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Ghana And Nigeria, Take Opposing Stance On Crypto

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On the 25th of February 2021, the Bank of Ghana issued a press release revealing how it intends to handle innovations in the financial space. With special preference given to blockchain, this stance by Ghana’s Apex over blockchain and by extension cryptocurrency, largely contradicts that of its West African counterpart. The Apex Bank of Africa’s largest economy has only a few weeks ago expressed its distrust for the blockchain-powered currencies, noting that they are a means to an illegal end. 

While the Central Bank of Nigeria has since received a unanimous backlash from many Nigerians, hopes that it will reverse its ban on cryptocurrencies isn’t imminent. Its stance on the widely acclaimed cryptocurrencies has been reiterated by the CBN governor who says ” crypto is money out of thin air used by players in an electronic dark world where transactions are extremely opaque, black, not visible and not transparent.” 

Despite the Central Banks unequivocal stance against crypto, Nigeria remains one of the leading countries in crypto usage globally. With over half a billion dollars transacted in cryptocurrencies to date, crypto usage shows no signs of stopping. Rather the ban has drawn the attention of many to the decentralized currencies and why they seem to be causing a stir in the country’s financial ecosystem. 

Ghana thinks different

In the circular released by the Central Bank of Nigeria, it claims other countries view cryptocurrencies with as much disdain as it does. 

Apparently, Ghana isn’t one of those countries. The circular released by the Bank of Ghana, reveals it’s giving a chance to the blockchain-powered currencies to operate within its financial space. 

Taking into consideration that the current state of finance is evolving, the West African nations top bank is prepared to build a regulatory framework that oversees and supports financial institutions in taking on innovative models on delivering financial services. 

Ghana’s direction on crypto can be perceived as friendly unlike Nigeria’s. In what many call an outright ban on cryptocurrencies, the position taken by Africa’s most populous nation on crypto is anything but friendly. 

Perhaps the Ghanaian financial regulators are accepting an unstoppable crypto takeover, a market capitalization of over a trillion dollars makes crypto a technological innovation that should not be ignored. 

With top institutions such as Black Rock, Tesla and Grayscale acquiring large volumes of bitcoin and other currencies, it shows that crypto isn’t a force to be stopped or controlled but only regulated.  

The Bank of Ghana is already on the right path to getting a regulated hold of cryptocurrencies. Fully backing financial institutions to experiment with blockchain, the Bank can understand the technology better and forge an advance regulatory framework that keeps the technology within legal bounds. 

Sandbox Pilot 

A sandbox is a controlled environment that simulates real-life usage of a program or product

Bank Ghana’s regulatory and innovation sandbox pilot, is in collaboration with EMTECH service LLC. EMTECH is a fintech company for central banks. The company allows central banks to test projects such as central bank digital currencies in the sandbox with APIs that enable Fintech and mobile money apps to work with the CBDC 

The company will help with a proper and faster review of innovative projects in Fintech. With multi-party collaborations and integrating seamless workflows, EMTECH will assist the Bank of Ghana in getting a detailed review of what any Fintech innovation will look like. 

Though an accommodating approach to crypto and blockchain in Fintech the Bank’s direction is still cautious, it creates an enabling environment where it wields the power not only to regulate but to understand. 

State of Crypto in Africa.

Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey has said there’s no better place for bitcoin to thrive than Africa. However, some Africans don’t share the same view. Some countries like Nigeria see it as a threat to it’s financial stability. Ironically Africa’s financial instability has been highlighted as the reason why bitcoin would thrive there.

Bitcoin is already a lifeline for many as the value of the naira sinks. 

While crypto adoption in Africa is no doubt on the rise, the lack of crypto infrastructure is still a major hurdle for many African nations. Only 20 of the 10,267 bitcoin nodes are in Africa. 

Likewise, an unequivocal stance by many African countries on the crypto issue still stands in the way of further adoption and more use cases. 60 per cent of African countries do not have a clear stance or regulation concerning digital currencies.  

Morocco, Nigeria, Algeria and Libya have pronounced an outright ban on cryptocurrencies. Making usage in such countries practically impossible or strenuous.

The economic realities in the many African States make cryptocurrencies a viable alternative for international transactions as well as wealth creation. Unfortunately, African governments are not taking the necessary steps to understand the technology and how it can help the current financial situation. 

The Bank of Ghana has taken a step in the right direction with its sandbox pilot. Though a cautious first step, it improves the understanding of the technology and could facilitate an innovative and never before seen regulatory framework that will usher cryptocurrencies into mainstream finance 

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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.

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Bitcoin in Africa

Crypto Regulation or CBDC? What Africa’s Biggest Crypto Hotspot Requires?

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Crypto in Nigeria
Image Credit: Kabiru Yusuf

On February 5, 2021, the Central Bank of Nigeria rolled out an order urging financial institutions to close the accounts of persons or entities that transact in or operate a cryptocurrency exchange.  According to the apex bank, digital currencies generated by unregulated or unregistered firms raise legal concerns because they can be used to perpetrate illicit affairs; money laundering and terrorism. While this gives partial explanations to the clampdown on cryptocurrency in Nigeria, there were uproars from various quarters. Questions were raised on whether or not the ban of crypto was the way forward to the growing interest in digital currencies. The clamour for regulation of cryptocurrency was not only limited to the masses, it includes Senators, Honorable members of the House and the intervention of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

About 5 months after the supposed ban on crypto was made, CBN made another giant stride. At the Monetary Policy Committee Meeting (MPC) held on Tuesday, July 27, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, confirmed that a digital currency (CBDC) will be launched in October. What exactly is the CBN digital currency about? How does it affect Nigerians, especially crypto traders? Why does the CBN have to launch digital currency when regulations can be made for the existing cryptocurrency? These and other questions still linger in the minds of financial analysts and crypto enthusiasts.  Thus, the need for this article. 

What is CBDC?

The CBDC is an ‘e-Naira’ that is supported by law and can be used as legal tender. Due to this, it is usually considered as the central bank’s liability.   CBDCs are blockchain-based but centralized and supervised by bank regulators. This is the distinguishing factor between cryptocurrency and CBDC; while the former is highly decentralized, the latter is centralized and regulated by the central bank that created it. To achieve its centralization, every bank connected to the blockchain system can collate transaction data that can be aggregated and relayed to the CBN. Just like stable coins, the digital currencies will be pegged to the fiat Naira at 1:1.  The currency would most likely be issued to commercial banks which in turn be made available to customers. The CBN started research on CBDC in 2017 alongside 80% of other central banks. However, only the Bahamas, the Eastern Caribbean and China have implemented it in practice. The CBDC is set to be Africa’s first digital currency as it is closest to being pulled through. Other countries like South Africa, Ghana, Morocco and Kenya are working on introducing digital fiat currencies. 

How CBDC affects Nigerians: a Gift or a Curse? 

Any Nigerian operating a business will certainly be concerned about the effect of the CBDC on the financial market. For crypto enthusiasts, it is another form of witch-hunt put in place by the central bank to clamp down on cryptocurrency. Since digital currency is the future and cryptocurrency is “evil” as proposed by the apex bank, CBDC will enable faster transactions and promote the development of e-commerce. It will create innovative opportunities in the financial system as new business opportunities will arise from emerging business models, financial products and services. While there seem to be endless advantages of CBDC, its curses are no doubt evident in the ways it will be regulated. Transparency and centralization of the digital currency will enable the central bank to know who is holding what money at a particular point in time. With such regulation in place, the government can use CBDC to surveil the citizens, determine how much they earn, what they use the money for, where they save the money. Since it can be used to determine the amount a particular person earns, it allows the government to leverage tax on citizens. These are the ‘ill’ cryptocurrency permits, hence, its ban. 

Crypto Regulation or CBDC? 

 You may wonder why the central bank is interested in creating its digital currency when it could tap into the existing cryptocurrency. The reason behind this is not far-fetched. One of the important reasons for the ban on cryptocurrency was because it is highly decentralized. Not only because the government does not have control over it but because transactions are only known to the two parties involved without the parties knowing each other. This allows some users to carry out fraudulent activities; cybercrime and money laundering through cryptocurrency. A call for the regulation of cryptocurrency is quite impossible due to its decentralization, to solve the problem of anonymity, there is a need to launch a digital currency that can be monitored. To the Nigerian government, CBDC has the same function as cryptocurrency (except the issue of anonymity which is unimportant if one has nothing to hide). It is the government’s way of regulating crypto and embracing the opportunities the new system provides. 

In conclusion, while the CBDC may seem like a plot by the Nigerian government to further clamp down on cryptocurrency and to monitor the citizens, it is rather counter-productive to critique before it gets launched. For now, it is an idea that is yet to see the light of the day, the loopholes can only be confirmed after its launch in October.  

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Crypto Assets

How to Approach Cryptocurrency Investment in 2021

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Years have gone by and many cryptocurrencies have come to be. Speculators and Investors now see cryptocurrency as an alternative to universal currencies like the dollar, euro, and naira. Today, virtually everyone wants to learn how to invest. If you’re looking to invest in cryptocurrency, this article is for you. 

Before diving into the crypto journey, it is important to be aware of what is at stake. For everyone who has acquired immense wealth trading crypto, there is also someone who has lost massive finances while trading. Nevertheless, if you’re still focused on cryptocurrency investment, keep reading. 

Only Invest Money You’re Prepared To Overlook 

Needless to say, you should only invest money you can afford to lose. The main purpose of any form of investment is to add to your fortune. If an individual invests his entire savings, and the said investment doesn’t work out as planned, that is a big loss. So, when investing in Cryptocurrency, whatever amount you put in is completely up to you, but it should only occupy a small percentage of your income, such that, if there is a hiccup, you’re not left completely stranded. 

Make Your Choice 

Choose your cryptocurrency or cryptocurrencies. There are tons of cryptocurrencies to select from and while it’s fine to make good with just one, it’s also not a bad idea to invest in as many as you want, as long as you’re not spending above your means. That way, you gain some, and you lose some. However, if you would rather invest in one, Bitcoin seems to be the most reliable, followed closely by Ethereum.

A downside to trading in cryptocurrencies is that you can’t just walk into a bank or an investment brokerage firm to get them. You have to find sites dedicated to cryptocurrency exchanges. There are several sites like eToro, Coinbase, Gemini, Binance, etc. dedicated to this cause. 

Save Your Cryptocurrency 

Cryptocurrency is mainly stored in either a hot or cold wallet. This wallet permits users to keep and reclaim their digital assets. A user can store cryptocurrencies like Ethereum in their wallet and from there, use it to perform transactions. You have access to your wallet through a public key and a private key. The public key is referred to as your cryptocurrency address and it can be used by the other party in the transaction, while the private key is for you alone. It is important to have both keys to finalize a transaction. In addition, your wallet provides a history of all your transactions, as well as your present balance. 

Safeguard Your Cryptocurrency 

Keeping your cryptocurrency secure after buying it is principal. To encrypt your data, make use of VPNs, like NordVPN and ExpressVPN. These help in securing your transactions and making sure that your purchases are kept a secret from prying eyes. 

Just as with other forms of investment, in cryptocurrency investment, it is important to focus less on what is being said, but rather carry out your own research and study the market to the best of your ability. Do your own fact-finding instead and select the strategy that works best for you. This will help you to have a clear picture of what it is you’re jumping into.

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Artificial Intelligence

How AI Is Helping Fintechs Provide Intelligent And Better Financial Services

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AI fintech services

We live in an era of data. In today’s world, data is the new gold. The quality of services now significantly depends on how much insight can be extracted from data to help in the creation of the services. For fintech organizations, building services that harness the power of data and artificial intelligence has now become necessary to ensure that the services are tailored to meet the needs of customers. Artificial intelligence is now being used in various ways to help fintech companies provide intelligent and improved services. Some of the major areas of AI application in fintech are discussed in this article.

Risk Assessment

From insurance companies to banks and other fintech institutions, assessing credit worthiness and estimating the level of risk associated with every transaction has become very crucial. Now, many fintech companies employ the use of AI in determining the credit profiles of clients which helps to minimize financial losses when customers fail to repay loans or meet other financial commitments. 

Predicting and preventing fraudulent transactions is another challenge that fintechs are using AI to solve. Using machine learning algorithms, fintech organizations are able to build more accurate fraud detection mechanisms to curb the activities of scammers. The advantage of using machine learning for fraud detection in financial systems is that the machine learning model can learn from the financial data by itself. Thus, it is able to uncover hidden patterns and make a more robust prediction compared to traditional fraud detection algorithms. AI-based fraud detection algorithms can also be used to verify insurance claims and flag fraudulent ones. 

Churn Prediction

Customer churn is an important Key Performance Index (KPI) for any organisation. Preventing customer churn is aimpoaaaustomers and improve customer engagement. Many fintechs across the world now use AI to increase customer retention by understanding customer behaviour and making data-driven decisions to retain the audience of customers.

Intelligent Customer Service

Customer service is an aspect of fintech that has been significantly transformed by AI. The use of AI in this area has drastically reduced the need for human customer care representatives and the cost associated with employing these representatives. With AI, more customers can be attended to more efficiently via chatbots, virtual assistants etc. 

Chatbots are, particularly, one of the most common uses of AI in fintech customer service. Chatbots are sophisticated conversational AI applications that can engage with customers, address complaints and basically fill in the gap of a human employee. Chatbots have now become faster and easier means for customers to fix issues they have while using fintech services.

The Future of Fintech With AI

The use of AI in financial technology extends beyond risk assessment, churn prediction and intelligent customer service. Areas like payment processing and sentiment analysis are also being transformed by AI. Organizations like MasterCard and Visa have been able to improve the quality of their services by leveraging AI to achieve this. Personalized banking and financial services will define the future of financial technology. Better experiences will be developed for each customer in a unique and personalized manner. This may be impossible without AI. The future of fintech is geared towards smarter and more intelligent services, with AI steering the wheel to this future.

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