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How Blockchain Is Untapping Africa’s Agricultural Potential

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Farmer operates his tractor outside Abuja – IFPRI-IMAGES (FLICKR)

Africa is regarded as, arguably, the most significant agricultural region in the world, because of its massive yet significantly untapped agricultural potential. “More than 60 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa are smallholder farmers, and about 23 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP comes from agriculture,” McKinsey reports

In Africa, technology has begun to penetrate the roots of agriculture to improve agricultural productivity. A relatively new application is the use of blockchain in Africa’s agricultural sector. The intersection of blockchain and agriculture in Africa, presents a sublime fusion. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that food loss in Africa is as high as over 50% of all produced food in the continent. This is accounted for by the spiking post-harvest losses in the region. To ensure food security for the over 1 billion people in Africa, something must be done to address this alarming issue. 

Nigerian blockchain startup, Hello Tractor, in collaboration with IBM, has taken up the challenge and is using AI and blockchain to address this. The startup is employing blockchain to create a platform that aims to optimize agricultural processes in Africa. In a release by IBM, “The magic behind the idea is what we call an agriculture digital wallet, a blockchain-enabled and AI-based decision support platform, that enables the capturing, tracking, and instant sharing of data, while creating end-to-end trust and transparency for all the parties involved across the agribusiness value chain”. With this kind of system, the farm-to-fork process will be more efficient, and less food losses will be recorded. It will equally improve agricultural productivity, and trigger a boost in the revenue generated from agriculture within the content. 

Apart from the economic impact of a blockchain-based solution like this, the troubling issue of malnutrition in the continent can also be reduced with more abundant food supply, less food wastage and an optimized distribution of food from farm to fork.

Kenyan blockchain-based agritech company, Farmshine, is also integrating blockchain to optimize agricultural operations, particularly in East Africa. The company offers a platform that connects farmers with buyers, suppliers, information and service providers, via a recorded and open distributed value chain which eliminates the need for intermediaries. This enables farmers to easily reach the market at a reduced cost. 

This solution provides farmers on its platform, a leverage to improve their processes and generate more revenue. It equally provides all that farmers will need to ensure smooth and optimized agricultural processes. Everyone along the food value chain, including the consumers, can profit significantly, with this kind of platform.

READ ALSO: Using Blockchain to Simplify the Supply Chain & Logistics Industry in Africa

The journey to untapping Africa’s great agricultural potential is rising overwhelmingly as more blockchain solutions are introduced to address the region’s agricultural challenges. Plaas, a blockchain-powered agritech startup based in Botswana, has already begun to disrupt the way agriculture is practiced in Africa.

According to the startup’s website, “Plaas is a platform that enables the virtual market for agriculture that empowers the farmers of Africa to seamlessly trade their animals and crops at market prices that will boost their income, and information provided by farmers to enrich the crops will help others to match the standards. The app will help empower the farmers of Africa to seamlessly trade their animals and crops at market prices, which in turn, will boost their income. Moreover, the information provided by farmers will help others to enrich their harvest”. With the startup’s mobile application, information about farming operations for each farmer is recorded, to boost productivity. Additionally, the blockchain-powered platform facilitates the better management of daily farming activities by sharing information on farming practices, trading various forms of agricultural products on its online marketplace, and tracking the food supply chain from the farm to the final consumer.

Uganda’s Carico Café Connoisseur is innovatively making use of blockchain to track the movement of coffee shipments. The coffee company uses blockchain technology to share record data of each coffee sack, from the point of planting, harvesting and transportation, to when it eventually gets to the final consumer. The use of blockchain makes it very difficult for the data to be tampered with. With this development, every Carico Café Connoisseur coffee consumer can be more informed on the coffee they consume, by knowing where it was produced and how it has moved after harvesting. No hidden details; absolutely transparent. The company also realized they could generate more revenue from this since many consumers will be willing to pay more to know what exactly has happened to the coffee they are consuming from the time it was planted. This kind of blockchain innovation in agriculture, makes traceability easier. Hence, any problem with the final product can be accurately tracked and traced back to the faulty link in the food value chain.

There is still a lot that blockchain has to offer Africa in the aspect of agriculture. The journey is just beginning, and the results have been tremendous. As more progress is being made with the integration of blockchain technology in Africa’s Agricultural sector, the possibility that Africa will be able to maximize its agricultural potential, in the next few years, becomes much more feasible.

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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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