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South Africa’s first ever blockchain-based property register pilot

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The pilot study area consists of almost 1 000 properties located in four sites in Makhaza, Khayelitsha

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, November 6, 2019- The Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa (CAHF), research consultancy 71point4 and Seso Global have partnered to develop South Africa’s first blockchain-based property register. The pilot study area consists of almost 1 000 properties located in four sites in Makhaza, Khayelitsha. All the properties are Government subsidised properties that have not yet been registered on Deeds Registry.

According to Daniel Bloch, the CEO of Seso Global, a blockchain property registry company, this will be the first working example of a blockchain-based property registry in South Africa. Aside from creating an immutable record of who owns which house, the Seso platform facilitates and records transactions such as sales and transfers out of deceased estates and integrates with third parties who facilitate transactions, including mortgage lenders. “For the time being, property owners will record these transactions at the Transaction Support Centre, a walk-in housing advice office created by CAHF and 71point4 located in the area. But over time, we will record transactions through the Seso app” says Bloch.

The benefit of the blockchain solution is that it allows the data to be stored in a decentralised, secure database that can be updated without any loss of historic data. This means there is a secure, back-to-back record of all transactions that is completely tamper-poof. Eventually the vision would be to integrate this record into the Deeds Registry when other impediments to transfer have been removed.

South Africa has a serious titling problem. According to Kecia Rust, the CEO of CAHF, the government has built over three million RDP houses since democracy. But CAHF’s analysis of deeds office data indicates that only 1.9 million of these properties have been registered. The National Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation (NDHSWS) estimates that the title deed backlog for RDP properties built prior to 2014 currently stands at 511 752. These properties were given to beneficiaries, but no title deeds were registered and handed over. At the same time, there is a backlog of 351 470 title deeds on newer properties.

Registering these properties so long after they were built and handed over to subsidy beneficiaries is an administratively complex task. In some cases, original subsidy beneficiaries are no longer living in the properties. Some beneficiaries might have passed away, some might have tenants in their properties while others have sold their houses informally.

“To create a register of property owners we first had to go door to door to find out who lives in each property and to establish how they came to be there” says Melzer, founder and lead consultant at 71point4. “We hired a team of 17 enumerators and trained them to collect information and capture supporting documents. Thankfully we can leverage smart phone to collect the data, but it still requires a significant effort. It took us two months to cover these areas.”

But the effort is well worth it. Properties in the area sell for over R200 000 informally – and would sell for more if they were listed on a trusted registry and were ‘bankable’. This would enable buyers to obtain mortgage finance and create affordability. Without access to mortgages, buyers have to pay cash for a house, or use an expensive unsecured loan. There are also significant benefits to the City of Cape Town of being able to access an accurate and up-to-date record of property ownership. Without it, the City cannot collect revenue from households in the area who are not indigent nor can City departments facilitate building plan approvals.

Next steps

In many cases in the pilot areas, the original beneficiary is still living in the property. “We hope that these properties can be registered in the deeds registry within a few months, and we are working closely with the City of Cape Town to facilitate that” says Melzer. “Where the beneficiary no longer lives in the property, we are in the process of tracing the beneficiary to confirm information we have gathered on who owns the property. We will also be working closely with the City on a resolution process where ownership is disputed.”



It will take some time before all the required information has been collected and validated. It will also take time for validated properties to be registered on the deeds registry.  In the meantime, we will enable property owners and occupants to keep those records up to date.

“We will also be using Seso’s platform to manage other client service requests that come to the Transaction Support Centre from all over Cape Town” says Rust. “These include helping clients to regularise informal sales and wind up deceased estates. Going forward, as the country moves towards an electronic deeds registry, we hope the lessons we have learned will provide valuable evidence to inform the development of accessible, secure, affordable and efficient mechanisms to facilitate property market transactions. This is important across the market, but particularly in entry level segments of the market where existing mechanisms are simply too costly”.

CAHF, Seso Global and 71point4 have a working agreement to extend this pilot into other areas and use cases. There are hundreds of thousands of RDP properties around the country where no primary transfer has taken place. In addition, in many areas where title deeds were issued, property owners have transacted informally, which means there is no longer an accurate record of ownership at the deeds registry. Blockchain-based solutions can help there too.

Also Read: Meet Mariatheresa S. Kadushi, Founder of M-afya, A Mobile App Providing Health Information In Native Languages In Africa

Blockchain can also enable households who live in informal settlements and rural areas to record and maintain land records and secure their rights. “We are very pleased with the pilot results. We think the solution we have developed is scalable, and replicable” says Bloch. That does not mean it is easy but, says Melzer “blockchain technology together the potential value we can unlock makes it worthwhile”.

Affordable Housing Finance in Africa (CAHF).

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Technology

Zindi set to offer free hackathon and tailored online problem-solving sessions

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Cape Town based online data science competition platform Zindi will during the COVID-19 lockdown offer businesses free hackathon and tailored online problem-solving sessions.

Zindi recently launched a new hackathon space on its platform. The space will enable those companies with data science teams that are now working from home a private space to continue to upskill on problems that are important to their businesses while strengthening teamwork and cohesion in their free time, even while kilometres apart.

The offer comes in the wake of a 21-day lockdown imposed by the South African government with effect from 27 March.

Also Read: Women in Tech: Interview With Ellen Fischat, Founder Story Room and Inspiring Fifty SA Ambassador

“It really feels like we are stepping through that threshold that separates the world as we knew it from the uncharted territory that lies ahead. The situation is evolving rapidly and every day seems to bring new revelations about how COVID-19 might impact our lives, our economies, our companies, and our professional teams in the months and years ahead,” says Celina Lee, CEO Zindi.

“We realise that even during these challenging times, business doesn’t stop,” adds Lee.

“At Zindi, we also find ourselves having to adapt to the changing landscape. But we are driven by our mission to make AI accessible to everyone and every company. We see the current climate as an opportunity for our online community of over 12,000 data scientists to apply their skills to problems that matter most now, and to be an engine for productivity even during this unusual time,” says Lee.

“One thing this experience is teaching us is that physical location no longer matters. As an online platform, Zindi is uniquely positioned to harness the power of data scientists around the world to keep businesses and teams going during these challenging times. As a support to you, our valued partners, we’re pleased to offer you a free hackathon for your data science team or an online problem-solving session tailored for your business. Remember, we’re all in this together,” she adds.

ZINDI

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Technology

Africa-focused 4IR Buyer Survey Aims to Gauge Industry Needs

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Roy Bannister, Co-Founder of AI Media Group

The AI Media Group – organisers of Africa’s largest trade-focused AI trade show, AI Expo Africa – has launched an Africa-focused Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) buyer survey that will inform the continent’s 4IR technology supplier community about the trends and needs of African technology buyers over the next 24-months.

The survey – which is titled Africa 2020 – The B2B 4IR Buyer Survey – also seeks to shape knowledge around the attitudes of business buyers and available opportunities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey, which will be conducted anonymously, will take respondents approximately five minutes to complete.

The study includes questions on readiness to adopt or deploy 4IR technologies, talent, ethics and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on business confidence, among others. The survey is set to conclude at the end of April.

Survey respondents will be eligible for a free copy of the survey’s final report, in addition to a 50% discount code to join AI Expo Africa which will be held on 3 and 4 September in Cape Town.

Also Read: Women in Tech: Interview With Anna Collard, Founder Popcorn Training – A KnowBe4 Company

As curators of Africa’s largest 4IR and Artificial Intelligence community, AI Media Group has made tremendous strides in mapping the 4IR landscape across the continent. This includes running two highly successful AI Expo Africa trade shows,” says Roy Bannister, Co-Founder of AI Media Group. “The ongoing mapping of this landscape includes insights into the capabilities of the vast number of companies, organisations and people undertaking ground-breaking work in this sector and how they can fill the needs of buyers from enterprises, governments and companies of all sizes across all sectors like retail, banking, manufacturing, healthcare and others, with the end goal of matching companies needing 4IR and AI solutions with those very capable suppliers in Africa that can supply those solutions.”

Nick Bradshaw, Co-Founder of AI Expo Africa, Africa’s largest AI business event adds: “We’re looking to gain greater insight of the state-of-play with 4IR buyers and what their current planning around buying and implementation of 4IR and AI solutions are for each industry, and how this planning has been affected by the current pandemic, if at all, and how other factors like lack of understanding of 4IR implementation and solutions available, cost, knowledge of options and other factors are impacting their buying and implementation plans.”

Those looking to participate in the survey can do so here.

AI Media Group

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Legal Business

9 Inspiring Women in the Nigerian LegalTech Space

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Kelechi Achinonu, Founder Techlawyered and Technology Lawyer

In celebration of International Women’s Day, 2020, Techlawyered would like to share with you the stories of extraordinary women in Nigeria who are innovating in their various roles, while leveraging technology to improve the legal practice and access to justice.

Rahila Olu-Silas Ambassador, World Legal Summit (West Africa)

Biggest Success in LegalTech

Collaborating with Open Law Library Washington DC, a U.S.A based Not-for-Profit Organization to automate the process of Bill drafting, codification, and publication of laws in digital formats in Nigeria

What has been your biggest challenge in Legal Technology?

Researching the legal framework that will enable the adoption of Machine-Consumable legislation in Nigeria. This will enable emerging technologies to consume our laws through APIs and process them without the human factor.

What motivates you to keep going?

The possibility of change in the way legal services is delivered in Nigeria

Funkola Odeleye , Co-founder and CEO at DIYLaw.ng

Biggest Success in LegalTech

I am not sure we have hit our biggest success yet but being able to simplify legal services and topics and making them attainable and understandable comes close

What has been your biggest challenge in Legal Technology?

The problem that we are trying to solve is making legal services accessible and our biggest challenge is how to make it accessible for those without access to technology. It is an irony of sorts.

What motivates you to keep going?

The sheer number of jobs that are being created because people are able to launch their businesses through our platform keeps me going. Also, getting kind words and referrals from people who have used our platform is an affirmation that we are doing something right.

Also Read : Women in Tech: Interview With Anna Collard, Founder Popcorn Training – A KnowBe4 Company

Adejoke Are , Co-founder/Project Lead, The Flemer Project

Biggest Success in LegalTech

I run an organization – the Flemer Project – that helps indigent pretrial detainees conclude their matters in court as quickly as possible, by leveraging on the support of young volunteer lawyers who directly provide legal representation to these detainees.

Although we are never physically present in court to monitor the performance of our volunteer lawyers, incorporating technology into our solution has made monitoring and evaluating their work quite a seamless affair. Through this approach, we have been able to provide legal representation to almost 200 indigent pretrial detainees and to secure the release of 60 of them from prison.

What has been your biggest challenge in Legal Technology?

I don’t have any technical experience or skill in building technology platforms and this has been a drag on the development of a comprehensive technology platform needed to manage our overall operations.

What motivates you to keep going?

The passion of our young volunteer lawyers who go over and beyond to give their best to people who can never repay them, and the fact that our solution literally changes people’s lives by helping them regain their freedom.

Oluwatosin Amusan , Product Development Lead, Mylaw.ng

Biggest Success in LegalTech

Delivering legal services to customers via technology, from the comfort of their couch. The fact that my team and I were able to develop products and show value enough to earn the trust of customers who end up drawing on the products on mylaw.ng and coming back for more.

What has been your biggest challenge in Legal Technology?

Constantly answering the question “Is legal technology a viable sector in Nigeria”. Looking at it from a global perspective with 3 unicorns in legal tech this question does not surface in the international scene. However, In Nigeria, we have quite a number of legal tech startups who have to prove themselves 10 times harder, show double the traction required to prove that this is a viable sector.

What motivates you to keep going?

The refusal to settle for mediocrity. I make it a ritual to look back at works I have done in various facets of my life every six months, and without a doubt, I see the growth not just intellectually but in physical form. It is easy to get complacent with doing just what is required, but there is always room to improve and do better. No one changed the world by doing what just was required of them.

Faith Obafemi , Head of Strategy, Future-Proof Intelligence

Biggest Success in LegalTech

Establishing as a recognized expert in the blockchain space in less than 2 years. This has been a never-ending journey that has stretched me intellectually, financially, emotionally and otherwise. But, I have been better for it. I have met some of the most amazing persons on this journey. People who help broaden your horizon.

What has been your biggest challenge in Legal Technology?

Breaking/building a tech foundation. In the early days, things were just mostly Greek to me. But, the more I kept at it, the familiar it became and the easier it was to understand.

What motivates you to keep going?

Money! Hahaha, I know most people would’ve been expecting something knight worthy like passion to help others, desire to impact, etc. Well, why all that is great, it still requires money. I am yet to see a broke person help another or have an impact on others.  So, yes, money motivates me to keep going. Because, with money as a tool, I can achieve other things that I hold dear.

Rhoda Obi-Adigwe, Founder Wemora

Biggest Success in LegalTech

Our greatest success was when Hill gave us an award and a grant for our legal software which aids in the writing of will and creation of trust online. This was very inspiring to us knowing that our efforts were being recognized.

What has been your biggest challenge in Legal Technology?

Our biggest challenge to legal technology is cultural and traditional bias. People are still skeptical to include their personal and private details online making it difficult to prepare legal documents for them. This fear also arises from the fact that the country has no stringent data policy laws.

What motivates you to keep going?

The legal tech space is evolving and we are beginning to see most traditional things done online like the CAC providing platforms for business registration, so our motivation is to keep pressing knowing fully well that these changes and policies will soon affect our own part of legal IT.

Yinka Bada , Lead Product Manager, LawPavilion Business Solutions

Biggest Success in LegalTech

One of the things I can consider as part of my biggest success in legal technology is two-fold:

i. My involvement in conceptualizing and facilitating the development and continuous improvement of software solutions that solve challenges around Practice Management, Legal Research and Legal Drafting for lawyers and judges, hence improving their efficiency by making it easier for them to do more in less time than usual. I’ve been working with a team of bright minds to continuously improve the leading Electronic Law Reports platform; the only one with Legal Analytics, and most cited in courts by top lawyers, and judges of both the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

ii. Leading and mentoring at different times,  young and aspiring Product Managers and Software Engineers  to passionately seek to identify the pain points in our justice delivery system, and  proffer innovative solutions

What has been your biggest challenge in Legal Technology?

What I can consider as a challenge for me in legal technology is the huge amount of time, efforts and resources it has taken over the years to build and communicate the value of legal-tech solutions to the conservative legal industry; the sweet thing, however, is that this same industry is now embracing technology fully, and even asking for more

What motivates you to keep going?

The joy of facilitating an accelerated (albeit gradual) access to justice in Nigeria-  the possibility of having the practice of law and ultimately, the dispensation of justice continually become technologically improved for more efficiency and effectiveness.

Nankunda Katangaza , Co-founder, African Law & Tech Network (ALT Network)

Biggest Success in LegalTech

I guess my biggest success in legal technology was in following my hunch that there was a need and interest on the part of African legal professionals in technology and what it could do for the legal sector and creating the ALT Network to kick-start that conversation on the continent. The ALT Network has grown to over 150 individual and business members over the past two years and has a thriving community and activities across the continent which I could not have predicted when we set up the platform!

Engaging with the fast-growing African tech community has brought incredible insight into the legal and regulatory needs of tech disruptors across all sectors. I am delighted that the Network has quickly grown into a valued pan-African interlocutor in the discussion between lawyers, technologists, and regulators to build effective, responsive and progressive frameworks for tech growth in Africa.

What has been your biggest challenge in Legal Technology?

My biggest challenge is also one that can be described as a ‘first world problem’ in that it is the challenge of opportunity and time – so many opportunities, not enough time! In the short couple of years, it has been around, ALT has attracted a significant following and interest from across the African legal and tech sectors.

Law cuts across each and every area of personal, public and commercial life and as such, ALT and its membership have a role to play across the continent from influencing public policy to creating tools for delivering access to the law to all. Finding the time to explore and follow all the possibilities and requests alongside a full-time job does keep me up at night!

What motivates you to keep going?

I have to say that the energy and enthusiasm of the ALT members is more motivation than anyone could ask for! Each day brings a new member. Each week brings a new idea and opportunity in a different country from an existing member so there’s never a quiet moment.

But more than anything, the prospect of bringing together people and entities from across the continent who are all driven by the same thing – to create and build prosperity for all Africans through innovative tech use and creating an enabling legal environment for success. It has also been amazing to meet so many Africans working in different sectors and industries and to collaborate with some of them.

Our recent partnership with Africa Digital Heritage, for example, to explore the legal issues arising in tech and the preservation of African cultural heritage was eye-opening and inspirational. I look forward to ALT continuing to be at the heart of similar collaborations and conversations over the years.

Also Read: Women in Tech: Interview With Elaine Wang, Cloud and Software Solutions Director for Rectron

Odunoluwa Longe, Country Director, Acceleration (West Africa) at HiiL

Biggest Success in LegalTech

My greatest success is seeing the entrepreneurs succeed. Success here does not just entail in competitions but in the ecosystem as well.

What has been your biggest challenge in Legal Technology?

My biggest challenge has been finding businesses that are solving justice problems and are focused on doing the same. A lot of people do not realize that justice is beyond just legal tech, It should be more focused on people gaining access to services that actually help them solve their problems.

What motivates you to keep going?

I am motivated by the need to help entrepreneurs and see them succeed.

Please join Techlawyered to celebrate these Wonder Women of Legal Tech.

Article By: Kelechi Achinonu

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