The application of blockchain technology across multiple industries, both globally and in Africa, is emerging quite rapidly. As Fintech & Blockchain Lead for PwC South Africa, Paul Mitchell, expresses,
“The speed at which blockchain technology is being adopted is unprecedented. There is a growing recognition that this technology has profound implications in many areas, and we are watching it move from a startup idea to an established technology, in a fraction of the time it took for the Internet to be accepted as a standard tool.”
So far, the most popular application of blockchain technology in Africa is in the area of financial services. In spite of this, other industries are also being innovatively disrupted with blockchain, with startups like Agrikore and RideSafe penetrating the agricultural and logistics sector with blockchain.
However, in recent years, quite a number of African blockchain projects and startups have experienced tragic failure. These failures could be attributed to several factors. South African blockchain startup, Dala, was almost a perfect example of a disruptive and innovative blockchain startup until its failure in 2019.
In a medium post by its founder, Tricia Martinez, she expressed her views on the main issues that led to the abrupt failure of the project.
“The biggest problem we ran into was infrastructure. Our partners’ systems (products and services like airtime, data, and electricity) would regularly turn off due to internet problems and/or their own poor infrastructure which meant our users were unable to transact, which was the biggest use case for Dala,” she wrote.
Just about 31.2% of Africa’s populace have access to internet connection. Considering the fact that blockchain startups, like Dala, require users to have a secure internet connection in order to use their services, their growth is immensely limited in Africa.
The African continent records an alarmingly growing level of scams. Renowned economist, Dr Desné Masie, opines that the series of scams in Africa, often stimulate a great deal of scepticism about blockchain in Africa. A lot of people are unaware of the validity of the services which are offered by blockchain startups. The prevalence of scams in the region has worsened the growth of blockchain startups in Africa, as most people are too careful to avoid falling victim of a perceived ponzi scheme.
African Skepticism Towards Crypto & Blockchain
Skepticism of Africans towards blockchain services could be rectified with proper legislations and government backing. Unfortunately, government policies are not encouraging the growth of these startups either. Although some African countries like South Africa have government policies that foster the growth of blockchain startups, countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Zambia have taken a neutral stance without explicitly validating the activities of blockchain startups. Countries like Algeria, Libya and Morocco have taken very rancorous positions, and some have gone as far as issuing bans against the use of cryptocurrencies.
Some blockchain enthusiasts and developers think African governments do not clearly understand the power of blockchain technology. According to Asiimwe Benson Mugisha, founder of RideSafe, many African governments still see blockchain as a threat, primarily as a result of its ability to move money without government control. Unfavorable government positions like this, often threaten the survival of blockchain startups in many African nations.
As much as blockchain appears to be a buzzing technology that can address problems in any field, many still don’t understand its use beyond cryptocurrency and the financial market. Key stakeholders in the blockchain industry like Akin Sawyer, Decred Lead for Strategy and Governance, have expressed concerns against the lack of understanding, especially from governments, on the use of blockchain.
“Governments should first of all avoid being too quick to enact legislation and policies that could stifle adoption and innovation. They should first deploy time and resources to understand the technology and support civil organizations and companies that are investing in the space,” Sawyer says.
The lack of widespread innovative deployment of blockchain across other industries outside finance, also has a measure of impact on the failure of existing blockchain startups. Most blockchain projects in Africa are cluttered around cryptocurrencies. Africa needs more unique and novel blockchain solutions. As with any industry, innovation and uniqueness are key factors for the growth and survival of any startup. Expanding the frontiers of African blockchain projects beyond cryptocurrencies and the scope of finance will enable the government and potential customers to clearly see how powerful this tool can be. The continent needs blockchain to revolutionise many sectors but the usage of this powerful technology is being crippled by the many obstacles experienced in scaling a blockchain project within the continent.
Image Credit: Peace Adesola
How disruptive African startups are weaving Artificial Intelligence into healthcare
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.
Built With Bitcoin: How PaxFul is using crypto to bring hope to African communities
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Meet Bitsika: Africa’s cash app. Send and spend money, buy and sell crypto
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.
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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