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10 Most Promising African Blockchain Startups to Watch

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Blockchain startups in Africa
Blockchain startups in Africa

Compared to the West, Africa’s adoption of technological innovation has been quite slow. With most of the countries on the continent still developing and a large percentage of its citizens battling to acquire essential needs like food and shelter, the infrastructure for technology adoption or innovation is not on the radar. 

Although Africa’s strides in technology are still behind those of its Western counterparts, they are, nonetheless, significant strides. 

Blockchain is one area where significant strides are being made.  The technology has gained so much traction on the continent. The emergence of companies making the best of the technology shows blockchain might just be here to stay 

The technology could put Africa at the forefront of technology advancements. Some think Africa might just hold the key to the ultimate adoption of blockchain.

In the words of Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, “Africa will define the future (especially the bitcoin one!)” 

Africa accounts for 14% of peer to peer trading on LocalBitcoins’ and Paxful’s platforms. Trading on both platforms has surpassed $10 million weekly. 

Blockchain is, however, not an absolutely foolproof plan to get Africa into the technological limelight. Although disruptive technology is getting enough traction, there are still obstacles in the way. These challenges pose a real threat to Africa’s adoption of blockchain to solve shortcomings in finance, education, and even governance. 

Inadequate internet coverage, competition from mobile money services, poor electricity, and resistance from the government, are a few of the most prevalent challenges.

In spite of these monumental challenges, some companies are steadily bypassing the obstacles. 

In no particular order, Here’s 10 blockchain startups to look out for in Africa:

BitLipa

BitLipa

Launched early 2019, BitLipa has seen a surge in application downloads. At 2800 active daily users, BitLipa is doing its part in helping bitcoin technology thrive. 

Bitcoin and Ethereum are the only currencies used on the platform, but the company plans to incorporate more in subsequent years. Users can convert their fiat currency into crypto, and transfer to the recipient, all within the application.

According to the company’s co-founder, Eric Apollo, the company’s goal is to reach 1 million users in subsequent years. 

According to Eric, “The gap we spotted in the market was the lack of a practical use-case of blockchain technology that ordinary people could relate to,”

With a platform so inclusive, simple, and easy to navigate, BitLipa might be one of the platforms to bring the blockchain future to life.

Bundle Africa

Bundle Africa

Bundle Africa, a platform for cash and crypto payments, which was launched in April 2020. The company gives crypto and cash exchange a very social feel. The app allows users to send, request, and receive cash or crypto, and there’s also an option to add emojis to the memo.

In the words of its founder, Yele Bademosi, “We built Bundle with the digitally native African user in mind.” Yele adds that Bundle will make crypto feel like a normal digital transaction.

Sun Exchange

Sun Exchange

Though a blockchain startup, Sun Exchange is making waves in a pretty unusual place to find blockchain technology. 

Sun Exchange is using blockchain to help people invest in renewable energy.  Anyone from anywhere in the world, can invest in solar projects in South Africa using Bitcoin. 

The uniqueness of this startup is not only in the fact that it encourages investment in renewable energy, but the fact that it uses blockchain to create a positive impact on the climate. Global Warming is a real issue and Sun Exchange is helping to solve this problem in its own unique way. Investments are primarily focused on solar projects in South Africa, but the startup hopes to expand to other African countries.

YellowCard

YellowCard.io

With an average of 20,000 users a month and a trading volume of $20 million monthly, Yellow Card, is a very growing cryptocurrency exchange with operations in Nigeria, South Africa, and Botswana. Founded in 2016, one of its major advantages is that it offers multiple payment options. With low trading fees incorporated into transaction prices, and competitive rates.

In the words of the YellowCard, CEO, Chris Maurice, “There’s no better place for bitcoin to thrive than Africa,”

BitSika

BitSika

BitSika Africa, seeks to alleviate the nightmare of cross-border payments, by providing a platform that let users send and receive money from anyone, anywhere. Incubated by global cryptocurrency exchange Binance and Microtraction, an early stage VC firm, the Ghanian based startup also offer virtual Visa card to its users and is currently supports the Ghanian Cedis and Nigerian naira.

Founded in 2018, the Blockchain start-up is aimed targeted at reducing reliance on traditional financial systems, and reducing the cost of money transfers between different African currencies.

BinKabi

Binkabi

BinKabi, a fintech startup, is infusing blockchain into agriculture. Agrifood traders can use the Binkabi token, which is blockchain-based, to settle payment issues with farmers. Farmers, in turn, receive a fair amount of their produce. The startup also allows farmers to get loans based on the transactions recorded on the BinKabi platform. 

BuyCoins Africa

BuyCoins Africa

Headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria, Buycoins is a rapidly growing cryptocurrency trading platform. Trading on BuyCoins is instantaneous, as no waiting is required. 

Buying and selling crypto on BuyCoins is unprecedentedly easy and rapid. The platform is known to be very safe for storage. 

The startup just launched a new platform called “SendCash”, that helps users send money to their Nigerian bank accounts, with Bitcoin.

Tracr

Tarcr

Tracr uses blockchain technology to track diamonds mined in  Africa. Created by South African billion-dollar diamond company DeBeers, the platform uses blockchain to keep permanent records of all diamonds mined, from the point of mining to the point where they are sold to jewelry manufacturers. This improves the working standard of miners, as it ensures positive feedback for loop suppliers.

PesaBase

PesaBase

PesaBase is a payments and remittances startup. The startup’s uniqueness lies in the fact that its major goal is to properly acquaint Africans with blockchain technology. 

According to its CEO, Nhial Majok, the startup also plans on connecting South Sudan with the rest of East Africa. 

The blockchain app primarily allows users to pay for goods and services, and also send money into existing digital wallets. 

Tari

Tari

Located in South Africa, Tari is a blockchain startup that allows users to transfer digital assets across the Tari blockchain. The startup hopes to integrate payment across Africa. The company’s commitment towards integrating the technology throughout Africa, is displayed in its support for small blockchain startups through a blockchain university

Africa’s economic revolution might come through blockchain technology. With a quarter of its population between the age range of 15-24, it is safe to say that blockchain startups will keep sprouting across the continent. Headed by young entrepreneurs driven by the need to solve centuries-old problems in their societies.

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Bolu Abiodun is a recent graduate of Theatre and Media Arts, Federal University Oye-Ekiti. A journalist with over a year's experience on the job. A former editor at American Media company Project Forward, he is a skilled content creator, social media manager and digital marketer.

Artificial Intelligence

How disruptive African startups are weaving Artificial Intelligence into healthcare

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In 2014, young Nabuuma Shamim Kaliisa from Uganda, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Prior to her diagnosis, she had watched her mother battle with cervical cancer, which eventually claimed her life. Following her struggle with cancer and the loss of her mother to cancer, Nabuuma was driven to create a company that could help people survive their battle with cancer. The company would turn out to become Chil AI Lab, in Uganda. According to Nabuuma, her vision is to create a world where “nobody dies of any reproductive health related cancer caused by late detection and treatment.”

Her company, Chil AI Lab, is an Artificial Intelligence company that facilitates access to affordable and easy-to-use E-oncology services for women across the globe. The company’s flagship product is an AI-powered mobile application named Keti, which utilizes artificial intelligence to diagnose cervical and breast cancer. Through the mobile app, women can access consultation services, follow-up and other add-on reproductive health services. The company has also created self-testing kits that are powered by machine learning, which make it easier for their services to reach the underserved. Through Chil AI Lab, Nabuuma has helped over 100,000 women diagnose cancer at an early phase and, via partnerships, helped them access quality treatment.

Like Nabuuma, a lot of young innovative Africans are also leveraging artificial intelligence to solve global and local healthcare challenges. With Ubenwa, Charles Onu, like Nabuuma, is using AI to transform the healthcare system in Africa and the world at large.

Ubenwa is one amid many other disruptive AI-powered startups in Africa. Through their machine-learning-powered mobile app, the Nigerian-based startup is on the path to saving the lives of as many newborns as possible from losing their lives to perinatal asphyxia, which annually claims the lives of millions of newborns. According to the UN, if newborns who have asphyxia can be detected early enough, we may be able to save their lives.

The mobile app is a screening tool that takes the sound of infant cry as input, analyzes the acoustic parameters of the sound, and then, using machine learning, compares it against a database of infant cries that have been clinically labelled. The output is then used to predict the risk of perinatal asphyxia within a short time frame. Just like magic, with just the cry of a baby, Ubenwa’s mobile app is capable of detecting birth asphyxia, thereby, helping in the prevention of the death of these babies. The company is also working on an automated cry analysis tool that can help parents understand their babies. Through the automated cry analysis, basic needs, like hunger, sleep and pain, can be extracted from infant cry and translated to parents so that appropriate care can be given.

Situated in Southern Africa, fast-rising AI-powered startup, Envisionit Deep AI, is also making giant strides in the integration of artificial intelligence in healthcare services. The South African startup is leveraging the use of machine learning, in conjunction with the expertise of radiologists, to improve and enhance easy access to radiology services in Africa. 

The company has developed a flagship product known as RADIFY. RADIFY is an AI-powered tool that can detect up to 20 different pathologies on x-rays, at a rate of up to 2000 x-rays within a minute. The tool is capable of taking up radiology tasks, to fill in the gap of the deficit of radiology experts in Africa, with the capability of analyzing and interpreting radiology scans just like a human expert. This tool supplements the efforts of doctors within the region, and does not eliminate the need for doctors. 

The tool is very easy to use. Once a doctor uploads a batch of images from scans, the images get analyzed by an AI algorithm which then identifies possible issues and pathologies, and prioritizes the images and cases that are most relevant. All the identified features are clearly highlighted and labelled on the images. This makes the process of diagnosis, via radiology, much efficient.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company offered RADIFY to the public at no cost, to be used in the diagnosis and treatment of the COVID-19 pneumonia. 

The fascinating ways in which Africans are using artificial intelligence to build solutions to challenges within a critical sector, like the healthcare sector, is indeed profound. With the cultivation of a mindset that is shifted from a consumption-based orientation to a creation-based one, the world is beginning to witness more and more Africans leveraging the use of artificial intelligence to create global healthcare solutions that are saving the lives of millions of people around the world.

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Bitcoin in Africa

Built With Bitcoin: How PaxFul is using crypto to bring hope to African communities

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In Rwanda, many young children are being given the opportunity to mould their dreams and create a future for themselves through a crypto-powered access to education. In a country where education is still a luxury to many, the impact of creating access to education is indeed highly transformative. 

“Seeing my daughter going to school makes me so happy,” said Immaculate Zihinjishi, a Rwandan mother whose three older children did not have the privilege of obtaining a formal childhood education at an early stage. Her young daughter, Lucky, is one of the many Rwandan children who are enjoying access to free quality education, sponsored by Paxful’s #builtwithbitcoin initiative.

PaxFul CEO, Ray with Rwandans.

The #builtwithbitcoin initiative, however, is not limited to Rwanda alone, it is a mission that is focused on reshaping the African community with cryptocurrency, especially through education.  “Education is essential in the sustenance of a community. We see our #BuiltWithBitcoin campaign as a way of giving back to the communities that need it the most to showcase how the power of a peer-to-peer currency like Bitcoin can reach people that need financial assistance,” says Ray Youssef, CEO and co-founder of Paxful

Paxful’s #builtwithbitcoin campaign commenced in 2017 in partnership with Zam Zam Water, an organization focused on creating sustainable water and access to quality education for communities around the world. The goal of the #builtwithbitcoin project is to build 100 schools, for up to 15,000 Africans, that are fully funded by cryptocurrency. The initiative strengthens the notion that cryptocurrency is indeed a tool for transformative change. “The #builtwithbitcoin initiative is a testament to the power of cryptocurrency. We firmly believe that it can improve lives and make the world a better place,” says Ray. 

The initiative began its race to the construction of 100 schools with Rwanda. The East African country was deliberately chosen to be the first location of the #builtwithbitcoin project. Speaking on why the choice was made, Ray says, “The people of Rwanda have shown us how we can forgive, heal and build a better world no matter how horrific the past is. People that had their entire families killed by their own neighbors now live side by side again in peace. The western media only shows us an Africa of poverty and disease, Rwanda has shown us the exact opposite. This is why we chose the first Paxful school to be built there.”

 PaxFul team
PaxFul team

The first school was built in Kasebigege Village, Bugesera District, Rwanda. The school is a nursery school, designed to cater for children between three to six years of age. It contains three classrooms, 4 restrooms with a portable irrigation system, and a 15,000-litre water tank and water-catchment system. To ensure sustainability, community gardens were built for sustainable agriculture, and dozens of goats and chickens were provided for grazing, milk, meat and poultry. 

In 2018, another school was completed in Kigali, Rwanda. The second school is a primary school for children between ages six to fifteen years. It contains six classrooms, a cafeteria, solar panels, a 35,000-litre water system, and other educational resources. The school can cater for up to 300 primary school students. The capacity of the school is about twice the size of the first school.

Advancing the course of the initiative, the construction of a third school was launched in Machakos county, Kenya, earlier this year. The project kicked off with a $30,000 donation from Paxful. The school is set to open in January, for children between 3 to 6 years of age.

PaxFul  Built With Bitcoin
PaxFul Built With Bitcoin school in construction

A fourth school is also set to open in January. The school, which is currently undergoing construction, is located in Ankara Nandi, Kaduna State, Nigeria. The school will serve as an early education center for 120 students between 3 to 6 years of age. According to a blog post by Paxful, the school will contain “3 classrooms, 8 bathrooms, a water well, a reservoir, a conference room, and plenty of space for storage.”

PaxFul Built With Bitcoin Water
Image Credit: @PaxFul / Twitter

The two completed schools in Kenya have also been equipped with full defense kits against the Covid-19 pandemic, to ensure the safety of the students and teachers as the schools continue operations. 

Beyond education, Paxful is also extending its impact mission to other areas of life. This year, the #builtwithbitcoin initiative sponsored the construction of a water well and water filtration distribution center with a 250,000-litre capacity that can serve over a million people. 

PaxFul Built With Bitcoin Water well and purifier
Image Credit: @PaxFul / Twitter

Via a Twitter post in January, this year, Paxful’s CEO, Ray, also announced that a Clinic was being built in the first Paxful School in Rwanda. The clinic would cater for about 1100 students and the nearby towns, to give them access to health care that is fully funded by bitcoin. 

So far, the project has been amazing and impactful. “One of the most beautiful aspects of Built With Bitcoin is being welcomed into the lives of these people and their communities. To be able to create positive change into their lives is very gratifying. There are parents who know that their childrens’ books and uniforms were paid for by Paxful using Bitcoin. It’s an amazing story and I think we’re going to hear hundreds more just like it,”says Yusuf Nessary, founder of Zam Zam Water. 

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Meet Bitsika: Africa’s cash app. Send and spend money, buy and sell crypto

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BitSika Africa's cash app

Cross-border remittance in Africa is becoming increasingly necessary, whilst experiencing a surge in the challenges associated with the process. According to reports, Africa has the highest remittance cost in the world, with the cost reaching as high as 9% for a $200 transaction, in contrast to the global average cost of about 7%. 

Bitsika has created a solution that eases cross-border remittance in Africa. The company has created a platform, which is available on Google play store and Apple store, that allows Africans to receive money instantly, from anyone, in any location, without paying any extra fee, or attracting just a negligible fee in some cases. 

The platform leverages the magic of blockchain to facilitate the movement of money around its users, thereby, making the platform extremely convenient and beneficial to use. An interesting thing about the platform is that the transactions are processed instantly.

If, for example, a trader in Ghana wants to send money to her brother who lives in Kenya, all she needs to do is to deposit the money, in Cedis, on the Bitsika app. After depositing the money, she can send it to her brother, within the app, who would receive the Kenyan Shilling equivalent of the money instantly. It’s as simple as that. No extra fees; no hassles.

Getting started with Bitsika

Getting started with BitSika is very easy. All you need to do is to download the app for Android or iOS. After downloading the app, the next step is to sign in with your Google account, and set your username and pin code. To verify your account, you will need to provide the information in the images below.

BitSika verification page

After registration, users can begin to explore the full functionalities of Bitsika. By just using the username of a recipient on the Bit Sika app, anyone can send as little as $0.01 to anyone, anywhere, at no cost, as long as the sender and the receiver are both registered Bit Sika users. However, if a user crosses a threshold of $300 within a month, a fee is attached to any other transaction that is initiated within that month. Users can send up to $300 every month without paying any fee.

Bitsika protects the value of deposited monies against the instability of currencies. Every money that is deposited is stored in USD credits/stable-coins. This means that for as long as the balance in your Bit Sika account remains unused, the USD value of your balance will remain the same. This guarantees you that your money will not experience a decline in its value once it has been deposited into your Bit Sika account, regardless of fluctuations in the value of the currency. 

Money can also be withdrawn from the Bitsika app to the bank accounts or other digital wallets of users, if a user chooses to do so. In addition, purchase of airtime and payment of goods and services can also be made via the Bit Sika app, although this is currently unavailable in Nigeria. This is made possible through the Bit Sika virtual card which can be generated on the Bit Sika app. The virtual card allows users to make online payments at any store, globally, that accepts a VISA card for payment. 

Bitsika’s payment solution is not limited to fiat money. It also provides a way to send and receive cryptocurrency across borders. Users have a free bitcoin wallet that allows them to receive bitcoin in-app. Users can also send the cryptocurrency in their wallet in another currency. 

Bitsika gives a wide coverage for payment remittance. Their solution is particularly appealing because of its ease of use and reduced charges. There’s so much that can be experienced from using the BitSika platform. A trial would answer your questions.

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