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Head of Opposition Party in Nigeria Promises Crypto Initiatives If Elected President

The former Vice President of Nigeria and leader of the country’s main opposition has spoken out in favor of more positive legislation for the cryptocurrency.

People’s Democratic Party’s leader Atiku Abubakar has said that if he is elected to run the country in Nigeria’s next general elections, he plans to launch progressive blockchain initiatives and produce a “comprehensive policy on blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.”

A new policy would also ensure that students would be required to learn about blockchain and cryptocurrencies from an early age, beginning at the primary school level, this education would then follow through to university level.

The current situation in Nigeria has seen its central bank (CBN) warning the public against cryptocurrencies due to concerns about the unreliability of exchanges and market volatility. Under the current government, the Electronic Payment Practitioners Association of Nigeria (E-PPAN) warned about a growing possibility of fintech businesses offering blockchain services being driven overseas unless both the Nigerian government and the Central Bank of Nigeria can offer clarification on its view towards cryptocurrency.

E-PPAN is asking government regulators in the country for clearer guidelines to drive the industry forward. The Bitcoin Exchange Guide claims that the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emifele has done little to encourage the growth of cryptocurrency; investors continue to be reluctant owing to the government’s lack of guidelines.

Nigeria should be looking to overseas for regulation, according to E-PPAN member Michael Kiberu, calling for regulators to look to countries such as Uganda, Switzerland, Kenya, and Japan, where cryptocurrency guidelines are clear and operate with legal status while creating a healthy flow of capital into the financial sector.

71-year-old Abubakar says a government led by his party after the February 2019 election will change all this. He promised a favorable legislation and countrywide initiatives to promote blockchain technology. He also promises to ensure government departments take measures so that Nigeria can adapt to these new technologies.

Lady Victoria Walker, CEO of the United Digital Currency Reserve Foundation, has recently stressed that the understanding and deployment of Bitcoin can kickstart the financial growth in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

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Binance Off To Flying Start In Uganda With 40,000 Users In First Week

Binance has stepped into Uganda with a flourish as 40,000 new users signed up to the exchange in the hope of bypassing the Ugandan Shilling (UGX).

Many citizens of African countries are unbanked, either by choice or due to complicated prohibitive rules which make it hard to open an account. Uganda is no different, with a recorded 3/4 of the population without any form of conventional banking.

This is Binance’s first fiat-crypto exchange with UGX, the primary fiat currency and comes less than a month after the company acquired an EUR bank account in Malta, with more exchanges to come, according to CEO Changpeng Zhao. Binance’s enigmatic boss clearly realises the potential of Africa as a new investment hub due to the unbanked nature of much of its population:

“Uganda is a really interesting situation, only 11% of the population has bank accounts. It’s both a challenge and an opportunity. So it may be easier to adopt cryptocurrency as a form of currency instead of trying to push for bank adoption”.

Africans have been clever in dealing with financial barriers, and using cryptocurrency is increasingly becoming a go-to way in order to sidestep banking restrictions or weak state currencies. Corruption is also another factor never far from the surface in some African economies often necessitating the need for a clever approach by locals in order to conduct their everyday business.

Recently, neigbouring Kenyan Distributed Ledgers and Artificial Intelligence task force chairman Bitange Ndemo said that that government should consider tokenizing the economy to deal with “increasing” rates of corruption and uncertainties-such is Africa’s increasing faith in crypto ahead of local fiat currencies.

Wei Zhou, Binance’s chief financial officer, suggested that one reason for the exchange’s surge of clientele in the first week is the fact that it is so easy for Uganda’s unbanked to access the system, commenting, “They [users] just have to have money within the mobile payment system. They don’t have to have bank accounts.”

The country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, said recently that he welcomed and embraced blockchain technology in Uganda since it provides full transparency, and added that he was aware how businesses were being negatively impacted by what he called “secrets and deceit.”

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Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain, New Movie Out This Week

The first film to be fully funded by and distributed on blockchain is on release this week and the subject is blockchain itself.

Documentary filmmaker Alex Winter, known to some for his role in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, has moved from the frivolous to the relevant in the years following his appearances in a handful of popular teen movies in the 1980s.

His latest offering, ‘Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain’, is out on general release in the US on 26 October and puts DLT under the microscope. This is not Winter’s first foray into the world of the internet following his 2015 documentary Deep Web about the dark web marketplace Silk Road, which focused on cryptocurrency use on black markets. It is also the subject of a play, ‘Silk Road: How to Buy Drugs Online’, by English playwright Alex Oates which has been playing at theaters in the UK this year.

Trust Machine is reviewed as being an honest appraisal of where blockchain is today, focusing at one point on current UN action to integrate blockchain into the food program supporting Syrian refugees in refugee camps.  Kenya and Venezuela, two countries seriously suffering from fraud and mismanagement at a governmental level, also get coverage in Winter’s evaluation of blockchain and its broad sphere of use.

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 last month and will support the UN Women’s “cash for work” program currently running at both camps.

In a fight against rampant voting fraud in Kenya, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman has now tabled a detailed potential blockchain solution as providing security for all presidential candidates, allowing them to access and verify the results of elections.

Winter takes a positive approach to his subject, stating:

“Naysayers have two groups: one says all of it is BS, and a scam, and a fraud, and then a slightly more nuanced group says a lot of it is scams, but the verifiable ledgers are a natural evolution of the internet. Some folks believe blockchain will save the universe. I don’t agree with the group that thinks it’s bullshit. They are uneducated.”

The film’s primary focus is to feature both the trials of developing nations, particularly where blockchain is changing the lives of the disadvantaged, and to measure the overall impact that DLT could have on the financial sector and on food supply chains. As for the future, Winter maintains:

“If it happens, it will be slow. Some will be blunt and disruptive like Uber, I don’t see a revolution imminent that will compensate artists, or mirror banks and governments. Too much of that is based on greed and power dynamics that aren’t going to change overnight.”

It is interesting that Winter has chosen Trust Machine as a title for his latest film. Many users at every level from multinational to the individual have cited the element of “trust” as blockchain’s greatest attribute, because of its transparency and reliability in creating irrefutable records of transactions.

 

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Crypto Lessons and Roast Goat in This Kenyan Restaurant, All Paid in Bitcoin

“Eat at Betty’s” is the word in Nyeri, Kenya, as not only can you pay in crypto, but you can hang around for a tutorial afterwards.

At the foot of Mount Kenya about 150km (90 miles) outside the capital, Nairobi, Betty’s place cooks a fantastic barbeque, known to locals as “nyama choma” and if your Swahili is lacking, it is usually roast goat served with kachumbari salad and ugali, washed down with local beer.

The goat may be standard local Kenyan fare, but the mode of payment certainly isn’t. Owner Beatrice Wambugu has gone crypto, something not common in these parts, happy to take Bitcoin and Dash rather than the usual cash or card. It’s the way to go she says, arguing “since the world is becoming more global, my place is also becoming a global restaurant.”

In fact, Betty’s is really flexible when tourists arrive at her place, “I attract different customers from different parts of the world, whichever coin they have. As long as it’s a viable coin we accept it,” she says.

Ok, so she hasn’t done a roaring trade in crypto till receipts, with, so far, only about 30,000 Kenyan shillings (£230, $300) in sales from about 20 people. But, she has another plan to make up the numbers; crypto lessons. Every Sunday Beatrice runs cryptocurrency tutorials at Betty’s to spread the word on how to empower locals towards a new way of doing things. She says:

“I’ve set aside one day where I can teach my customers. Whoever asks about cryptocurrencies: ‘How does it work? What is Bitcoin?’ I train them.” At my place, it’s ‘nyama choma’ and ‘nyama Bitcoin.’ The restaurant is expanding, having taken over a nearby two-story hotel in just over a year since opening.

Kenya is a difficult proposition when it comes to opening a business due to a high level of local corruption. Recently, Kenyan Distributed Ledgers and Artificial Intelligence task force chairman Bitange Ndemo said that the government should consider tokenizing the economy to deal with “increasing” rates of corruption and uncertainties. James Preston of SA Crypto sees Bitcoin as a way of “banking the unbanked” a term now familiar with many on the African continent, referring to Africa’s 350 million with no access to traditional banking.

“There’s been such a history of poverty in Africa that so many rural communities are yet to be developed with normal banking infrastructure,” he told the BBC.

The new task force chairman Bitange Ndemo, speaking at an Information and Communication Technology Ministry (ICT) stakeholders meeting agrees with that perception and argues:

We must begin to tokenize the economy by giving incentives to young people to do things which they are paid through tokens that can be converted to fiat currency.”

Betty’s goat dish is on the right track.

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Kenyan Crypto Task Force Calls for Tokenized Economy to Fight Fraud

A Kenyan government task force has called on ministers to consider tokenizing the economy to clamp down on corruption.

The Kenyan Distributed Ledgers and Artificial Intelligence task force was established earlier this year to focus on blockchain and how the technology could be utilized to improve outcomes in the public sector. The group included local blockchain startups, experts, researchers and members of Kenyan regulatory bodies.

The task force’s chairman, Bitange Ndemo, speaking at an Information and Communication Technology Ministry (ICT) stakeholders meeting with the private sector, has suggested that increasing rates of corruption at the public sector level could be thwarted by reducing the amount of hard currency in circulation by using a token system. He argued:

“We must begin to tokenize the economy by giving incentives to young people to do things which they are paid through tokens that can be converted to fiat currency.”

It was also felt by the task force that a tokenized economy and the issue of a digital currency equivalent to fiat could also be used to fight unemployment. The recommendations are being forwarded to the government by Kenya’s ICT Principal Secretary Jerome Ochieng.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Kenya has called on blockchain as a solution to fighting corruption in the country. A recent plan has been looking at how to fight voter fraud in Kenya’s elections.

The northeast African nation of Kenya has suffered claims of election rigging in nearly every election since the institution of multi-party democracy in 1991. The leader of the opposition party Raila Odinga just last year rejected two of the presidential polls; the first was annulled by the Supreme Court on the grounds of substantial electoral irregularities.

A statement from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati detailed a potential blockchain solution as providing security for all presidential candidates and allowing them to access and verify the results themselves.

The latest proposal is unlikely to be warmly received since the Central Bank of Kenya issued a circular to all of the country’s banks earlier this year warning them against cryptocurrency use, due to its lack of centralized control and its association with illegal activities.

 

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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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Kenya Enlists Blockchain to Fight Allegations of Electoral Corruption

Kenya’s electoral agency plans to utilize a blockchain voting system in its reform efforts to promote transparency.

The blockchain system in the works would be used to offer real-time voting results to avoid any perceptions of misconduct including tampering with the results. A statement from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati detailed the potential blockchain solution as providing security for all presidential candidates and allowing them to access and verify the results themselves.

The northeast African nation of Kenya has suffered claims of election rigging in nearly every election since the institution of multi-party democracy in 1991. The leader of the opposition party Raila Odinga just last year rejected two of the presidential polls; the first was annulled by the Supreme Court on the grounds of substantial electoral irregularities.

In 2007, chaos ensued after the disputed election results, leaving approximately  1,100 people dead, as well as displacing around 600,000 before a coalition government was finally agreed upon.

A blockchain-backed voting system could be a valuable tool in promoting a peaceful democracy in Kenya, bringing an end to any lingering doubts about the legitimacy of results.

Blockchain solutions in elections

Ukraine has also been testing the benefits of utilizing blockchain in its voting procedure. The Central Election Commission of Ukraine has been experimenting with the NEM blockchain, with the commission commending the immutability of hosting elections on the blockchain, as well as the improved security benefits of the decentrally-hosted data.

While it remains in the trial stages, the head of the country’s voter registry at the commission Oleksandr Stelmakh has been providing much positive feedback on his social media pages.

An Australian start-up also has plans to institute blockchain voting technology in countries such as Indonesia that are struggling to preserve the sanctity of elections in their emerging democracies.

The platform designer Jamie Skella said: “If you utilize blockchain to submit a vote in the same way that a Bitcoin transaction can’t be reversed, it can’t be changed, it’s a trustworthy process based on a system, which is not owned by any one entity, not by an organization, or a government or an individual.”

 

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Live At The Kasbah: Richard Branston Hosts Marrakesh Blockchain Summit

British business entrepreneur and founder of Virgin is now to host a major blockchain summit at his home in Marrakesh, writes Forbes.

The summit is normally held at Branston’s personal offshore home on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands. However, it was devastated by last year’s Category Five storms which tore through the island, destroying numerous private residences.

In view of this, an alternative location needed to be found for the high-profile conference, which was responsible for the forming of the Blockchain Alliance which now includes 36 government agencies and the Global Blockchain Business Council, with members from 35 countries.

This year, the founder of the annual event, investor Bill Tai, announced that the event would be held at Branston’s Kasbah Tamadot in Marrakesh, Morocco, with eminent guests Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Kenya cabinet secretary Joseph Mucheru, along with 30 speakers. Building blockchain in Africa is reported to be the central focus of this year’s conference.

Tai commented:

“The whole continent is a bit of an unknown to a lot of folks because they just don’t get much exposure to it, I think getting a lot of people together that are knowledgeable, with reach, and high profile, that collectively can form a view about what are the opportunities at hand can both serve philanthropic and commercial interests.”

Blockchain in Africa is developing slowly but surely. Ghana-based Bitland and Kenya-based Land Layby are working to use blockchain to create formally-recognized infrastructures for proving land ownership, and the technology is increasingly being used in logistics to track goods from growth to table. Many small businesses are getting much-needed support from NGOs and private companies integrating blockchain projects into a range of sectors across the continent.

Tai has his own project in mind which he says he is due to announce, called Barking Dog. The project is reportedly designed to help governments without land titling in place to use blockchain to assure citizens and governments of their rights to land and, once established, to tokenize the assets.

The World Economic Forum estimates that 90% of Africa’s land is “completely” undocumented and Tia maintains blockchain could become a major factor in effecting the necessary changes to the status quo.

 

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IBM, Global System set Blockchain Developers Humanitarian Aid Challenge

Global tech giant IBM, through a partnership with anti-poverty campaign movement Global Citizen, is challenging blockchain developers to create a donation tracking program, reports Fortune.

IBM’s aim for the project is to encourage philanthropy by tracking the path of donations, from where the money originated to what it was spent on, and who finally received the funds. It is not the first of such projects promoting support for underdeveloped nations and struggling communities. The Multinational recently launched a pilot blockchain-based project to support small businesses throughout Africa with a Kenyan logistics company.

The two-month competition called “Challenge Accepted” was inspired by the United Nations’ Envision 2030 initiative, which aims to improve the lives of impoverished and at-risk people. It is s open for all comers starting on May 15 and will offer rewards to participating developers, including tickets to the Global Citizen music festival in New York in September.

Simon Moss, a co-founder of Global Citizen, suggests that the technology has the potential to change the face of humanitarian aid, claiming that blockchain can provide the much-needed transparency to donations provided for humanitarian aid:

“Blockchain can provide clarity on not only who is donating, but how money and supplies flow through organizations that provide aid – such as tracking a gallon of water purchased by an organization to the location where it was delivered,” he wrote.

Blockchain solutions to these types of donations have a clear benefit in the light of numerous recent scandals connected with humanitarian overseas aid. The most recent media focus on allegations of 26 claims of sexual misconduct against Oxfam workers in Haiti is a case in point. Potential donors are often concerned about the final destination of their donation. Also, fake charity approaches occur all year round and often take the form of a response to real disasters or emergencies, such as floods, cyclones, earthquakes, and bushfires.

Along with IBM, both the UN and the World Food Programme have also been proactive using blockchain to record transactions.  IBM project manager Kathryn Harrison commented that IBM is looking to become involved in projects that can make some social impact, involving the company in, “opportunities to use this technology in areas that we can do some pretty substantial social good.”

As for the project, IBM has a fairly open requirement for the “Challenge Accepted” competition: “We’re focused on so many different types of use cases. We look at food safety, we look at microfinance, we look things like the environment and carbon credits and energy savings,” Harrison explained.

There’s been a significant rise in recent years in charities which are now supported by cryptocurrency donations. Some of these have joined a growing establishment of charities accepting Bitcoin donations such as Electronic Frontier Foundation, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, WikiLeaks, Antiwar.com, Watsi, Water Project, Code to Inspire, Bitgive and Epic Change.

Charities trialing Bitcoin donations are on the rise. More familiar High Street names include such well-known organizations as the Red Cross and Save the Children.

 

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Solar Power Could Be Africa’s Answer to Pushing Blockchain Forward

Last month, the 2018 Blockchain Africa Conference was held in Johannesburg to discuss blockchain and cryptocurrency development on the African continent.

The conference brought together local and international speakers to discuss the fintech regulatory environment, technology hurdles and opportunities in innovation, in terms of how these areas affect the promotion of the new technology in Africa.

Africa is rarely in the front pages of the news in terms of fintech development, but the continent is an emerging blockchain center. The recent task force set up by the Kenyan government to look into the technology, and growing interest in DLT in countries such as Nigeria, Sudan, Algeria, and Sudan represent a forward-thinking approach by some African governments.

Nabyl Charania, chairman and CEO of Rokk3r, suggests that one of Africa’s major technological hurdles is the problems surrounding crypto mining, due to the continent’s extreme climate not being ideally suited for its development.

Ethiopia’s average temperature is 93 degrees F, plus about 600 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity at all. It is estimated that by 2040, 530 million people will still not have access to electricity due to population growth. What Africa does have in abundance, though, is the sun.

Bitcoin mining is booming in Cairo is due to its much lower electricity prices. Other countries are less fortunate, but see solar power as a solution. According to Reuters, Morocco’s 800MW Noor Midelt solar complex costing USD 2.4 billion has support from the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the EU and the European Investment Bank.

Seychelles has plans to install Africa’s first floating solar project, along with giant solar farms in South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Morocco and Burkina Faso.

In an article on Greentech Media, author Tam Hunt suggests: “It can make good financial sense to use solar power to mine Bitcoin. Solar plants can provide power that is cheaper than grid power in areas with good insulation and low construction costs. The price of power is also known with some certainty over time because there are no fuel costs and thus no volatility.”

Such investments in energy infrastructure could bring Africa into the global crypto blockchain fold and also overcome the world’s major problem in this field: the unsustainability of crypto mining.

 

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