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Is KeniCoin Kenya’s First Homegrown Cryptocurrency Scam?

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Caution

KeniCoin is a Kenyan cryptocurrency that has been in the spotlight recently over allegations of potentially being a scam. BitcoinAfrica.io investigated KeniCoin to determine whether it is a legitimate cryptocurrency or a fraudulent operation. In this article, you will discover our findings.

What is KeniCoin?

KeniCoin claims to be a multi-utility cryptocurrency platform that is fueled by KeniCoin (KNC) tokens. According to the KeniCoin website, the cryptocurrency is backed by real businesses, which is supposed to make it a reliable and predictable payment option for vendors.

The platform claims to offer free and fast peer-to-peer online transactions. Moreover, KeniCoin investors will allegedly receive a high return on investment (ROI) on KNC tokens due to their limited supply and presence of a strong merchant network. Consumers, on the other hand, will be able to enjoy a 40 percent discount whenever they transact using KeniCoin.

Furthermore, KeniCoin claims to provide an alternative saving option to banks, which allows for micro-savings and provides interest. The website describes KeniCoin as the “Next Generation Banking Platform for the people in Kenya and Africa.”

How Does KeniCoin Work?

KeniCoin is marketed as an ERC-20 token based on the Ethereum blockchain. To purchase the cryptocurrency you have to register on the KeniCoin site and provide your name, a username, email address, and password. Once your account has been verified you can proceed to log in.

To get started, you have to fund your account using bitcoin (BTC) or fiat currency via mobile money.

Once you deposit money in your KeniCoin account, you will receive the equivalent amount of KNC in your in-platform wallet. However, during our analysis, we noticed the BTC wallet option appeared to be no longer working. It is unclear whether this is a technical problem or a shift to a fiat-only operation.

If you are looking to convert your KeniCoins to another cryptoasset, there are instructions on the site directing you to the KeniCoin Exchange. Information on the platform states users can trade KeniCoins (KNC) for bitcoin (BTC) or ether (ETH).

The exchange asserts that you can trade your KNC for fiat and withdraw your earnings via a direct bank transfer. Moreover, should you decide to lock away 50 or more KeniCoins in the platform, you are entitled to ten percent interest every month.

The KeniCoin ICO

KeniCoin launched an ICO in July 2018. The token sale was marketed aggressively on local radio and through KeniCoin agents. According to the site, ten million KNC tokens were provided for the ICO and retailed at KES 100 (worth around $1.00).

The site alleges $250,000 was raised from the token sale with 500,000 tokens being sold. Moreover, according to the KeniCoin whitepaper, the newly issued tokens will gain in value. Specifically, the company stated in the whitepaper:

“We are very sure that, within the first 12 month after ICO, the value of KeniCoin will have increased at least 30 folds, which is around 3000%.”

The project road map outlines that 20 percent of the funds raised will go to the founders with the bulk of the remainder being used to develop various platforms accepting KNC payments. The KeniCoin tokens were to be traded on the KeniCoin Exchange, which was launched soon thereafter.

Regulator Warns Against KeniCoin

In January 2019, the Capital Markets Authority (CMA), Kenya’s market regulator issued a press release warning the public against participating in the KeniCoin token sale or trading KNC. The CMA CEO, Paul Muthaura stated,

“It is important for the general public to note that the nature and features of the Capital Raising and Coins Trading promoted by Wiseman Talent Ventures is taking the form of Regulated activities which have not yet been approved by the Authority.”

The regulator expressed its concerns about KeniCoin promising investors a ten percent monthly return on their initial investment on KNC tokens. In addition, the CMA pointed out that KeniCoin was being marketed as rising exponentially in value since its ICO which posed “substantive information asymmetry, liquidity and fraud risks.”

“The Authority is currently investigating the operations of Wiseman Talent Ventures. We have noted discrepancies in the information provided on the firm’s website www.kenicoin.com and the information given to the Authority during interviews of Wiseman Talent Ventures leadership in relation to the total number of Kenicoin sold and the total funds raised,” Muthaura added.

Obscure Founders

AnonymousOur efforts to establish the team behind KeniCoin also proved unsuccessful. According to the KeniCoin whitepaper, the founder of the cryptocurrency is Haron Muthomi Kiriba who is sometimes referred to as Haron Wiseman. We did a little digging to find out more about Wiseman.

What we managed to uncover was a Twitter account under the name Haron Wiseman, which described him as a transformational speaker and founder of Wiseman Talent Ventures. Wiseman Talent Ventures is mentioned in the CMA cautionary statement as the company behind KeniCoin. An online search for Wiseman Talent Ventures was only able to produce an office address.

Also, Haron Kiriba’s Twitter account appears to have been inactive for a while. His LinkedIn profile portrays him as the CEO of a property company. Nothing we uncovered pointed to any prior involvement in the cryptocurrency space or any other venture for that matter.

The KeniCoin whitepaper states that the cryptocurrency is supposedly developed by a number of international blockchain and AI experts. However, their names are not mentioned and their identities – if they ever actually existed – remain unknown which is standard practice in fraudulent cryptocurrency-based ventures.

Providing little to no public information about the company’s ownership structure does not help the company in its attempts to be perceived as a legitimate venture.

More Red Flags

KeniCoin

A critical examination of the information provided on the KeniCoin site and whitepaper reveals a number of inconsistencies and falsehoods. For instance, the KeniCoin whitepaper claims the project is backed by a number of companies yet we can only prove one, Wiseman Talent Ventures, and even its existence is in doubt.

Also, the amount of funds raised during the concluded KeniCoin ICO seems unclear. The site claims $250,000 worth of KNC tokens were sold during its token sale. However, when it comes to distribution of ICO funds, the amount displayed is $5.3 million.

In addition, the company claims KNC is the first local digital currency to be released in the market with a network of up to 10,000 merchants. This is an outright falsehood with research failing to turn up a single business associated with KeniCoin. You will notice most of the statements concerning stability and increasing value of KNC tokens, are tied to the assurance of many businesses in the ecosystem.

Perhaps, the obvious flaw with KNC is the de facto promise of returns for early adopters. The whitepaper states KNC holders can expect the value of the token to increase by 3,000 percent in twelve months after the ICO. At the time of writing this article, the price of KeniCoin published on the company’s website was $3.45.

Currently, there is an update on KeniCoin Exchange teasing users about the launch of a new utility, that will result in the price of KNC rising to Ksh. 10,000 (worth around $100). Strangely, KeniCoin appears immune to market volatility and according to numbers presented on the platform, has so far managed to retain an upward trajectory.

Yet, this does not resonate with what we know of the crypto markets which are highly volatile. In fact, since early 2018, the value of most digital currencies have slumped as the markets have been experiencing a “crypto winter.”

It stands to reason any investment exhibiting a continued uptrend in price over a long period could indicate price manipulation or fraud.

A summary of KeniCoin’s potential red flags include:

  • The mystery surrounding the persona of Haron Wiseman, the alleged founder of KeniCoin
  • The company gives no insight into the ownership structure
  • The alleged rise in KeniCoin price without any real use case outside of trading
  • Lack of a merchant network driving adoption as is claimed in the whitepaper
  • A claim of profits for investors, which no real investment can ever guarantee
  • The Kenyan Capital Markets Authority has issued a warning against KeniCoin
  • Very little technical details on how the cryptocurrency actually works
  • KeniCoin can only be bought and sold on the company’s own exchange

Unavailability for Comment

BitcoinAfrica.io tried to contact KeniCoin to hear the company views on the issues raised by the Kenyan financial regulator. However, this proved difficult as our attempts to engage the KeniCoin team proved unsuccessful.

Initially, we tried to contact them using the phone numbers provided on its website. We managed to get through but were twice rebuffed with the response being “ongoing consultations with management.” At the time of writing this article, no feedback has been forthcoming from KeniCoin.

Interestingly, the KeniCoin staff member who we were able to reach on the phone expressed distrust for news agencies saying, “you social media guys are tarnishing our name.” The company does not seem to want to talk to the media.

KeniCoin ScamBitcoinAfrica.io also attempted to reach out to the Nairobi-based company via social media but our attempts to get in contact with the company over Twitter, LinkedIn and Email were futile. The company’s email address does not work and the company’s Twitter account has been suspended.

Kenyan Crypto Twitter Responds to KeniCoin

Leading figures of the Kenyan cryptocurrency community responded on social media to KeniCoin advertisement on Kameme FM.

Micheal Kimani, Chairman of the Kenya Blockchain Association, tweeted:.

Ken Kimathi, Kenya’s Remitano representative, also shared his opinion about the alleged digital currency scam. He tweeted:

And they were not the only Kenyans to voice their concerns on social media. An ample amount of Twitter users highlighted the project’s unrealistic earnings potential, which makes the company look like a fraudulent operation.

Is KeniCoin a Scam?

Bitcoin ScamWhile there may be people who believe that KeniCoin is a real investment opportunity, it would be hard to ignore the evidence that suggests the opposite.

KeniCoin has several of the same characteristics as crypto scams that have previously penetrated the African market.

KeniCoin may not be different from a typical MLM operation used by pyramid schemes like OneCoin and MMM, which succeeded in defrauding hundreds of thousands of Africans.

Conversely, one may argue that KeniCoin closely resembles a pump and dump scheme where the owners are making money by pumping up the value of KNC and then selling it for a profit on the open market. Once they have made enough profits, they exit, and users are left holding worthless coins.

Moreover, since price discovery for KNC tokens only occurs on the company’s own platform, it is impossible to say how much one KeniCoin is really worth.

Given that KeniCoin makes claims such as: “KeniCoin platform allows you to grow your wealth up to x12 every year,” it is difficult to see how this could possibly be a legitimate cryptocurrency investment.

Conclusion

Investors are always advised to conduct thorough research, consult experts, and use common sense before investing in any digital asset venture.

“Investments” like KeniCoin provide a good example of the type of cryptocurrency investment “opportunity” to avoid. While no one can claim that KeniCoin is a scam until it has been declared a fraudulent operation by a court of law, the mountain of evidence against the company would suggest that it probably is.

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RESIST! How Activists Can Use Bitcoin

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Activists Can Use Bitcoin

As social justice movements leverage social media platforms like Twitter to make their voices heard, many have discovered a new tool: Bitcoin. The internet is the epicentre of social change, and it only makes sense that activists are now adding bitcoin to their arsenal. During the recent #EndSARS Nigerian campaign, young feminists raised $55,000 in cash and bitcoin donations, which is an example of how activists can use bitcoin to raise funds.

So, can cryptocurrencies provide the same level of impact on activism as social media platforms? This article explores how activists can use bitcoin.

The Financial Challenges of Activism

Activism

Any activist willing to protest against injustice should know how to raise money. Protesters need banners, water, food, and medical care in case they get hurt. These requirements come at a cost, necessitating movements to search for funds.

Activists can raise money out of pocket or they can reach out to well-wishers for donations. The former option is unreliable, which means that social justice movements have to fully rely on donations. Unfortunately, government censorship can make it hard for such movements to receive donations through banks and other conventional financial institutions. Moreover, they could punish the donors that support social justice campaigns.

The #EndSARS campaign, for instance, has faced challenges with receiving donations because the Flutterwave links were down for some time. According to Tweets on the Feminist Coalition account, the Central Bank of Nigeria could have been behind the Flutterwave payment issues. However, it is unclear. Flutterwave is a payment solution in Nigeria, while the Feminist Coalition is one of the organisations that has been active in raising donations for the campaign.

Furthermore, donors outside the country where a campaign is taking place will find it challenging to send donations due to the high cost of sending money. Also, online payment platforms like PayPal are not available in every country. That prevents people in these countries from making donations to campaigns happening in other parts of the world.

Speed is also important when collecting donations. Activists will often need funds immediately to keep a campaign going long enough to make an impact. Therefore, if they are not receiving cash directly, they might have to visit a bank to withdraw large amounts of money. That could waste a lot of precious time.

Can Activists Use Bitcoin to Solve Financial Problems?

BLM

Yes, they can.

Bitcoin is censorship-resistant, which means that governments cannot prevent activists from receiving donations in bitcoin. That provides the convenience that activists need to fund their campaigns when they are still “hot” enough to make a difference.

To solve the challenge of receiving donations through Flutterwave, the Feminist Coalition is now accepting bitcoin donations only.

Bitcoin is pseudonymous, which means that governments cannot easily trace bitcoin transactions to the real-world identities of the senders and recipients. That offers a sense of security to both donors and activists, especially in countries where protesting can mean beatings, jail time, or death.

It is even better when social justice movements are decentralised because there are no public leaders that law enforcement can pursue. For instance, much of the #EndSARS and #BlackLivesMatter campaigns grew organically online.

Therefore, activists can use bitcoin to receive pseudonymous and censorship-resistant donations.

Moreover, they can receive donations from anywhere at any time. That is because bitcoin is accessible 24/7 to anyone with a smartphone or computer and an internet connection. As a result, more people can financially support causes they believe in, even though they live on another continent.

Also, bitcoin transactions do not involve third parties, thereby cutting down the cost and increasing transaction speeds. Once a donor sends BTC, the activist will receive it in minutes and fund their campaign immediately.

Furthermore, buying supplies for a protest becomes easier when local businesses start accepting crypto payments. For instance, several local businesses started accepting cryptocurrencies in 2019 in support of the Hong Kong protests against Chinese influence.

Bridging the Wealth Gap

BLM activistFighting deep-rooted social injustices require bridging the wealth gap between the oppressors and the oppressed.

In a world where the wealthy influence political decisions in their favour, amassing wealth could be a possible solution that marginalised communities can adopt to fight discrimination.

Here is where bitcoin can come in.

Since marginalised communities suffer discrimination from traditional financial institutions, bitcoin becomes an attractive alternative. The censorship-resistant and easy accessibility of bitcoin means that marginalised communities can use it to create wealth and acquire financial freedom and the power to fight prejudices.

By way of illustration, activists can direct part of the bitcoin donations they receive to fund small businesses in the community. As a result, financially stronger businesses can create jobs and increase the purchasing power of other community members.

Other methods that communities can use to create wealth include buying and holding bitcoin and accessing business loans in crypto.

Money can help fight police brutality better than protesting on the streets. That is what Bitcoin and Black America author, Isaiah Jackson, believes.

“Without economic strength, you have cops coming from outside of the community […], and they do not value it [or the people]. They do not see you as a person, and that is an issue,” he told Cointelegraph.

Moreover, marginalised communities can create their tokens or community currencies to improve their financial positions.

Social media has made the world aware of the social injustices that take place in various parts of the world. Now, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are giving the world a chance to support social justice movements financially. Together, both tools are creating a world where no one has to fight injustices alone.

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Is Bitcoin “Digital Gold”?

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digital gold bitcoin

When Satoshi Nakamoto created bitcoin, he envisioned a peer-to-peer digital currency that would allow people to send money without the need for financial institutions. However, bitcoin’s use as a store of value overshadowed its original goal, and people started referring to it as “digital gold.”

But is it?

Bitcoin as Digital Gold

As you think of bitcoin as digital gold, the first thing you notice is the golden colour circling its symbol. If you go back in history in the times before bitcoin, developers were keen to create a currency that would be the digital version of gold. For instance, the inefficiencies of conventional financial systems and the use of gold as currency inspired Nick Szabo to create Bit Gold.

So, that could have been the thinking of the time: marrying the pros of digital currencies with the benefits of precious metals. That could explain why a yellowish-orangey colour circles the bitcoin symbol.  Also, bitcoin is often illustrated as a golden coin.

Nevertheless, the association between bitcoin and gold does not end with the logo.

Digital Gold vs. Physical Gold

Bitcoin and gold have several similarities.

  • They both have a limited supply, which boosts their value.
  • You can divide both assets into smaller units and they will not lose per unit value. The smallest unit of bitcoin is the satoshi. 100 million satoshis make one bitcoin.
  • Gold is stable, and so is bitcoin. Although the latter is volatile in terms of price, bitcoin’s underlying technology, the blockchain, gives it stability.
  • They are both easily recognisable.

Bitcoin is more superior to gold because you can move it to any place of the world in minutes, it is impossible to counterfeit, and it facilitates online payments.

PaxfulFurthermore, bitcoin is more accessible and easy to hoard. Exchanges and peer-to-peer marketplaces like Paxful are making it easier for people across the globe to own cryptocurrencies. For instance, with a smartphone and an internet connection, anyone in the world can buy bitcoin.

Therefore, saying bitcoin is digital gold is an oversimplification. Bitcoin is superior than gold in terms of features and potential impact on economies. However, viewing bitcoin as digital gold is a strategy beginners can use to easily understand the cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin as a Store of Value

digital goldAfter Satoshi released bitcoin to the world, the response was probably better than the unknown creator could have hoped. The cryptocurrency attracted a loyal community that started using bitcoin as a store of value because of its scarcity, safe-haven characteristics, and the fact that it is impossible to counterfeit. As a result, many people are holding bitcoin as a long-term investment because they believe in its long-term value. Moreover, the population of bitcoin supporters is continuously growing.

The debate on whether bitcoin is a store of value or not has been raging for years. While bitcoin “HODLers” believe that bitcoin will one day make them wealthy and shield them from a financial crisis, others believe that bitcoin, which is also partially money, cannot be a store of value as well.

That said, bitcoin has made several people into billionaires, proving that it is a practical store of value. Gold is a store of value as well, and it offers financial freedom and protection during economically tough times. However, governments could deny citizens from owning gold. On the other hand, governments would have a more difficult time blocking citizens from owning bitcoin.

Where Does Bitcoin Get Its Value?

The answer to this question is simple. The decentralised nature of bitcoin gives it a lot of value. As the first digital currency that is not under the control of any government or organization, bitcoin is extremely valuable. Therefore, anyone that is against conventional financial systems will find bitcoin very attractive.

Gold is also a decentralised asset. However, the fact that it is not easy to move or hoard, makes bitcoin arguably the more valuable asset.

The Money of the Internet

Although bitcoin as money was overshadowed for some time by its store of value feature, this is changing. The introduction of the lightning network and its continuous growth is facilitating bitcoin as the money of the internet.

The Lightning Network (LN) is a payment protocol that uses smart contracts to facilitate fast bitcoin transactions. LN is built on top of the Bitcoin blockchain as a second-layer application. LN is supposed to solve Bitcoin’s inability to process more transactions per second. The network promises to handle millions to billions of transactions per second compared to bitcoin’s seven. Currently, you can enjoy the speed of LN by getting wallets like Zap, Breez, and Eclair. However, these wallets are still in development and could have bugs.

LN is taking time to grow, and it has not come through on its promise yet. Also, researchers observe that LN is becoming more centralised and, therefore, more prone to attacks.

Scalability issues aside, bitcoin has the potential to change the payments sector. Major companies like Microsoft, AT&T, and Namecheap are accepting bitcoin as payment. Additionally, platforms like Paxful are enabling businesses to accept payments from anyone in the world through bitcoin.

As such companies set the stage for bitcoin as the money of the internet, it will take time for the world to uniformly accept bitcoin as a payment method. That means that its money functionality will remain underutilised for the time being.

It is clear by now that bitcoin provides more benefits than gold. Therefore, referring to it as digital gold is an understatement. Bitcoin has a lot to offer, and with time, it could become a widely accepted payment method.

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New Ethereum Wallet Argent Makes DeFi Accessible for Everyone

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Argent

The DeFi market is booming. The total amount of crypto correctly locked in DeFi protocols recently exceeded $2.4 billion. More and more crypto investors are turning to DeFi DApps to earn interest on their cryptoassets. However, DeFi is still too complicated for the average non-techy investor to get involved. London-headquartered Ethereum wallet provider, Argent, wants to change that. 

BitcoinAfrica.io reached out to Argent co-founder and CEO, Itamar Lesuisse, to learn more about Argent and the DeFi market. 

What is Argent? 

ArgentArgent is a user-friendly Ethereum wallet that enables you to store, send, and receive, borrow, earn interest, and invest. Effectively, it is a one-stop-shop for all things DeFi at your fingertips.  

Unlike most Ethereum wallets, which focus purely on storing, sending, and receiving ETH and ERC-20 tokens, Argent goes a step further and provides easy access to an array of DeFi DApps

“Argent’s mission is to empower everyone to control and prosper from their digital assets and identity. Everyone should have equal access to economic opportunity and crypto can be a critical enabler of this.” Argent CEO, Itamar Lesuisse, told BitcoinAfrica.io 

“To this end, we’ve built the first non-custodial wallet with the ease of use and security of the best new bank apps. You can earn interest and invest in a tap via DeFi DApps; protect yourself with daily transfer limits, whitelisted contacts, and easy locking; and you never need a seed phrase,” he added. 

Argent is available for Android and iOS and has a very smooth onboarding process. No mnemonic phrase to write down and no wallet.dat file to back up. You sign up a username and passcode, and you provide an email address and a phone number. That’s it. 

To fund your wallet, you can either transfer ETH or ERC20 tokens or you can purchase them in-app via Apply Pay, bank card, or a bank transfer. This is made possible through a partnership with MoonPay.

Arguably, the best feature of Argent, however, is that it provides direct access to DeFi protocols in an extremely user-friendly way. 

DeFi Made Easy

Argent enables you to use the digital assets held in the wallet to invest in DeFi protocols with the click on a button. There is no need to sign up for each platform. You simply access the “Invest” section and have immediate access to leading DeFi protocols, such as Aave, Compound, PoolTogether, and Uniswap. 

Even first-time crypto users can get involved in DeFi. All it takes it choosing the asset you want to invest, how much of it, and in which protocol you would like to place it. 

For example, you could purchase $1,000 worth of USDC and place it in Compound to earn 1.75% APY. That would likely be more than the interest any bank would pay you on US dollars. 

Moreover, Argent users can invest in TokenSets, take part in PoolTogether, or provide in a Uniswap liquidity pool. 

What’s Next for Argent?

Argent launched the public version of its app in May 2020 and has already made waves in the Etherem community. But this is only the beginning. 

“In the last few months we’ve launched our DeFi Hub (which provides one-tap access to the best DeFi DApps, like Compound, Aave and TokenSet), and also dark mode,” Lesuisse told BitcoinAfrica.io. 

“Next, we’re focused on making it easy for anyone to access a DApp, even if they don’t have a crypto wallet. Our SDK for DApp developers will mean people can onboard to a DApp without a browser extension or seed phrase. They can easily buy crypto with fiat, and they can use the DApp without having to hold ETH. We hope it significantly lowers the barriers to DApp adoption,” he added.

The Future of DeFi

Currently, the DeFi market is a playground for crypto traders and the Ethereum community. But the market is growing as it is receiving more media attention as well as an influx of funds. 

Lesuisse and his team envision that the DeFi market will become more accessible and user-friendly in the coming years. And that it will open it to non-crypto investors as well. 

“Over the next five years, we hope it becomes even easier to use, safer, and, most importantly, develops more use cases that are compelling to a wider audience. We hope by solving many of the usability issues that DApps can focus on building those use cases, taking DeFi from a niche to a mainstream topic.”   

The DeFi market is still in its infancy. Vulnerabilities and bugs in already operational protocols will likely continue to plague DeFi as part of its growing pains. But that doesn’t change the fact that DeFi has the potential to become the fintech innovation that will finally take power away from banks and into the hands of the people.

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