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Banks across Africa Turn to IBM Hybrid Cloud and AI Solutions to Accelerate Digital Innovation

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IBM Hybrid Cloud General Manager, Alan Peacock and IBM General Manager for IBM North, East and West AfricaAngela Kyerematen-Jimoh (Image: Supplied)

IBM (NYSE: IBMtoday announced that major financial institutions across Africa have selected hybrid cloud and AI capabilities from IBM to unlock digital innovation and continue their work to develop digital-first solutions, ultimately broadening access to financial services on the continent.

COVID-19 continues to accelerate the already rapid changes that were happening across the financial services sector in Africa, fast-tracking the adoption of digital technologies to boost financial inclusion. With over 475 million Africans expected to be mobile internet users by 2025 GSMA –The mobile economy sub-Saharan Africa 2020, digital and mobile play a critical role in facilitating the delivery of digital financial services to consumers who transact on their mobile phones. As banks focus their efforts on open innovation, security and high-value services, hybrid cloud solutions have become increasingly important to deliver seamless and secure digital banking experiences.

“Enterprises, especially those in highly regulated industries like financial services, face unique challenges when it comes to balancing innovation and regulatory compliance,” says Alan Peacock, General Manager, IBM Cloud. “For decades, IBM has been fueling the transformation of the financial services industry, bringing IBM’s trusted industry experience and leadership in security and data privacy to help banks modernize, transform operations and drive innovation.”

According to IBM’s COVID-19 future of business study, more than 59% of the organisations that participated said that the pandemic accelerated digital transformation, and more than 75% of responding executives indicated they expect changed customer behaviour to continue after COVID-19. As companies in the financial services sector are speeding up transformation, IBM hybrid cloud and AI solutions are supporting their drive to accelerate digitalisation in different parts of the continent.

“In the past year we have seen banks navigate changes brought on by a growing preference for digital and mobile solutions, increasing smartphone penetration and the demand for convenience, innovation, and simplicity from today’s modern consumer, says Angela Kyerematen-Jimoh, Regional, General Manager for IBM North, East and West Africa. “As banks across the continent take advantage of the opportunity to provide digital financial services which boost financial inclusion, IBM is working with Africa’s leading financial groups to deliver intelligent, cloud-based, digital-first innovation through IBM’s hybrid cloud and AI capabilities.”

Ecobank, the pan-African banking conglomerate, with banking operations in 33 African countries, has adopted a hybrid cloud approach to extend its reach to millions across Africa.  Using IBM Cloud, Ecobank migrated their flagship mobile banking application to leverage the on-demand capacity of resources that can support sudden spikes in traffic on its mobile banking services. Ecobank also has access to other IBM cloud services that can be used to develop more innovative, digital-first solutions to enhance their own client experience.

With over 12 million customers on its flagship mobile application, Ecobank is on an accelerated digital banking transformation journey and is set out to expand its digital offerings and grow the 30 million digital transactions it already processes on its platforms. As part of this journey, the Pan-African banking conglomerate has built scalable business solutions which allow for ease of integration with third-party providers using their open digital banking platform for a growing customer base.

Pan-African bank, Nedbank has set out to deliver superior digital experiences to customers. To achieve this, the bank is modernising its core banking applications with a hybrid cloud strategy and has partnered with IBM to help bring digital products and services to life.

To take advantage of the flexibility and agility offered by modern cloud technologies on this digitalisation journey, Nedbank explored a hybrid multi cloud approach, adopted the IBM Garage methodology to implement IBM Cloud Pak for Integration. Through IBM Garage, the bank was able to deep dive and explore fresh solutions and in a week achieved what would have taken them months. Faced with the need to integrate complex legacy systems, Nedbank turned to IBM Cloud Pak for Integration to help build a simplified and standardised integration approach to their cloud strategy. This enables Nedbank to shift their legacy applications into the cloud and integrate with other cloud-based applications they are consuming as they modernise and position for future innovation.

Attijariwafa Bank, the Pan African Banking and Financial Group, has adopted IBM hybrid cloud solutions software to advance the digitisation of its banking operations, and quickly bring new digital services to its customers, all in a secure and flexible environment. Using IBM Cloud Paks that are built on Red Hat OpenShift, the leading bank will streamline and better integrate front-and back-office processes and to modernise business and IT operations.

By deploying IBM Cloud Paks, Attijariwafa bank will modernise and manage its core banking applications like its corporate banking application, on a secure, integrated and easily scalable environment. This will allow a rich and simple customer interaction while decreasing the time to bring new offerings to market. It will also enable the banks’ employees to focus their effort and time on serving their customers better.

This collaboration with IBM supports the digital transformation strategy of the bank and facilitates a full modernisation of the bank’s operations in an open, hybrid cloud environment.

United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA), Africa’s global bank operating in 23 countries globally and with headquarters in Nigeria, has set a goal to grow its transaction volume significantly over the next few years and to deepen retail market penetration. To achieve this, they would be required to attract the unbanked, acquire new customers through digital banking and retain existing customers by adopting a “No Transaction Must Fail (NTMF)” initiative.

Using IBM POWER9-based servers, Flash system storage and IBM PowerVC (Power system virtualization & cloud management), UBA set up a scalable, private cloud environment that is cost-effective taking the first step towards embracing a hybrid cloud model.

Customers’ needs are evolving as they seek banking services across channels and expect personalization. Co-operative Bank of Kenya turned to IBM to modernize their core banking platform and reach their customers on different channels including mobile and online while offering customized services driven by insights. For this, they required a technology that would also empower their employees who work across teams to simplify processes, optimize customer data, while also achieving goals like reducing infrastructure and maintenance costs. With IBM Power and FlashStorage solutions, they now derive improved insights on customer data, faster query resolutions, quicker time-to-market on new services across channels – all backed by high available, scalable, cloud-and AI-ready technology.

Banco Mais, a leading bank in Mozambique, turned to IBM to help streamline its business processes and reduce turnaround times for customer-facing services. In the face of a growing competitive market locally, Banco Mais needed to develop financial service products faster to retain and gain market share.

Banco Mais implemented IBM Business Process Manager on Cloud service and was able to start projects quickly and deploy process application solutions without the need to build the IT infrastructure. By turning to this IBM Cloud solution, they could develop, test, run and monitor their business processes at a fraction of the time it would otherwise have taken. As a result, Banco Mais reduced turnaround time for loans by 60% and decreased the time it took to implement services that took 3 to 4 months by 85% to improve customer experiences.

Earlier this year, IBM announced the general availability of the industry’s first financial services-ready cloud platform, IBM Cloud for Financial Services, as well IBM Cloud Satellite. First revealed in 2019, the IBM Cloud for Financial Services is designed to help reduce risk for financial institutions, their partners and FinTechs, and innovate quickly with built-in controls that are adhered to by the entire ecosystem. IBM Cloud Satellite brings a secured, unifying layer of cloud services for clients across environments, regardless of where their data resides, delivering security, data privacy, interoperability and open standards found in hybrid cloud environments.

 

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Waxed: Revolutionising Africa’s Transport Industry

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Waxd Group CEO, Anthony Stewart (Image & Article: Waxd)

An estimated 70% of Africa’s urban population live in informal settlement housing. They rely on privately-owned minibus taxis and public bus transport systems to travel to work, send their children to school, and live out their day-to-day lives. The need for digital payment and cashless fare collection solutions – that provide a secure and seamless way for people to access the routes they use every single day – is critical.

Digital payment systems for the transport industry will remove the need for physical tickets and cash payments, and speed up transactions and transport times. With public transport spending accounting for up to 10% of consumer income in Africa, the implications for the transport industry are vast. South Africa alone has over 200,000 minibus taxis transporting more than 15 million commuters daily.

The Waxd story started when Waxd patented a method for processing app payments through EFT rails, cutting merchant fees from 2-3.5% to 0.4%. Although the idea was good, it needed the co-operation of the banks. This was not very forthcoming as the solution would cost the banks in transaction revenues. After months of frustration, Waxd decided to look at areas of innovation where the banks had failed.

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Waxd provides an accessible payment solution that enables public transport drivers to accept different payment methods from passengers, including biometric and prepaid cards which can be recharged by commuters to pay for their rides. Transport operators, owners and drivers can also track their revenue in real-time and manage their fleet with improved efficiency and transparency.

An informal, unregulated transport industry leads to many challenges being faced by all stakeholders. A digital payment system leads to a simpler, safer payment solution for all – from commuters and drivers, to owners and government.

The Africa transport revolution is happening at a rapid rate, and Waxd is at the forefront of developments – committed to providing technologically-advanced payment solutions and to enabling financial inclusion for everyone.

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The State of AI in Africa: 2022 Report

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The State of AI in Africa Report launch was held on the 14th June at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Pretoria, South Africa and co-hosted by the World Economic Forum Centre for the 4IR South Africa and City of Tshwane. This 32-page report will appeal to analysts, enterprises, channel managers, governments, VCs or investors, NGOs, Embassies, trade missions and regional promotion agencies who are seeking deeper insights about the dynamics of this rapidly growing frontier tech market.

A key finding was just how cross cutting this technology is, with South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Kenya dominating this sector and AI impacting at least 120+ separate market segments across Africa. Privately owned SMMEs or Micro businesses make up 75% of this sector, 40% of which were founded in the last 5 years, showing the importance nation states need to place on supporting their local tech ecosystems.

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It’s also attracting serious capital, with Tunisian AI start-up InstaDeep receiving $100m USD Series A funding earlier in 2022.  The global AI market is also projected to grow from $387 Bn USD in 2022 to $1,394 Bn by 2029, exhibiting a CAGR of 20%. Bradshaw concluded, “It’s a positive sign that this technology and the growing regional AI start-up ecosystems can win big across Africa if these trends continue.”

A copy of the report can be obtained online here.

The AI Media Group is a South African based industry analysis, publishing & business events consultancy specializing in the 4IR or smart tech sector in Africa. They are curators of AI Expo Africa, the continent’s largest B2B/B2G Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) trade show and publishers of Synapse, the first quarterly trade magazine charting Africa’s 4IR innovation journey. The group also runs AI TV which hosts discussions on trends in AI and 4IR technologies with local, regional and global thought leaders.

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Digital Asset Marketplace in a Web3 Economy with Chains CEO

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The digital asset landscape has been evolving over the past decade since blockchain technology made it possible to exchange value digitally. This was not previously possible before the launch of the Bitcoin network by Satoshi Nakamoto due to the double-spend problem.

A crypto exchange is effectively a marketplace where people buy and sell cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. The first well-known example of such a platform was Mt Gox which appeared in 2010, created by Jed McCaleb who is also co-founder and the Chief Technology Officer of Stellar – a payment network blockchain ecosystem focused on enabling low-cost cross-border transactions. The exchange imploded when it got hacked for hundreds of thousands of bitcoins and following that, many other exchanges started popping up, promising better security and liquidity.

The industry has evolved since then. Now there are hundreds of crypto exchanges – centralised and decentralised, custodial and non-custodial, from peer-to-peer marketplaces such as Paxful to order-book based exchanges such as Binance. These digital asset marketplaces also offer different services from spot to futures trading, savings products, NFT marketplaces and so much more.

Chains.com hopes to become one of the new market leaders by introducing a comprehensive offering that amalgamates all the different crypto products and services into an all-in-one platform. In this interview, Anderson Mccutcheon, CEO of Chains.com gives insights into the future of crypto marketplaces. Excerpts below:

 

BAO: How would you best describe Chains?

Anderson: Chains is a MetaFi platform, aimed at the next generation of web3 users. A single account, connected to multiple products, that are connected to multiple blockchains. Our goal is to cater to users that want to utilise cryptocurrency and NFT products, without having to learn the underlying technology.

BAO: There are already many crypto projects offering launchpads, exchanges and marketplaces. Why does space need a platform like Chains?

Anderson: For the same reason the world needs an Apple and a Samsung. A Ferrari and a Lamborghini. Variety and competition breed excellence and better results for users. We see what happens in markets where few players dominate – innovation slows down and users get locked into mediocre products.

BAO: Is Chains an open-source project and are you building on or integrating with any public blockchains?

Anderson: We are integrating with multiple blockchains that are open to various degrees. We natively support ETH, Polygon, BSC and TRON, with our generation-1 products. We will definitely be introducing more support for more blockchains and products in the immediate future.

BAO: What are the components of the Chains blockchain ecosystem? Can you share some key insights into your technology stack?

Anderson: Chains is not a technology company. Just like Coinbase isn’t. We are a product company that uses hundreds of technologies at any given time. We are part of the Amazon Activate program and our centralised services are mostly AWS-powered.

BAO: Are you looking to bring NFTs to your ecosystem in the future? In what ways will NFTs be used within your ecosystem?

Anderson: NFTs are an integral part of our ecosystem. We are conducting one of the biggest NFT allocations in the world with the Deep Space Society GEN-0 drop. 1 million NFTs allocated on Polygon.

BAO: What is a CHA token and can you describe its utility or tokenomics?

Anderson: It’s a utility token that is the backbone of our product ecosystem. Not using CHA and using Chains would mean paying more fees, not having access to certain stages of token sales and advanced marketplace features. 

BAO: When can people expect the token sale?

Anderson: We are currently in the pre-sale phase, an opportunity that hasn’t presented itself in years where those who believe in the project can buy into a blue-chip ICO. It’s been a long time since a CeFi/MetaFi platform has conducted a token sale in this way for early adopters.

BAO: Is the sale subject to any regulatory oversight and will you be accepting accredited investors?

Anderson: Yes. We have successfully completed SEC 506c compliance, meaning we are not only compliant, but we can market openly to accredited investors from the US.

BAO: Currently you have one of the most popular whitelists in the entire crypto space, what do you think makes a good crypto project?

Anderson: A strong team, a financial model that has been tested and proven to be working, a multi-year roadmap and a track record of delivering.

BAO: What is vCHA and how can people earn or acquire some?

Anderson: vCHA is a non-currency issued to our early adopters. You can accumulate it by registering, filling out your profile and inviting others to the platform. vCHA is converted into a permanent discount on the platform (which includes the upcoming CHA token sale) , which is the equivalent of staking $5000.

BAO: What can the community expect next from your roadmap?

Anderson: Launchpad comes first. Our goal is to showcase our ability to deliver world class products that can serve hundreds of thousands of users. Prism, our Analytics product, will also be launching this year, and will set a new standard for what a portfolio and asset tracking system should look like. 

 

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