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The Growth of Africa’s Fintech Ecosystem In H1 2021

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Image Credit: Kabiru Yusuf

At the epicenter of Africa’s rapidly evolving tech ecosystem lies the fast growing fintech sector. A huge chunk of Africa’s growth in the tech startup scene can be credited to fintech startups. As the proliferation of fintech services grows deeper in this year 2021, fintechs have, once again, led the pace for the growth of Africa’s bubbling tech startup ecosystem. The first half of 2021 has seen multiple funding rounds and deals that have shaped the fintech sphere, some of which would be highlighted in this review of major fintech deals that were sealed in the first half of 2021.

Flutterwave

In the first quarter of 2021, Flutterwave, which recently joined the league of African unicorns, raised $170 million in a Series C funding round, valuing it at over $1 billion. The funding round which was led by Avenir Growth Capital and Tiger global sums up the total capital raised by Flutterwave to $225 million. Another major highlight from Flutterwave this year is its collaboration with PayPal to enable African merchants to connect with the over 377 million PayPal accounts worldwide, via the new Flutterwave pay with PayPal feature. 

Kuda

Fast rising digital bank, Kuda, is leading the penetration of innovative digital banking services in Africa. To deepen its growth and penetration, the company raised $25 million dollars earlier in March this year. The Series A round was led by Valar ventures, a VC firm co-founded by Peter Thiel. This funding round brings the company’s raised capital to a total of $36.6 million. In February 2021, Kuda also processed transactions worth $2.2 billion, helping it gain significant traction. At this pace, Kuda is definitely on its way to becoming a giant in Africa’s nascent digital banking sector.

Adumo

Adumo is the largest independent payment processor in South Africa. The Adumo group is comprised of companies including Humble, Innervation Pan African Payment Solutions and Innervation Rewards, Sureswipe and iKhokha. The company offers digital payment solutions to the businesses and merchants within Africa. In the first quarter of the year, Adumo raised $15 million from International Finance Corporation(IFC) to expand its provision of digital payment solutions across Africa, especially for small and medium-sized African businesses.

 

Cowrywise

Cowrywise is a Nigerian Fintech startup that offers digital wealth management and financial planning services. In January, the company raised  $3 million in a pre-Series A funding round that was led by Quona capital. The startup also recently obtained an SEC license approving its operation as a fund manager.

Mono

Three months after its acceptance into Y Combinator in February, Nigerian fintech startup Mono closed a $2 million investment to advance their mission of helping digital businesses in Africa access their customers’ financial and identity data. At the moment, Mono has raised a total of $2.625 million.

Bankly

In Nigeria where cash still remains unrivalled as king, Bankly is striving to digitise financial services and provide these financial services to the millions of underserved Africans. In March, a seed round led by Vault provided an investment of $2 million to Bankly towards achieving its goal of serving the unbanked. This investment will help Bankly expand its customer base and service offerings.

Appzone

Appzone is a fintech software provider that has carved a name for itself as one of the few African companies that build technology solutions to support the services of local fintech service providers. At the beginning of the second quarter (Q2), Appzone raised $10 million in a series A round led by CardinalStone, a Nigerian investment banking firm. This investment is intended to help Appzone become a pan-African fintech. 

Chipper Cash

Shortly after raising $30 million in November 2020, Chipper Cash raised an additional $100 million in a Series C round in May 2021. The round was led by SVB capital, a first time investor in African startups. Amazon boss Jeff Bezos also participated in the investment round. The Series C round caps the total funding of the three-year old company at $152.2 million. 

Stitch

Attempting to change the game play in the African API fintech sphere is South African fintech startup Stitch. This year, Stitch joins the line-up of African fintechs who are setting the tone of growth in the fintech ecosystem through progressive partnerships and closing multimillion dollar deals. Via a seed round, the company raised $4 million in the first quarter of the year, making it the current largest financing round by an API fintech startup in Africa. 

The Second Half of 2021(H2 2021) Appears To Be Even More Promising

Within the first six months of this year, African startups have raised over 1 billion dollars, setting a new record for startup financing in the continent. The growth of the fintech ecosystem has been astonishing so far. However, considering the tempo of funding in the first half of the year as well as the impending fintech deals and the various promising new fintech startups, the second half of the year may be even far better than the former. Regardless of how things turn out in this second half, the first half alone has provided enough reasons to be proud of the growth of the fintech ecosystem in Africa.

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Kehinde is a driven human who is passionate about leveraging technology to transform the future of humanity and the way we all live. His interest lies in constantly getting valuable information and being part of a mission that seeks to create a transformative radical shift.

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Blockchain Technology

Can NFTs play-to-earn game usher in the next generation of platforms?

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Blockchain technology is taking the world by storm with massive leaps into various fields such as the arts, sports, real estate, finance and now gaming. The first NFT game propped up in 2017 in a Crypto Kitties video game and a pixel art CryptoPunks giveaway. It gained short term popularity and went back into its shell during the 2018 crash. A new wave began later till date. This article explores NFT-based online video games. Enjoy!

NFT-based Online Video Games explained

Non-Fungible Token (NFT) are proof of ownership of digital assets. It’s equivalent to having copyright over a piece: artwork, music, design or any other digital asset. For instance, Leonardo Da Vinci, the artist that painted the Mona Lisa image died over 500 years ago. The Mona Lisa image has remained relevant since then, it can be downloaded and printed on a shirt by anyone. The image is not owned by anyone, so, no one can claim ownership of it. However, since the French government can prove its authenticity via its provenance, the Mona Lisa in the Louvre is considered priceless. The priceless image and the one on the shirt are two worlds apart. Let’s say the priceless one can be sold as NFT. The rise of NFTs led developers to shift their gaze to the opportunities of online Play-to-Earn games for game lovers. 

NFT-based online video games combine conventional gaming designs with unconventional game mechanisms that allow users to have control over in-game assets such as skins, characters, weapons, virtual lands and others. These features are supported by launching games on blockchain technology and anchoring them with asset-powered economies 

NFTs are commonly used for these digital assets since they are distinctive and tamper-proof. The implementation of NFT token standards also allows developers to keep certain of these in-game objects rare and distinctive. As a result, some blockchain gaming assets are seen as more valuable than others.

Players can claim ownership of game assets using three basic tactics with this system in place. They could create or breed new characters, buy digital products on native or third-party marketplaces, or earn and unlock additional items. You have exclusive ownership rights to these game assets regardless of how you access them. In other words, you can distribute or sell them and keep 100% of the profit.

Rise of NFT-based Online Video Games

When the Covid-19 pandemic got heated in 2020, the stay-at-home order and its resultant effect in ravaging jobs and businesses across the world led most people to look for other ways to earn money online. This led to the popularity of NFT-based online video games which raked in $20billion in 2020 alone. One such game is the Axie Infinity where players collect, breed, raise, battle and trade digital creatures. Participants of this game rake up to $400 per month which may vary based on the exchange rate of the game’s cryptocurrency in USD. The game does not require special skills before it can be won making it one of the legit ways to earn money online. Most Filipinos earn a living through this game as it gained popularity by June 2021. Play-to-Earn games often require players to pay an up-front cost through cryptocurrency to play the game and receive the game’s prizes. These ‘prizes’ can be sold later when they increase in price. 

Is the NFT Play-to-Earn game ushering in the next generation of platforms?

The NFT Play-to-Earn game is an innovative way of earning money online in the form of leisure. Before now, it was Pay-to-Play without gains attached; except for the feelings of satisfaction. The popularity that online NFT games have attracted to themselves show how fast the industry has grown within a short time. Players now spend hundreds of dollars just t get an upgrade on their avatar or to access a highly coveted item. There are an estimated 1 billion online gamers currently active worldwide, experts forecast that the number will grow to 1.3 billion gamers by 2025. 

Nothing feels good more than earning in your leisure time. For game lovers, this is a chance for you to do your best and earn with it. What an utmost spree of enjoyment!

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Artificial Intelligence

The Metaverse in Bits and Pieces

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The metaverse is coming. Or maybe it is already here. But interest in the concept has soared higher than ever before after Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg announced that his newly renamed company, Meta Systems Inc., would take up the task of building a metaverse within the next few years. The metaverse, which started out as a fictional concept in the 1992 book “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson, is a virtual reality built on top of the real one in which people live, interact and do what people do. Meta Inc. hopes to bring this vision to life by “rendering the internet” in 3d.

The metaverse is going to be a virtual world but a much more immersive one, more so than our current digital worlds. The aim is to create a reality that would otherwise be indistinguishable from the real one in many aspects while also outdoing real life in others. The possibilities are endless. However, the crux of the matter remains that if a metaverse is built in the way currently envisioned by Meta Inc. and other tech visionaries, then the people living in those virtual worlds obviously would interact in ways already done in real life and more.

Living out life, working, playing and socializing from a 3d digital space inevitably means economics will come to play in some way. The question of how technologies like the blockchain and cryptocurrencies would fit into this digital future remains fuzzy but many are optimistic that cryptocurrencies would be the currencies of the metaverse. And they certainly could. The most touted features of blockchain based cryptocurrencies such as immutability and security are one of the biggest talking points for why cryptocurrencies should take center stage in the finances of any metaverse and should the metaverse use cryptocurrencies for its transactions and exchange of value, it could further boost their mainstream adoption.

NFT’s are also getting a buzz from the metaverse concept. While NFT’s have had their fair share of criticism, amongst which are that NFT’s are not environmentally friendly or that purchasing NFT’s is akin to buying air, all that could change in the metaverse. The issue seems to have been that an NFT token was not much use in the real world, however, this would or could be radically different in a virtual one. NFT’s provide a solid opportunity for metaverse users to own virtual property which would be NFTs of real estate to artwork or memes, all real-world items or commodities carried over to the virtual one.

What, if anything, would be the fate of fiat currencies in the metaverse? While conversation is going strong about the role of cryptocurrencies and NFTs in these virtual worlds, it is important to note that the vast majority of the world’s money exists digitally. Besides, seeing as cryptocurrency use is still far from mainstream in many ways, metaverse users ultimately must reconcile their virtual lives with their real ones. Trade and commerce in the metaverse may overlap with real life just as online shopping does and the question is how fiat currencies and cryptocurrencies would be used within those spaces.

The metaverse may already be here, in bits and pieces. Nevertheless, if it succeeds in the ways laid down by its proponents, it would fundamentally change how people live, work and play.

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Blockchain Technology

How blockchain can bridge the trust gap in governance

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Governments and authority figures have existed throughout history to serve many purposes amongst which trust is central. In matters of social and economic concern, some form of trust and/or distrust has enabled people in all cultures across all times to transact and interact, to exchange value and advance cultural agenda. This is so important that our very concept of money is built on trust or value induced by trust.

However, for most of history up till now, authorities have wielded central power and that has always been an avenue for corruption, a lack of transparency which leads to wastage of resources and spirals down to a lack of trust by a populace in the authority over them. Evidently, this is paradoxical, the governments are to be trusted by virtue of the authority given to them but it’s this centralization that ends up upending it down the line.

Evidently, many people in many countries do not trust governments to do things the way they say they’d do them. The question is, what can a hypothetical government do about massive distrust from citizenry?

Enter the blockchain. As with many things, technology often has something to offer. The blockchain which underlies cryptocurrencies like most famously, Bitcoin, has been imbued with a certain peculiar philosophy; one of democratization. Although this is more of a mantra within crypto circles, it’s not difficult to see why. First is the blockchain’s nature; distributed ledger built on cryptography with certain features which make it functionally immutable. It’s most famous and defining uses have been with crypto but it could be so much more. A record keeping system for example, one that would be immutable and most importantly, transparent, open to all to see.

So, in the administration of nation states, blockchain technology has the ability to fit into a lot of places. The main idea is to be able to carve out trust from distrust i.e. the apparent reality of being watched and having all records secure is an incentive for governments to act transparently. In some use cases, governments (as well as private businesses of course) could leverage smart contracts, a task built into a blockchain that’s executed when the conditions specified are met. These systems in governance would undoubtedly improve transparency, cut down on corruption as well as its accompanying wastes and overall be more efficient.

So, will we see a trend where governments would like to use blockchain technology? Overall, this is for now unlikely. World governments, it would seem, do not understand blockchains very well and hence are apprehensive about them even to the point of banning the cryptocurrencies built on them. At the end of the day, the use of blockchain at the governmental level of any nation depends on the nation’s own unique set of problems and issues. All in all, the next few years will be interesting no doubt in this regard.

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