This year’s edition of the Africa Tech Summit will be taking place in Kigali, Rwanda between February 13 to 15 under the theme “Where African Tech Connects.” Ten African technology startups have been selected to pitch live at the summit, three of these are blockchain startups.
The technology summit will bring together stakeholders, investors and corporates to discuss opportunities and challenges faced by startups within the tech ecosystem on the continent.
Selected Blockchain Startups
The three blockchain startups that have been selected to pitch are Leaf, RideSafe, and DeMars, according to event co-organiser Disrupt Africa.
Rwanda-based Leaf is a fintech startup that is utilising the blockchain to create a virtual bank to provide financial services to emigrants, refugees and excluded persons. According to Leaf, the mobile application platform being developed will be used “to facilitate cash to virtual currency conversion through blockchain technology”. The app will be very crucial to refugees or displaced persons that need to cross the borders of multiple countries for safety reasons as it will allow them to store their money in stable investments.
In order to protect the refugees against the volatile nature of cryptocurrencies, the value of their money will not be stored in digital currencies. In addition, the platform will also be accessible through any mobile device without the need to have a smartphone. Users of the Leaf mobile app can also have their relatives contribute into their accounts after which they can make withdrawals when they get to safe zones into the new local currency or use their balance as security on a microloan.
Hailing from Kenya, RideSafe is a mobile-based insuretech application that runs on the Aeternity blockchain, which provides real-time health solutions to the public motorbike sector in case of an accident. The RideSafe app will provide a platform for riders to make weekly ($0.35) or monthly ($1.5) payments through their mobile wallets that qualify them for quick and immediate first aid from RideSafe’s partner facilities. At the moment, RideSafe has more than 15 partner facilities.
The app will also allow riders to interact with service providers, report accidents, locate nearby facilities and receive tokenised rewards for good behavior over time. By notifying a particular partner facility of an accident, the app will enable the service provider to prepare adequately for the incoming patient as well as bill the app on the amount charged to the casualty. The app will ensure that those injured can get timely first aid treatment while delivering the best service.
Although the app is currently targeting the motorbike riders in Kenya, the company has plans to expand to both East and Central Africa and eventually to the entire continent.
DeMars is a Mauritius-based startup that is working on the first mobile money platform and blockchain protocol for the emerging markets. The new technology is meant to deliver financial services to the 1.7 billion young adults of whom two-thirds have mobile phones but are unbanked. While cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are doing a fairly good job of allowing individuals to quickly transfer money anywhere in the world, they are difficult to use, buy, spend and are limited.
In addition, the applications and transactions tend to utilise a lot of mobile data, which becomes expensive adding more costs to the users. This is where DeMars comes in. The platform will seek to reduce the data being spent in the transfers being made without compromising on cryptographic security. This way, the platform aims to solve the scalability and speed issues that are common with most digital currencies.
According to DeMars roadmap, the Beta Mobile App will be available come June 2019 with a rollout in both South Africa and Zimbabwe. Expected rollouts for the rest of Africa and Europe are planned for June 2020.
Opportunity to Attract Investors
By having been selected to pitch at the Africa Startup Summit, Leaf, RideSafe, and DeMars will all have an opportunity to pitch and showcase their services to more than 400 investors accelerators, corporate partner and media.
Moreover, the fact that three out of ten startups that are pitching at one of Africa’s biggest technology conferences leveraging blockchain technology to deliver their solutions is a testament to the level of blockchain adoption that Africa is currently experiencing.
Zippie Rolls Out Blockchain-Based Mobile Solution for Africa
Blockchain startup Zippie has rolled out a blockchain-based mobile solution for Africa in collaboration with Zambia’s AfriDelivery, Musanga, and Tigmoo. The three online companies will use the Zippie mobile blockchain platform to reward their customers for making purchases, giving referrals, and using delivery services.
Rewarding Customers via Zippie
AfriDelivery, Musanga, and Tigmoo will start rewarding customers with airtime using the Zippie blockchain-based mobile platform enabling them to have more customers and to maintain the most loyal ones.
The rewards wallet is accessible on the companies’ websites or apps allowing customers to receive airtime in their blockchain wallets. Customers can also send this airtime to other people by sharing a payment link through chatting apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
“We are focusing our efforts on the continent where even the smallest earning opportunity can make the biggest impact. The rapidly growing smartphone adoption and online commerce, the young entrepreneurial population of which most work in the informal sector, and the leadership in taking mobile money into use offer a fertile ground for Zippie to take off on the continent,” said Pasi Rusila, COO and co-founder of Zippie.
Zippie is a white label super app whose goal is to democratise opportunity for everyone by enabling online businesses to reward their users.
Scaling Zippie’s Adoption in the African Market
According to Rusila, the first three partnerships will help Zippie to sell its blockchain solution to other online businesses.
“The market entry provides us the opportunity to get the Zippie platform to the hands of thousands of end-users within months. This enables us to gather the always-so-critical user feedback and steer the product development in the right direction, fulfilling genuine market needs,” he stated.
The company is confident that Zippie will have a positive impact on the lives of Africans by seamlessly transferring value between businesses and people.
“We are pleased to say that there are numerous other partnerships in the pipeline in several countries ready to start rewarding their users with mobile airtime and other valuable items,” Rusila added.
With Zippie, users are guaranteed security, the elimination of middlemen, and free sharing of rewards. On the other hand, the process of integrating Zippie with a product is easy. Businesses are, therefore, assured of a seamless integration process.
According to UNCTAD, e-commerce in Africa is still lagging behind compared to the rest of the world. Zippie could be a solution that pushes more Africans to shop online.
Medici Land Governance Signs MoU with Liberia’s Ministry of Finance to Digitise Government Services
Medici Land Governance (MLG) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning in Liberia. The aim of the agreement is to explore the potential for the digitisation of current government services and the creation of e-government platforms.
The Pilot Project
The pro bono pilot project will support the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) and the Pillar II (Economy and Jobs) in the PAPD agenda. This is agenda is a Liberian government initiative.
Additionally, the pilot project will investigate how to shift Liberia to a digital and blockchain-focused economy and how to enable interoperability among government services.
MLG will also train Liberians through knowledge transfer as well as create jobs during the initial phase of gathering data and after the implementation stage where trained personnel will be needed to maintain the system.
Through the pilot project, Liberia joins countries like Rwanda and Zambia who are undertaking blockchain projects in partnership with MLG.
Ali El Husseini, the CEO of MLG, said: “Medici Land Governance’s work is a major component of Medici Ventures’ goal to create ‘a blockchain tech stack for civilization. Liberia is well-positioned to explore implementing a blockchain backbone for e-government, which connects the various government ministries as their services are digitised and brought online. This pilot project is an excellent opportunity for Medici Land Governance to demonstrate how we can tailor our products and services to the needs of Liberia’s government and economy.”
MLG is a blockchain subsidiary of Overstock Inc., a Utah-based online retailer and technology company.
Digitising Liberia’s Economy
According to the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel Tweah, the agreement with MLG is a sign that Liberia is ready to digitise its economy and move government services to a digital platform.
“We believe that the free pilot project when implemented, will showcase Liberia’s readiness to digitise the economy and migrate to an e-government platform that will facilitate full interoperability of the Government of Liberia services and systems,” he said in a press release.
Medici Ventures aims to introduce blockchain technology to existing markets in order to “eliminate middlemen, democratise capital, and re-humanise commerce.”
Patrick M. Byrne, Chairman of MLG and founder and CEO of Overstock, observed: “In 2019, I have been pleased and honoured to see African nations growing enthusiastic about the possibility of using blockchain to accelerate their development. Liberia now becomes the third African country to agree to give [our suite of blockchain-based land governance products] a try.”
South African Reserve Bank to Conduct Central Bank Digital Currency Feasibility Study
The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) is set to conduct a central bank digital currency (CBDC) feasibility study according to an expression of interest (EOI) issued on April 29, 2019. Through the EOI, SARB is looking for solution providers to offer technological infrastructure and skills to the project.
The CBDC Feasibility Project Charter
Developed in May 2018, the CBDC Feasibility Project Charter aims “to investigate the feasibility and desirability of central bank issued digital currency to be used as electronic legal tender, complimentary to cash.”
Additionally, the purpose of the feasibility project will be finding out how issuing a CBDC can support SARB’s vision of leading “in serving the economic well-being of South Africans through price and financial stability.”
The establishment of this project was as a result of a mandate the Currency Management Department of the SARB gave in 2016. The order required the selected team to investigate the case of a CBDC issued and backed by SARB.
According to the expression of interest, the CBDC feasibility project will be carried out in a contained innovation lab environment. The innovation lab will comprise of software, technical skills, infrastructure, and business skills. However, SARB makes it clear that the CBDC feasibility project is exploratory in nature and does not constitute any long-term plan or commitment to issue a government-backed digital currency.
The study only focuses on issuing the CBDC as an electronic version of cash as opposed to a universally accessible form of central bank reserve money or a central bank issued version of commercial bank account money.
CBDC Project Stages
The feasibility project will be carried out in the innovation lab in two stages. The first stage will be internally conducted and will entail testing principles, validating the feasibility of recommended technical solutions, and increasing the body of knowledge.
The second stage will extend participation to external banks and mobile network operators and potentially to payment service and niche technology providers. In addition, the set of use cases will be increased to incorporate the full value chain so as to establish the possibility of the solution to satisfy SARB’s objectives.
In the EOI, SARB makes it clear that there is no preference of basing the project on a distributed ledger technology platform, the blockchain, or existing traditional technology.
“It is envisaged that a solution could be based on any one or a combination of technologies,” SARB explains.
Some of the policies that will guide CBDC include:
- Only SARB must issue the CBDC as legal tender
- Commercial banks must issue the CBDC under SARB’s regulatory oversight
- Must enable the issuance and distribution of CBDC to commercial banks or licensed service providers
- CBDC must be issued on a one-on-one parity with the rand
- CBDC transactions must be free or low-cost to consumers
- CBDC must provide an incentive to increase its use
- CBDC must be accepted as a means of payment by all businesses and the government
- Consumers must be able to make transactions with CBDC without the need for a bank account
- CBDC must not be easily counterfeited
- CBDC must be scalable
- It should be possible to cancel a CBDC serial number that is proven to be a counterfeit
The CBDC feasibility project comes after the successful trial of SARB’s blockchain-based Project Khokha. Once the project is complete, SARB will decide on the next steps to take based on the outcomes.
Applications of the expression of interest will close on June 6, 2019, at 11:30 am.
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