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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 3rd to 9th March, 2019

Africa

Africa and the Middle East

Welcome to another weekly blockchain news roundup from around the world. Here we present to you all the latest Bitcoin news continent by continent and country by country.

South Africa

Bank in South Africa Develops a New Blockchain Financial System: In a bid to reduce economic trade and foreign exchange problems, South Africa’s Standard Bank has developed a private blockchain and permission blockchain system which will be launched on behalf of its corporate clients. Standard Bank and its partner in Uganda, Static Ban, will use the system along with 3rd parties directly involved with the banks.

The system aims to accelerate settlement processing as well as increase transparency of transactions since the involved parties will be able to view the documents in real time. The system is built using the Hyperledger Fabric, and will also be connected to SASB’s foreign currency-trading app, Shyft. The solution is projected to go live in the second half of 2019.

Bahrain

Bahrain Pressure Could Legalize Crypto Market in India: Due to the negative legislations by Reserve Bank of India on crypto businesses, Indian Bitcoin dealers have been using only peer-to-peer transfers to convert cryptocurrencies. But pressure from other market competitors, in particular from Bahrain whose recent invitation to Indian crypto companies to relocate to their country might take away investment worth billions of dollars out of India, forcing the country to rethink its policies.

Bahrain completed its regulatory draft for cryptocurrencies two months ago and now has also finished the legislation. The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) has also been pushing for the optimal ecosystem to encourage crypto growth and innovation, and initiatives like open banking, crypto asset trade regulation, regulation on robo advisory, and streamlined remittance collection make Bahrain a very enticing prospect.

UAE

UAE Bullish for Crypto, Records USD 210M Investment in January and February 2019: While ICOs have generally been going down across the globe, UAE shows no signs of stopping as it was the #1 country in terms of funds raised by ICOs. This amounted to a whopping USD 210M in January and February 2019 alone, overtaking Singapore and the UK.

The UAE raised USD 42M in January 2019, which is about 41% of ICOs’ amount worldwide. And they were well ahead of the second-best Estonia, who raised over USD 64M. The total amount raised was about USD 347M, with the top 5 countries constituting about 63% of the funds. UAE’s success can be attributed to a single ICO — the Genesis Crypto Blockchain Investment Bank — which alone raised over USD 142M.

Turkey

Turkish Telecom Giant Turkcell Introduces Blockchain ID Management Product: Turkcell, an Istanbul-based telecommunication services provider, has announced the launch of a blockchain-based service for ID management which offers the users control over their personal information while ensuring privacy under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements.

The data will be stored on blockchain and thus will eliminate any additional identity verification requirements. The solution also includes a blockchain-based donation collection option that leverages the ID management tool to verify the donation eligibility for people in need.

Israel

Israel Securities Authority Recommends Crypto Regulation: Israel Securities Authority (ISA) wants to move the crypto business operations forward with regulations, as revealed in its final report on the cryptocurrency industry.

The report includes the findings of the crypto regulatory committee, which recommends implementing security laws on the sector concerning issuance and trading of the cryptocurrencies. The committee also claimed that this supervision would help in the progress of cryptocurrency, courtesy the significant connection between the regulator and the industry.

Israeli Company Partners With the Marshall Islands to Launch a Digital Currency: The Marshall Islands, a small nation with over 55000 population, is preparing to release their own digital currency this year, called “SOV.”

The development of SOV has been undergoing since 2017 in collaboration with Neema, an Israel-based company. Although an exciting prospect, the officials admitted that a definitive date for the launch couldn’t be given because of many pitfalls in the technological and logistical side of issuing the SOV using blockchain in addition to the concerns of United States financial regulators.

Largest Israeli Blockchain Company Facing Extensive Layoffs: The reverberations of the crypto market crash have also been felt in the Israeli Blockchain market, which has forced the First Digital Assets Group to restructure and sanction massive layoffs.

The changes will involve shutting down of its research company, One Alpha, and the merger of the remaining four companies – Knox, Stamina, Titan, and K1– into one parent company. The group still reiterated their faith in the technology and insisted that they will now be investing in new blockchain solutions with a focus on the liquidity functions of the company.

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International Women’s Day: Women and Crypto – The Direction in 2019

International Women's Day: Women and Crypto – The Direction in 2019

It is International Women’s Day 2019, and a time for Bitcoin News to reflect on a year in print and celebrate women in fintech, and those women of all ages whose lives still remain largely uncelebrated.

The point of International Women’s Day is to look back over the past year and pinpoint the successes and failures in the promotion of equality between the genders. It is also a time to reflect on how to further combat sexual violence, harassment, domestic violence against women, and examine gender power structures, particularly in business.

A new UK government report has revealed that salary imbalance between the genders when it comes to business is still slow to change. Although one in three entrepreneurs are women in the UK — a hugely improved figure — many of the companies run by women are also half the size of those with male directorship. The report goes on to indicate that accelerating female recruitment into business over the next year could add an extra USD 25 billion to the UK economy alone.

One such entrepreneur is Queenslander Leanne Kemp who was named by the World Economic Forum as one of the most promising tech pioneers of 2018. Kemp’s blockchain startup, Everledger, was founded in April 2015, offering a way of tracking the provenance of diamonds; identifying them, and following their ownership history. She now has 2.2 million diamonds listed on Everledger’s blockchain and has now begun to add art, wine, watches jewelry and even natural resources to the blockchain. She maintained:

“We have a responsibility as next-generation technologists to underpin how this technology will form and inform all of us in our roles as citizens of the planet… There’s an important role to be had in re-innovating existing products in markets to bring transparency and provenance and then also the tracking of their second lives.”

Another Australian, Katrina Donaghy, co-founder of startup Civic Ledger, took her talents to London in 2014 to explore how she could integrate Bitcoin and blockchain into business. She told the Australian Financial Review that on arrival she was surprised to see the degree to which these technologies were already being utilized by London’s large financial institutions.

“If you just look at the companies that have done ICOs, there are very few women, but if you look at the ones that have been built based on customer validation and actually have sales, well most of the good blockchain companies that are still around were co-founded by women in the early days.”

In the US in 2018 ConsenSys teamed up with Black Girls Code, a non-profit organization providing tech training to young black women between the ages of 7 and 17. This established the first blockchain training program of its kind in the US which has plans to branch into US states and beyond. The program will eventually be available in Oakland, California, Atlanta, Georgia and in New York City, with plans to run in Johannesburg, South Africa. Black Girls Code CEO Kimberly Bryant commented:

“The ConsenSys team has consistently impressed me with their commitment to creating pathways for access and inclusion within the blockchain ecosystem and their passion for introducing these tools to the next generation of coders.”

The organization wishes to train a million girls by the year 2040, becoming a high-tech version of the Girl Guides. One aim is to ensure that minority groups in fintech have a space to grow and flourish encouraging innovative outside investments into such groups.

Amber Baldet is a household name in fintech, co-founder of Clovyr, well known for her work at JPMorgan as a leader of blockchain products, and developed the Ethereum based Quorum software designed to accelerate financial databases. Baldet left Wall Street to develop her own software by founding Clovyr and get startups on the road to using blockchain technology more effectively. She says:

“I’ve had the opportunity to talk to people who see things very differently… Being able to transition back and forth, I can help people understand each other and build stronger products together.”

Of gender diversity in the tech world she suggests, “People have tried to call out crypto as being better or worse…Diversity is a challenge across all tech subcultures.”

In the UK last year, the number of women showing an interest in investing in cryptocurrencies leaped from 6% to 13% over a six-month period. A City Am conducted by cryptocurrency firm London Block Exchange, showed that cryptocurrency was most popular with women in the millennials group. Another survey conducted by Reddit at the end of 2017 indicated that one out of five women had considered investing in cryptocurrencies with a huge 96% of Ether users being males.

What then of the uncelebrated names of the past year? Since last year, the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed cryptocurrency-based food vouchers to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan, bypassing bureaucracy and getting aid to where it’s needed. The new project initiated by the WFP and UN Women was announced supporting the UN Women’s “cash for work” program running at both camps.

The cash for work program was organized by Syrian refugees to support local communities, offering them the opportunity to put something back into their new homeland. Typically, paid tasks included collecting waste, assisting with projects building homes, roads, and local schools, and in some cases working in education and the health industry as assistants. In areas which have seen destruction due to conflict and have since been liberated, refugees also participated with repairing heavily shelled infrastructure.

Cash transfers as part of that scheme enabled women assisting in the UN Women cash program to access their funds directly without a third party with accounts securely stored on a blockchain network. Women were thus enabled to pay for goods at participating supermarkets in Jordan by using one of a network of eye-scanners at their local supermarket, linking their cash to the Building Blocks program which was introduced for refugees at the Azraq camp in 2017.

UN Women continued its program to increase financial literacy rates among women by offering seminars at their “Oases”, encouraging recipients to examine their Building Blocks accounts online. Oases are safe spaces for women and children to congregate in the camps, where they can meet others and learn. They are usually funded through overseas aid and the host nation. UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka explained the thinking behind its plans for women refugees in Jordan:

“We know that women in crisis situations and displacement settings tend to have lower digital literacy than men, and often lack access to the technology and connectivity that are so critical in today’s world.”

Ngcuka adds that such projects are designed to accelerate, as she put it, “progress towards women’s economic empowerment on a large scale”.

Humanitarian organizations have pointed out that women are disproportionately affected by such crises and consequently are often forced to become the primary breadwinners while taking care of their children and families as an extra burden.

Robert Opp, Director of Innovation at WFP, points out that it is a desire for “social good” which is driving the current use of blockchain technology by the organization:

“Blockchain technology allows us to step up the fight against hunger. Through blockchain, we aim to cut payment costs, better protect beneficiary data, control financial risks, and respond more rapidly in the wake of emergencies… using blockchain can be a qualitative leap, not only for WFP, but for the entire humanitarian community.”

 

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 23rd February to 2nd March 2019

Africa

Africa and the Middle East

Welcome to another weekly blockchain news roundup from around the world. Here we present to you all the latest Bitcoin news continent by continent and country by country.

South Africa

Foreign Investment in South Africa’s Crypto Sector Grows: The crypto-sector investment is growing in South Africa as companies in this lucrative industry race to get a share of the pie. Recently, Bittrex, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world announced a USD 1.5 million seed funding for a new platform in the country.

VALR, a new exchange attracted the sizeable investment from Bittrex and marks a new trend towards diversification of crypto trading in the country which will attract further investment from around the world.

Kenya

Communities Looking to Crypto for Improved Cash Flow: Small, remote communities in Kenya are now using bitcoin for an improved cash flow experience despite the uncertainty clouding cryptocurrencies.

The East African nation famous for its tea production is expected to increase crypto adoption as it will help solve several chronic cash-related problems rampant due to poor management. Despite regulatory pressures from the government and the Central Bank, the popularity of cashless economy including cryptocurrencies has seen an all-time high in recent months which is evident from the activity on popular platforms like Remitano and LocalBitcoins.com.

Turkey

Turkey Has the Largest Number of Cryptocurrency Owners in Europe: Turkey has become the biggest crypto ownership country in the Middle East and Europe combined. According to a recent survey conducted in the country, almost 18% of all Turks declared that they owned cryptocurrencies. This is the highest rate in all of Europe despite several progressive crypto nations in the continent with much more lenient laws when it comes to cryptocurrencies.

On average, only 9% of the European responders declared that they owned cryptocurrencies. Second most number of cryptocurrency owners is in Romania, another one of the smaller countries while Luxembourg, Belgium, and France only had 4%, 5% and 6% with some of the worst numbers in the continent. The reason behind the high number of cryptocurrency users in Turkey is because of its recent fiscal problems that arose from US sanctions, resulting in the drop of Lira exchange rate by 25% before recovering again. The local cryptocurrency trading volume went up several times in the country in the backdrop of these sanctions as people began buying bitcoin to circumnavigate the effects of Lira inflation.

United Arab Emirates

UAE Firm Denies Accepting Cryptocurrency for Real Estate Deals: Emaar Properties, a real estate tycoon in Dubai that built the Burj Khalifa tower has denied that they are now accepting bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for real estate purchase/development services.

According to a company spokesperson:

“Emaar does not accept payment in digital currency. Emaar only accepts payment in government-issued currency, primarily in U.A.E. dirham and U.S. dollar.”

While the company has refuted cryptocurrency payments, once the sector goes mainstream, it is likely that the bigger companies will be more open to it in the future.

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 16th to 22nd February 2019

Africa

Africa and the Middle East

Welcome to another weekly blockchain news roundup from around the world. Here we present to you all the latest Bitcoin news continent by continent and country by country.

African Union

Africa May Become a Hub for Cryptocurrencies, Notes Media Report: African nations are positively endorsing crypto sector, claims media report. Even though Africa has the least number of internet users (only 36% having internet access), a number of crypto startups have appeared across the continent recently.

In the previous week, a coffee company based in South Africa declared that it has been using blockchain technology to monitor its coffee supply from Uganda.

Moreover, in order to resolve long-standing disputes related to land registration, Kenya and Rwanda have decided to use blockchain technology. Similarly, in Congo, Ford and IBM signed a contract to track mining of cobalt to avoid human right abuses.

South Africa

South Africa Is Leading Other Countries in Crypto Sector, Says Global Digital Report: South Africa has been ranked as the top country to provide a supportive environment for owning cryptocurrency, noted Global Digital Report.

Although South Africa currently lacks a stringent regulatory framework, it managed to beat leading crypto supportive countries such as Japan, Malta, and Bahrain.

The said report is based on the data collected over a period of six months during 2018. People aged between 16 and 64 were asked to fill survey forms. The report was compiled in collaboration with digital media firms Hootsuite and We Are Social.

Limited Regulations to Be Imposed on Cryptocurrencies Suggest Public Comments on Sarb’s Consultation Paper: On 15 February, public comments on the South African Reserve Bank’s (SARB) crypto related consultation paper closed.

According to the media reports, several limited regulations on crypto related activities have been proposed in the said paper. However, proposals did not suggest a bank-like licensing process for cryptocurrencies.

SARB maintained that it is looking to regulate the buying and selling of digital assets. Moreover, trading platforms have been advised by the government to track transactions that may be linked to terrorist activities.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Can Support Its Economy by Utilizing Cryptocurrencies, Claims Media Report: Zimbabwe can follow the example of Switzerland to strengthen its economy by turning towards cryptocurrencies, suggests media report.

Last year, Mthuli Ncube, newly appointed Finance minister at that time, claimed that he was considering digital assets as an option to overcome Zimbabwean economic challenges. He appreciated Switzerland central bank’s stance on virtual currencies. Later, he tried to urge the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to invest in the crypto sector. Moreover, he requested RBZ to develop an understanding of blockchain technology.

However, RBZ is not looking to pay any heed to those suggestions at the moment. Meanwhile, neighboring countries such as South Africa are playing a decisive role in blockchain development and strengthening their respective economies.

Turkey

Hackers Used Chat Feature of Pubg for Communication, Claims Turkish Police: Chat feature of an online video game, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), was utilized by hackers for communication, stated Turkish police investigating a USD 2.5 million crypto hack.

The police conducted raids across eight Istanbul provinces and detained 24 suspects. Out of those 24 people, 22 were referred to the Istanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan. The court ordered the conditional release of 16 suspects while six were arrested. By now, only 10% of the stolen amount (1.35 million lira) has been recovered by the police.

UAE

Sharjah Aims to Implement Blockchain for Issuing Fraud-Free Waste Permits: Sharjah is set to launch blockchain based waste permit portal, reported Emirates News Agency (WAM).

According to the report, the Hamriyah Free Zone Authority (HFZA) will develop a waste permit portal in collaboration with Bee’ah (an environmental, recycling and waste management company).

By utilizing blockchain technology, costs for customers applying for permits within HFZA will be lowered. Moreover, permit-issuing time will be reduced to only a few hours. It is expected that blockchain integration will eliminate fraud risks.

Bahrain

Bahrain’s Central Bank Looking to Launch Sandbox for Crypto Sector: A regulatory sandbox will be launched by Bahrain’s central bank in order to allow crypto firms to operate, reported Bloomberg.

The prospective framework pursued by the bank is still in consultation process. The aim of the sandbox is to allow smooth operations of crypto-related businesses in the country until regulations are finalized. Reportedly, 28 companies have been selected for the sandbox.

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Blockchain To Bring Transparency and Wealth to Coffee Farmers in Ethiopia

Blockchain To Bring Transparency and Wealth to Coffee Farmers in Ethiopia (1)

Reuters reported earlier today on the initiative of a roastery in Ethiopia under the brand Moyee to use blockchain in supply chain management and improve coffee farmers’ incentive.

Most coffee exporters process the beans elsewhere and among other things, price fluctuations make the business an uphill battle for farmers. Despite the business being a very lucrative one, most farmers in the area are left at the bottom of the earning chain.

More so, “One reason why buyers from faraway places or different countries go through middlemen is because they rely on them to make sure farmers are following these good practices,” says Vijay Kandy whose company will build the blockchain platform.

Co-founder of Moyee Coffee Killian Stokes said “It’s the world’s favorite drink. We drink over 2 billion cups a day,” and being a huge industry, it’s rather bizarre that farmers are treated the worst. “The industry’s worth USD 100 billion and yet 90 percent of coffee farmers in Ethiopia live on less than USD 2 a day,” Stokes added.

In an attempt to bring economic relief to farmers, Moyee created unique digital identities for 350 farmers working with the company. The aim was to create transparency and allow buyers access to how much each farmer was being paid. Despite the prices being 20% higher than market prices, still farmers’ livelihood could still be improved, at least that’s what Moyee thinks since it wants to introduce blockchain to its business.

According to the company’s blog, it had been working on a prototype with bext360 and the FairChain Foundation since November 2017, and said that blockchain will “bring about a revolution in transparency that certification programs cannot currently offer.”

Blockchain continues to offer traceability, transparency, and trust which break barriers in economic distribution, and also promises to be the future technology of supply chain. Further, its underlying asset class – cryptocurrency – creates value as an incentive instrument for most business environments, and now, Moyee intends to apply that logic to the Coffee supply chain.

Blockchain will open up a new economic model for the farmers, allowing buyers to tip farmers, fund projects using a mobile app. Also, every transaction across the supply chain will be logged to the blockchain, ensuring transparency.

In a report by the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization, it concluded that emerging technologies like the blockchain in the agricultural sector shows promise of inclusive market participation for smallholders and Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs).

Blockchain innovations in the agricultural sector transcend technological benefits in managing supply chains alone, however, it has an overwhelming socio-economic impact. “It’s an innovation that is poised to empower local farmers in the Caribbean region,” said Pamela Thomas, executive director of the Agriculture Alliance of the Caribbean (AACARI) referring to the blockchain initiative to be adopted by fruit farmers in the Caribbean.

Apart from economic empowerment, blockchain has phased its way into improving food safety, export security and animal welfare as to be demonstrated by BeefLedger in its partnership with Australia’s National Transport Insurance (NTI) to trial blockchain monitoring of beef handling from Australia to Shanghai.

 

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 9th to 15th February 2019

Africa

Africa and the Middle East

Welcome to another weekly blockchain news roundup from around the world. Here we present to you all the latest Bitcoin news continent by continent and country by country.

South Africa

LUNO Agrees With New South African Crypto Regulations: A positive response has been shown by LUNO (crypto platform based in South Africa), towards proposed crypto regulations by the South African government. A consultation paper summarized these new regulations proposed by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB).

It was reported by media that SARB was looking to regulate the crypto sector. In the said paper, SARB has highlighted the benefits and risks of utilizing blockchain technology. Moreover, recommendations for dealing with digital assets are presented as well.

Congo

Blockchain Guidelines Mentioned by Apple in Conflict Minerals Report to SEC: In a report submitted to the US Security Exchange Commission (SEC), Apple maintained that as a part of Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI), it is working to formulate blockchain guidelines. Recently, the company had announced that it will obtain Cobalt directly from Congo-based mines, which raised concerned regarding human rights abuses.

However, Apple announced that it is ready to go beyond minimum requirements in order to provide protection to the people in its supply chain. Under RMI, 360 companies including Apple, are now looking to integrate blockchain to make sure that human rights are not violated during mineral sourcing.

Iran

Financial Structure in Iran Is Evolving With Blockchain Integration: In order to lay the groundwork for a new token ecosystem, the Iranian government is aiming at collaboration with blockchain startups. Recently at Tehran’s Electronic Banking and Payments conference, the central bank of Iran announced that it is looking to launch a comprehensive cryptocurrency program.

Moreover, to provide a suitable environment for the launch of the first native Iranian cryptocurrency, private banks have decided to fund a startup.

In addition, it was reported that Kuknos protocol gained the support of Informatics Services Corporation (ISC), which is the central bank’s technology arm.

Four Iranian Banks Looking to Launch Gold-Backed Cryptocurrency: A cryptocurrency which is backed by gold has been developed in Iran, claimed four Iranian banks. This native cryptocurrency is named PayMon. The banks maintained that the main objective of developing digital currency is to tokenize their reserves.

However, the central bank of Iran maintained that cryptocurrencies are still illegal in Iran. Nevertheless, the bank is positive regarding the future of digital assets. The central bank announced that it has decided to support blockchain technology. In the future, crypto-related initial coin offerings, mining, and exchanges will be legalized and regulated.

U.A.E

Finablr and Ripple Agree to Provide Remittance Services to Thailand: Foreign exchange company based in UAE, Finablr has decided to join hands with Ripple in a joint project which will offer cross-border remittances to Thailand. Finablr’s main brands, UAE Exchange and Unimoni, will lead the project. On the other hand, Finablr will sign a contract with one of Thailand’s largest banks; Siam Commercial Bank.

Moreover, the company aims to expand the service to other countries. The Middle East hosts a large number of workers from countries like Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. Foreign remittances are the backbone of the economy of these countries. According to the World Bank, remittances from UAE to South Asia grew 13.5% in the previous year.

Israel

Whitepaper Does Not Confer Any Legal Binding, Say Lawyers for Israeli Crypto Entrepreneur:  In response to a lawsuit, Moshe Hogeg’s (Israeli crypto entrepreneur) lawyers have maintained that he has not violated any law. In a news, reported by the Times of Israel, the attorney stated that a whitepaper is of descriptive nature only and should not be considered as binding.

The said lawsuit was filed by a Chinese investor Mr. Hu. According to Hu’s claim, he believes that out of $34 million which were raised for STX token, only $5 million were used for its development. He accused Hogeg of utilizing the rest of the funds for investments in other initial coin offerings. However, Hogeg has denied any wrongdoings.

Turkey

24 Suspects Arrested for Involvement in Crypto Firm Hacking, Reports Local Media: In the wake of a 13 million Turkish lira (USD 2.47 million) hack, 24 suspects have been arrested by Turkish police, reported Daily Sabah on 12 February 2019. However, the name of Istanbul-based crypto firm has not been revealed.

The stolen money was transferred directly from the hacked accounts to accounts on other exchanges, noted the city police’s Cybercrime Department. Reportedly, the money was stolen in various digital currencies such as Ripple (XRP), Ethereum (ETH) and Bitcoin (BTC). Moreover, the police found out that suspects were using PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), an online multiplayer battle game, for communication.

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 2-8 February 2019

Africa

Africa and the Middle East

Welcome to another weekly blockchain news roundup from around the world. Here we present to you all the latest Bitcoin news continent by continent and country by country.

South Africa

Blockchain Companies Respond to New Legislation: In the aftermath of the new proposed crypto legislation by the government of South Africa, companies are now starting to respond to it. The paper titled Consultation Paper on Policy Proposals for Crypto Assets was proposed by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) earlier this year and drew mixed reactions from most of the crypto community.

Cryptocurrency platform Luno has come forward and praised the latest initiative by the government especially the part about not placing cryptocurrencies on the Value Added Tax (VAT) list. While other crypto companies and commentators have had mixed reactions, exchanges are breathing a sigh of relief as the taxes are not as high as expected.

DR Congo

Ford and IBM are Working on Blockchain-based Ethical Mining: Car manufacturer Ford and electronics giant IBM are working to source minerals more ethically from African countries including DR Congo. Just like blood diamonds, rare earth metals that have abundant use in electronics are also blamed much for the violence and warlord-like style of governance in some African countries.

Now, attention is being paid to the history of the mined metals including the labour being used in the process and adherence to basic human rights. Ford and IBM, both require huge quantities of these rare earth metals themselves but are now looking to help themselves and other companies procure them ethically with the help of blockchain technology. Every mineral shipment is recorded on the blockchain starting from its origin, processing, all the way up to the product itself. IBM’s Hyperledger DLT will be used for this purpose.

Israel

Sirin Labs CEO Says Whitepapers are not Legally Binding: Amid allegations that he misappropriated funds, Sirin Labs founder Moshe Hogeg has said before a court that whitepapers of Initial Coin Offerings are not legally binding. He also clarified that investors in ICOs have no actual ownership stakes in the company itself.

Hogeg was being sued by a Chinese investor who claimed Hogeg deviated from the whitepaper and was therefore liable to a penalty. The company in question is STOX or STX Technologies Limited. While Hogeg hasn’t been convicted right now, the revelation could make investors more careful about participating in ICOs.

Saudi Arabia/ United Arab Emirates

Cross Border Payments being Tested between Saudi Arabia and UAE: The Saudi Arabian and Emirati central bank task forces are working to create a borderless currency between the two nations. The project is part of a seven-point cooperation plan for strengthening the mutual banking and financial channels.

The joint statement from the two countries read:

“The cross-border digital currency will be strictly targeted for banks at an experimental phase with the aim of better understanding the implications of Blockchain technology and facilitating cross-border payments. The virtual currency relies on the use of a distributed database between the central banks and the participating banks from both sides. It seeks to safeguard customer interests, set technology standards and assess cybersecurity risks. The project will also determine the impact of a central currency on monetary policies.”

So, for now, the currency will strictly be used for interbank and interdepartmental use only.

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Africa, China Mobile Tech Market and Cryptocurrency Revolution

Africa, China Mobile Technology and Cryptocurrency Revolution

Africa may have contributed a great deal to Bitcoin transactions, according to peer-to-peer crypto exchange Paxful. This has been partly due to the increased inflation rate in some countries and the fact that cryptocurrencies appeal to a large number of underbanked and unbanked individuals on the continent.

The quest to venture into cryptocurrency related business relation as the opportunity in this niche currently presents, may not appeal as much to the Chinese tech investors at the moment says Stephany Zoo, head of marketing at BitPesa. She also was of the opinion that cryptocurrency activity for cross-border payments on the continent is not as pronounced as advertised, stating that if it were so, China having a large number of cryptocurrency owners would have influenced its use in Africa since it’s a major trade partner.

Over the years, the African continent has been favorable to the Chinese tech market. As reported by media outlet the Financial Times, Huawei and ZTE played an important role in building the continent’s mobile network.

The tech potential on the continent is yet to be fully optimized though, as new companies onboarding the ecosystem have also taken advantages of the latent opportunities. Last year, Quartz Africa reported on how a low profile Chinese handset maker Transsion rose to limelight due to Africa’s mobile market. However, there is fierce competition between Western and the Chinese tech companies for a larger share of the African market.

According to Zoo, Chinese tech investors are still wary about crypto investments because of the associated risks, saying that they prefer to stick to solar, ed-tech, e-commerce and IoT. The emerging market opportunity for cryptocurrency in the continent is currently not fully explored, although Zoo added that as time goes on, there’s a possibility that more Chinese investors will trust the market as they work with Africans.

Leading global smartphone vendor Samsung will reportedly include a native cryptocurrency wallet feature in its upcoming Galaxy S10, which will go a long way to facilitate adoption on the side of smartphone users. However, it would be remarkable for the brand in relation to the African market since it holds a huge stake there.

Although Samsung came in second place to Transsion in terms of smartphone shipments to Africa during Q2 2018, it remains unknown how the alleged cryptocurrency wallet feature will improve its market share, especially in South Africa which accounts for the largest share of shipments (17.4%) in the continent. Moreover, South Africa may be considering a regulatory framework for the industry, however, in December 2018, it did say it was considering crypto as part of its National Payment System (NPS).

A recent ongoing survey by the Financial Times is attempting to gauge the level of awareness and possible adoption potential of cryptocurrency and Africa happens to be one of the focal points. BitcoinNews will keep tabs on the outcome of the survey to understand what Africans with internet enable devices want from digital currencies.

 

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Chip Makers Blame Slow Profits on Mining Slump, Phone Sales Also Down

Chip Manufacturers Blame Mining Slump But Phone Sales Also Down

Taiwanese chip manufacturer United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) has blamed its 10% drop in revenue for the last quarter of 2018 on a downturn in mining.

Mining hardware sales are always affected when the demand for cryptocurrency is slow, due to reduced levels of mining activity, but there are some who feel mining is too often the scapegoat for a drop in chip sales. TSMC, the manufacturer responsible for supplying chips to Bitmain, were also quick to attribute their losses to a downturn in the crypto market. The company’s co-president Jason Wang commented:

“Looking into the first quarter of 2019, we anticipate further deceleration in customers’ wafer demand, due to a softer than expected outlook in entry-level and mid-end smartphones as well as falling cryptocurrency valuations.”

Some observers have commented that this drop in smartphones sales is more significant than some companies like to indicate as profits from mining hardware have recently outperformed smartphone sales. For example, as mining demand drove up profits significantly in 2017, new smartphone shipments only increased by 2%.

The argument is, given that smartphones are the greatest driver of chip sales, a declining market in mobiles has more impact on chip sales than a decline in the crypto mining sector. Some argue that the makers of cellphones need to address this and develop new markets, particularly in developing areas such as Africa and South America where smartphone ownership is still relatively low.

Companies manufacturing hardware need to diversify, given that cryptocurrency is still in its youth, in order to ride out lean periods. The cryptocurrency market will fluctuate, as clearly illustrated by the last two years. The crypto winter “blame game” will run out of steam very quickly when cryptocurrencies become a fact of life and demand for hardware will be overtaken by demand.

 

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Paxful Records 130% Crypto Volume Spike in Africa Last Year

Paxful Records 130% Crypto Volume Spike in Africa Last Year

Peer-to-peer (P2P) payment logistics platform Paxful has recorded a huge swell in Bitcoin transactions from the African continent in 2018.

With an average of 17, 351 transactions a day being made by African users, this took the increase in trade volume to over 130% over the course of last year, echoing many analysts’ claims that Africa will be the next major cryptocurrency market.

Paxful itself has gained in popularity on the continent principally due to P2P becoming the preferred trading method and the multitude of ways cryptocurrencies can be purchased on the platform, even my using iTunes gift cards. Also unlike many other regions around the globe cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have very little speculative value; with local currencies often struggling, cryptocurrencies are often simply used as payment for goods or transferring funds as a more viable and reliable alternative to local fiat.

The biggest notable spike in crypto volume occurred last November, according to Paxful’s team, although this could have been partly due to the Christmas period. However, in general, Paxful see the rise in volume as an indication that as local currencies lose value, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin become the obvious alternative, particularly given the large population of unbanked users on the continent who only have access to cash.

The current situation in hyperinflated Zimbabwe is driving nationals towards seeking other methods in order to find some financial stability. It is a situation mirrored in Venezuela, where Bitcoin has gained in popularity as an alternative currency to the struggling bolivar.

 

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