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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 14th to 20th September 2018

Africa and the Middle East

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.

Namibia

Wildlife conservationist using crypto for preservation activities: A wildlife conservation expert based in Namibia is using Bitcoin Cash to help save the precious wildlife in the country.

Nadja Leroux is using Bitcoin Cash (BCH) for faster transactions and raising capital for her efforts. The idea is to create a fund to help raise money for crucial conservation technology in the wilderness. The main species she is trying to save include African wild dogs.

South Africa

South Africa gets perfect score in crypto interest study: While the pace of cryptocurrency adoption is increasing in African countries, South Africa has surprising outperformed countries like USA and Russia in this particular search interest, according to a published report of Google trends in the world.

South Africa got the perfect score of 100 in the study out of a possible 100 for cryptocurrency search-related activity. The US got a paltry 52 while countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia got 13 and 7 respectively. While cryptocurrency interest is increasing a lot in the country, there is still plenty of work that needs to be done on the ground to facilitate and educate the masses on digital currencies before this interest can be converted into actual investments and startups.

Zimbabwe

Finance minister calls for greater crypto investment: The new finance minister of Zimbabwe has called for increased participation in the local cryptocurrency community as he sees them as a way out for the country from troubled economic times.

In an interview with ITWebAfricanewly sworn-in minister Mthuli Ncube said that most central banks around the world are rejecting these innovations and or taking time in adopting them while smart countries like Switzerland are adopting them and wasting no time in doing so.

Elaborating further he said, “One can pay for travel using Bitcoin in Switzerland. So, if these countries can see value in this and where it’s headed, we should also pay attention. We have innovative youngsters so the idea shouldn’t be to stop it and say don’t do this, but rather the regulators should invest in catching up with them and find ways to understand it, then you regulate it because you now understand it.”

Zimbabwe is currently in a currency crisis and that has made public access to money extremely difficult. Mthuli believes that the answer to the current crisis lies in the adoption of popular cryptocurrencies across the country.

Israel

Israel and Switzerland work together for crypto regulation: The Swiss government is looking to work with the government of Israel for cryptocurrency regulation and opening up of trade.

According to a Reuters report, Swiss finance minister Ueli Maurer recently visited Israel for talks regarding opening up trade between the countries and Swiss banks gaining access to Israeli markets. The two sides have also agreed to collaborate on financial technology and cryptocurrency regulation as part of the opening up of trade.

UAE

Abu Dhabi calls for international crypto regulation efforts: The top financial regulator of Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE, has called for an international approach towards regulating cryptocurrencies in the world.

The National reported that during the recent Fintech Abu Dhabi event, Ricard Teng, the head of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), said that negative news impact cryptocurrencies as assets.

He said, “This space needs to be properly regulated, otherwise there is the risk of financial crime.”

While other sections of the UAE have called for a speedier adoption of cryptocurrencies in the country, Teng is one of the first to have voiced caution.

 

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Namibian Crypto Fundraiser to Save African Wild Dog

A traveler to Namibia has decided to raise funds in cryptocurrency in order to save African wildlife.

When she was in Namibia, Nadja Leroux first accounted cryptocurrency when she was sent a small amount of Bitcoin Cash, enabling her to make transactions even while in the African bush. On returning home, she has now decided to put her new-found knowledge to good use by raising funds towards saving 4,500 African wild dogs.

The African wild dog, also known as African hunting dog, African painted dog, painted hunting dog, or painted wolf, is a canine native to sub-Saharan Africa. It was classified as an endangered species in 2016 and the global population is now down to around 6,000 adults in total.

Leroux now intends to buy an iPad for analysis and record keeping while she attempts to raise the funds needed for her donation of USD 1,600 for the equipment needed, which is likely to be used for tracking the animals and ensuring their safety. She has spent 121 days in the field setting up her project, and so far she has raised USD 33 in cryptocurrency.

Still in Africa, Zimbabwe’s new government is examining cryptocurrency after commenting that it appears that governments who are crypto positive, like Switzerland, are in good shape. The country’s new finance minister, Mthuli Ncube, believes that cryptocurrencies may have a role in bringing the failing economy back on track.

In Uganda, RightMesh AD has listed its token on the country’s Golix exchange with the aim to bring online more Ugandans also Africans throughout the continent. The company has been giving crypto handouts as an incentive to participate in the project which aims to increase connectivity.

A new report by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has outlined that Africa will need to invest more in internet connectivity in order to maintain the continent’s current pace of cryptocurrency adoption.

The popularity of Bitcoin in Africa continues to grow as a result of the presence of cryptocurrency exchange platforms. There are benefits to cryptocurrency ownership that are unique to the African continent, many devolving from the widespread unstable economic conditions.

 

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Digital Currency Ecosystem in Africa Grows, But More Connectivity Needed

A new report by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has outlined that Africa will need to invest more in internet connectivity in order to maintain the continent’s current pace of cryptocurrency adoption.

The popularity of Bitcoin in Africa continues to grow as a result of the presence of cryptocurrency exchange platforms. There are benefits to cryptocurrency ownership that are unique to the African continent, many devolving from the widespread unstable economic conditions.

Owning and trading in cryptocurrencies is a trend on the rise in countries across the globe. The markets in the USA and Asia have typically gained media traction, while the phenomena in Africa is left largely uncovered. Moreover, a large number of recognized exchanges don’t offer services in Africa, whereas, some recognize the significant marketplace that includes many Africans who do not have access to formal bank accounts.

If Africa is to be the next boom as many experts are currently predicting, it will need to make major changes to its telecommunications infrastructure across the continent, as indicated by the ITU report. The report shows that to connect the majority of Africans to the internet will cost as much as $450 billion.

Currently, governments on the continent spend significantly less than the global average with most countries spending three times as much on connectivity. Low education levels and the high cost of internet capable devices have been cited as contributing factors to the current slow uptake of the internet in many areas of the continent.

The uptake of digital currency has been prolific in Africa over the past two years, with many countries taking on the advantages that currencies such as Bitcoin offer over local fiat currencies. Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe have all shown a significant increase in crypto adoption.

Coindirect co-founder Stephen Young says that Africa has unique problems and these must be considered in any startup plan for cryptocurrency adoption on the continent. He feels that current exchanges don’t take these into consideration. In terms of African fiat currencies, Young identifies their systemic volatility, insecurity and lack of governance as factors that the crypto space need to take on board: He argues:

“If Africans are to benefit from the cryptocurrency revolution we need make it easier to buy, store and trade cryptocurrencies. As Africans, it is our responsibility to help build the infrastructure and we need to be a part of the revolution.”

It is clear that this “infrastructure” depends on connectivity. ITU reveals that out of the 52 percent of the world’s population who remain unconnected to the internet, the majority of these live on the African continent.

One country is attempting to address this disparity. Rwanda has managed to achieve a 90 percent broadband spread with its nationwide rollout of optical fiber throughout a larger part of the country. The project began in 2009 in order to boost broadband services and attract foreign business investment.

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Zimbabwe Official Urges Failing Insurance Companies to Adopt Blockchain

A senior official at the Insurance and Pensions Commission (IPEC) in Zimbabwe has told local insurance companies that blockchain solutions should be employed as an answer to the industry’s problems.

Reports coming from local media sources say that the issues within the insurance industry amount to a lack of universal access to both insurance policies and pensions, resulting in financial exclusion throughout the country.

The chairman of IPEC, Lynn Mukonoweshuro, argued that blockchain could provide a much-needed modern update to the antiquated methods of insurance delivery that relies completely on brokers and agents; she cites this old system as one of the main failures of the industry.

With a blockchain strategy, Mukonoweshuro claimed, insurance companies would be able to service “the digital customer”, a trending target in the country for businesses. She called for the industry to ”embrace” blockchain, and use it to provide insurance to the wider population of Zimbabwe. ”These technologies provide new ways to measure, control, and price risk, engage with customers, reduce cost, and expand insurability,” she added.

Blockchain is already being applied on a global scale by insurance companies, which have praised the improvements it brings in areas of risk management, transparency, and accountability. The technology is being commended for its potential to bring an entirely new level of trust and security to insurance.

One insurance company in Zimbabwe, Marsh, already uses blockchain for proof of insurance purposes. Marsh agrees with Mukonoweshuro’s arguments in favor of rolling out the technology across the sector and believes that the process of issuing and storing insurance certificates can be completely transformed into a ”streamlined and transparent” practice with the help of blockchain.

Modernizing insurance in the African nation will be enabled by IPEC funding that will target updating technology and pursuing financial inclusion in particular.

 

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 7th to 13th September 2018

Africa and the Middle East

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.

South Africa

Reserve bank bags award for best distributed ledger initiative: The South African Reserve Bank (SARS) has bagged the award for the best DLT initiative at the Fintech RegTech Global Awards 2018.

The project called Khokha saw seven banks conduct gross settlements of the native currency rand on the Quorum blockchain from JP Morgan’s Byznatine fault-tolerant system. The system is designed as a high-throughput blockchain-based interbank payment system that adheres to the country’s principles for Financial Market Infrastructures.

While the initiative is good, the bank overall has been reluctant to adopt blockchain and said:

“This is only the starting point… Key considerations that need to be addressed include the evaluation of supporting frameworks and other systems that integrate with the RTGS system, as well as the legal, regulatory and compliance factors.”

Blockchain technology is seen by many as a solution to overcome South Africa’s financial woes.

Egypt

Blockchain startup Elkrem receives $75,000 for blockchain development: Egypt’s blockchain startup Elkrem has managed to secure crucial funding of USD 75,000 from the ConsenSys Tachyon blockchain accelerator to create a smart kit for blockchain Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Elkrem hopes to launch its products across the globe soon.

The company started back in January 2018 and got a seed investment of USD 250,000 from Endure Capital. The company also won the competition at EthDenver Hackathon that featured over 100 teams from around the world.

Nigeria

US company aims to bring blockchain banking to Nigeria: US blockchain development company HashCash is looking to engage financial institutions in Nigeria to set up potential blockchain solutions in the banking industry.

Blockchain and cryptocurrency’s popularity is increasing in the country and HashCash is aiming to profit from it. The case of financial exclusion of millions of Nigerians is a big point of concern for many and the government is keen on solving it. The company aims to use the wide accessibility of mobile devices to implement a blockchain-based banking solution. The move will be especially important for far remote areas and their mainstreaming.

Kenya

Blockbank purchases stake in local Bank to provide blockchain banking: Blockbank, a cryptocurrency banking startup, has purchased a stake in local Kenyan bank Spire. This strategic acquisition will allow the startup to provide global blockchain and cryptocurrency payments and other banking services to the customers of the bank.

The bank’s aim to is to provide users with a platform for faster transactions and increased transparency.

Turkey

Currency crisis forces Turkey to focus on blockchain and crypto: Turkey’s lira has been suffering from a crisis in recent weeks due to sanctions imposed by the US after a diplomatic row. To counter these effects and move towards a crypto future that is free from US intervention and sanctions, Turkey is working to adopt blockchain and cryptocurrencies into its fintech space.

The Turkish Borsa Stock Exchange has announced the development of a first blockchain-powered customer database for the exchange services and a result, the Istanbul Gold Exchange and the Turkish Derivatives Exchange (TurkDex) will both move forward to a blockchain-based future.

Cryptocurrency trading is also becoming more and more popular in the country as people look to circumnavigate the effects of lira depreciation.

United Arab Emirates

Market watchdog recognizes crypto as securities: The UAE’s Securities and Commodities Authority has unveiled new regulation to give cryptocurrencies the status of a security.

According to the regulator’s statement:

“In light of the rapid development of the digital tokens market and the response thereto by the regulators in a number of countries worldwide towards regulating the initial coin offerings (ICOs), the SCA Board of Directors has approved the SCA plan to regulate the ICOs and recognize them as securities.”

UAE has become one of the crypto hubs of the region, allowing more and more blockchain companies to grow under its umbrella.

 

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 31st August to 6th September 2018

Africa and the Middle East

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.

Africa

South Africa

Gold-backed interest-free crypto launched in South Africa: A gold-backed interest-free cryptocurrency was launched in South Africa recently called the OneGram and is Sharia-compliant, primarily to attract investment from the Muslim community.

The move was started a year back by a local company that aimed to bridge the gap between cryptocurrencies and precious commodities markets. Muslims and other members of the public who believe that currency should be backed by gold or any other asset of value may be interested in the commodity. It is worth mentioning that the Muslim community is divided on the matter.

Ibrahim Mohammed, the founder of the project said:

“Our approach to OneGram was to create a bridge between commodities and crypto using physical gold and package it together using innovative blockchain technology. This way we are able to give our users the best of both worlds and provide a degree of certainty around the notoriously fickle cryptocurrency market.”

OneGram was founded in Dubai, UAE last year and completed a successful coin offering but it remains to be seen whether the company can deliver on its promise because asset-backed cryptocurrencies are still in their infancy.

Nigeria

Financial exclusion being tackled through blockchain technology: US-based software development company HashCash has announced that it is collaborating with Nigerian banks to solve the lingering issue of financial exclusion.

Financial exclusion is a chronic problem present in many parts of the world including Europe and the Americas. It is a problem through which a sizeable chunk of the population remains unbanked and devoid of electronic means of payment and bank accounts.

HashCash is looking to use the power of the blockchain technology to solve the problem that has plagued the development of many countries and hampered growth.

Zimbabwe

Bitcoin ATM inoperational despite sky-high demand for Bitcoin: Despite high demand for Bitcoin and other popular cryptocurrencies, Zimbabwe’s only Bitcoin ATM is not in operational condition.

Back-breaking inflation has reportedly motivated many Zimbabweans to look to cryptocurrencies as a way to circumnavigate the whole situation. Increased activity on Golix, a popular local crypto exchange, is proof of that but the only ATM installed in Harare by the company is inoperational, as a result of its ongoing legal tussles with the banks.

Still, Golix hopes that the crypto trading ban will be reversed and the ATM will start working again.

Kenya

Economic institute to hold public forum for crypto: The Institute of Economic Affairs of Kenya (IEA-Kenya) has announced that it will hold a series of public hearings, forums and other activities regarding cryptocurrencies to devise public policy proposals in the country.

While the growth of cryptocurrencies is being witnessed in the country, a lack of regulations and resulting regulatory unclarity has made things difficult. Since blockchain and cryptocurrencies are complex issues, the private think tank IEA-Kenya believes public forums could further discussion around them.

The Middle East

Turkey

Turkish stock exchange develops blockchain-based customer database: Turkey’s Borsa Istanbul Stock Exchange has announced the development of a blockchain-powered customer database and resource center.

The stock exchange became operational back in 2013 after a merger of Istanbul Gold Exchange and Turkish Derivatives Exchange (TurkDex) and has a total market cap of USD 133 billion. The recent development was done in customer databases of Borsa Istanbul, Istanbul Clearing, Settlement and Custody Bank (Takasbank), and the Central Securities Depository of Turkey (MKK).

Turkey has demonstrated overall positivity to adopt blockchain technology in recent years.

 

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Nigerian Banks, US Tech Firm Tackle Financial Exclusion with Blockchain

National Nigerian banks have teamed up with US-based software development company Hashcash to combat the African nation’s widespread issue of financial exclusion through a blockchain banking implementation.

The collaboration aims to promote economic growth by banking a large number of the mainly rural residents that do not have accounts, as well as offer more efficient methods of transferring money. Right now, the primary method of delivering cash outside of towns and cities relies on bus transfers, a situation that is highly vulnerable to pillaging en route.

Across Nigeria, there is a lack of traditional bank branches and technology such as desktops for citizens to access their bank accounts. Mobile phones capable of managing blockchain wallets are, however, something most Nigerians do have in their possession, making the project to overturn economic exclusion a highly feasible solution for success.

What can blockchain banking bring Nigeria?

Blockchain banking can improve the situation for unbanked Nigerians by allowing them to make financial transactions of any size to another individual with a blockchain-backed wallet, no matter the geographical location of both parties. This adds enhanced security over traveling across the nation that is suffering from civil disruption with cash, also saving people the time they would take to physically travel.

Another benefit that blockchain provides is transparency over the movement of finances, something NGOs have been fighting for because a lack of evidenced bank transactions can hinder demographics that are attempting to move into the larger economy. Take, for example, the difficulties of renting a property in a major city without providing your banking history. Blockchain banking solutions in Nigeria have the potential to increase productivity with a nearly immediate effect while supporting the empowerment of women and marginalized communities who can not access traditional bank accounts in the country.

Blockchain in developing nations

Blockchain solutions have been touted by many experts as key in helping developing nations progress through the technology’s fundamentals of transparency, security, and accountability. David Crosbie, a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, said earlier this year that the decentralized technology can also bring developing states the same levels of convenience that countries such as the US take for advantage. Crosbie’s analysis focuses fundamentally on bringing trust to these societies in order to bring about progression.

 

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Binance to Focus on Africa Amid Inflation Crisis

Binance, often the top crypto exchange in the world with daily trading volume regularly exceeding USD 1 billion per day, says it is fully committed to Africa and will be investing heavily in crypto infrastructure across a continent struggling with an inflation crisis.

This declaration comes in a post from Benjamin Rameau, the Director of Binance Labs. He gives ten reasons why investing in African crypto infrastructure is a good idea, one of which is out of control fiat inflation across Africa. Out of the 20 countries with the highest fiat inflation according to the CIA World Factbook, 13 of them are in Africa. South Sudan has the worst inflation rate in Africa, over 100% per year, with Congo, Libya, Angola, Sudan, and Suriname having yearly fiat inflation in excess of 20%. Burundi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Egypt, Malawi, Liberia, and Ghana, have yearly fiat inflation rates in excess of 10%.

This means a large swath of Africa is dealing with crippling inflation that is decimating life savings and damaging the economy. This makes the continent ripe to adopt crypto since Bitcoin’s supply is fixed, unlike fiat currencies which are printed at will by central banks. This means Bitcoin will hold its value long term, and it will allow Africans to have savings.

Additionally, a large fraction of Africans don’t have banks or access to the financial system. For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa, only 43% of those 15 or older have banks, versus 69% in the rest of the world. Cryptocurrency can provide the financial infrastructure that Africans desperately need but don’t have access to.

Further, cryptocurrencies are decentralized and easy to use across borders, unlike the current situation in Africa where there are 55 different countries, making cross-border financial transactions slow and confusing. Bitcoin and cryptocurrency can drastically increase the liquidity and speed of African finance.

In general, there is also a tremendous amount of governance problems in Africa, with many countries hostile towards each other. Blockchain can provide the framework for a streamlined African-wide government.

Binance affirms that they want to deploy their capital across Africa to invest in crypto and blockchain projects, and Benjamin Rameau thinks it will be an incredibly profitable investment since the lack of financial infrastructure has been holding back Africa’s economy and job growth. He thinks once Africa has a crypto backbone it will undergo an economic upswing equivalent to an industrial revolution, and Binance will be right in the middle of it.

 

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Soluna Building 900 MW Wind-Powered Crypto Mining Farm in Sahara Desert

Crypto mining firm Soluna is creating a 900 MW wind-powered crypto mining farm in the Saharan Desert, in southern Morocco. It is being built on a 37,000-acre site that is classified as a Class 1 wind site, due to average wind speeds in excess of 22 mph, making it one of the best spots in the world to generate renewable energy from wind power.

The Sahara Desert is a huge, desolate tract of sand that stretches across Northern Africa. The Soluna wind-powered crypto mining farm is located far enough north that it is under persistent mid-latitude westerlies coming straight off the Atlantic Ocean, and the combination of ocean and flat desert allows for winds to blow across the region without being slowed down by friction.

The crypto mining farm will be off grid and all of the wind power will go towards mining rigs. There is a chance that transmission lines will be installed in 2019 to connect the wind farm to Morocco’s power grid, but if this doesn’t happen it will be the largest off grid, self-sufficient, crypto farm in the world.

When the Soluna wind farm achieves 900 MW it will lead to an incredibly high hash rate. For example, Bitmain’s S9 Antminer produces 13.5 TH/s at 1600 W, so 900 MW could power 562,500 S9 Antminers, which would yield a hash rate of 7.6 Exahash/s. That is more than 10% the size of the entire Bitcoin mining hash rate.

Bitcoin’s hash rate will drastically increase long term, however, and Soluna’s wind farm is going to take many years to build. They are expecting 36 MW by 2020, and 900 MW by 2023. Bitcoin’s hash rate will go up tremendously in that time. Simultaneously, technology will drastically improve. Right now miners use 16 nm chips, but by 2023 they will very likely be using 7 nm chips or even 5 nm chips, which are far more energy efficient.

Therefore, the wind farm’s hash rate is impossible to estimate but it will likely be quite huge and will be considered one of the many mining supersites that are popping up across the globe. Bitmain, Canaan, and other big crypto mining firms are investing up to USD 1 billion in mining supersites, which will spike Bitcoin’s hash rate to unprecedented levels, and probably will make personal mining operations obsolete.

It is definitely a positive trend that a mining supersite is being built with renewable wind energy. There has been concern over Bitcoin mining’s damage to the environment since it consumes tremendous amounts of electricity. However, if renewable energy is used instead of fossil fuels, then environmental damage is minimal.

 

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Zimbabwe’s Bitcoin ATM Sits Idle Just as Country Needs It Most

Zimbabwe’s Bitcoin ATM – the first and only one in the country – has been reported to be unusable, just as demand for Bitcoin there is at an all-time high.

Golix, the exchange responsible for installing the machine at their office in Harare, has been embroiled in a high courts battle since May 2018 with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. The central bank had ordered all banks in the country to sever ties with Golix and other exchanges, halting the facilitation of crypto trading. Ultimately, this forced exchanges, including Golix, to cease operations, with bank accounts frozen and large amounts of money owed to customers.

The Zimbabwean Dollar was officially demonetized in 2015 and Zimbabwe no longer has a native fiat currency. This crippled the economy for a time, with people and companies losing entire life savings. At the peak of the inflation crisis, there was 98% inflation rate every day, with inflation rates annually reaching hundreds of billions of percentage increases.

Now Zimbabweans use the US dollar, euro and other major global fiat currencies. They also use some silver and gold. Bitcoin has also been in demand, with average prices in Zimbabwe frequently much higher than average global prices, likely due to its decentralization and resistance to inflation. Citizens likely find these aspects to be highly desirable, given their recent experience with fiat currency.

Golix is hoping that it will have success in Zimbabwe’s High Court and overturn the crypto banking ban, which would allow it to start exchanging crypto for fiat again, a necessary mechanism so they can channel Bitcoin into Zimbabwe. No court date has been set yet, however.

 

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