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Carbon, AppZone Partner Open Banking Nigeria, to extend the Frontiers of Innovation

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Chijioke Dozie, OneFi co-founder and CEO. Pic: GuardianNG

LAGOS, NIGERIA. 3 September 2019: To achieve improved customer-centric digital services increased consumer control of data and unprecedented levels of innovation, Carbon, Nigeria’s largest alternate digital lender and AppZone, foremost home-grown software solutions provider have collaborated with Open Banking Nigeria, towards the attainment of non-partisan and non-financial Application Programming Interface (API) standards for financial services in Nigeria.

This revelation was made recently as the two top financial technology (fintech) players respectively announced their collaboration with non-profit Open Banking Nigeria.

Carbon, formerly PayLater, and AppZone join other industry players like Paystack, Flutterwave, Interswitch, Ernest & Young, Fidelity Bank, Global Accelerex, TeamApt, PwC, and Sterling Bank who have partnered with Open Banking Nigeria.

The collaboration would, among others, further advance ongoing efforts by various notable financial industry stakeholders in Nigeria for the maximisation of the rapid increase in digital and mobile payments, with the ultimate objective of the meeting the ever-dynamic yearnings of consumers for flexibility and convenience.

Carbon and AppZone would actively participate in diverse phases of the development of common API standards for Nigeria, testing the APIs for certification, and stimulating the adoption of Open Banking standards across the country.

“At Carbon, we know that data is more important than oil. We also understand that open banking presents a tremendous opportunity to unlock financial access for millions of consumers and has the potential of transforming the financial services landscape, not only for banks and fintechs but for everyone across the ecosystem,” said Chijioke Dozie, the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of  OneFi, the parent company of Carbon.

“It follows our innovative leanings as a brand committed to providing credit to the financially under-served and excluded individuals around Africa. We believe that, with Open Banking, we would be able to extend consumer credit to the 40 million unique bank customers across the nation.”

Speaking on the partnership with Open Banking Nigeria, Obi Emetarom, Chief Executive Officer, AppZone said: “We find open banking critical to the future, especially as we support over 300 financial institutions on BankOne, our banking-as-a-service platform.”

Also Read Black Space App CEO, April Jefferson on entrepreneurship and connecting black travelers to their culture

“Our partnership with Open Banking Nigeria also comes as a result of our understanding that in our fast-rising digital world, the use of standard APIs is crucial to empower verified third party players to securely leverage technology. Moreso, the adoption of standardised APIs is known to cut cost, reduce connectivity complications and improve turnaround time.”

This fintech-Open Banking Nigeria collaboration, according to Ope Adeoye of Open Banking Nigeria, would “enable further innovation in our financial services industry where the lack of common API standards currently constitutes a barrier to innovation, especially in the areas of digital payments expansion and financial inclusion.”

Appzone is a proudly Nigerian firm that provides software solutions for the financial services industry. Supporting and accelerating growth in the adoption of banking services across the continent, AppZone expands the scope and competitiveness of financial institutions by delivering disruptive innovation on agile technology using best practices.

Launched when lending with no collateral or documentation or to non-salary earners was inconceivable, Carbon raised the bar and pioneered a new phase of consumer lending in Nigeria, becoming the country’s first digital lender. The firm has continued to transform lending services in Nigeria and across Africa.

Open Banking Nigeria partners with stakeholders across Nigeria’s financial services industry to define an open and non-partisan set of APIs for financial services in Nigeria. 

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Accelerating Growth in an Inclusive Rwandan and Pan-African Digital Economy

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By Dr. Diane Karusisi, CEO, Bank of Kigali and Dr. Reda Helal, Group Managing Director – Processing, Africa and Co-Head Group Processing, Network International (Image: Supplied). 

One of the visible signs of a growing digital economy is its flourishing initiatives for financial inclusion and financial literacy. Rwanda recognizes financial inclusion as a crucial component for realizing its development and economic prosperity and is a remarkable example of a country that is introducing such programs to aid in setting up a vast digital economy, which are increasingly gaining international recognition. The country has set an ambitious target to achieve 90% formal financial inclusion by 2024.

Building inclusivity by involving microfinance institutions, savings and credit cooperatives, and mobile network operators, as well as enabling interoperability in digital payments, play a critical role in ensuring accessibility for populations that have historically been unbanked and rely on cash-based transactions.

Digital transformation

Traditionally, Banks and FIs feel enormous pressure to grow their digital payments penetration in a landscape that is radically different from even five years ago. This pressure is accentuated when Fintechs and wallet operators are added to the mix. Everything from regulatory requirements, a competitive landscape and consumer expectations to product innovations has upended the “business as usual” outlook for digital payment providers. The industry is fraught with challenges that payments leaders must carefully navigate.

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Financial institutions are increasingly recognizing the importance of digital transformation and access to data. A legislation on the protection of personal data and privacy that was passed in October 2021 serves as a foundation for enabling trusted and secure domestic and international data flows and maximising the economic and social benefits of data-driven technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), for businesses and individuals in Rwanda.

The Bank of Kigali is an interesting example of a financial institution that has transitioned from traditional banking processes and payments to a structured digital platform. Embarking on a digital journey four years ago, the bank introduced several measures including internet banking and a mobile app, ISO standardization, and cyber resilient systems tuned to ensure the safety of customers’ data while enabling digital transactions through mobile phones.

Internet penetration in Rwanda stood at 30.5 percent of the total population in January 2023, with 4.25 million internet users. Incidentally, the ownership of smartphones in Rwanda stands at 26.7 per cent among men and 21 per cent in women respectively, according to the 2022 Rwanda Population and Housing Census, with the number of mobile phone users standing at 11.7 million in June 2023. Mobile phone penetration of 87 percent has consecutively increased the interest in digital payment solutions.

With the surge in mobile usage and e-commerce within the country, it is natural for banks to respond to the momentum and strengthen their digital economy payment services. The Bank of Kigali, for example, sought the advisory services of Network International (Network) to understand how to enhance and structure their product offering to cater to evolving customer behavior.

Network has been at the helm of accelerating digital transformation and has extensive experience in revolutionizing digital finance in the region with a deep understanding of digital payment offerings and technology usage. Network, using generational artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, as well as market knowledge and data utilization, helps the Bank generate informed business decisions to refine their services proposition in accordance with consumer spending trends.

Threat landscape

In a rapidly evolving digital payments landscape, the threat of fraud looms large. According to TransUnion Africa, digital transactions in financial services surged by 12.2 per cent during the first half of 2023, and the alleged rate of suspected digital fraud attempts for transactions from Rwanda in financial services increased 252 per cent year-over-year (YoY) – the highest rise among industries analyzed. The Rwanda Investigation Bureau reported 254 cases of cybercrime involving up to RWF 416 million in 2021. While fintechs and other new stakeholders in the environment pave the way to superior banking services, they also ensure to bolster their systems with strategic analysis and secure data management systems to counter sophisticated fraudulent activity.

In this regard, Network supported Bank of Kigali with an authorization strategy with detailed analysis focusing on authorization diagnostic, data and fraudulent transactions. Based on the findings of this analysis, Network provided recommendations to aid the Bank in improving operational efficiency, reducing risks, and accelerating growth.

Advanced tools and technology leave no room for error or vulnerabilities, in an environment that is seeing a growing dependence on mobile wallets, digital-only banking platforms, and contactless payments, which fosters adoption of digital payment solutions between merchants and consumers. This security allows for convenient access to digital payment services which include remittances, timely purchases, e-commerce and small businesses promotions, insurance payouts and more.

By enabling innovation and operational efficiency for financial institutions, Network International contributes to government-led financial inclusion initiatives and supports the sustainability of commerce among the masses.

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Lisk and CV Labs Africa Unveil VC Curated Blockchain Incubation Hub

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Lisk Chief Project Officer, Dominic Schwenter (Image: Supplied).

With nearly a million developers, a flourishing cross-industry entrepreneurial mindset, and a remarkable surge in blockchain adoption, Africa’s ability to lead blockchain technology impact is undeniable. Yet, technology entrepreneurs face barriers like limited access to finance and expert mentorship. Lisk’s Blockchain Incubation Hub intends to solve that issue.

Lisk is a fast and scalable Layer 2 (L2) network secured by Ethereum. As a member of the Optimism Superchain, Lisk provides builders and users some of the cheapest fees possible in the Ethereum ecosystem (currently sub 1 cent) and is actively contributing to the larger Superchain mission of onboarding the next 1 billion people to Web3. Lisk’s strategic decision to focus on emerging markets stands as a testament to its commitment to innovation and inclusivity. By prioritizing these regions, the team acknowledges the transformative potential they hold for the global community. 

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Dominic Schwenter, Chief Project Officer at Lisk, speaking of the incubation program, said “As an established infrastructure project, that has long focused on making Web3 technologies more accessible to builders and users around the world, we fully understand the tremendous opportunity the African continent represents for the future of the blockchain industry. By working with established partners such as CV Labs and its VC pillar, CV VC, we intend to bring our mutual excellence to support African pioneers who harness ingenuity to empower their communities. Blockchain is the engine for propelling local economies across the continent and we are well aware of the great quality of the developer community in Africa. There’s no one better to solve challenges than local developers, founders, and entrepreneurs“.

CV Labs is a renowned blockchain accelerator and ecosystem builder within the Web3 space. CV Labs is a business pillar of CV VC, the Swiss headquartered blockchain venture capitalist. Lisk and CV Labs both originate from the world’s most mature blockchain hub – Crypto Valley. Each has local and active teams on the ground in Africa, committed to harnessing Africa’s ability to drive the future of the web – one that enables data transparency, new economies, and, most of all, a better way of interacting and transacting for Africans.

Gideon Greaves, MD of CV VC Africa, said “Our experience in creating interconnectedness among our African and global portfolio companies is a bedrock for their growth. As Africans ourselves, we are very excited to empower the Lisk Blockchain Incubation Hub with our ecosystem pillar CV Labs, leveraging local insights and global understanding for maximum impact. Importantly, CV VC’s investor-focused curation will support the appropriation of grant funds to ensure projects with impact and utility succeed”.

African nations are among the strongest adopters of cryptocurrencies, utilizing them both as a store of value, payment, and exchange purposes. Concurrently, the technology behind crypto, blockchain itself, is increasingly important in other ways for Africa due to its immutability which can address longstanding issues such as corruption, lack of transparency, and inefficiencies in sectors like finance, supply chain, and governance.

Builders on blockchain technology can enhance trust, promote financial inclusion, enable secure transactions, and streamline processes, particularly in regions with unreliable infrastructure and weak institutions. Additionally, blockchain can support individuals by enabling access to financial services and property rights, fostering their socioeconomic growth, and unlocking new opportunities.

Despite restricted global funding, technology ecosystems in Africa are emerging, and 15 African countries feature in the Top 100 Global Ecosystems. As Africa accounts for nearly 20% of the global population and a median age of 18.8 years, the continent’s youthful demographic presents a potent force for innovation. While 77% of VC funding in Africa comes from outside the continent, The Lisk Blockchain Incubation Hub is committed to enabling African entrepreneurs to achieve self-fulfilling revenues and new funding sources by becoming market-ready with viable products that meet African needs.

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EMURGO Africa Unveils EMURGO Labs

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EMURGO Africa, the investment and commercial arm of Cardano in Africa, today announced the launch of EMURGO Labs, a dedicated development entity for emerging Web3 technologies. The Labs is designed to support the growth of established and nascent Web2 and Web3 organizations. EMURGO Labs is set to spearhead the digital transformation across borders, leveraging the transformative power of the Cardano blockchain.

This will will serve as the central hub for fostering the growth of both established and burgeoning Web2 and Web3 organizations throughout the region. By leveraging the unparalleled power and potential of the Cardano blockchain, EMURGO Labs aims to empower innovation, facilitate cross-border expansion, and contribute to the overall expansion of the global blockchain ecosystem.

“The launch of EMURGO Labs marks a significant step forward in our mission to unlock the transformative potential of blockchain technology in Africa, Middle East and GCC,” said Ahmed M. Amer, CEO of EMURGO Labs. “Through comprehensive support services, strategic partnerships, and industry-leading expertise, I am confident that EMURGO Labs will become the premier destination for Web3 ventures seeking to thrive in this dynamic region” added Amer.

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EMURGO Labs is dedicated to delivering a broad spectrum of services, meticulously designed to meet the evolving needs of the digital era, enabling organizations to seamlessly migrate from Web2 to Web3 while also enhancing and expanding the capabilities of already established Web3 entities.

  • Blockchain Solutions Development: Partnering with global enterprises, startups, and accelerators, EMURGO Labs is at the forefront of investing in and developing groundbreaking blockchain solutions with real world use cases
  • Custom Software Development: Tailored software solutions are crafted to drive digital transformation, propelling enterprises into the future.
  • UI/UX Design: With a focus on user-centric design, The Labs ensures intuitive user experiences and sleek interfaces for Cardano blockchain applications, setting a new standard in usability and aesthetics.

Aiming to engage a broad spectrum of stakeholders, from Web2 and Web3 startups, banks, and large corporations to governments and the wider business community, The Labs is strategically positioned. By appealing to investors, blockchain enthusiasts, media, and policymakers, it is poised to become a pivotal player in the global blockchain ecosystem.

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