations surrounding web-based wagering, as well as the streamlining of the transactions required to deposit and withdraw cash from casino sites.

In spite of ongoing efforts to address claims that some countries are too liberal in terms of online gambling regulation, continued growth is anticipated and the industry could generate $100 billion annually within the next half-decade.

Unfortunately, most mainstream casino sites do not offer direct deposits and withdrawals using cryptocurrency. If you want to snap up bonus deals at Casumo or any other popular site, you will most likely have to rely on a credit or debit card transaction.

Indirect use of cryptocurrency can be achieved in this context through certain payment platforms. Skrill, for example, offers a crypto-oriented aspect of its service that can then allow for conversion into a classic fiat currency.

The reason that online casino sites are anxious about embracing cryptocurrency is that it is still subject to a significant degree of volatility, with signs that this state of affairs will persist indefinitely. This is something that players are also considering from a practical perspective, with the investment opportunities presented by cryptos being seen as enough of a gamble in their own right, without bringing the likelihood of losing money at a casino into the equation.

Esports

esportsOnline gaming used to be casually competitive, but it did not take long for professional players to emerge and tournaments focused on showcasing their skills to be developed.

Prize money for major events based on titles like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Starcraft can spiral into the tens of millions of dollars, while huge audiences from around the world tune in to see their favourite players and teams do battle.

The influence of cryptocurrency in this area of the market is similarly nascent and in the process of evolving, rather than being a truly disruptive force that is impossible to ignore. What is more relevant to esports is the way that blockchain technology is leaving its mark at the moment.

Blockchain provides the backbone of cryptos and ensures that security is optimal. This is being adopted by certain emerging online gaming service providers in order to reduce the chances of cheating and prevent unwanted outside intervention in both high profile esports events and everyday face-offs between amateurs in their own homes.

As with online casinos, gambling is also being factored into the esports scene at the moment, with both cryptocurrency and blockchain technology facilitating the emergence of new solutions to make this a possibility.

Being able to place a wager on the outcome of a digital competition in the game of your choice is not a new concept. What is gaining traction at the moment is the ability to bet on how well you will perform in a match that you actively participate in.

Platforms which let players host their own mini-tournaments, gamble on the result and make money while they play the games they love can use crypto services to make this happen. This is a dramatic shift from the traditional approach to online gaming and will continue to cause changes as the industry matures.

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3 Reasons Why Africa Is Set For A Cryptocurrency Explosion

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Cryptocurrency Explosion

Bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrency have irrevocably changed the way we think about money from a fundamental standpoint. Where most forms of hard currency are subject to government oversight and regulations, cryptocurrencies are typically free from such restrictions. Hence, it is easy to see why bitcoin was a favorite amongst dark web users and criminals. Controversy aside, cryptocurrencies are considered the way of the future and have the potential to bring about a revolution.

With a massive population and its wealth of natural resources, the continent of Africa has been described by Forbes as being the last frontier of investment. Now, in the face of changing times and an increasingly connected world, cryptocurrency is making its way to Africa.

Join us as we take a look at why Africa may be the next big thing for cryptocurrency.

1. The Lack of an Organised Financial System

With its bloody history of colonisation, political instability, and civil wars, Africa’s growth in the banking and finance sector has been lacking. Despite initiatives undertaken by the IMF and World Bank, financial inclusion in Africa remains low.

A lack of political will and resources has made the task of developing a banking infrastructure a daunting one. As a result, this has left a sizable amount of the population with little to no access to financial services.

Fortunately, because cryptocurrencies can be transferred and received by anyone with an Internet connection, the need for middlemen or banks is eliminated. Throw in the fact that Internet connectivity in Africa has been on the rise and we have all the elements required to see an increase in cryptocurrency uptake.

The trend can be witnessed by the number of cryptocurrency exchanges appearing across Africa. From Golix in Zimbabwe to the Naira Exchange in Nigeria, one can expect to see an increase in uptake in the years to come as Africans move beyond banks and their legacy services.

2. The Youth Factor

African tech startupsWith an entrepreneurial community and a high rate of tech-literacy, it should come as no surprise that a rising number of youths in Nigeria have turned to freelancing in lieu of traditional employment. Working with members of the international community, these freelancers offer a variety of services that range from copywriting to programming.

Unfortunately, the notoriety of Nigerian Internet fraudsters has resulted in some complications for burgeoning freelancers. For example, payment companies like Paypal do not allow the transfer of funds into Nigeria in order to discourage Internet fraud. On the other hand, payment companies who do offer such services to Nigerians often do so at an exorbitant cost.

To work around this, freelancers in Nigeria have turned to accepting cryptocurrency as a form of payment in lieu of cash transferred online. Among the crypto-literate in Nigeria, bitcoin is seen as being on par with the US dollar.

3. Cryptocurrency As a Stable Form of Currency

The African continent is no stranger to civil wars and unstable governments. From Venezuela to Zimbabwe, we’ve seen how hyperinflation can decimate the value of a nation’s currency.

Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto has often cited that bitcoin was intended to be immune to economic turmoil due to its decentralised nature. Suffering from crippling hyperinflation, citizens of Zimbabwe have turned to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies despite being banned by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

Kenyan Shilling

Tech-savvy Zimbabweans have often cited that utilising bitcoin as a medium of exchange allows them to hedge the value of their cash against hyperinflation. In a nation where financial services are sketchy at best and foreign investment is minimal, bitcoin provides Zimbabweans with a measure of much-needed stability.

Further proof of this can be seen by how Venezuelans have turned to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in lieu of the now defacto useless Bolivar. Being free from bank and government intervention, cryptocurrencies allow citizens to freely transfer funds into or out of the country with minimal fuss.

Cryptocurrencies have the potential to democratise financial services due to their independence. With adoption rates of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency set to explode in Africa, you just need to hold your horses and wait for the value growth.

This guest post was contributed by cryptocurrency writer Benjamin Lee. 

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eatBCH – Bitcoin Cash Community Has Raised Over $10,000 to Feed Vulnerable South Sudanese

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eatBCH

eatBCH is a charitable cause launched with the aim to help feed individuals who live in Venezuela’s struggling economy through donations in Bitcoin Cash (BCH). After initially launching in Venezuela, eatBCH was also launched in South Sudan to bring the “peer-to-peer electronic cash-to-food system” to the central African nation.

To find out more about the eatBCH initiative in South Sudan, BitcoinAfrica.io spoke to one of the organisation’s volunteers, Garang Deng.

eatBCH in South Sudan

EatBCH South SudanIn a conversation over Telegram, Garang Deng told BitcoinAfrica.io that the eatBCH South Sudan team, which works on a volunteer basis, was inspired by the initiative’s impact in Venezuela after which a team member got in touch with eatBCH Venezuela to find out more how the charitable cause was run in the South American country.

After several of today’s team members attended the Africa Blockchain Conference in Kampala in May 2018, the group decided to launch an eatBCH initiative in South Sudan.

“We launched it there and got our first donation, and we bought some food items on our way back home,” Deng explained.

Since there are no businesses or vendors that accept bitcoin cash and no local cryptocurrency exchanges in South Sudan, the eatBCH team uses Ugandan exchange Coinpesa to convert the BCH to mobile money, which it then uses to make its food purchases.

“We started the charity part-time on weekends in the capital, Juba, in our neighbourhood and then expanded to some of the most affected areas by the conflict, such as the town of Yei or Bor. There, we were able to feed over 500 internally displaced people, mostly elderly and children. We were able to do that through our colleagues whom we trained after coming back from the blockchain conference,” Deng elaborated.

Since May 2018, the eatBCH South Sudan initiative has managed to raise over $10,000 said Deng.

More to Come

Future plans of eatBCH in South Sudan are “to teach people to use this money to improve their lives not only for feeding but to trade with it. Also, we are planning to send these kids who work on the streets to school if we are able to get the support we need.”

Anyone that is interested in contributing to the charitable cause on a voluntary basis is welcome to do so. Currently, the broader team includes students from high schools and colleges who help to distribute the food to children and the elderly.

Moreover, anyone wishing to contribute financially to the cause can donate to eatBCH’s Bitcoin Cash (BCH) wallet found on the initiative’s Twitter and website.

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