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Centbee, South Africa-based Bitcoin wallet and merchant payment ecosystem, attracts funding from nChain

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(PRNewsfoto/nChain)
 Centbee, South Africa’s Bitcoin wallet provider that makes it easy for global consumers to acquire, hold and spend Bitcoin with retailers and other merchants has raised an undisclosed funding from nChain Group, blockchain research and development firm.
Founded by co-CEOs, Lorien Gamaroff and Angus Brown, Centbee will be rolling out mechanisms for merchants to accept Bitcoin Cash payments more cheaply and securely than current bank payment systems without exposure to price volatility.
“In addition, we will help consumers move money simply and cheaply across borders to support family and friends. We have been working closely with regulators in South Africa and other jurisdictions to educate and inform and to address any regulatory risk,” said Brown.
Brown has 20 years’ experience in payments and banking including holding the role of CEO of eBucks, a world first bank-backed digital currency created in 2000. nChain Group’s investment entity, nChain Reaction Ltd.
 Gamaroff is a leading expert in blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies. He has consulted and advised regulators and corporates internationally and is highly regarded globally as an educator and presenter.
nChain Reaction financially backs products and applications that make Bitcoin Cash more globally useable as peer-to-peer electronic cash. The Centbee deal represents nChain Reaction’s second Bitcoin Cash-enabling investment within the past month.

Gamaroff explains that, “In addition to providing financial investment, nChain’s research, intellectual property and deep technology expertise will enable Centbee to become a functional and secure wallet provider which will open up Bitcoin Cash merchant payments to a global market.”

According to nChain Group CEO Jimmy Nguyen: “Centbee has one of the most user-friendly Bitcoin wallets and merchant payment solutions we have seen. It smartly embraces Bitcoin Cash because its bigger blocks, low fees and fast transaction network represent the true vision of Bitcoin. We look forward to supporting Centbee as it sparks greater merchant and consumer adoption of Bitcoin Cash in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.”

The Centbee Wallet becomes available in the Apple and Google Play stores in 2018.

Opera introduces bitcoin mining protection in its mobile browsers

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Opera has added protection against cryptocurrency mining scripts to its mobile browsers, protecting hundreds of millions of smartphone browser users against cryptojacking.

“When you browse the web, there are no visual clues that your device is exposed to mining,” says Jan Standal, VP Product Marketing at Opera “A single webpage you visit can take up to 4.5 hours of your battery time, if you keep the tab open. This often turns out to be just the battery time you needed to use a ride-hailing app or check the map to get home”.

According to some reports, there are currently more than 3 million websites exposed to cryptojacking, so the need for extra protection is bigger than ever. By blocking mining scripts, Opera ensures that its users’ smartphones continue to run smoothly and that they have enough battery life for the things they really want or need to be doing.

The new anti-cryptocurrency mining feature is activated by default when activating the ad blocker on Opera Mini and Opera for Android. The ad blocker can be enable in “Settings”, and it will automatically detect and stop the mining scripts written into the coding of a webpage.

To make it easier for you to tell whether your browser is affected by unwanted crypto mining, Opera has created a website which safely checks just that. Simply go to www.cryptojackingtest.com on your mobile or desktop browser to see if your device is impacted by mining.

Cryptocurrency mining is expensive and needs lots of energy resources to pull off. While some use their own data centers, many web developers are increasingly using people’s computers and smartphones for this – often without their consent. The phenomenon is estimated to be affecting more than a billion people worldwide, causing their devices to run warm, become slower and eat up their batteries. Opera aims to solve this problem with its new browser feature.

World Blockchain Summit to hold in Nairobi in March

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Apollo Eric CEO & Founder Point50Capital is bringing the World Blockchain Summit to Nairobi to bring together entrepreneurs, technology enthusiasts, and thought leaders in the
blockchain ecosystem from around the world.

According to Apollo, “The goal of this event is to explore and seize the commercial opportunities that blockchain technology presents to the African continent, discuss and address the hurdles that must be overcome to realize the full potential of the technology as well as teach the people about the exiting emerging decentralized digital
economy.”

The summit will hold on 22– 23rd March 2018 in Nairobi and will feature keynotes on the potential of blockchain in Africa, developing the African blockchain infrastructure and ecosystem, panel discussion on how the regulatory environment is shaping up around
the world, exhibitions and live demonstrations of some of the most cutting
edge blockchain solutions from around the world digital assets investment.

World Blockchain Summits have been held in London, Singapore, India,
Dubai since 2016. In 2018 the first one will be held in Nairobi in March
followed by Moscow in April, Kuala Lumpa in May, Frankfurt in June, Singapore in July, India in September, Dubai in October, Rio De Jeneiro in November and finally in Riyadh in December.

deVere Crypto launches to allow users trade in five major cryptocurrencies

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deVere Group, an independent financial services firm is set to launch deVere Crypto in a matter of weeks to allow users to store, transfer and exchange five major cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin and Ethereum.

According to deVere Group’s founder and CEO, Nigel Green: “2017 saw the true dawn of the financial technology era.  Fintech is already fundamentally changing the way we access, manage and use money – and the changes are coming quicker than ever before due to improving technologies and growing demand.

“Nothing has captured the imagination in this new fintech age quite like cryptocurrencies, specifically Bitcoin.  No-one was really talking about it back in 2016.  But those who invested in Bitcoin before the beginning of last year have enjoyed an impressive price increase,” said Mr Green.

He added that due to technological advancement in almost all sectors will see technology take over our lives and it’s not just digitalisation or existing technology but tech like self-driving cars to intelligent robots, advanced new technologies will impact every part of our lives and our financial lives will be no exception. Tech is now in our DNA.

Politcally, there is an appetite, a huge and growing one, for currencies that are not controlled by central banks and governments.  Supporters believe that these digital currencies are part of the antidote to what they see as the ills caused by the traditional system.

These will be fueled by globalisation.

“Whether some populist politicians like it or not, globalisation is happening and it’s here to stay.  We’re all becoming increasingly interdependent and internationally-minded, and this, when harnessed properly, is an immensely positive force for trade, commerce and prosperity across the world,” he concluded saying traditionalists who declare cryptocurrencies ‘a fad’ are akin to King Canute trying to command the tides of the sea to go back.

The firm says deVere Crypto is designed to meet the growing need and want to store and transfer cryptocurrencies. It’s meeting the evident demand.

New cryptocurrency marketplace Coindirect launches in SA, Nigeria & Kenya

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Coindirect.com, a new marketplace allowing users to buy and sell cryptocurrencies online has launched in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya in a move to make trade in digital currencies simple ahead of its global rollout in early 2018.

Taking on popular Localbicoinsremitano, Belfrics, Coindirect.com supports one of the widest ranges of local-to-cryptocurrency transactions available, with 25 different digital coins currently in its marketplace and supports local currency purchases in the UK, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.

According to Coindirect.com Director, Basil Bielich, “By simplifying and demystifying the process of purchasing cryptocurrencies, we hope to accelerate their adoption across the globe.”

Coindirect.com offers traders a secure environment with instant transfers and full wallet support, allowing users to buy and sell multiple currencies using a single account. Not only can customers buy altcoins with their local currency, they are also able to exchange between currencies. As such, the company is seeing a high daily trading volume through users converting between bitcoin and altcoins. Transactions are instant, with no waiting for approvals, and prices are locked at the point of sale.

Coindirect.com’s escrow system takes the complexity out of buying cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. There’s no uncertainty when making a trade. All trading fees are built into the market price: that means for traders, what you see is what you pay.

Occasional trades up to GBP 800 / EUR 1000 / ZAR R15,000 / NGN 400,000 / KES 100,000 can also be carried out without inconvenient personal identity verification involving uploads of identity documents.

Coindirect.com is backed by a consortium of some of the leading technology investors, based in the UK and South Africa.

 

 

Maersk & IBM partner to launch a Blockchain-based shipping company for paperless global trade

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Maersk and IBM have said they will launch a joint venture to provide more transparency and simplicity in the movement of goods across borders and trading zones using blockchain technologies.

According to Vincent Clerc, chief commercial officer at Maersk and future chairman of the board of the new joint venture,“By joining our knowledge of trade with IBM’s capabilities in blockchain and enterprise technology, we are confident this new company can make a real difference in shaping the future of global trade.”

The new JV will use blockchain technology to power the new platform, as well as employ other cloud-based open source technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), IoT and analytics, delivered via IBM Services, in order to help companies move and track goods digitally across international borders. Manufacturers, shipping lines, freight forwarders, port and terminal operators and customs authorities can all benefit from these new technologies –and ultimately consumers.

Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, IBM Global Industries, Solutions and Blockchain said, “Our joint venture with Maersk means we can now speed adoption of this exciting technology with the millions of organizations who play vital roles in one of the most complex and important networks in the world, the global supply chain. We believe blockchain will now emerge in this market as the leading way companies seize new untapped economic opportunities.”

The joint venture will now enable IBM and Maersk to commercialize and scale their solutions to a broader group of global corporations, many of whom have already expressed interest in the capabilities and are exploring ways to use the new platform, including: General Motors and Procter and Gamble to streamline the complex supply chains they operate; and freight forwarder and logistic company, Agility Logistics, to provide improved customer services including customs clearance brokerage.

The firm’s new CEO will be Michael J. White, former president of Maersk Line in North America, as CEO of the new company. The new company initially plans to digitize the global supply chain from end-to-end a shipping information pipeline will provide end-to-end supply chain visibility in real-time and introduce a Paperless Trade by enabling end-users to securely submit, validate and approve documents across organizational boundaries, ultimately helping to reduce the time and cost for clearance and cargo movement.

Blockchain-based smart contracts ensure all required approvals are in place, helping speed up approvals and reducing mistakes.

The new company will be headquartered in the New York metropolitan area.

SureRemit raises $7m through an initial coin offering to simplify international remittance

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SureRemit, a non-cash remittance platform has raised $7Mn on the initial coin offering (‘ICO’) which saw several prominent cryptocurrency investors, such as Hashed, South Korea’s largest cryptocurrency fund, participate.

SureRemit, is a non-cash remittance platform using blockchain technology to help immigrants earmark and send funds home. Using a digital voucher platform and network of local merchants across African and other emerging markets, SureRemit offers an affordable, non-cash alternative for sending money to family and friends at home.

SureRemit says it charges users 0% transaction fees, making it a cheaper option than Moneygram. The platform also gives the sender ability to purchase digital vouchers from specific local merchants can be purchased and settled instantly on the SureRemit platform. Whether funds are used for utility bills, medical treatment, or groceries, SureRemit ensures that sending a few hundred dollars to family is no longer subjected to fees of 7.45% — the global average. Using blockchain, SureRemit can bypass the traditional banking system and connect customers directly to local merchants, who pay a small commission fee on each transaction.

This development builds on GreenHouse Capital’s focus on identifying new ways for blockchain and cryptocurrency to transform African markets. In collaboration with current and prospective portfolio companies and public institutions, GreenHouse Capital plans to harness blockchain technology to accelerate Africa’s growth via the ICO market.

“The implications of growth capital outside of equity financing is huge. It means SureRemit can scale its operations without additional capital from existing shareholders. SureRemit is just one of our 10 fintech-enabled portfolio companies that can potentially leverage blockchain to address a specific market gap, particularly in Africa. We’re happy to take the lead on blockchain and cryptocurrency implementations on the continent,” says Kelechi Nwokocha, a member of the investment team at GreenHouse Capital.

The company foresees blockchain becoming a conduit to tackling Africa’s significant infrastructure challenges. Whether for payments, power, or identity, GreenHouse Capital envisions blockchain’s decentralized system as a critical tool for addressing some of Africa’s greatest market gaps.

SureRemit is re-engineering Africa’s remittance market and highlights the wide array of potential applications of blockchain to drive Africa’s development. The ICO raise is arguably the most successful offering in Africa to date and will likely propel future offerings on the continent.

MoneyGram to Use Ripple’s XRP for Faster International Payments

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The global remittance market is a big business. In 2016, remitters sent nearly $600 billion in cross-border payments to help support family members living in their home countries or to settle transactions with business partners.

Money transfer companies allow people to send cross-border payments. Unfortunately, the current model requires money transfer companies to use pre-funded accounts across the globe to source liquidity for these payments. The process makes payments costly and slow, which causes headaches for both the companies and their customers.

In a move to allow their customers to send and complete cross-border payments quicker and cheaper, MoneyGram, a global money transfer firm has teamed up with Ripple’s XRP in their payment flows.

The deal will see MoneyGram solve the age-old liquidity issue most financial institutions face while saving time and money. Additionally, customers will have the ability to send funds real time, with transparency and certainty. The deal will MoneyGram access and use XRP, the native digital asset of the XRP Ledger, in their payment flows through xRapid, Ripple’s on-demand liquidity product.

By using xRapid, MoneyGram will enable its customers to do real-time foreign exchange (FX) settlement through XRP, which gives financial institutions the ability to unlock liquidity and access multiple corridors with one pre-funded originating account.

The firm will be able to send on-demand payments, reduce FX costs and fees, and customers will receive real-time insight into the status of their payments.

“Ripple is at the forefront of blockchain technology and we look forward to piloting xRapid,” said Alex Holmes, chief executive officer of MoneyGram, in a press release. “We’re hopeful it will increase efficiency and improve services to MoneyGram’s customers.”

Ripple is focused on fixing the inefficiencies and problems that exist in cross-border payments, regardless of whether those payments originate with a bank, corporate or another financial institution.

“The payments problem doesn’t just affect banks, it also affects companies like MoneyGram, which help people get money to the ones they care about,” said Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple. “By using a digital asset like XRP that settles in three seconds or less, our clients can move money as quickly as information.”

Ripple is a Bitcoin rival.

 

mybitwallet now accepts Bitcoin deposits and withdrawals

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Singapore’s mybitwallet users are now able to conduct instant deposits and withdrawals whenever they want, wherever they wish to. The release of this feature allows bitcoin users to conveniently deposit and withdraw with bitcoin instantly. mybitwallet hopes the release of this feature will increase the numbers of bitcoin enthusiast joining the platform.

With that, mybitwallet promises to keep transaction fees for this feature minimal for its users to conduct bitcoin deposits and withdrawals. The transaction process of this feature is designed to ensure users are able to transact easily at their own fingertips.

How mybitwallet users deposit and withdraw in bitcoin –

Deposit:
1. Select a currency available on the mybitwallet platform to deposit.
2. Enter the quantity of bitcoin you wish to deposit.
3. Complete the transaction by making payment to the bitcoin address shown on the payment page. Alternatively, you may scan the QR code shown on the display screen.
4. Submit deposit request.

Withdrawal:
1. Select one of the currencies available on the mybitwallet platform to withdraw.
2. Enter the Bitcoin address.
3. Enter the amount to withdraw.
4. Submit withdrawal request.

The Rise of Bitcoin in Africa  

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Bitcoin is a digital currency

 

A brief introduction to Bitcoin

Since Bitcoin was first created in 2009 by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto (now widely believed to be Australian entrepreneur Craig Wright) via a paper entitled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”, the cryptocurrency has become an increasingly popular — and valuable — alternative to fiat currencies.

Operating on a peer-to-peer basis and free to use, Bitcoin is not subject to state regulation nor central banking control, and although Japan has recognized it as a legal payment method, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies remain outside of the regulatory space.

However, Bitcoin is undoubtedly gaining more widespread mainstream acceptance, as evidenced by the staggering increase in its value in 2017. Trading at around USD$1,000 at the beginning of the year, it broke through the USD$5,000 barrier for the first time in September, before reaching a high of over USD$17,350 in December 2017. Despite some sharp corrections in late November, this inexorable rise looks set to continue.

And while the uptake of Bitcoin has to date largely taken place in developed economies, there is a strong argument for seeing it as a means of bringing real economic growth, as well as greater autonomy and financial democracy, to many countries in Africa where the use of Bitcoin is now also on the rise.

The growing use of Bitcoin in Africa

In Africa, Bitcoin is being utilized for a range of different purposes, with many observers taking the view that it could bring real economic accessibility, democracy and freedom to millions of people in a way that fiat currencies are unable to do.

One of the reasons for Bitcoin’s growing presence and importance in African countries such as Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana are that it facilitates fast and cost-effective remittance transfers, upon which so many individuals in these countries, not to mention their overall economies, depend. The speed and efficiency of the Bitcoin network means that money transfers are completed more quickly and more cheaply, ultimately resulting in more money making its way to the end-user’s pocket.

The process of peer-to-peer transfers using bitcoins has also been made easier by the fact that it is now possible to sell bitcoins via an exchange and have the proceeds transferred to a PayPal account, while e-wallets like Skrill and Neteller can also be funded with bitcoins directly.

The ability to transfer funds to PayPal or an e-wallet means that bitcoins have become a more viable option for those with limited access to financial instruments to receive and access money, This is especially the case as payment systems become even more widespread and can be used for more and more retail, commerce and entertainment options, such as these sites that accept PayPal.

Bitcoin is also becoming a tool for business in a number of African countries, such as Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and Tanzania, with locally-based start-ups creating bitcoin-based lending platforms, thereby eliminating the need for banks and making cross-border lending quicker and more affordable.

Through a combination of the bitcoin blockchain and mobile technology, it is becoming increasingly possible for African small business owners not only to gain investment from all over the world, but also to be able to access these funds quickly through a mobile phone and using locally-based remittance platforms.

Bitcoin is also becoming more of a part of everyday life in Africa. For instance, Pick n Pay, one of South Africa’s largest retail outlets, is enabling customers to use bitcoins in its stores, while bitcoins can also be used in the country’s largest online marketplace, Bidorbuy. There is also an ATM in Johannesburg that accepts rand in exchange for bitcoins, while Nigerian e-commerce startup Shopnow.ng also accepts bitcoins, and has a mobile app that also enables online shopping with bitcoins on the go.

These are, however, just a few of the thousands of enterprises in Africa that accept and facilitate trading in bitcoins, and entrepreneurs elsewhere in Africa are also seeking to widen the use and take-up of bitcoins and the use of blockchain technologies.

For instance, Bitcoin marketplaces are being developed in Botswana and it is expected that ATMs will be available in the country soon; Ghana is seeing new electronic payment systems being developed that accept bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies; Kenyan startups are advising new companies on how they can effectively employ blockchain technologies, while new remittance companies are springing up in Nairobi with the aim of making B2B money transfers more affordable; and new companies in Zimbabwe are developing their own mobile wallets and bitcoin-based remittance services.

International companies too have understood the growing importance of Bitcoin in Africa and a number of new tech enterprises are being developed that have an African focus, such as a bitcoin mobile phone top-up services and peer-to-peer marketplaces, as well as new digital currencies such as Kobocoin that have been created specifically for the African remittances market.

The Bitcoin trading industry in Africa

An indication of the status and growing accessibility of Bitcoin in Africa is the number of exchanges that are now in operation for the trading of bitcoins. There are local companies, such as BitPaya, Luno, BitcoinFundi, ice3x and NairaEx as well as international brands like BitStamp and Kraken, operating in this space who enable customers to buy and sell not only bitcoins, but other cryptocurrencies as well, including Litecoin and Etheruem.

The focus of African exchanges tends to be speed, transparency and mobile accessibility, with the emphasis currently on peer-to-peer exchange, although that is changing and African Bitcoin exchanges are seeing greater volumes of trades as more people look upon cryptocurrencies as an investment instrument, not just a tool for facilitating payments and remittances.

Part of the reason for the growing acceptance of Bitcoin in Africa is the fact that it is unregulated by central banks and governments and so in a continent that is largely underbanked and whose various economies have too often been beset by inflation (think of Zimbabwe in 2008), Bitcoin is seen as providing an alternative solution to both.

The fact that peer-to-peer lending and remittances have become easier and cheaper through the use of blockchain technology also goes some way to explaining Bitcoin’s uptake, and is also why analysts predict that it will only become more mainstream as people gain a greater understanding of how it works and the benefits it can bring in countries where the adoption of mobile technology is booming.

What influenced the growth of the use of Bitcoin and Bitcoin trading in Africa market

Aside from being peer-to-peer based and therefore out of the control of central banks and governments (thus resulting in greater transparency and less subject to inflationary pressures), mobile technology is the primary reason why Bitcoin use and trading has begun to get a foothold in Africa.

Although per capita use of mobile phones remains lower than most other places in the world, it is nevertheless growing more rapidly in Arica than anywhere else, and this has opened up opportunities in retail, commerce and entertainment that have been denied previous generations. In many parts of Africa, a mobile device is the only way of connecting to the internet, and so through being entirely digital, Bitcoin has the potential to become a genuine alternative way of doing business for millions of people all over the continent.

This is because technological developments have meant that payments, purchases and remittances can now be accomplished through mobile devices without the need for conventional banking infrastructure or any physical currency. Small business owners can process their payments and customers can buy goods using their mobile phones using services like PayPal, Android Pay and, increasingly, cryptocurrencies.

And as confidence has grown in the technology and the security of cashless payment systems, so has the popularity of Bitcoin, as consumers and investors alike have seen the potential of these new technologies and systems working together. When combined with the fact that hundreds of millions of people in Africa have no access to traditional banking facilities, it is not unsurprising that the alternative offered by Bitcoin is an attractive one.

What does the future hold for the Bitcoin use and trade in Africa?

Ultimately, the future success of Bitcoin, in Africa at least, will be dependent on both continued rapid rates of mobile phone usage, and the currency’s continued freedom from state regulation and banking controls (although African governments, most notably South Africa, are increasingly looking into creating their own cryptocurrencies).

With an estimated 535 million mobile phone service subscribers in Africa by 2020, and over 60% of these users having a broadband connection, it would seem clear that the role mobile telecommunications play in almost every aspect of daily life is only going to increase. When this is combined with the fact that 280 million people in sub-Saharan Africa already have mobile money wallets and so are comfortable with this method of doing business, it is not hard to envisage rates of Bitcoin adoption similarly increasing.

This existing reliance on mobile payment systems should also prove an incentive for developers and entrepreneurs. Millions of Africans have already demonstrated their willingness to use mobile payment and banking technologies, and so with the right encouragement and education, and Bitcoin applications that respond to the specific needs of those in sub-Saharan countries and remote regions, there is seemingly unlimited potential for growth.

Kenya’s Bitsoko wants to take cryptocurrencies mainstream

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Bitcoin is a digital currency

Over the past few weeks, cryptocurrencies, in particular, Bitcoin, has made headlines with its exponential growth, increasing its value by nearly $1000 overnight. This has played well for those who had jumped into the gravy train earlier on. While cryptocurrency is gaining believers every day, it is acquiring similar numbers in skeptics as well.

Bitsoko is a Kenyan company that has performed particularly well in this area. In this interview Bitsoko COO, Frank Deya tels us more about his company and the cryptocurrency scene.

Bitsoko COO, Frank Deya

Tell me about yourself, the Bitsoko team and about your journey as a
company so far.

My name is Frank Deya, I’m the Chief Operations Officer at Bitsoko. We have a team of 12 full time staff who consist of software developers,hardware developers, marketing and business development, administration and finance. Our entire team is under the age of 30, vibrant, hardworking and really talented especially in a relatively new and soon to be disruptive technology. We have been operating actively for over two years.

What does Bitsoko do? What does it have to do with bitcoins as the name
may suggest?

Bitsoko is driving mass adoption of digital currencies like bitcoin in Kenya. We are undertaking this through provision of merchant services. We target micro, small and medium businesses by developing enterprise solutions that enable them to ‘professionalize’ their operations. This is done by incorporation customer loyalty solutions, inventory management, customer feedback, e-commerce, customer analytics among other enterprise solutions; all implemented on the blockchain. The customer loyalty service was initially being implemented by awarding customers bitcoins as rewards for shopping or spending at a store; however, we have switched to ethereum and other altcoins which carries the advantage of enabling development of additional applications on top. We are also developing hardware that incorporates Internet of Things (IoT)technology that will offer businesses visibility by creatively advertising and showcasing their offers and promotions while at the same time connecting them directly with the customer through their mobile devices. Narra, is the name of the sign device in development, it sends automatic notifications to customer mobile devices which are in close proximity to where it is installed. The applications of Narra cut across various sectors from events, transport,retail etc. It will give businesses the opportunity to directly connect with their customers seamlessly while notifying customers of existing offers and promotions. Once rolled out successfully, businesses will have an opportunity to directly put their customers on the blockchain network and therefore begin to explore the benefits of this revolutionary technology.

Bitcoins have recently been shocking everyone with dramatic spikes in its value overnight. How has this affected your business?
The spike of bitcoin price has worked to a great advantage on our companyand operations. First of all, the publicity has drawn a lot of interest on our company, people are curious to know what we do and how they can get involved in it. This has made our business development a little easier since it saves us the effort of reaching out to partners, clients and other interested parties; instead they now come to us.
Secondly, we have been working on a token market that enables peer to peer trading of etherium and select altcoins, we’ve seen massive movements and activities as more people trade on it.

How would you describe the Kenyan market for your service?
The Kenyan market is hungry for our service, we get dozens of e-mails, phone calls and visits at our office every day from people requesting to find out how they can get involved. From small businesses, students, investors,corporates and the like. I strongly believe it’s a good thing going forward, it shows that Kenya stands a chance at taking advantage of the numerous benefits that will come with this technology at various levels.

Who are your major competitors in this space?
The only competitors I can think of are established players who are foreign based. We’re just scratching the surface of this massive market, and if there are any local competitors it would be encouraging to have them join this field, it will enable us to improve on our products and at the same time push cryptocurrencies to the masses. This is not a field that can be dominated by any single player, the fight to promote decentralization will be won if more players are encouraged to join.

What do you do to stand out from your competitors?
We have been focused on building products that suit the African market and address the challenges faced by our target audience. This way we create solutions that are on demand and which fit their existing operations.
Secondly, we create strong relationships with our partners and this enables
us to develop a deep understanding of their needs.
Thirdly it’s innovation. At the core of our activities is our never ending desire to undertake wide research and constantly innovate, this gives us an edge in this landscape.

You secured a whopping $100,000 in funding from Microsoft mogul Bill Gates, what did Bitsoko do to inspire such confidence from an internationally revered figure in the tech scene?
Actually, it was a grant; usually awarded through the Grand Challenges Exploration (GCE) initiative which seeks to tap into innovations that aim at solving key development problems. We were able to demonstrate the ability to explore new technology which could positively impact a huge mass of the
population if implemented. Most importantly is the team; which constitutes talented, dedicated and forward thinking personalities who have to this point proven their ability to deliver.

What has been the toughest challenge for Bitsoko since its inception?
Our innovations are centered on relatively new technology such as the blockchain, Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. The fact that they are new and relatively complex means that creating awareness and an understanding of the tech to the masses becomes quite a challenge.

What has been the toughest challenge for you as an entrepreneur?
Learning to scale. The landscape of the field I work in is constantly changing and new and bigger opportunities present themselves by the day. Adapting to these everyday changes while staying focused on the long term company strategy sometimes becomes a daunting task.

Is there any point during your entrepreneurship journey that you would
term as easy or a walkover?

I would say on a personal level, I have never lost the passion to journey on. Even during those moments that I appeared to hit rock bottom. That has always been easy for me, staying true to the cause even in the most tumultuous moments.

Where do you think your company will be in the next 5-10 years?
At this stage we are pioneering the development and pushing for the adoption of the most advanced technologies that there is. We will continue innovating for our continent. We want to be the beacon of tech in Africa, creating solutions for our businesses and communities and changing the African narrative.

How is your experience at Chandaria Business Incubator at KU?
We have a very close working relationship with our incubator. The institution provides a perfect environment for collaborations with other aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators.

Your company also falls within fintech category, a sector that has grown exponentially, 84% in the past year, what do you think about the future of fintech in Kenya and Africa at large? Do you believe there may be a fintech boom in the region?
I think the fintech boom will be happening very soon. We are seeing unprecedented numbers of fintech innovations, start ups and products. However, in order for us to realize optimal performance we have to break infrastructural and regulatory challenges.

Do you think the bitcoin growth may be a bubble? How does your company plan to adapt if/when the bubble pops? (Hypothetically speaking, I do not wish this for you.)
When the term bubble is used to describe bitcoin, the comparison is usually with historical bubbles which tend to present certain characteristics and features. Bubbles tend to indicate a price no reasonable future outcome can justify. The internet exchanges information through various protocols, just as bitcoin conveys an exchange of value of a good or service when it’s spent. So if it’s utility is increasing, the network value will keep increasing.

What would you advise other entrepreneurs planning to venture into fintech, with cryptocurrencies as a base?
I’d advise them to first appreciate the steep learning curve for this field. They should take their time to study the fundamentals of cryptocurrencies and ensure that the venture creates real value and solves actual or existing problems.

How can one access Bitsoko services?
Our enterprise solution and wallet service can be accessed through our
website:
https://bitsoko.co.ke/home/ent.html
https://bitsoko.co.ke/home/community.html

What is Bitcoin? What you need to know about the digital currency making headlines

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Bitcoin is a digital currency

 

Bitcoin is a digital currency

A lot of questions have been raised personally to myself and I am sure many are wondering what Bitcoin could be all about since for the last couple of months business news all over the world have been focusing on how this currency has been appreciating in value exponentially a surprising phenomenon which has never happened to the other commonly known currencies such as the Dollar and the Sterling Pound.

Each and every country in the world has their own currency which is used in day to day transactions. In Kenya we have the Shilling, South Africans have the Rand, Nigerians have the Naira and the United States have the might Dollar which is widely used all over the world in many transactions including forex. We exchange money in banks or other specialized foreign exchanges platforms, transfer it worldwide either through making purchases online or even invest it.

It is now interesting to see the rise of what we now call a digital currency such as Bitcoin or Etherum. Interest has grown over the past years because of the significant increase in value of the currency which is quite “abnormal” to understand.

Origin of Bitcoin

So where did this currency come from? This is probably the question you are asking yourself right now. Well, I may not have the exact answer to your question but it is believed in 2009, an unknown programmer called Satoshi Nakamoto came up with the proposal of creating a digital currency different from the ‘normal’ currencies popularly to be known as cryptocurrency.

This currency functions in almost the same way as the regular currencies since it has the ability to be a store of a value and can be used as a means of exchange. Just like the other currencies, cryptocurrencies have a market price and also has demand.

The only major difference a cryptocurrency has to a regular currency is that it intangible. There are no bank issued notes or papers meaning that it is impossible to use them in hand-to-hand transactions like buying of groceries in our local open air markets or kiosks.

How Bitcoins work

Bitcoins are normally stored and exchanged digitally within a network. Unlike the commonly used currencies where when funds are being transferred from one account to another a middleman is required i.e. banks to be specific, Bitcoins operate differently  in that no intermediary is needed to make these transactions possible.

The issue, value and fiscal policy is normally controlled by the centralized authority such as the Central Bank of a country which builds trust but it is a different story with Bitcoin since the trust comes from the forces of cryptology.

Because of the lack of a central issuing body, Bitcoins are therefore created and transferred with the help of a unique process called ‘mining’ The mining process requires a powerful computer and a specific mining machine that work out the complex and technical cryptological functions which are billions of calculations.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Bitcoin

Bitcoin being the first digital currency which actually is uncontrolled, the currency is created at a fixed and predetermined rate meaning that it is immune from inflation. Another unique property of Bitcoin is that despite its transactions made public through the blockchain, all the actors involved in a transaction are only identified by their bitcoin wallet.

Lost? A Bitcoin wallet is just like the normal wallet people use to keep their money but it contains a unique address that enables a user to transact with another user thus a user stays anonymous.

Bitcoin is also unique in the way that it creates other strengths from the users perspective- its digital nature makes it highly divisible and the lack of a central body to regulate it ensures the transactions fees are not available.

Its nature and lack of the central regulatory body also shapes out its weaknesses as lost Bitcoins are non recoverable meaning if you loose your private key or the hard drive with your wallet then the coins are lost for good.

Bitcoin and the Future

The future of Bitcoin is not clear at the moment because of the restrictions imposed by governments in different countries and also its unstable exchange rates. However, current users are embracing it as an innovative concept and are contributing to establishing a global bitcoin economy.

 

BitPaya would help you trade Bitcoin and Ethereum in Nigeria

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No doubt, cryptocurrency is on a major rise in Nigeria, Africa and the world. Many people have turned their attention to this “gold mine” whose value is on an upward spiral. But then, there has always been a problem on trading in cyptos for Nigerians. Now this is where BitPaya comes in.

Bitcoin and Ethereum are like the two most popular and traded cryptos in the world, and new platform BitPaya is bringing ease to trading with them. On the BitPaya platform, you can trade Bitcoin and Ethereum with extreme ease in Nigeria.
According to a press release by the founders, “The importance of cryptocurrency cannot be over emphasised, its clearly the future of money and it has come to stay for as long as anyone can imagine.”

They noted that “Buying Bitcoin and Ethereum has been a challenge for many for a very long time but it does not have to be so. Everybody has a right to own cryptocurrency of their choice and it does not have to be difficult to buy or sell. It’s our obligation to make it very easy for everyone to either buy or sell Bitcoin or Ethereum.”

The platform makes this process so easy that “You do not have to deposit your local currency or your cryptocurrency and then wait for a long period of time in order to get your desired currency, thats where Bitpaya comes in with the obligation to bring your local currency or Bitcoin and Ethereum directly to you in minutes. Do all your exchanges on Bitpaya and enjoy speed and transparency in exchanging.”

Vinny Lingham joins US blockchain firm Multicoin Capital as General Partner

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Multicoin Capital, a thesis-driven cryptofund that invests in blockchain tokens has appointed Vinny Lingham as a General Partner.

The Texas-based firm is actively hiring entry-level analysts, expert research associates, developers, and data scientists to fill out its staff. It expects its first $100M fund will be fully subscribed by the end of Q1, 2018.

Lingham is a South African entrepreneur and the co-founder and CEO of Civic, a global decentralized identity platform that leverages blockchain technology and recently completed a $33M token sale.

Lingham is also the co-founder of Silicon Cape, an NGO based in South Africa, and is a prominent investor. He is a regular Shark on Shark Tank South Africa.

“The pace of innovation around blockchain technologies is accelerating rapidly. Investing responsibly in crypto requires a lot of time, research, and nuance; you need a team of dedicated experts to react to new breakthroughs, keep up with the latest projects, and actively manage your portfolio. I realized I wasn’t the only one who needs that team, and that is a large part of what drove me to join Multicoin Capital as General Partner,” said Vinny Langham, General Partner, Multicoin. “Civic is currently my main priority, and I’m investing in the Multicoin team because I believe I can help Kyle and Tushar build an industry leading cryptofund. I look forward to collaborating with them in the years ahead.”

 

 

Three Bitcoin Traders Arrested in Kenya

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Reports reaching TechMoran indicate that Emma Kariuki, Stanley Mumo and Timothy Gachehe, Kenyan Bitcoin peer-to-peer traders using Localbitcoins.com have been arrested and freed on bail over allegedly participating in a banking fraud.

The three were arrested, detained and later presented at Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital and charged with conspiracy to commit felony. They were later released on Ksh 500,000 cash bail.

The three had traded with a user ‘BADASS20’ on localbitcoins.com who is allegedly behind a Ksh 10m banking fraud. The ‘BADASS20’ account was only 3 weeks old on localbitcoins.com. The police want to hold the three because the money trail leads to their bank accounts.

It’s alleged that the Ksh 10.2m was stolen from Kenya’s I&M Bank and Safaricom Pay Bill No 517822 and then channeled through Bitcoin transactions sold by the three traders on the peer-to-peer lending platform bitcoin.

‘BADASS20’ overpaid for the transactions by Ksh 96,000 and asked Emma to send the balance to an account at Equity Bank. Stanley Mumo traded 360,000 with BADASS20 and received sums in excess of 50,000. BADASS20 promised to open another trade to settle the extra 50,000 but never did so.

Emma and Stanley Mumo were first arrested on Friday. Emma was detained  overnight at Kileleshwa Police Station till Saturday morning. She reported back on Monday only to be held and detained overnight till Tuesday.

 Localbticoins.com doesn’t hold customer data and the identity of ‘BADASS20’ is not yet known.  The three Kenya traders deny any knowledge of the counterpart and source of funds. The three were released on bail on Wednesday evening.

The charge sheet alleges Emma conspired to steal 10,244,544 via Safaricom Paybill. However, Emma and Stanley Mumo only received 500,000 relating to a bitcoin trade. The party from whom the money was received was not charged nor present at court. We will follow up with a comprehensive report next week.

In December 2015, the Central Bank of Kenya issued a caution to the public on holding and trading in virtual currencies in Kenya. The Bank said no entity is currently licensed to offer money remittance services and products in Kenya using virtual currency such as Bitcoin.

“This is to inform the public that virtual currencies such as Bitcoin are not legal tender in Kenya and therefore no protection exists in the event that the platform that exchanges or holds the virtual currency fails or goes out of business,” said the Bank arguing that transactions in virtual currencies such as bitcoin are largely untraceable and anonymous making them susceptible to abuse by criminals in money laundering and financing of terrorism.

The Central Bank also warned that virtual currencies are traded in exchange platforms that tend to be unregulated and consumers may therefore lose their money without having any legal redress and there is no underlying or backing of assets and the value of virtual currencies is speculative in nature causing high volatility in value hence exposing users to potential losses. CBK therefore warned the public to desist from transacting in Bitcoin and similar products.

 

PayStand Secures $6M Series A Funding to Disrupt B2B Financial Services Industry

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PayStand, the B2B payment platform for the future of business has raised a $6M Series A round led by BlueRun Ventures with participation from Cervin Ventures, Serra Ventures, TiE and Capital for Founders.

“With technology advanced enough to give us self-driving cars and rockets to Mars, there’s no reason finance should be stuck with paper checks and spreadsheets anymore,” said Jeremy Almond, CEO and Founder, PayStand. “Yet most U.S. business payments still run on manual, pre-internet systems. PayStand takes the best of automation, customization and blockchain technology to finally bring B2B payments into the Digital Age. A financial revolution is coming, and we’re excited to have esteemed VCs in our camp that have led the Series A of iconic fintech companies like PayPal, Coupa and Kabbage.”

PayStand will use this new round of funding to scale its account receivable systems, and launch a new free accounts payable product line, opening up in beta today.

PayStand uses blockchain technology to remove friction from the accounts receivable and payable process, simplifying one of business’s most notorious headaches—sending and collecting money. An end-to-end digital process, PayStand’s network automates cash management, from accounting software to reconciliation.

Users embed payments into their apps, websites and invoices, funneling revenue into a seamless digital network that supports traditional card & ACH processing as well as next-gen eCheck bank transfer and 0 percent eCash stored-value technology. All payment data is securely tracked and recorded, receivables digitized and processing automated. As traditional obstacles disappear, time-to-cash and transaction costs fall while revenue grows. The innate security of blockchain technology ensures that all records can have an audit trail, a crucial functionality in wake of massive financial data breaches such as Equifax.

“Like the consumer and retail payment innovation that has preceded it, PayStand’s focus on building the future of back-office commercial payments, melds seamlessly into our investment themes of digital transformation,” said Jonathan Ebinger, General Partner at BlueRun Ventures. “The company is doing what we see common in every great fintech company: removing unnecessary friction and cost from the key financial processes that are vital to our economy. We see big things ahead for PayStand.”

Now available in beta, the new Paystand AP solution will enable businesses to completely automate their accounts payables to improve efficiency, security and control. Digital AP will speed up the accounting department’s time by eliminating the laborious need to cut paper checks. It will also give finance added control and visibility of the vendor payments through full data tracking within the entire cash cycle.

The automation will reduce the chance for human error and improve critical security with payments that are specific to the vendor and even the exact invoice amount, reducing possibilities of theft and fraud. This early-access AP release will be free to all beta signups.

This New Tool Allows Bitcoin Users to Send & Receive Cryptocurrency Without a Wallet

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Cape Town-based Around Corporation has launched a transfer tool that will allow new Bitcoin users to send and receive cryptocurrency without a wallet.

According to the firm, the transfer tool will eliminate the concerns about wallet hacking and users from losing their cryptocurrency within a wallet. Dubbed Around.WS Bitcoin Address to Address direct transfer tool, users are able to gain real control of their Bitcoin.

“Many people think the only way to send and receive Bitcoin is with a wallet, but that’s not true,” says Theo Fitchat, CTO of Around Corporation. “Getting users back to the basics is important to avoid hacking and a loss of funds. As long as the Bitcoin address is available, a simple transfer can be made through our transfer tool.”

The Around.WS Bitcoin Address to Address direct transfer tool is easy to use. Simply open up the tool at from a modern browser like Chrome, Firefox or Edge. Once a secure communication channel has been set up, all the user needs to do is provide the details of the Fund From and Fund To section, then follow instructions to make the direct transfers. Users can manage the amount sent, creating multi-address to multi-address transactions, as well as seeing the time estimate for a transaction to be accepted into the Bitcoin network.

 

AllenHark Group launches presales ICO to raise $250,000 for its new cryptocurrency trading terminal

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Fintech firm AllenHark Group has launched its presale initial coin offering (ICO) targeting to raise $250,000 from a sale of 1m HRK tokens for $0.25 and a 50% bonus to build AllenHark Terminal, its cryptocurrency trader platform.

AllenHark Group says the AllenHark Terminal will be a subscription-based platform that will provide traders with real-time data, reports and news to help them increase their returns on their investments in the cyptocurrency trade.

“We are building AllenHark Terminal, the world first platform to provide real-time data, reports and news to give cryptocurrency traders tools of trade, help them get the right returns over their investments, forge policy and make the right decisions,” said Anthony Gitonga, AllenHark Group CEO.

“Our algorithms and human researchers and editors will curate and create real-time data, reports and news to keep investors make money out of their money,” he added.

The $250,000 pre-ICO started today and runs for two weeks and is expected to help AllenHark bring on the market its new suit of products which include AllenHark Terminal, an institutional software and hardware trading platform, AllenHark Professional, a subscription web-based trading platform and AllenHark Go, a cryptocurrency exchange and trading app.

Gitonga adds that the financial services platform will be one of its kind in Asia and Africa where trade in cryptocurrency markets and securities and use of internet and smartphone is growing tremendously.

The real-time data tools, portfolio monitors, news, charts and analytics will help them stand out of the crowd.

“We are not just a data vending and a real-time crytptocurrency news provider,” Gitonga said, “but the professional standard for cryptocurrency and digital assets trading, risk management and compliance.”

The $250,000 targeted in the pre-ICO will help the firm finalize building its platform, do marketing for its platform in the crypto-world and help launch in more countries.

“Our cutting edge technology for professionals to trade in the crypto-currency world will help them buy, sell and track crypto-currencies, digital assets, crowd-sales’, forex and derivatives at the click of a button,” said Gitonga. “With a global network of reporters and a network of crypto professionals, our multicurrency platform gives you everything you need to be a pro.’’

The firm will also use the funds to hire financial reporters and data analysts and story tellers to follow news, mine data and customize the stories according to individual trader or investor’s needs.

AllenHark Terminal will have both free and premium data tools for daily, weekly, monthly or yearly subscribers. It will also have a messenger platform connecting traders to other traders and investors in the crypto space to help each other build solid portfolios.

AllenHark has worked with fintech firms and investment groups in Latin America, Asia and Africa providing them with mobile money integration and softwares to serve their unbanked clients.

In May 2015, The AllenHark Group signed a $33m partnership deal with Germany’s Mambu as their innovation & integration partner for East Africa to help financial institutions move to cloud-based banking applications using its Allensuite Banking 3.0 Platform.

The Allensuite Core Banking System together with Mambu is pre-packaged with Mobile Money integration, SMS Banking, Automated Payments Disbursement and a GPS visualization engine for Data-driven customer acquisition.

Nigeria’s design company Minku raising $200,000 in bitcoins

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Nigeria’s design company Minku which has since 2013 accepted bitcoin alongside Stripe-supported card payments, and PayPal is raising a seed round in bitcoin.
The proceeds from the round will be used to develop a follow-up to Minku’s first men’s clothing collection, which was released in September.
According to Kunmi Otitoju, the founder and creative director of the company which started off as a leather goods maker in 2011, “Our objective is to fund the next stage of growth, while providing a fun and unconventional way to involve like-minded investors. I’m constantly seeking ways to validate bitcoin beyond a speculative instrument, and to reward those who take a chance on the company’s vision at this early stage in its funding life cycle.”

Minku will take part in Bitcoin Black Friday later this month, as it has in 2014 and 2015. It is a limited liability company registered since 2011 with the Nigerian Corporate Affairs Commission. As at November 11 the bitcoin price in Nigeria was high. 1 bitcoin = $6500 = N2.3m.

 The $200,000 in a coin-for-equity sale will also include investor perks like priority new collection viewing and guest-authorship in the company’s culture magazine, Yonderland.
The firm is also researching men’s clothing trends through the middle ages, with an eye to designing, creating (through local production in Nigeria), and distributing a collection centered on music and synthetic sounds for the DJ’s work wardrobe.

Luno adds support of Ethereum to its platform

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 Luno has added support for Ethereum, the second-largest digital currency after Bitcoin just weeks after its recent $9m Series B announcement and expansion into Europe.

This move will allow customers from over 40 countries to easily buy and sell digital currencies like Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) using the Luno wallet.

“It is core to our beliefs that decentralised digital currency will form the basis of the future of finance,” said Marcus Swanepoel, co-founder and CEO at Luno. “Our mission at Luno is to bring digital currencies to everyone, everywhere. It is our view that we will end up with a multi-digital currency world and Ethereum is aligned with this view”.


Caption: The price of ETH over the past 12 months (source: CoinMarketCap)

The price of BTC has risen by over 940% and ETH has risen by over 2,600% in the past 12 months (source).

Those interested in learning more about digital currencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum can visit www.luno.com.

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