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Blockchain-based Innovations Embraced and Celebrated at Crypto Fest in South Africa

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CryptoFest 2019, a one-day event recently held in Cape Town by Bitcoin Events (Pty) Ltd which also runs the popular Blockchain Africa Conference,was a non-traditional exhibition style event. The theme was “Immersive, Interactive, Innovative” and in true fashion, the event unfolded as such.

The ground-breaking festival was engaging, thought-provoking and provided quality content on three stages to a diverse audience which included blockchain industry veterans, new entrants and attendees who were simply interested in learning more about the burgeoning blockchain and crypto sector.

The laid-back atmosphere at the vibrant Shimmy Beach Club in Cape Town where Crypto Fest took place, with it’s picturesque backdrop of the ocean, created the perfect festival setting. Attendees were well-catered for and drinks flowed along with the stimulating conversations around the sometime controversial subjects of cryptocurrencies and blockchain tech.

It was a well-balanced mix of business and networking. There was plenty of meaningful discussion and debate on how best to accelerate global adoption of cryptocurrencies. The Bitcoin Events team’s vision to bring cryptocurrencies to life through immersive activities and a showcase of real-world applications to bring awareness was fully realised at this stunning event.

The festival presented engagement opportunities through lively crypto debates, including a Bitcoin vs Gold debate which was moderated by podcaster Grey Jabesi, a Director of Marketing and Communications at the United Africa Blockchain Association. The speakers at the event were lively and the line-up included some captivating appearances by the likes of Rocelo Lopes,CEO of Stratum and representatives from Huobi, SA Crypto, and BitGive Foundation among many others.

Sponsors of the successful event included AltCoin Trader, Luno IG, Okex, and Sun Exchange. “There was a lot of interaction and activity – crypto debates and educational dialogue around blockchain and cryptocurrencies,” said Richard de Sousa of AltCoin Trader. “The event was the first and a great success, we hope to be part of the next,” he added.

Other exciting elements to the festival format included the crypto games, giveawaysand fun competitions which were part of the event. Attendees could utilize augmented reality games that rely on geolocation to manipulate physical reality with tech-discoverable crypto. People could get airdrops of Ripple tokens courtesy of Xago and Bitcoin airdropped at the event by Bitdropgo. Working with Heath Muchena of Proudly Associated, a company that advises international blockchain companies developing technologies which have use cases focused on emerging economy development, particularly in Africa, Bitdropgo was able to bring some live gaming elements to the event.

Also Read Lillian Barnard: Tech Enthusiast And First Female Managing Director, Microsoft South Africa

“We see Africa as a growth market with massive potential for adoption of products and solutions that integrate both blockchain and AR technologies. Our unique interactive marketing model is an ideal fit for consumers on the continent who are largely mobile-centric, and businesses that are willing to explore new innovations and embrace new technologies more readily,” said Jonathan Eagleton, CEO of Bitdropgo. Attendees of Bitcoin Events hosted Crypto Fest could also download wallets such as the Centbee app and receive free Bitcoin.

The festival ended with an after party which was a highlight all on its own. Entrepreneurs, crypto-enthusiasts, educators and learners alike mingled and connected. What was most fascinating about the general sentiment around CryptoFest was the fact that much of the dialogue that could be heard around the event was around the potential that blockchain hasin playing a major role in the technological and economic transformation needed to make Africa a force to be reckoned with on the global stage.

 

 

 

 

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Aella, A Nigerian fintech startup raises a $10m debt financing round from HQ Financial Group

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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.

A screenshot of the app (Source: Aella) 

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.

Also Read: How Tech Is Enhancing Recruitment: An Interview With Sandy Simagwali, Co-Founder Of Graft Africa

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.

Aella.

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Africa Industrial Internet Programme: Young Africans benefit from General Electric $500,000 Scholarship

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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 [1], 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.”

Also Read: How Tech Is Enhancing Recruitment: An Interview With Sandy Simagwali, Co-Founder Of Graft Africa

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!

General Electric

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United Africa Blockchain Association optimistic about adoption of digital assets on the continent

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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.

Also Read: How Tech Is Enhancing Recruitment: An Interview With Sandy Simagwali, Co-Founder Of Graft Africa

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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