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Africa dominates crypto searches, demonstrates huge potential for uptake of blockchain technologies

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It is becoming more apparent that crypto markets will grow exponentially and not only in financially sophisticated markets with secure internet connection, high mobile penetration rates and a highly skilled labour force but even more so in developing countries where the use of cryptocurrencies for remittances, ecommerce and payments is more out of necessity than choice. LocalBitcoins and Paxful are peer-to-peer Bitcoin trading platforms that are popular among crypto users in Africa connecting as buyers and sellers. Despite recent setbacks such as the announcement by LocalBitcoins that the entity was suspending user accounts and implementing geo-restrictions in Ethiopia, Ghana, Botswana, Tunisia, Libya, and Nigeria, uptake of these new digital assets is still on the rise.

We’ve seen a lot of positive sentiment this year and a spike in interest in all things blockchain and cryptocurrency related. Google trends shows Nigeria and South Africa as the top countries in the world with the highest searches for terms such as Bitcoin. Uganda is also among the very top of the list of countries worldwide with the highest search interest in cryptocurrencies. Searches for blockchain are also on the rise worldwide with countries like Ghana leading the search traffic.

“This in addition to on-the-ground proof of interest makes us as the United Africa Blockchain Association certain that the future for deploying blockchain technologies in these key African markets is bright. Our first blockchain community engagement event for 2020 had over 200 attendees,” explained Grey Jabesi, UABA’s biz dev director and host of the Survival Skills podcast.

Africa to dominate crypto markets in the future? A closer look at the facts:

  • By 2025, nearly two-thirds of the estimated 303 million African households will have discretionary income.
  • Africa Annual report by Ornico Group expects consumer spending on the continent to rise to US$1 trillion by 2020.
  • Consumer expenditure on the continent has grown at a compound annual rate of 3.9 percent since 2010 and reached $1.4 trillion in 2015. This figure is expected to reach $2.1 trillion by 2025, and $2.5 trillion by 2030.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, annual growth rate is expected to average 12% through 2035.
  • In Africa’s eight largest markets, private consumption is expected to grow at 5% a year (in real terms) to $1.25 trillion in 2025.
  • By 2025, almost half of Africans will be living in cities and mobile penetration – currently over 950 million mobile subscribers in Africa, according to telecommunications researcher Ovum.
  •  in Africa is estimated at over 90%.The African continent’s population is expected to reach 2 billion by 2050, accounting for 24% of the world’s population.
  • The working-age population in Africa is growing at a clip of 2.7 percent each year. 53% percent of income earners in Africa are between 16 and 34 years old – these consumers will contribute to more than $400 billion in total consumption growth in the next decade.

Blockchain adoption challenges

“Political instability and conflict, poor infrastructure, linguistic diversity, differences in consumer behaviour, fragmented markets, and low data availability and quality could pose some challenges to adoption of some blockchain powered innovations,” said Gareth Grobler, founder and ceo of iCE3X, one of the first digital asset exchanges to launch in South Africa and Nigeria. “Despite all those potential challenges, South Africa is still one of the leading countries worldwide as far as trying to find a way to create a digital asset friendly environment.

Our COO, Eugene Etsebeth was the inaugural Chairperson for the Intergovernmental Fintech Working Group back in 2016 during his tenure at the South African Reserve Bank. The wheels of government, unfortunately, do not turn as fast as we would like, but we are moving in the right direction and we look forward to being a licensed crypto-asset service provider (CASP). I personally have been consulting with the financial regulator since 2012 and I can honestly say that it is one of the best jurisdictions in which to operate,” Grobler explained.

Also Read: Gareth Grobler, Founder and CEO of iCE3X on the role of Digital Asset Exchanges in Africa

Examining factors that can influence or inhibit blockchain technology’s adoption and proliferation within the African markets is key. This includes analysing social factors and characteristics of adopters in terms of identifying behavioural barriers to adoption within different markets across the region. In addition, analysing the rate at which diffusion of innovation takes place in order to be able to device strategies and processes by which innovation is communicated through particular channels is critical.

Measuring the extent to which potential adopters perceive an opportunity to experiment with the blockchain-based innovations prior to committing to usage is necessary. Real market penetration can only be fully realised if companies consider factors that affect the rate of adoption of innovation including the extent to which the technology is perceived as difficult to understand and use, and also the degree to which the innovation may be experimented with on a limited basis, as well as the degree to which the results of those new products and services are visible to the potential adopter.

Ultimately, the extent to which these new 4IR technologies are perceived as being consistent with the existing values, past experiences, and needs of potential adopters will have a significant impact on which blockchain businesses will succeed in potentially the most important market for global businesses in the future just based on population growth the fastest growing consumer base on in the world.

Success in most markets, particularly those across sub-Saharan Africa requires companies to tailor their offerings to local needs and preferences of the different demographics of potential adopters. Understanding local needs and preferences that drive mass adoption of products and becoming aware of not only local product preferences but also local buying behaviours in order to maximise on first-mover advantages in a growing consumer market such as Africa could be the key to an effective market penetration strategy for companies developing blockchain-based products.

Written by: Heath Muchena is an author, journalist and the principal at Proudly Associated which advises international blockchain companies developing technologies that have use cases focused on emerging economy development, particularly in Africa.

Visit: Heath Muchena

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Press Release

Thabo Mashegoane Appointed As Chairman of the Africa ICT Alliance (AfICTA)

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Thabo Mashegoane

The President and Board Chairperson of the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA), Thabo Mashegoane, has been elected as Chairman of the Africa ICT Alliance (AfICTA).

Formerly the Vice-Chairman of AfICTA, he succeeds Engr. Hossam Elgamal from Egypt to become the third Chairman. AfICTA, a private sector-led alliance of ICT Associations, multinational corporations, companies, organisations and individuals in the ICT sector in Africa, aims to fulfil the promise of the digital age for everyone in Africa by encouraging dialogue and fostering ICT enabled development.

During an electronic election at the AfICTA Annual General Meeting on 25 November, Mashegoane was elected chair, while IITPSA Past President and Non-Executive Director Ulandi Exner was also elected AfICTA Vice-Chair for Southern Africa.

The election named the following board members and officers: Paul Rowney, Deputy Chair; Opeyemi Onifade, Treasurer; Dr. Waudo Siganga, Vice-Chair for East Africa; Engr. Assem Wahby, Vice-Chair, North Africa; Adetola Sogbesan, Vice-Chair, West Africa; and Eric Sindeu, Vice-Chair, Central Africa.  

Thanking his predecessors for their service and leadership in the Alliance to date, Mashegoane noted that AfICTA was an organisation with a vast network, impact on critical policies, and reputation that took years and hard work to build. “Mine is to take the baton and continue where the honourable Engr. Hossam Elgamal has taken this organisation to. Of importance is the platform to enable African countries to collaborate and share best practices and lessons learnt with an objective of not leaving anyone behind in development. This is a vision we will continue to uphold. We stand in a critical position to influence attainment of Sustainable Development Goals 2030 through ICT.”

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Speaking after the election, Mashegoane said digital inclusion and ICT-enabled development was also a key mission for the IITPSA in South Africa.  “The IITPSA shares the vision and ethos of AfICTA. IITPSA has also stated that we need to step up efforts to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which, among other things, seeks to bridge the digital divide and harness technology to address major global challenges such as poverty, climate change and conflict, we need to work harder. At IITPSA, we believe this means we have to collaborate across industries, across countries, to deploy the benefits of ICTs for the good of all,” he said.

Africa ICT Alliance

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AI Media Group launches The Deal Room – Africa’s first AI-focused, free investment matchmaking service

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The AI Media Group has launched The Deal Room, Africa’s first artificial intelligence (AI) focused, free investment matchmaking service which aims to connect African AI focused startups to interested investors and venture capitalists (VCs).

AI Media Group is the publisher of AI and Data Science quarterly magazine Synapse, the AI TV YouTube channel, as well as the curator and organiser of AI Expo Africa — Africa’s largest B2B / B2G trade-focused AI, Robotic Process Automation and Data Science conference — which has been a great success over the last three years.

The annual expo has seen AI Media Group amass a database of over 1000 companies, most of which are Africa-based tech startups, scale-ups or small and medium sized businesses. The company has regularly been asked by some of these firms to make introductions to investors and also observed the challenges faced by startups, such as access, transparency, intermediaries and fees.

Although AI Media Group has been able to connect some of these companies with investors in the past, the number of requests have been on the rise and the firm now wants to improve on this service in terms of scale, process formalisation and automation through the launch of The Deal Room.

The Deal Room will be hosted on the AI Expo Africa domain — www.aiexpoafrica.com —  which is a popular platform for Africa’s Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) community with over 3 million hits a year allied to a vibrant LinkedIn Group with more than 4 000 members. The Deal Room’s primary aim will be to direct 4IR, AI and smart tech companies seeking funding to investors, VCs and organisations who are interested in backing firms in this rapidly growing sector.  

The Deal Room has attracted six launch investment partners, namely; Cirrus AICape AI VenturesKnife CapitalE4E AfricaBritegaze & Intelligent Impact, with more set to join in the coming months.

Nick Bradshaw, CEO AI Media Group and co-founder of AI Expo Africa explained, “The main idea behind The Deal Room platform is to facilitate rapid matchmaking between an investor and 4IR / AI focused startups and scale-ups that align with the firm’s stage of growth. It’s often a minefield to find the right investor so we curated a group of like minded investors that are interested in this space or who have a track record of similar investments to date. This is a long awaited value add service for our community with no strings attached, no “middleman” and total transparency.”

The Deal Room’s launch investors cover a broad spectrum of the investment lifecycle and include; Cirrus AI CEO Gregg Barrett; Cape AI Ventures co-founder Pieter Boon; Knife Capital co-managing partner Andrea Bohmert; E4E Africa Ventures principal Bakang Komanyane; Britegaze CEO Reshaad Sha, and Intelligent Impact founder Aunnie Patton Power.

Sha stated, “BriteGaze Fund One’s primary purpose is to assist AI businesses to accelerate their growth in South Africa and across the African continent through the provision of growth funding and advisory services to expand into new verticals as well as new geographies.”

Boon stated, “We expect that the Deal Room could be a catalyst for startups in Africa!”

Power stated, “There is such a need for greater transparency for startups that are raising capital. We are excited to have this tool available to the market!”

Bohmert stated, “Investing in companies who solve real world problems applying deep AI capabilities is what we are looking for. We are very excited about The Deal Room and its ability to match startups with investors, embracing a partnership journey that is equally more about substance and less about the hype”. 

Komanyane stated, “The Deal Room will help us identify new 4IR-focused companies that align with our investment goals in this sector, its a great innovation for the Africa tech scene and one we are proud to be associated with”

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Barrett stated, “The Deal Room by AI Media Group will assist in the development of Africa’s AI ecosystem and is therefore an initiative that we are enthused to support and participate in.”

Bradshaw concluded, “The Deal Room’s biggest selling point is there is no complicated paperwork, costs or loss of equity for companies looking to use the platform. They simply answer a set of confidential questions on the nature of their investment needs, details about their company, products or services and the AI Media Group then passes them on to the most appropriate investor(s). Just like internet dating, our goal is to make a perfect match and speed up the process of investment capital flowing into the African 4IR tech sector. We can’t wait to see the results!”

Startups and scale-ups looking to submit their requests for funding can do so via The Deal Room online submission process HERE

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How Non-Techies Are Breaking Into Tech Jobs

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Image credit: Tasnim Shamma/WABE

Technology startups are at the forefront of innovation. However, while there are plenty of opportunities to influence technological growth, many people lack the necessary training to succeed. This means people need to attend training programs designed to help acquire the skills needed to break into careers in tech. Many college graduates were prepared for jobs that no longer exist or will soon become antiquated.

A 2017 report by McKinsey found that around 50% of current work activities are “technically automatable”. With this in mind, the reason is clear why so many regular people are starting to consider jobs in technology. 

Whatever statistic you want to use, one thing is for certain: millions of workers are vulnerable to automation, and many future jobs are in the technology industry. 

As automation continues to take hold and disrupt new markets, there are a number of available programs to support people who want to transition into the tech industry. This article will discuss the three main paths being used to support workers in their transition: coding bootcamps, upskilling, and reskilling.

Coding Bootcamps as a Training Method

Coding bootcamps are short-term, intense training programs focusing on employment. Whereas college is focused on teaching a wide range of theoretical knowledge which builds the foundation for a career in Computer Science, coding bootcamps have one specific focus: to help people find jobs in tech. 

A recent report on the bootcamp market found that 33,959 people graduated from coding bootcamp in 2019 alone, a 4.38% increase from the previous year. 

Coding bootcamps, which have been around for about a decade, have grown in popularity because they promise to help people pursue specific careers in technology.

Bootcamps often position their courses in fields such as Data Sciencea and Web Development, both of which are expected to realize strong growth in the coming decades. Also, bootcamps bundle services such as career support and hiring partnerships together with offerings. These services assist people in their transition from a training program to a job.

Learning New Skills Through Upskilling

Often, a worker will be in a stable field but needs additional training to keep up with technological changes. For instance, a retailer may need to be trained in a few Sales tracking tools, or an Engineer may need to learn a new programming language. This type of training, called upskilling, is an important part of workforce training.

Upskilling refers to when people learn about new technologies to help them stay viable.  While a particular job may not be directly affected by automation, new technologies have emerged, allowing employees to be more productive and efficient.

Many companies looking to largely incorporate technology in their business have in-house upskilling initiatives. The Guardian Life Insurance Company, for instance, is training its workforce in new technology like sensors used to improve underwriting and risk management procedures.

Upskilling allows people who work in more traditional roles – like Marketing, Business Development, Sales, and Payroll – gain exposure to new tech ideas, and may act as a springboard to further training opportunities. For instance, a marketer may be trained in how to use SQL to analyze campaign data. Also, after finishing an upskilling program, an employee may decide to commit to pursuing a career in tech, capitalizing on the skills acquired during training.

Also Read: Chidi Nwaogu: Multi Award-winning Entrepreneur Launches Global Fellowship Program for Aspiring and Early-stage Entrepreneur

Reskilling Existing Workers

There is another training option in addition to coding bootcamps and upskilling which has become popular among technical training programs in recent years: reskilling programs. Reskilling programs are initiatives where a business invests in its workers and help build the skills employees need to remain viable.

In contrast to bootcamps, reskilling programs are designed for workers whose job is at risk of automation. An employer will create a training program in a field of growth within their business–the Cloud, for example–and offer some workers the opportunity to retrain in a new field. AT&T, for example, is investing $1 billion in workforce retraining. The telecom giant did so after learning only half of their employees had the skills needed to be protected from automation.

Reskilling programs have grown in popularity because they allow businesses to simply retrain existing employees instead of hiring a new workforce. Often, companies will work with external training providers such as Udacity to design a reskilling program and offer to retrain any employee whose job is likely to soon become obsolete.

Reskilling programs offer dedicated workers an opportunity to stay with a company while being trained for a job in tech. This is an especially worthy proposition for workers who do not want to invest months training beyond work hours. With a reskilling program, a worker can stay with an employer – and earn a paycheck – while being trained in the new skills they need.

Each training method mentioned above has the potential to support people who are breaking into tech from non-technical backgrounds. Upskilling, coding bootcamps, and reskilling options are only three of the many workforce training options being explored. Apprenticeships and education-as-a-benefit, among other programs, are being seen as additional ways for workers to gain new technical skills.

Automation presents a threat to millions of workers, but jobs in techare likely to keep growing and provide job security. But before workers can get a job in tech, they need to find the training, and that’s where coding bootcamps, upskilling, and reskilling have become crucial in the workforce development puzzle.

Written by: Artur Meyster

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