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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)

Technology

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.

Click to watch the Event Video

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