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7 African Blockchain Startups to Watch in 2019

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If blockchain technology was the hype last year, then this year it has moved beyond having the potential to transform industries to actually cementing its place as a formidable disruptive entity in its own right. Despite cryptocurrency markets experiencing a bear market since the start of the year, African blockchain startups are focusing on implementing distributed ledger technologies as they look to solve everyday challenges with this innovative new technology.

In this guide, you will discover seven high-profile blockchain startups that are spearheading innovation in Africa.

BitPesa

BitPesaBitPesa is a blockchain startup that focuses on cross-border business-to-business payments and bitcoin exchange services. The company was founded in 2013 by Elizabeth Rossiello, with the aim of providing an alternative payment system to consumers that would surpass legacy systems and reduce the cost of money transfers. BitPesa incorporates blockchain technology to hasten payments by utilising its peer-to-peer nature for transactions and relies on bitcoin (BTC) as a transactional currency.

BitPesa has managed to attract funding from a number of reputable venture capital firms over its history, which is a testament to the confidence investors have in its innovative business model. The company is also actively seeking out strategic partners as it seeks to roll out B2B products like trade finance and lending.

Early this year, BitPesa purchased Spanish money transfer platform TransferZero. The acquisition will enable the startup to grow its presence in European remittance and payment markets. The Nairobi-headquartered startup is now operational in seven African markets including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, DRC, Ghana, Senegal, and Nigeria. There are also plans in the works to launch in South Africa soon.

Golix

GolixGolix is a Harare-based cryptocurrency exchange that was founded in 2014. Formerly known as BitFinance, the local exchange aimed to offer digital currencies as an alternative to alleviate the economic woes brought about by Zimbabwe’s failing monetary system. In 2018, Golix set its sights on the broader African market and announced a token sale.

The Golix ICO was intended to raise money for future expansion into other African markets as well as expand their portfolio of services. However, the company would have to contend with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe which issued a cryptocurrency ban. After taking the matter to court, the order was rescinded and the company proceeded to relaunch its ICO. Subsequently, investors were able to purchase the Golix utility token (GLX).

Throughout 2018, the exchange expanded its operations to Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Cameroon, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Rwanda. Currently, investors can purchase a range of cryptocurrencies on the Golix platform including bitcoin (BTC), ether (ETH), monero (XMR), bitcoin cash (BCH), bitcoin gold (BTG), Dash (DASH), SureRemit (RMT), and Dala (DALA).

Wala

DalaWala is a blockchain startup that offers remittance services and payments using an Android app. Launched in 2017, the company aims to offer financial services to the un(der)banked through strategic partnerships with banks and financial institutions and at low cost. The goal is that Wala users will be able to open bank accounts, apply for credit, access remittance services, purchase value-added services and transact with retailers and merchants.

The blockchain-powered platform is underpinned by the Dala token (DALA), which is a general purpose ERC20 token that enables quick and borderless micro-payments at zero fees. The Wala app is available for download on Google Play Store for Android users in Uganda, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

CentBee

centbeeCentBee is a cryptocurrency wallet provider and offers payment processing services for merchants. The South Africa-based blockchain startup was founded by Lorien Gamaroff and Angus Brown, and its vision is to allow users to make payments for products using bitcoin cash (BCH) and settle payments in digital currency at accepted retailers.

The company received a substantial equity investment from nChain in February 2018 for the development of its new mobile bitcoin cash wallet and released the Alpha version of its bitcoin cash wallet just a few months later. While the service is currently limited to South Africa, the company plans to expand to other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.

The Sun Exchange

Sun Exchange PowerhiveThe Sun Exchange is a peer-to-peer marketplace that allows anyone, anywhere to invest in solar panel projects using bitcoin (BTC). Founded in 2015, the South African startup enables bitcoin users to purchase solar panels and lease them to schools, factories, and communities to earn rental income. The company’s business model has been successful and attracted $1.6 million in seed funding from several investors ahead of its token sale.

The Sun Exchange launched its very own token in April 2018, known as the SUNEX token, which is being utilised for the design of a Solar Project Insurance Fund for users on the platform.

Moreover, the company announced a partnership with Powerhive to create solar-powered rural electrification mini-grid projects in rural Kenya. The platform has so far facilitated funding for six operational solar projects via its micro-leasing service and is gearing up for a seventh project. The Sun Exchange also received an additional equity investment from Alphabit bolstering its potential to create a global solar-powered economy.

Pesamill

PesamillPesamill is a cryptocurrency exchange that allows users to purchase digital currencies using payment methods like mobile money. The Nairobi-based startup was launched in September 2018 and aims to offer an alternative solution to users who find it difficult to access international cryptocurrency exchanges on account of their lengthy KYC processes.

As such, the site offers simplified registration and KYC procedures for new users to sign up and trade digital currencies. Currently, users can trade in bitcoin (BTC), litecoin (LTC), ether (ETH), ripple (XRP) and bitcoin cash (BCH). Users can make deposits on the platform using their local fiat currency making it more accessible for the mass market.

Tari Labs

TariTari Labs is the blockchain startup that runs Tari, an open source, digital assets focused blockchain protocol that is being designed as a merge minded sidechain with Monero.

Tari was launched in 2018 by South African blockchain developer and Monero founder, Riccardo Spagni. The protocol will enable consumers to utilise applications developed on top of the Tari blockchain to easily transfer their digital assets while respecting the parameters set by the issuers. The company is backed by reputable venture capital and equity firms and the development team plans to integrate payment channels and transaction cut through to make Tari scalable. In addition, the startup launched a free blockchain university, to assist in the development of blockchain developers locally and internationally.

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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