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Wake Up Call On Africans In The Blockchain Space

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Blockchain(Image credit: Datafloq)

What is the long term plan for Africa & African businesses as far as the future of Blockchain/ Fintech businesses are concerned? Are we again thinking ‘what is in for me’ just as it has often been the case when African countries try to outsmart each other on economic agreements, instead of going on the table as a block with a common agenda? Some of us think we have to get our acts right this time with a long playbook to protect home grown startups with some deliberate plans.

Why should it all be about competition rather than collaboration and looking at each step from the perspective of how it will turn things around for the continent this time around? The influx of Chinese (blockchain) businesses being greeted with the kind of effusive praise-singing that could make a canary bird blush is indeed funny and absurd since we’ve conveniently forgotten that we can’t eat our eggs and have it.

The examples of Houbi, Binance, OkEX and all other Chinese based exchanges reveal that not one single African plays any C-Level roles including CFO, COO, Head of Product or even any key insider role for that matter. Instead we see them exploiting Africans, throwing a few dollars at them and giving them saccharine titles like Director of Innovation, Labs, Hubs, Ambassador etc., and using them to gather intels on how to optimize their businesses. When it’s all said and done, these companies leave the continent with nothing but capital flight.

Also Read: Building A Digital Marketplace For ‘Made In Nigeria’: Interview With Ukaegbu Great Jr, CEO, Keanyi

Contrast this scenario with what’s obtainable in companies/startups like Coinpesa, BitFXT, Kudi Exchange, Kurepay, KuBitX and many others who have Africans as core key officers. Whether they recognize it or not, their success is for the continent as a whole and can help trigger a wave of advancements cutting through several spheres from business Incubation to financing and many more. It’s no different from the ascent of Silicon Valley, The Shark Tanks, and Dragon Den.

Let any African successful blockchain project with millions try the Chinese market, if you will not be forced to rather join an existing business in partnership or be whisked away with watertight rules; all to ensure they protect their business environment. So why do we gleefully allow ourselves to be used and dumped by destroying smart entrepreneurs who are doing everything on their own by fronting everyday for Chinese brands with the same services. when we could be advancing the interests of our people?

Homegrown companies like BitFXT, Kudi Exchange, Kurepay, KuBitX, etc. providing one smart solution or the other are being discouraged by industry players and stakeholders in the African market who have chosen to push the Chinese agenda rather than back theirs.

Africa needs blockchain more than any other continent. The joke is on us if we cannot devise a deliberate plan to force these so called big brands into partnering with local brands in each market they seek to enter rather than allowing them roam free and making it impossible for homegrown brands to stay competitive. Failure to regulate these foreign companies will leave us at the losing end because of limited funding problems prevalent in the local market.

We all need to pause and ask ourselves the tough questions and identify our WHY in 3,5,10 years time when this has become a major economic shift. The narrative needs to change with smart thinking on how we can reposition the continent by helping those (Africans) who have invested all their resources into making the market ready to scale with the right synergies local or foreign which can push our continent and help accelerate economic growth.

Yes there is poverty & scarcity which has pushed many into survival mode and its attendant self-sabotaging actions without any consideration of the long term effects. But if Africa is to achieve its destined greatness and earn a sit at the table in global economic affairs, we cannot continue to live with this scarcity & survival mentality that has continued to drag us down into oblivion and will continue to do so if we refuse to think beyond the present.

Some of us are very bullish about changing the narrative. We don’t care about how it will cost us and will never settle for less and sell our conscience for peanuts. It’s a simple but potent universal rule at play. Value yourself and others will be attracted to your value. When the foundation is weak, every other part is affected. Let these be a clarion call to these big groups and stakeholders who have in the past years created an attractive and congenial market environment, to come up with sane regulations to guide the influx of foreign brands and how we engage them.

We need to push an Africa agenda through regulatory framework. and stricter antitrust laws just as we have in other climes to protect startups in the blockchain space. SIBAN, Blockchain User Group, Kenya Blockchain Association etc. must act now or be left as white elephants with no influence.

No doubt we need the big players but it should be based purely on mutually beneficial partnerships that puts Africa first just as in top economies of the world like China. The African market needs to slow down the rate it adopts and buys into imported brands that have no regards for collaborative practices. We can’t keep up the pretense by allowing them to just come in with their financial war chest and crowd out indigenous ones, who are doing everything with no government or institutional support, lest we’ll be shooting ourselves in the foot. We need more collaboration for a win-win.

China supports their startups. If we decide to go the free market way especially in this fast growing revolution, there will not be any business for our continent as far as decentralization is concerned. Remember, the game of the future is all about who controls DATA and China has a long playbook to control data. Someone needs to rise up to the occasion and be the proverbial hummingbird.

The Chinese and everyone else are only interested in exploiting Africans. Everyone comes to Africa to milk; only Africans struggle to do anything meaningful in other foreign markets literally. Today we have ACFTA, and again, it will be a mistake, if we don’t have a playbook on how we seek to build the business sector with our smart ambitious minds scattered across the continent.

I have grown to see Africa lagging behind with glorious titles of consumers and laggards with almost all the major disruptive technologies from early days of TV, Internet,Email, E-Commerce, Mobile Phone, Social Media. All the above,there were some proprietary rights to use or own, we do not have any more excuse this time to take advantage of the 4IR, especially Blockchain.

In simple terms,Blockchain is not a proprietary asset to any particular race, it is, in my opinion first to be floated to the world for anyone to leverage and leapfrog in advancing the activities of life. Africa is over 100 years behind the pace of development as compared to Europe, America and most parts of Asia.

For us to triple our continent development, we need to be more deliberate and use technology and innovation as a tool to catch up. It is estimated that, Africa will have more population by 2050 with cities such as Lagos, Kinshasa, Addis, Delisalem etc being the most populous globally.

This can be a social misfit or economic strength for Africa, if we step up our game with a different approach to what we have been doing in the last 100 years.

I am an optimist who believe in our collective reawakening to build the next Africa, where the son of a nobody can rise through hard work, dedication, commitment, honesty, openness, being compassionate and empathetic to become the Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Jack Ma of this world. The simple truth is   there is a need for a mindset shift from survival and scarcity instincts to an abundance mentality with focus based on value than the short gain route.

This Time is Africa and only Africans truly have the ultimate interest of Africa.

By Eric Annan – Pan African Entrepreneur on a mission; changing the narrative.

KuBitX

Logistics

Digitalization in logistics – A user’s experience

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Geraldine Mamburu, Founder & MD PDQ Logistics (Source: Geraldine Mamburu)

In some cultures, children are sometimes named after events that would have taken place close to or during their birth.  Jokes around naming children Quarantine Buthelezi, Social-distance Moyo, or Pandemic Ndlovu, were circulating in 2020 and made for a good laugh, however, one couple in India took this a little too seriously and named their twin boy and girl, Corona and Covid.

Looking back, I do not recall ever coming across a proposal to name children after any of the variations around the word digital, after all, every second Point of View that was being released was around digitalization and digital transformation. It got me thinking, and realised that a lot of these terminologies are thrown about in the corporate space, but what does this actually mean to the end-user? How does the user interact, make use of, and appreciate digitalization?

Being in the logistics space has found me interacting with a lot more digital platforms over and above e-commerce, social media, and the all-so-dreaded-virtual-meeting platforms. My favourite most convenient app (which is currently the best thing ever since sliced bread in my books) has got to be Truck Fuel Net (TFN). TFN offers a cloud-based, real-time software management solution that helps me manage all my on-road refuelling and driver spend needs. Given that the bulk of operational costs in road freight is fuel, one must have their finger on the pulse and be on the constant lookout for the best price, over and above monitoring driver efficiency. The TFN Management system helps me decide, where, when, and how much the driver can refuel.

Sidebar – I’ve been driving a Ford Kuga 1.6 AWD for a few years (NB: No fire starter jokes allowed) and for such a small engine, that car can chow fuel – I’m talking 11 – 12km/100! I never used to fill up because it was painful watching all that money go down the drain. When I filled up the truck for the first-time round, let’s just say I needed to sit down because I felt a little dizzy.

Every day, we transport goods worth millions of Rands. It goes without saying that the safety and security of the driver, the goods we carry, as well as the trucks themselves, is of paramount importance. TFN’s solutions enable us to run a cashless operation. In the road freight sector, cargo, equipment, and increasingly drivers, are all targets for criminals and if we can take one incentive out of the equation, the better off we are.

Whilst on cashless operations, I would like to give SANRAL a standing ovation. Now, now, before your eyes roll all the way to the back of your head, let me just say that we might have qualms as “Gautengers” about how they went about the e-toll saga, but their app is such a lifesaver! With an e-tag fitted on the vehicle, I can manage my account quickly and securely. The app works in real-time, allowing me to be kept informed of my spend on vehicles. And lo and behold when I do forget to top up (because …you know …admin), I immediately get a notification the moment my funds are depleted, allowing me to top up immediately whilst the truck is still on route, contributing to a seamless operation. Well done SANRAL. Sometimes the government does get it right …sometimes.

The South African logistics sector contributes about 12% towards the GDP, according to Stellenbosch University and the World Bank. Of that percentage, approximately ¾ is attributed to road freight alone. With such modestly generous figures, it’s encouraging to see various organisations come up with digitally inspired solutions to cater to this industry.

This brings me to my most used platforms, Car Track and Tracker. I can only assume that before the advancement in technology, one must have had to have a great deal of faith, composure, and trust. Not to say that we no longer require these skills, but the ability to log onto these apps and be able to get real-time updates on the exact location of a customer’s goods in transit certainly prevents a blood vessel or two from popping (in the event that you cannot reach the driver.) As for Google Maps, it goes without saying, that this is the backbone of my interaction with these tracking platforms.

There are a bunch of other digital platforms such as Linebooker that I am still to explore as the business continues to grow. However, it’s been interesting to know that before we start thinking self-driven trucks (think of that one scene from Terminator, were the machine is operating the truck…but I digress) and other seemingly complex technological advancements aimed at this industry, there are still digital channels that make the day to day operations in logistics that much easier.

What other digital platforms are you using or have you heard off that have made a world of a difference in the logistics space?

Article by: Geraldine Mamburu, Founder & MD PDQ Logistics

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Technology

Three African-American Female Engineers Who Changed Our World

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Image source: Pexels

The fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) produce innovation that drives us forward as a species. Despite the fact that women and people of color have often been at the forefront of new discoveries, their representation within the STEM fields is historically low.

As culture progresses in understanding toward the value of a diverse workforce, those seeking out the future leaders of STEM are reaching out to underrepresented populations – specifically, women and people of color. One such outreach is ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day’, a global campaign established by the National Society of Professional Engineers.

The event, which takes place this February 25, is run by teachers, volunteers, and STEM professionals, and includes engaging engineering-based learning activities that encourage young women to develop problem solving skills and indulge their interest in science and engineering.

The road to their future success was paved by the intrepid women who came before them, including these three remarkable African-American female engineers:

  • Kimberly Bryant: Seeking to create an inclusive technology learning space for young women of color, Ms. Bryant created the not-for-profit coding camp Black Girls Code. As of late 2019, the organization has 15 chapters, and Ms. Bryant has been recognized as a White House Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion as well as one of 2013’s 25 Most Influential African Americans in Technology.
  • Dr. Patricia Bath: An early pioneer of laser surgery for cataract treatment, Dr. Bath was the first female member of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, the first female African-American surgeon at UCLA Medical Center, and the first female leader of a postgraduate ophthalmology training program.
  • Alice Parker: A housewife from New Jersey, Mrs. Parker developed and filed a patent for a gas-powered central heating system inspired by cold coastal winters. Her filing came before both the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Civil Rights Movement, a remarkable achievement for an African-American woman during her time.

More stories of African-American female engineers and  female leadership in engineering can be seen here:

To discover more about Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, visit NSPE online.

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Press Release

North Ladder Secures $5 Million Series A Financing Round To Accelerate Global Expansion

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North Ladder Team (Source: Siddharth Sudhakar)

North Ladder (previously called BuyBack Bazaar), a UAE based secured trading platform for pre-owned luxury assets and electronics, today announced a $5 million Series A funding round led by regional venture capital firm BECO Capital. The new investment will help the company scale up its technology platform, enhance customer experience and pursue further geographic expansion.

The homegrown start-up also revealed that it will begin operating under the new brand name North Ladder effective immediately, representing the company’s strategy of charting new markets and supporting individuals across the globe in their endeavour to elevate their financial situation. The disruptive and innovative technology platform is the first of its kind, providing access to verified buyers of second-hand goods and instant cash. North Ladder currently enables users to sell electronics such as phones, laptops, tablets, and smart watches, as well as luxury assets including watches and cars, with a unique option of buying it back within a few months.

The Series A financing builds on an exceptional year for North Ladder which saw rapid growth of its clients, network of buyers and corporate partnerships. To date, the platform has witnessed over 15,000 transactions in the UAE, with over 85 different nationalities served while earning an impressive 4.9/5 customer satisfaction rating. In 2021, the start-up is looking to establish its presence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, with a focus on scaling the platform significantly in the next 18 to 24 months.

“North Ladder has demonstrated tremendous success with its unique model of helping customers access immediate funds against their assets. The provision of a seamless and trusted digital platform for the sale of pre-owned goods has immense socially transformative potential at a global scale. We are excited about partnering with them to take their services to the next level,” said Dany Farha, CEO & Managing Partner, BECO Capital.

The company recently appointed Sandeep Shetty, former Managing Director of the core ride hailing business at Careem, as Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of North Ladder. Prior to Careem he also led the digital transformation program at Emirates NBD and has held leadership positions at McKinsey & Company and GE Capital across India, the United States and the Middle East. Sandeep joins the leadership team of co-founders Pishu Ganglani and Ricky Husaini who together bring years of prior global start-up, financial services, technology and operations experience.

“Our exciting partnership with the region’s leading investor BECO Capital gives us the opportunity to scale operations in the UAE and expand to other strategic markets, with the mission of meaningfully impacting people across all strata of society,” said Sandeep Shetty of North Ladder. “Our global auction brings professional buyers from around the world to compete and provide local customers with the best prices and no hidden surprises.”

Since its launch in 2018, North Ladder has been recognized as one of the “Top 5 innovative start-ups in the MENA region” by PayPal backed accelerator, Village Capital and awarded as an Innovator by Entrepreneur Middle East.

 

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