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Extended Reality is gradually taking a spot in Nigeria

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A girl wearing a virtual reality glasses.

For many years, Extended Reality (XR) was only a concept that few Nigerians read about and remained alien to most people. Nigeria was still crawling in this aspect of technology. Even when Nigeria finally experienced a taste of the technology through various Extended Reality products, it was a consumption-based experience and not a creation-oriented one. However, this infusion of various forms of Extended Reality, particularly virtual reality, into Nigeria, launched a meaningful XR conversation that prompted the engagement of Nigerians in the XR space, particularly the Virtual Reality (VR)  and Augmented Reality (AR) industry.

Virtual Reality (VR) leads the pack of XR technology applications in Nigeria, having the most use cases. Founded in 2016 by Judith Okonkwo, Imisi 3D, arguably pioneered VR adoption in Nigeria. The Extended Reality (AR/VR) company was created to accelerate the growth of AR/VR developers in Nigeria, provide AR/VR solutions, alongside educational and engagement experiences with AR/VR. The company has paved a way for the emergence of a number of AR/VR developers and solutions in Nigeria.

In 2016, the company organized the first ever Virtual Reality (VR) hackathon. The hackathon brought together talented Nigerian youths, to create AR/VR solutions that addressed pressing challenges. The hackathon produced five impressive innovative AR/VR solutions, including a learning experience app that teaches you how to code, through a combination of the Gear VR with the Leap Motion to create motion aided learning in the virtual environment, which was developed by the winning team. Their solution earned the UNICEF Innovation Fund in 2018. The other projects presented at the hackathon include: an app that allows you to experience locations in Nigeria before visiting; a gamified learning experience that explains human conception; a VR application that teaches extension workers how to deal with farm pests in local languages; and a retail VR app for virtual shopping. A lot of other innovative developments have been created by Imisi 3D, to sustain the growth and engagement of Nigerians in Extended Reality, including a VR-for-schools project to enhance the quality of education in Nigeria and numerous AR/VR trainings across the country.

Stan Lab is another innovative Nigerian VR startup with a disruptive VR solution. Their focus is on improving the quality of STEM education in schools that lack traditional physical laboratories. The company’s product is packaged into a 3D virtual laboratory application that allows students to learn and practise science experiments through a learning experience that is just like that of a physical laboratory. This innovation is a low-cost alternative to physical laboratories for schools. It is particularly useful in a country like Nigeria, where a lot of schools lack fully equipped science laboratories. 

The Nigerian XR sphere is quite rich in diversity, though it is still in an evolutionary phase. Taeillo is another Nigerian startup that shifts the narrative of Extended Reality in Nigeria beyond the usual. The startup is a furniture and lifestyle brand. However, they have found an exciting way to improve furniture experiences through Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Through AR and VR, the company offers a better and more interactive shopping experience which allows customers to see how furniture pieces look and how they fit into whatever space the customer has in mind, from the comfort of the user’s home. Without physically interacting with the products, Taeillo’s potential customers are able to experience furniture shopping in the way that they want, just like a physical interaction. This is made possible through a 3D and AR view. The company also provides VR showrooms where customers can explore furniture pieces and interact with them without physical contact.

Expanding the diversity of Extended Reality in Nigeria, Quadron Studios advances the strides of the technology with a focus on content creation. Specifically, in film-making. The company specializes in the creation of VR animations for storytelling and digital content creation. Engulf VR is another Nigerian VR company that specializes in the creation of branded VR content for VR marketing, VR training and VR activations.

To many Nigerians, Extended Reality is still a far-fetched technology, in terms of local involvement and widespread usage. However, with the rising integration of XR in Nigeria, the technology is fast-approaching a state of widespread adoption. The coalition of the contributions of the numerous Nigerian Extended Reality organizations, like Imisi 3D, Stan Lab, Taeillo, Quadron Studios and Engulf VR, is gradually carving a stable spot for Extended Reality in Nigeria.

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Africa Blockchain Institute

Africa Blockchain Institute Organized The First African Blockchain Summer Bootcamp For Teenagers In Ghana

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In the spirit of catching them young, the Africa Blockchain Institute organized the first-ever Blockchain Summer Bootcamp for teenagers (age range 13 to 19 years old). A successful Bootcamp, according to the participants’ testimonials and stakeholders, held at the OpenLabs, Ring Road, Accra Ghana, between Monday 2nd August, and Friday 6th August 2021. 

The teenagers applied from across Africa, and selected participants all converged at the OpenLabs, Ghana, for an intensive five days of learning, interacting, and implementing personal  Blockchain projects. The participants were divided into three significant tracks, thus; Blockchain Development, Blockchain for Creatives and Blockchain Entrepreneurship. 

Blockchain Summer Bootcamp for Teens by ABI
Blockchain Summer Bootcamp for Teens by Africa Blockchain Institute

Across these three tracks, the teenagers learnt introductory units to Blockchain Development for societal challenges, Blockchain evangelism, Non-Fungible Tokens, and how Cryptocurrency works. Another highlight of the program was the excursion to the Accra Digital Centre, where the Boot Campers were introduced to the tech ecosystem and feel of the Ghana Tech Lab and Accra Innovation Hub spaces. A visit was also made to the Museum of Science and Technology, and the teenagers got to understand the history of technology in Ghana. 

Worthy of mention was the panel session aimed at motivating the students to pursue a career in technology. While making his comments during the panel session, the founder of BankLess Africa, Mr. Muntala Mohammed Shaibu, urged the teenagers to stop seeing themselves as too young to experiment with new technologies. In her remarks, Ms. Elohor Thomas, CEO & Co-Founder of CodeLn, urged the teenagers to continue to explore their interest in technology and blockchain early.

Blockchain Summer Bootcamp for Teens by ABI
Panel Session, Blockchain Summer Bootcamp for Teens by ABI

The Bootcamp ended with personal project presentations from the Blockchain Development and the Blockchain for Creatives & Entrepreneurship tracks. Projects such as NFT blogposts, Blockchain product reviews and Blockchain for transport and logistics were presented. The best presentation won the OpenLabs scholarship for Robotics Course. Thanks to Dr Sujith Jayaprakash, the Director of OpenLabs, Ghana, for the offer of scholarship. In his closing remark, the Executive Director of the Africa Blockchain Institute, Mr. Kayode Babarinde, urged the teenagers to continue using the  skills and knowledge gained during Bootcamp to explore Blockchain-related solutions further. We also appreciate Mr. Ganzaro Omar, Chairman, AfroBlocks, for his supports, and fostering collaborations with the Ghanian Blockchain community.

The Africa Blockchain Institute will continue to hold future Blockchain Summer Bootcamp series in various African cities to drive Blockchain knowledge into innovators early enough. 

Oluwaseun David ADEPOJU

Head of Research,

Africa Blockchain Institute. 

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Artificial Intelligence

How AI Is Helping Fintechs Provide Intelligent And Better Financial Services

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AI fintech services

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

Risk Assessment

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

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

Churn Prediction

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

Intelligent Customer Service

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

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

The Future of Fintech With AI

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

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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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