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Uzoma Dozie Launches Sparkle, A Startup Set To Disrupt Nigeria’s Retail Services Industry

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Ten years ago, the act of shopping – retail as a necessity and as a pastime – existed entirely offline in Nigeria. You go to a store, you buy what you want, you shop around – but it was a physical transaction. Often laborious too; moving from one store to another, across town, back again, only to find that what you wanted wasn’t in stock. And when it came to payments? Consumers were prepared to part with their cash with bundles of Naira to preempt the store’s POS machine not working or, in all likelihood, there not being one.

Fast forward to mass-market internet; commerce is changing – it is literally in the palm of our hands. Retail has no fixed abode. It’s on instagram. It’s on Facebook. Soon, it will be on online marketplaces that haven’t even been invented yet – and at scale.

Retail powers our country, stealthily. Ask anyone about Nigeria’s economy and the words “oil” and “gas” roll off their tongues, because we can see the results and can account for much of the revenue. However, the millions of retailers across the country – those making sure every day people get what they need and want, are virtually invisible. It is almost a clandestine economy.

At Diamond Bank, we cultivated the retail sector and built digital mobile products for retailers, because we wanted to include them in the banking community and provide a service for the underbanked. For most, cash was [and still is] king, and there was no real engagement with the banks. Not at scale. Retail was a cash economy outside of the usual economic paradigms of taxation and government involvement. For traditional banks, this was a vacuum. For Diamond Bank, we saw it as an opportunity to engage an entire community; and that is exactly what we did. In less than 10 years, we built out a retail arm of the bank that included over 15 million people. This was their first foray into retail banking. As my father and I look back on Diamond Bank’s legacy, cultivating digital banking, at scale, is one of our lasting impacts.

But that was yesterday.

Let’s look at today. And tomorrow. We are introducing Sparkle. A new iteration of what it means to support retailers, businesses and individuals in Nigeria. Beyond traditional banking. A platform that has gone from concept [securing better access to banking and finance business facilities for businesses and individuals] to an MVP; Sparkle is now being developed to allow people to do more whilst allowing businesses to be more.

At Sparkle, we want to complement the resilience with a wrap around digital service that supports retailers, individuals and SMEs, seamlessly. A silent business partner, so to speak. The businesses of today that we will be collaborating with at Sparkle are on the go. They are extremely fluid. They move with the trends and, where possible, they dictate the trends. As I mentioned – they have no fixed abode. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t building or growing. And importantly, they are digital natives – their first point of interaction with customers is online. Picture, swipe, click, purchase. It’s that easy. So how can we deliver a service that supports a tribe of digital natives who want to focus on making money and building their business, rather than be burdened with financial admin?

Also Read Cycles, Nigeria’s No.1 Bike-Sharing Platform Achieving The United Nations SDG Goal 11 – Damilola Soladoye

We are blessed with a young population [in its tens of millions] of early adopters, who are revelling in [and capitalising on] lower costs of smart phone handsets and lower data costs. Whist this means that the barrier to entry for businesses is now significantly lower, there is more competition. But that’s OK – competition is fine, but let’s all make sure we can compete, build and grow; this can only be done if you have access and support services that enable you to compete on a level playing field. This is a generation of mobile-first retailers who are powering ecommerce via social. Facebook boasts over 21m users. Instagram – 5.6m. And unlike the “developed” world, these figures are growing upwards, and fast. Sharing, telling, selling – this is where commerce lies, this is where Sparkle starts.

So what we did with Sparkle, we decided to support and build a tribe of digital natives. Those who instinctively reach for their mobile phone when they’re engaging in any transaction, be it personal or business. As we build this tribe, we are sticking to and embedding core values and principles in to how we operate; everything, absolutely everything we do is grounded in trust and transparency. We are creating a market within an established market and unpicking the barriers to entry for so many people by ensuring they are part of the growth – part of society. They are financially included. Retailers have, for so long, been excluded from society at so many levels, because they are not paying tax and engaging with state and government; Sparkle is tackling this and bringing more people into an inclusive system.

Interestingly, these are the human principles upon which we built when we started building Diamond Bank in the 1990s. Our principles are 25+ years old [and more] but our approach and execution is totally new. With Sparkle, we will provide a dedicated, personalised experience to each and every one of our users – who we hope will number in their millions in years to come. But they will not be “seen to” by traditional customer relationship managers; that’s for the 1%. Sparkle is here for all. We are building for those who don’t need to look into the whites of a bank personnel’s eyes – we are building and growing for a community of people who want fast, accurate decisions made based on unambiguous and unbiased data habits. Powered by AI and Machine Learning, Sparkle will remove emotion from decision making and put your data in your hands. Whereas other companies accrue data to sell and to profit from, we want our Sparklers to profit from their own data, but allowing them to make well informed decisions regarding their next steps. At Sparkle, currency is data.

Our Sparklers have their heads down as they create and build and test – building an MVP that delivers human principles of commerce and business. We are curating a business and lifestyle-friendly platform that will enhance the human side of doing business, at scale. We have no alternative. This is how retail will scale and businesses will thrive in Nigeria; leveraging technology and mobile to create and support a generation of digitally native businesses that provide an alternative economy for Nigeria.

Why Sparkle? Because we can

Credit: Uzoma Dozie/www.sparkle.ng

Press Release

The Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship at the MIT launches Foundry Fellowship for entrepreneurs in Africa

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The Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship at MIT has launched the Foundry Fellowship, a first-of-its-kind leadership program for accomplished entrepreneurs who are considering their role in shaping the future of the African innovation ecosystems in which they work and live. At an inflection point in their entrepreneurial journeys, Fellows will learn from MIT faculty, connect with investors, and expand their network of peer innovators. The Fellowship is open to entrepreneurs working and living in Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, and Senegal.

Building on the MIT ethos of Mens et Manus (Mind and Hand), the Foundry is a place where entrepreneurs come together to reflect on their achievements and shape their futures as leaders in business, investing, and governance. The program includes an interactive online curriculum followed by a three-week immersive session that brings the cohort together to explore innovation-driven ecosystems.

The Foundry Fellowship presents a unique opportunity to bring MIT resources and knowledge to these critical innovation ecosystems and, importantly, also offers MIT an opportunity to learn from successful leaders and their innovative solutions.

Professor Fiona Murray, Faculty Director of the Legatum Center, described this opportunity to expand MIT’s innovation network “[as] a moment for the Fellows to reflect on [their entrepreneurial] journey that also allows us to learn from them. They can use this experience as a stepping-off point as they move to the next stage of ecosystem-wide leadership.”

“As a school dedicated to the development of principled, innovative leaders who improve the world, MIT Sloan looks forward to welcoming the Legatum Foundry Fellows to Cambridge and to the MIT community,” said David Schmittlein, John C Head III Dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management.

A Collaboration between the Legatum Center and The Mastercard Foundation 

Through this collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation, the Foundry Fellowship will deepen the impact of leaders who are solving complex problems, creating jobs, and bringing essential services to millions through innovation-driven business models.

With the world’s fastest growing youth population, Africa is home to 4 of the world’s top 5 fastest-growing economies, has the fastest urbanization rate in the world, and has a rapidly expanding middle class predicted to increase business and consumer spending. Innovation and entrepreneurial solutions are a critical component to continued growth and prosperous people and societies across the continent. Africa’s entrepreneurs are building businesses that offer lessons in inclusion, sustainability, and value creation that extend far beyond the continent. As a global network of entrepreneurs, investors, and thought leaders, the Legatum Center’s Foundry offers a platform for leaders to share their stories and consider new ways to extend their impact in their local ecosystems and around the world.

Dina Sherif, Executive Director of the Legatum Center says, “To propel Africa forward and remain competitive globally, we need innovation-led entrepreneurship and robust African entrepreneurial ecosystems. The Foundry Fellowship supports African entrepreneurs to transition to entrepreneurial leaders who work with various stakeholders to strengthen and improve their ecosystems.”

The Foundry Fellowship is a competitive program for outstanding entrepreneurial leaders working in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, and Uganda. The Legatum Center will accept nominations from May 3 – May 20, 2021. A nomination is not required to apply; entrepreneurs are invited to submit an application directly. All nominees and applicants must submit a completed application by 11:59 PM EDT on June 10, 2021 to be considered for the program.

Nomination and application information is available at The Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship

An initial cohort of 15 Fellows will be selected for this fully-funded program.

 

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AI Expo Africa, Wesgro, and Zindi launch the Deepfake Africa Challenge

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AI Expo Africa, in partnership with Wesgro Film and Media Promotion and African Data Science competition platform Zindi, has launched the Deepfake Africa Challenge in a bid to raise awareness about deepfake media, tools and ethics on the African continent.

Deepfakes have been prominent in the news in the last two years as the tools and platforms that allow for such content to be produced are widely available and easy to use by both skilled and casual users.

While some deepfakes can be used to create fun, viral videos or new synthetic applications such as digital avatars that have multiple applications, they also can be used to manipulate or generate visual and audio content with the potential to deceive with subsequent negative impacts for people, organisations and wider society.

Dr Nick Bradshaw, founder & CEO of AI Media the company behind AI Expo Africa, stated, “The objective of the challenge is to create convincing deepfakes to highlight the power of this synthetic media, illustrating its creative potential for exploitation for both positive and negative outcomes and focusing debate about its ethical use or mis-use in an African context. We partnered with Zindi as they have the largest community of Data Scientists in Africa, and Wesgro Film Unit to tap into the award-winning creative industry based in the Western Cape, South Africa. This challenge is open to both creative and technical talent across Africa. We look forward to seeing the outcomes from the submission.”

Wesgro Film and Media Promotion head Monica Rorvik commented, “Deepfake media can have negative outcomes. This challenge serves as an opportunity and platform that we can leverage during this interesting time of the “Pandemic of deep fakes” – and by working together, and checking facts, we can learn together and gain some herd immunity.”

Zindi co-founder and CEO Celina Lee stated “Deepfakes are fast becoming a challenge of our time. Through the Zindi platform we are seeking to tap into the collective insights and creativity from twenty-six thousand African data scientists to shine a light on this topic and create debate about the potential harms these media and tools can do from a uniquely African perspective.”

Submission and evaluation

Submissions are welcome from across the African continent and from relevant communities including researchers, developers, content creatives and film makers. The winning submissions of the Deepfake Africa Challenge will be showcased at AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE between 7 to 9 September.

Submissions for the Deepfake Africa Challenge can be either video or audio based. Each submission should be no longer than 90 seconds in length (MP4 or MP3 preferred final format). The content submitted must not be offensive or harmful in anyway and any submissions deemed to contravene this rule by the judges will be immediately rejected.Winners must be citizens of an African country and must be residing in Africa.All entries will be judged as follows:
  1. Artistic creativity and relevance to the challenge topic
  2. Level of innovation used in the process to generate the content
  3. A short explanation of platforms, tools and techniques used to generate your submission will greatly enhance your submission and are encouraged so we can build a picture of the most common tools and techniques used

The judging panel will be made up of representatives from Zindi, The AI Media Group and Wesgro. The judge’s decision will be final.

Prizes

1st Place Winner: Complimentary ticket to join AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE (including 1x return economy flight & 4x nights hotel stay B&B courtesy of Radisson Blue to join us at AI Expo Africa 2022). The 1st Place Winner’s flight is eligible to delegates joining from outside the host city capped to $1000 using economy class fare. Expenses and visas are not included.

2nd and 3rd prize winners to receive 1x complimentary ticket to AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE.

Top 3 placed winners will have work showcased at AI Expo Africa 2021 along with write up and press mentions.

Timeline

The competition closes on 30th July 2021. Final submissions must be received no later than 11:59 PM GMT 30th July 2021. Winners will be notified and announced by 17 August 2021 with the winning submissions being showcased at AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE between 7-9 September.

The challenge organisers reserve the right to update the content timeline if necessary.

 

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Possibilities of Making Profits On Crypto, Risk-Free

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Over the course of the last decade, cryptocurrencies have experienced unprecedented growth and garnered a lot of interest across a range of demographics from all over the world. Interest in digital currencies is spiking globally and search terms such as “how to buy Bitcoin” have seen an uptick in interest according to Google trends. This is just one of many indicators that suggests a notable influx of people are entering the blockchain space and looking to explore the crypto ecosystem.

While the market cap of digital assets has varied extremely with price fluctuations, it, however, grew from about US$10 billion in 2013 to about $237 billion in 2019. Also, in the last 5 years, the increase in Bitcoin (BTC) private accounts and trades has averaged about sixty percent every year. Currently, the market cap for digital currencies is just above $2 trillion.

Even though many people have made early gains in digital assets, the cryptocurrency space is still in the early phase of development. The Internet for example, was created in 1969 and the “worldwide web” was designed in 1989 and subsequently the first web browser in 1990. Compared to those revolutionary technologies which massively transformed the communications landscape, blockchain technology is nascent and cryptocurrencies have only been in use for only a decade.

Crypto goes mainstream

Social media has exposed a lot of people to the crypto industry. The mass media is quick to broadcast the movements in bitcoin prices, leading to FOMO and FUD or the hysteria that sometimes characterizes crypto markets. Overall the ever growing coverage has done more to spur further development of new innovations within the space.

The price increase of cryptocurrency will probably be boosted by increased cryptocurrency adoption. While many institutions have started to invest and buy Bitcoin, there are still a lot of firms waiting in line to invest and buy Bitcoin. The average volume of digital assets transacted on any given day is just one percent of the FX trade. Regardless of cryptocurrencies increasing to more than $2 trillion in market cap according to Coinmarketcap, digital assets are still a tiny fraction of global equity trade ($34.8 trillion in 2020) and worldwide debt trade (over 281 trillion in 2020) according to Bloomberg.

With more institutional adoption of Bitcoin and other digital assets, traders and investors are presented with more chances to make money in the digital asset space.

How to make money with crypto

There are several ways of making profits with digital assets. Given that digital assets are basically volatile, many digital assets involve a great level of risk while some need greater expertise. It is important to have prerequisite knowledge about digital assets before you buy bitcoin.

One of the ways of making profits with cryptocurrency is through investing. This is generally for long-term purposes. It requires you to buy Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies and hold them for a chosen period of time. This can be done via different traditional crypto exchanges or P2P platforms like Remitano. Digital assets are usually well-suited to the investing practice of buying low, holding and then selling high. Cryptocurrencies are highly volatile in shorter timeframes, however, they typically and have historically offered a much more lucrative upside over long periods compared to traditional investment vehicles.

Studies have also shown that most BTC profits are realized in the ten best trading periods of the year.

Due to cryptocurrencies being naturally volatile, investing for a long period is one of the ways of making profits with cryptocurrency. Just like with any type of investing, risks have to be thoroughly considered and expectations of rewards have to be managed well.

Another way of making profits with cryptocurrency is to trade digital assets. The most notable difference between investing and trading is the general time frames between entering and exiting positions. Investing is for a long period, while trading is basically to leverage opportunities over a short period. To trade digital assets successfully, it is important to know the basic fundamentals and have the capability to conduct technical analysis in order to avoid making costly mistakes.

Making profits via trading cryptocurrencies is more about knowing the price trend and pattern and utilizing it to forecast future value, many times over a short period. Find out the 20 best platforms to buy Bitcoin and other digital currencies in South Africa.

What is the possibility of making profits on crypto, risk-free?

Trading digital assets sounds relatively easy, however, due to the highly volatile nature of crypto assets, it involves a lot of risks. One of the ways to make profits on cryptocurrency with relatively low risk is by doing cryptocurrency arbitrage. This trading method exploits price and demand gaps between different digital asset marketplaces. But, the trades have to be done almost instantaneously to realize gains.

Arbitrage Trading

Crypto arbitrage involves exploiting price differences on different crypto exchanges for your benefit. This method is effective in places where bitcoin price varies from one exchange to the other like in South Africa and Nigeria. The price differences could be a result of several factors.

Arbitrage trading involves buying bitcoin or other digital assets from one exchange and selling it on other exchanges at a higher price. Selling the asset after the purchase must be done relatively quickly to avoid price movements narrowing margins or leading to loss at times.

Exploiting the price difference using the cryptocurrency arbitrage technique requires a cryptocurrency market that has price discrepancies depending on the supply and demand in the different markets.

Remitano Invest

Another way to make money risk-free is with Remitano Invest. Remitano invest allows you to buy and invest in cryptocurrencies without putting your capital at risk.

How?

With the Stop Loss and Take Profit features, your crypto asset will be liquidated to USDT (a stable coin) to prevent loss and maximize your profit. You simply set the auto sell price for the Stop Loss and Take Profit. When the asset you have invested hits your Take Profit price, Remitano Invest converts it into USDT to secure your profit. However, if the asset’s price falls to your Stop Loss price, the system will convert it into USDT to help you secure your capital and prevent further loss.

Risks and benefits are an intrinsic part of most money markets and they go hand in hand. Risks cannot be eradicated but they can be managed. Some risks can be managed by utilizing effective risk management practices. Personal risks like wallet hacks, coin theft, and loss of access to funds can be offset by making sure you implement good security practices.

Article & Image source: Heath Muchena

 

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