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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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IBM Pilots Blockchain Loans in Africa

Multinational giant IBM has launched a pilot blockchain-based project to support small businesses throughout Africa with a Kenyan logistics company.

The company, Kenyan-based Twiga foods, has used mobile technology to develop its supply chain for farmers and traders. To expand and offer microloans to its African clients, the company has joined IBM to employ blockchain technology to improve its current business model and deliver a more efficient and transparent service.

Skeptics have argued that it has been lenders who have historically benefited from such microloans, due to non-restrictive or in some instances a complete lack of barriers, which often translate to high-interest rates. The application of blockchain-based solutions to these loans is increasingly being cited by business as a way of addressing other microloan issues such as large overheads, slow delivery and corruption. The reason for using blockchain is that it is secure and transparent in nature. No individual or single entity can alter entries on the distributed ledger.

The IBM pilot project, developed at the IBM Lab in Nairobi, uses Hyperledger Fabric, a blockchain framework implementation that acts as a bedrock for developing applications and solutions.

The project simply requires African users to own a mobile and need capital to grow their business. The IBM blockchain program aims to fill the finance gap so small ventures can flourish on the African continent.

Isaac Markus, IBM researcher on the project, commented:

“After analyzing purchase records from a mobile device, we used machine learning algorithms to predict creditworthiness, in turn giving lenders the confidence they need to provide microloans to small businesses. Once the credit score is determined, we used a blockchain, based on the Hyperledger Fabric, to manage the entire lending process from application to receiving offers to accepting the terms of repayment.”

So far, the technology, which underwent an 8-week pilot, has processed 220 loans with a distributed average of KES 3,000 Kenyan shillings (KES), approximately USD 30, for recipients. These loans were disbursed with a repayment period of four or eight days that attracted a 1% and 2% interest respectively.

Andrew Kinai, the lead researcher at IBM research, suggested that the aim of the program was to offer the opportunity for small businesses to participate in an interdependent ecosystem based on SMS. Users, some with limited IT literacy would be better positioned to access financing for their orders.

As a result of the pilot, Twiga has benefited both from a boost in business and earned interest. Twiga, which started its business as a logistics company for bananas, has since expanded its operations to include more farm produce for distribution.

IMB now intends to spread the program throughout Africa.

 

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 13th to 19th April 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

Tax authority may be wrong about crypto: Tax Authority in South Africa, SARS, has announced that cryptocurrencies cannot be considered as currency for tax purposes but will be taxed on assumption that they are “intangible assets”. The move is not welcomed by cryptocurrency traders as intangible assets are subject to “capital gains” taxes and “currencies” are not subject to capital gains at all.

Startup UBU targets poverty: A South African cryptocurrency payment project called Project UBU is aiming to get as many users as possible. The project aims to provide participants with 100 UBU coins per day (equivalent to a few dollars) to individuals living below the poverty line. This program will thus create the world’s first welfare cryptocurrency that is transparent enough for those at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

 

Kenya

Central bank warns against cryptocurrency: The Central bank of Kenya (CBK), through its governor, has once again warned against trading in cryptocurrencies. Its governor, Patrick Njoroge, appeared before a parliamentary committee on finance and gave statements in response to a question from one of the lawmakers.

He said that it was not the first time that the CBK has warned against trading in cryptocurrencies. Back in December 2015, the bank also gave out stern warnings against virtual cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. However, the governor is at the same time interested in trying out blockchain as a technology.

IBM deploys blockchain-based microfinancing service for food kiosk owners: IBM announced on 18 April that its researchers will soon roll out a new blockchain-based microfinance solution in Kenya later this week in partnership with Twiga foods. Twiga Foods is a B2B coordination platform for kiosks and food stalls in Africa and had previously expressed interest in using innovative financial service offerings to its customers.

According to IBM researcher Isaac Marcus:

“We analyzed purchase records from a mobile device and then apply machine learning algorithms to predict creditworthiness, in turn giving lenders the confidence they need to provide microloans to small businesses. Once the credit score is determined, we used a blockchain, based on the Hyperledger Fabric, to manage the entire lending process from application to receiving offers to accepting the terms of repayment.”

 

Zimbabwe

Bitcoin trading gains ground with new crypto exchange and ATM: Cryptocurrency trading is becoming a popular trading option in Zimbabwe with the addition of a new exchange and ATM in the country. Exchange Golix was already operating in the country for some time and now the competition has increased with Styx24 also accepting applications for cryptocurrency trading.

The cryptocurrency scene is a welcome respite for Zimbabweans that are facing hyperinflation with the government recently printing 100 trillion dollar bills that can only buy basic items. It is a widely held consensus that the fiat system has destroyed the economy and people are now looking at cryptocurrencies to help quell this hyperinflation.

 

Israel

Tightening crypto regulation: The Israeli financial watchdog Israel Securities Authority (ISA) is tightening control over cryptocurrency asset companies registered in the capital Tel Aviv’s stock exchange.

The companies have been given documents that are seen as tightening of crypto-related developments in the country. According to the government agency, the move was done to protect investors from the volatility and risk that comes with investment in cryptocurrencies. As of now, all cryptocurrency setups that deal, hold, invest or mine are being told to keep away from the public.

 

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Emily Spaven – Kipochi Links Bitcoin With M-PESA

Emily Spaven – Kipochi Links Bitcoin With M-PESA:

Finance author Emily Spaven (@EmilySpaven) describes the launch of Kipochi (@KipochiPay), a Bitcoin wallet that provides interchange to and from M-PESA.  Excerpts:

“Kipochi has launched a product that allows people in Africa to send and receive bitcoins, plus convert them to and from the Kenyan currency M-Pesa.”

“Kipochi works on all mobile phones as it has SMS, USSD and HTML5 frontends, so there is no requirement for users to have the most up-to-date handsets.”

“Pelle Braendgaard, co-founder of Kipochi [said that] M-Pesa has been around in Kenya for years now, so mobile money is a part of everyday life in the country, which means it will be easy for Kenyans to accept digital currency as the choice for international payments.”

“Kipochi’s goal is to make it easier for people in these [communities of expatriates from Kenya and foreigners living and working in Kenya] to send and receive funds through the bitcoin network.”

“LocalBitcoins.com has also recently turned its attention to M-Pesa, making this option available to traders in Kenya and Tanzania.”

“‘The [tens of thousands of] M-Pesa agents are the target market of LocalBitcoins.com as well,’” [explained  founder Jeremias Kangas].”

 – http://bit.ly/15bcWnr
 – http://www.Kipochi.com
 – http://bit.ly/132zNi5 (Further discussion of Kipochi)

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