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.
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.
Aella, A Nigerian fintech startup raises a $10m debt financing round from HQ Financial Group
Aella co-founders, Akanbi Wale and Akinola Jones (Source: Aella)
Aella has made a visible impact on the lives of more than 300k borrowers across its Employer Backed and Direct to Consumer Verticals, who now have access to simple financial products
LAGOS, Nigeria, February 10, 2020 – Focused on improving financial inclusion for West Africa’s low-income segment, a Nigerian fintech start-up, Aella has raised a $10m debt financing round, from HQ Financial Group (HQF), Singapore-based private company specializing in new material science, semiconductor and blockchain financial investments. This debt financing round is Aella’s second raise and will bolster the company’s commitment to serve the underbanked population in West Africa and other emerging markets.
Aella was founded in late 2015 by Akin Jones, CEO (right) and Akanbi Wale, CTO (left) in Lagos, Nigeria and has remained committed to building trustworthy credit for emerging markets with an initial focus on Nigeria and the Philippines, where the company is licensed to operate. Aella has made a visible impact on the lives of more than 300k borrowers across its Employer Backed and Direct to Consumer Verticals, who now have access to simple financial products.
For millions of poor and low-income households, entrepreneurs, and nascent businesses in West Africa without access to financial institutions, micro-lending fintechs like Aella provide a broader array of financial products — savings, insurance, payments and specialized loans, focused on lifting many out of poverty. Aella plans to use this funding to scale its lending operations and expand its product base into payments.
“Lack of access to credit and financial services has been the main impediment to MSME growth and poverty reduction in several emerging economies. Aella’s commitment to providing trustworthy credit to millions of people in the world’s emerging markets is improving financial inclusion, enabling MSME expansion and accelerating economic growth and this raise will allow us scale our expansion across Africa quickly”, said Aella CEO, Akin Jones.
Aella will also invest in new products including a blockchain-based lending market called Creditcoin, to build borrower creditworthiness and aid in the acquisition of one million additional users by the end of 2020, making it the largest blockchain backed financial services project that is currently operational.
“We are building a one-stop app for all transactions partnered with regulated industry leaders to help distribute products faster, better and cheaper to end-users in Nigeria and across the markets we plan to launch. This app will allow users access multiple financial services at low costs compared to what is currently available in market”, Jones added.
Sun Han Gyu, Chief Executive Officer of HQ Financial Group said “We are excited to announce our partnership with Aella Credit which will significantly aid in the proliferation of micro-loan services to the underserved African populations who are unable to access banking services. HQF is impressed with their outstanding growth with very low default rate in the micro-loan business in Nigeria and look forward, through this initial investment of $10m to new growth opportunities in Africa and South Asia”. HQF has deployed over $70m in investments since 2015.
Aella previously raised $2m seed funding at the US startup program, Y Combinator from seed investors including Micheal Seibel of Y Combinator, Brian Armstrong of Coinbase, Bill Paladino (former head of Naspers eCommerce), Tae Oh, Shawntae Spencer (former San Francisco 49ers Cornerback), VY Capital, 500 Startups, Gluwa and others, which enabled it invest in digitalization and technology.
Over the last two years, the company has achieved significant growth with a 2-year compound annual user growth rate of 674%, over 193% increase in revenue and maintained a single-digit default rate. Aella was also recognized by Amazon as one of the world’s leading financial organizations pioneering the use of facial recognition technology for customer authentication and credit scoring.
This raise marks the conclusion of the start-up’s evolution to a full-service lending and payments platform, poised to play a greater role in providing a wide bouquet of financial services across Africa. Aella is focused on expanding across Africa and South East Asia enabling users to access a wide range of fast, convenient, and secure financial services. The company’s application will allow users to have access to loans, invest safely and securely, affordable insurance plans, bill payments and peer-to-peer money transfers.
Africa Industrial Internet Programme: Young Africans benefit from General Electric $500,000 Scholarship
Africa Industrial Internet Progragramme (AIIP) Class of 2019 Graduation (Source: GE)
GE will give 10 full scholarships for the current cohort
PORT LOUIS, Mauritius, February 7, 2020- General Electric (NYSE: GE) and the Africa Leadership University (ALU) have announced the kick-off of the 3rd cohort of the Africa Industrial Internet Programme (AIIP) which is aimed at equipping young Africans with skills that will enable them to take part in the fourth industrial revolution.
The 2020 cohort has enrolled 35 students from 8 countries across Africa, drawn from Oil & gas, transportation, power, energy, manufacturing, healthcare, telecoms and aviation industries. Over the last two years, the rigorous training programme has graduated 64 students, of which 50 were fully sponsored by GE from a scholarship fund totalling US Dollars 500,000.
GE will give 10 full scholarships for the current cohort.
Launched in 2018, the programme has empowered participants with essential skills for building applications for the Industrial Internet, which enables machine-to-machine communication that results in systems that can collect, analyze, and deliver data in real-time. These features provide significant benefits such as predicting when a device will require maintenance, enhancing logistics management, enhancing quality and optimizing safety.
The training takes place at a time when spending on the Internet of Things is predicted to reach a trillion US dollars by 202 , with the total number of connected devices being projected to rise to 75.44 billion worldwide by 2025, a fivefold increase in ten years.
Commenting on the Programme, Farid Fezoua, President & CEO for GE Africa said, “As a digital industrial company, it’s exciting to see how over the last two years the AIIP has developed an ecosystem of digital engineers that utilise data science as an enabler for their work across industries, developing solutions for the most pressing challenges. Our partnership with ALU for the AIIP is a testament of our commitment to develop the next generation of leaders that will drive solutions made in Africa for Africa in this transformative digital age.”
The AIIP is designed using a project-based approach where participants get to apply their learning in real world contexts. The Programme includes regular assessments in each module culminating with a final project where participants are tasked with applying their learning to solve an existing problem either in their business or in a partner organization’s business operations. This is achieved through modules in machine learning and big data analytics, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Cloud-based Application Development. A unique aspect of the Programme is a deliberate focus on creating links to industry for participants by inviting industry experts to intensives to share case studies, projects of interest, trends and opportunities, through industry field visits and mentorship opportunities with data science professionals.
“African Leadership Group is thrilled to be partnering with GE to build a new generation of digital leaders for Africa” said Fred Swaniker, Founder of African Leadership Group, which includes African Leadership Academy, African Leadership University, and ALX. “We share GE’s passion for data, and what it can bring to the African continent and the world. The Programme enables mid-career engineers to build new skills in data analytics, data science, data engineering and data visualization. By leveraging the power of data, today’s engineers can significantly improve the performance of high-tech industrial machinery and processes, thereby increasing the bottom line for companies. The Africa Industrial Internet Programme is creating globally competitive, digital engineers right here in Africa, and we can’t wait to see their full impact on the continent”.
In 2019 five female candidates from Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria received the Jay Ireland Africa Rising Scholarship for women in tech in honor of GE Africa’s former CEO, Jay Ireland.
Speaking about her experience with the programme, Funmi Somoye a 2019 cohort graduate from Nigeria said, “More than Machine Learning and Data Science, I have learned more about myself, and what I am capable of doing. I can’t wait to change the world!
United Africa Blockchain Association optimistic about adoption of digital assets on the continent
The Bitcoin Party 2020 was recently held in Cape Town as a celebration of crypto adoption in South Africa which was in the top 5 countries with high cryptocurrency ownership among global internet users. Sentiment according to the United Africa Blockchain Association is that interest in digital assets like cryptocurrencies will only continue to grow.
Despite some local banks in South Africa looking to sever ties with cryptocurrency companies particularly exchanges due to perceived ‘risks’ and lack of regulatory certainty, interest in crypto has actually surged – moving South Africa into the top 2 countries in the world with the highest rate of Bitcoin searches after Nigeria according to the latest stats on Google Trends.
“What we are seeing in fact is an increasing number of people beginning to grasp the real fundamentals of blockchain technology and the different use cases particularly in financial services where Bitcoin for instance is seen as a solution to the redundant way traditional finance deals with cross border payment processing,” said the founder of Proudly Associated.
One of the first exchanges to launch in both South Africa and Nigeria was iCE3X back in 2013, founded by crypto pioneer Gareth Grobler. He believes the market in South Africa will eventually mature and is on a steady trajectory with huge growth potential. “As long as players in the space operate ethically, that will give credence to the idea of a self-regulating financial ecosystem that everyone can trust without overreaching regulatory oversight that could stifle innovation and slow adoption,” he said. “From the outset we took the necessary measures to ensure the platform is secure and offers users stable cryptocurrency trading. We’re still the only Kaspersky approved exchange in the world. As the internet currency industry continues to evolve we’ll be launching more customer-centric features on the exchange to provide users with tools that empower them to make smart financial decisions,” he explained.
Another promising industry that could see tremendous uptake of crypto and blockchain-based products is the gaming industry. South African government statistics show that over 50% of South Africans bet on sports regularly. The rise of mobile gaming via smartphones has meant that many more South Africans can afford to play. Research shows there are more than 11 million gamers in South Africa and a report issued by South Africa’s National Gambling Board projects gross gambling revenues to grow to R34.8 billion in 2020. Some estimations put South African gross gaming revenue at $2.5 billion by 2021.
Sports betting in particular had a projected rise of 12.5% compound annual rate in 2019 and with South Africa being the largest gaming market on the continent, “international companies such as Playbetr see Africa as an important market,” said Alakanani Itireleng, CEO of Satoshicentre, a Bitcoin community hub in Gaborone, Botswana.
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What is clear for UABA is the undeniable relevance of blockchain innovations with respect to opening opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. “We run different initiatives and making tech events fun is an effective way to get the youth engaged and interested in new innovations,” said Grey Jabesi of UABA and host of The Grey Ave Podcast. “We believe that by combining technology, entrepreneurship and business education – together with our partners – the blockchain community can make a positive impact,.” he added.
We are fortunate to have supporters such as Paxful, the peer-to-peer finance platform where people can trade bitcoin globally using multiple payment methods. We are optimistic that education around peer-to-peer finance will help bring much needed financial inclusivity in South Africa and the rest of the continent.
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