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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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Talkwalker launches Conversation Clusters, accelerates insight discovery with augmented analytics tool

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Talkwalker builds on commanding lead in AI applications for social analytics with a new visualization tool that uncovers and maps topics visually from millions of social media conversations.

1/22/2020: Talkwalker, a social listening and analytics company, today announced the launch of Conversation Clusters, a data visualization tool that enables marketers, PR professionals, and consumer insight analysts to instantly uncover, understand, and visualize the context around any topic at a glance.

The launch marks a significant development in the social listening and analytics space, enabling users to take full advantage of assisted data exploration with the help of augmented analytics. For the first time, the latest advances in machine learning research can be utilized at speed and scale for use cases such as trend research, content creation and consumer insights.

Also Read: Interview with James Lawson, Founder, Intergreatme; A RegTech Company Helping You Create Your Own Digital Identity

Achieving industry-leading time-to-insight, Talkwalker’s data science team mastered high dimensional data reduction and streamlined processing power to display a map of complex connections within minutes. “Automated data segmentation holds massive revenue potential for enterprises. An analysis that would take weeks or months to build can now produce actionable results in minutes,” said Todd Grossman, Talkwalker CEO Americas.

Conversation Clusters is based on a powerful machine learning algorithm that groups results semantically. “Our algorithm first identifies relevant word patterns and topic structures in the results taken from our annotated database of billions of articles, and then plots them so that results with many similarities are shown close to each other,” said Dr BenediktWilbertz, Head of Data Science at Talkwalker. “Using a massively parallel infrastructure, we are able to analyze and represent tens of thousands of links and connections between data points in little more than one minute.”

Talkwalker is one of very few companies that have the data science expertise and technical infrastructure to be able to run advanced computations for clients on this scale. Unlike many legacy solutions that rely on time consuming importing and exporting of data sets, Talkwalker provides access to a vast media, consumer and social database for analysis. Additionally, it has a user-friendly option to add and analyze custom data instantly, like call center, email, chat or survey data.

“Businesses need data to be able to answer ever more detailed questions that are tailored to their unique situation, whether it be on consumers, campaigns or brands. A contextual AI solution like Conversation Clusters enables users to train custom AI models using business-specific data sets – fast and easy, without the need for costly user training,” said Grossman. “We’re really excited for users to experience this next stage of social listening. It’s never been so easy to map hidden patterns within any topic to create trending content, find consumer insights or leverage the next big trends for content creation.”

Visit: Talkwalker

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African Gaming Industry Trends In 2020

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Perusing games industry end of year reports (such as SuperData’s 2019 Year In Review) and predictions for the coming year have always been a past time I ravenously consume. However, despite the intriguing blend of numbers and bold forecasts trotted out, there has always been a sense of mild irritation that whilst most claim to have a global perspective, it almost always excludes insights from the African continent. Pretty frustrating right?

Well, fret no more. I decided to peer into the 2020 crystal ball to see what the year holds in store for us all. That is provided we avoid any major impactful global events such as the threat of an impending global fracas or our descent into a climate induced extinction level event.

Disclaimer: Before we jump right into it, it’s worth acknowledging the discrepancy between the varying sub regions in Africa. South Africa and to some extent North Africa are more developed regions with sub-saharan Africa lagging behind, but making up ground at breakneck speed.

1. Education is Key

Africa is the only region in the world where the youth population is increasing. By 2050 Africa’s young population, i.e., those aged between 0 and 24 years old, will increase by nearly 50 percent. Africa will have the largest number of young people. Africa’s youth are key to the continent’s future when it comes to mobile and gaming as a whole, which will be further boosted any significant investment in the education space.

Whilst established companies such as Andela and Gebeya have forged a reputation built on developing the next generation of software developers across the continent, a need for a more focused gaming curriculum is the next logical extension of that strategy. Expect that to be further explored and possibly addressed in the coming twelve months.

The training of technical and design competency talent notwithstanding, educating the next generation of business savvy managers and executives to lead local studios and publishers should also emerge as formal education takes hold.

Also Read: How This Tanzanian Is Building An eLearning Platform For Students To Learn, Discuss and Network

2. Spaces of Play

With the talent pool likely to increase, a space to gather and increase the likelihood of knowledge sharing becomes paramount.

The continent has witnessed a steady growth in the number of tech incubators and hubs in the recent years. Today, we have over 100 technological hubs spread across the continent, harbouring thousands of innovative minds crafting new technological applications, platforms and ideas that are impactful to the continent. 

The tech hubs include MEST in Ghana, ActivSpaces in Cameroon, iHub and Nailab in Kenya, Co-Creation Hub in Nigeria, BongoHive in Zambia, IceAddis in Ethiopia, among others. These hubs are stimulating the rise of digitally-savvy young people who are every bit as talented and hungry as workers in any other place. However, expect more gaming centric spaces such as the Nairobi Game Development Center to pop up across the region.

3. Body of Strength

Despite the presence of international organizations of IGDA in the continent, their reach and level of activity has diminished. This might be as a result of the fragmented nature of the gaming eco-system which has limited their involvement to South Africa.

With developers across the continent increasingly searching for ways to share and co-exist together, a body designed to unite and champion the merits of the industry and continent as a whole will be formed.

Comprising industry members from the five main regions of the continent; North, South, East, West and Central. The body will be a powerful advocate for the sprouting creators in need of guidance and support.

4. Rewarding Excellence

With the formation of an industry body, it seems proper that a continentally recognized award built on integrity and designed to celebrate the works of local talent should follow in tow.

5. Retail on the Rise

Steam, App store, Google Play, Steam, GOG and a multitude of options exist as viable options for developers looking for platforms to peddle their wares. However, there appears to be a need to cater to the growing number of local gamers baying for games with a distinctly local flavour.

That could lead to the rise of local digital retail outlets. The likes of Bonako Games Arena and Masseka Game Studio are already exploring such options, but they aren’t the only ones.

Developers possess the talent, but struggle to commercialise their products. A mix of challenges that include, but not limited to; a central point that prioritises and appreciates the African gaming perspective, the volatile nature of each regions currency valuation as well as varying views of technical and artistic quality impede financial progress.

6. Diverse Perspectives

As the industry matures, so is the need to shine the spotlight on various voices and perspectives within the industry. Variety is the spice of life. It’s also the seasoning needed to ensure the industry remains exciting and unpredictable. Initiatives such as Prosearium helmed by Sithe Ncube provide a platform for aspiring and established female developers to step forward.

7. Investment Spike

With the fires of industry ablaze, expect the attentions of VCs and investors to be further peaked and investments in the gaming space to increase. Investors willing to support the industry would be best placed to do so in either one of the following verticals

  • Studios
  • Publishers
  • Esports teams
  • Infrastructure companies (such as hardware and software options like game engines and retail platforms).

8. In Conclusion

In truth, with the region such a hotbed of activity and on the cusp of its fourth industrial revolutions, this list could have been inexhaustible. Esports continues on its positive trajectory with numerous platforms such as PlayArena now available.

Whilst streaming and XR verticals exist, traction will stagnate unless a combination of supportive government regulation and dependable infrastructure is available and accessible. Despite the challenges, there has never been a better time to be immersed in the African games industry. Games Industry Africa (GIA) looks forward to supporting its growth in 2020.

By: Vic Bassey

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Technology Trends For 2020

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In 2019, we saw again how Technology continues to alter our ways of life and businesses. Now, we interact with devices much more than, humans and organisations also need more technology than they need people.

It is becoming clearer that the skills of ‘yesterdays’ are no more relevant in the workplaces, thanks to automation and autonomous systems, people are getting to realise the need to reskill and retool to fit in the digital age.

Our top technology trends for 2019 were: Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, Quantum Computing and 5G Cellular Networks. Looking back, we could say we were more than 80% right on this. A lot more organisations are now moving higher on the AI adoption curve, although large organisations have seen more than ten times adoption rate compared with smaller businesses. Funding in AI startups reached record level of $7.4bl in Q2 2019.

Remember Facebook Libra? That was huge and was going to upturn the financial word. Even though the Libra project has been slowed down significantly by governments and regulators and this has led to some of the key members (Mastercard, Visa, Paypal, etc) pulling out of the consortium, the project is still on and would have had a massive impact on the adoption of Blockchain at an unprecedented scale.

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

Yet, there is a lot more awareness and adoption of Blockchain technology amongst big enterprises. China is now seeking to lead the adoption of Blockchain technology with over 500 projects already registered with the government; we will see major impacts in 2020.

Quantum computing remains at the research level, although there are good strides made in 2019, like the Google’s 53-qubit Sycamore chip and IBM’s opening of first IBM Quantum Computation Center in Poughkeepsie, NY, the impacts are still far from being felt as a major trend. 5G networks also moved from trials to commercial launch in key markets during the year. We have now seen higher adoption of this technology in China, the US, South Korea, the UK, Switzerland and Spain.

What’s up for 2020? Anything New? Based on feedback from technology futurist and researchers, we are not likely going to see any completely new technology trend in 2020. But we will see massive adoption of some of the technology innovations of the past years. Let’s take a look.

2020 Technology Trend Predictions

Trend No 1: Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Robotic Automation

These three technologies which are closely intertwined are going to have the biggest impact on businesses and lives in 2020. From smartphone assistants to personal home assistant, to autonomous vehicles, to complete automation of over 70% of back office operations, these technologies are a must for serious organisations to consider in 2020.

From career point of view, skills in these areas will also be strategic career development move. Forrester Research estimates Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will threaten the livelihood of 230 million or more knowledge workers, or approximately 9 percent of the global workforce. Though RPA is also creating new jobs while altering existing jobs.

Trend No 2: Blockchain

Blockchain, not crypto-currency, remains one of the greatest innovations of our time. Technologists have argued that blockchain has the capacity to have the ‘internet kind’ of impact on businesses. But many organisations and regulators still confuse blockchain application to just crypto currencies and thus lagging behind in adoption But 2020 will likely see a major turn as we see key industries and governments push ahead on this technology. Chinese leader Xi Jinping declared blockchain “an important breakthrough,” and promised that China would “seize the opportunity.”

The stage is set for the world powers to compete on who controls this technology and the application will be massive especially in the financial industry. Again, for those looking to upskill or considering a career change, blockchain skill demand are now in the top 3 in the developed economies.

Trend No 3: The Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G Networks

There are about 20 billion devices connected to the internet today and it is estimated that we could hit 50 billion in 2020. That will be a massive push of activities and data generation across networks; the impact will be great for businesses that are able to exploit the power of big data, machine learning and deep leaning. But all these will be made possible through the escalated deployments of 5G networks.

5G will deliver to us a 10x type of internet speed over our current speed, unparalleled in the history of technology. The exchange of data and the speed of downloads will be a different experience. Enterprises have to prepare on how they will exploit this to deliver a new customer experience. This will have major impacts on the financial industry and how we deliver digital banking today.

The higher speeds will have the potential to improve both the customer experience and bank infrastructure. For example, virtual assistants, enabled by increased data processing speeds, will be able to provide more contextual recommendations in real time. It will also be possible to increase the security of communications with improved biometrics.

Mobility will be a new game, but there are still huddles to be crossed. It is not likely that we will see the full gains of 5G in 2020 and the cost may even be prohibitive for consumers since their 4G devices will still work on 5G networks but enterprises will take advantage of this.

Trend No 4: Distributed Clouds

Over the past 10 years cloud computing has remained one of the top ten technology trends in the world. The impact of cloud in enabling small businesses has been underestimated. Many things are taken for granted today, but just imagine some two decades ago, you want to setup a business and you have to buy every software license, procure servers and have a mini server room/data center. The time and resources required, cloud computing has taken all that away. Things are done a highly reduced cost and unprecedented speed.

Enterprises are implementing different models of cloud computing. From public to provide cloud, a lot more are moving to the cloud in 2020. A recent research by 451 Research demonstrated that 60 percent of financial services companies surveyed reported that implementing cloud technology will be a business priority this year. But the evolution from centralized public cloud to distributed public cloud ushers in a new era of cloud computing. Distributed cloud allows data centers to be located anywhere. This solves both technical issues like latency and also regulatory challenges like data sovereignty.

The Decades in View

The last decade has seen unmatched technology innovation while the tech companies have also seen exponential growth. It was in that decade that we recorded the first trillion dollar companies all from tech money in exception of Saudi Aramco: Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. It was also in that decade that Social Media took over our ways of lives and interactions.

The trio of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp remains the most impactful having one third of the world all interacting. We cannot forget the intrusion of Alexa into our homes and offices, as well as wearables: Apple Watch, Fitbit, etc and with Elon Musk’s Tesla, we saw a new experience in automobile.

All these are still going to make much more impact in this new decade but are we likely to see any new company with the Facebook-like impact? Are we going to have another Amazon or will Amazon and Facebook continue to get bigger even as US regulators are raising concerns about the size of these companies and their ability to muzzle competition? Will there still be Banks or Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple will be the new generation Banks? Will we have the opportunity to time travel? Are we going to have full autonomous vehicles on roads across major cities of the world? Is SpaceX going to succeed in moving us to Mars? Will there still be a need to see a human doctor by the end of this decade? With the explosion in Internet of Things (IoT), is every human going to effectively become an IP node?

Conclusion

While the above is not exhaustive, I do believe they will rank top amongst other trends in 2020 and beyond. I look forward to contributions on other technologies that are not covered in this article and how they will trend in 2020.

References:

https://www.simplilearn.com/top-technology-trends-and-jobsarticle https://www.spiceworks.com/marketing/state-of-it-2019/futuretech/ https://www.wired.com/story/opinion-china-is-pushing-towardglobal-blockchain-dominance/ https://thefinancialbrand.com/90968/banking-technology-5g-aiblockchain-cloud-voice-cx-cybersecurit-trends-2020/ https://www.gartner.com/en/doc/432920-top-10-strategic-technologytrends-for-2020 https://www.comparethecloud.net/articles/2020-the-year-of-cloud/ https://www.cbinsights.com/research/report/ai-in-numbers-q2-2019/

By Austine Abolusoro (Group Head, Online Banking, United Bank for Africa)

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