By Adedapo Adesanya
Sub-Saharan Africa’s payment infrastructure company, AppZone, has been announced the winner of the Excellence in Blockchain Technology Award at the 2022 edition of the Africa Fintech Summit, recently held in Washington DC.
Now in its 7th year, the Africa Fintech Summit brings the entrepreneurs and opportunities revolutionizing finance in Africa to the world’s stage, through a series of pan-African summits, roundtables, virtual events, and investor missions.
The Africa Fintech Summit Awards platform is a longstanding tradition designed to recognize African fintech stakeholders for their actions in enabling the continent’s start-up ecosystem, accelerating innovation, and driving financial inclusion and literacy.
AppZone was chosen for this award in recognition of its efforts in leading the adoption of blockchain technology for payment processing on the continent and achieving interoperability with the infrastructure of existing traditional financial ecosystem stakeholders on its blockchain payment network, ZONE.
The initiative is Africa’s first private blockchain network that connects Banks and fintechs together without any intermediary to enable frictionless digital payments while empowering previously excluded financial institutions to participate.
It has been adopted by over 16 commercial banks in Nigeria and is expanding to other financial institutions, fintechs, and commercial banks across Africa.
Speaking on the company’s recognition, co-founder and CEO, Mr Obi Emetarom, expressed his delight about the organisation’s emergence amongst so many other well-deserving companies creating value in the ecosystem.
“The increasing maturity of the fintech ecosystem in Africa is impressive, and we are happy to be a part of the story of progress for the continent. Whether as an entrepreneur, investor, traditional financial institution, or customer, it is an exciting time to be involved in African Fintech. Even more rewarding is the joy of getting recognition for the solutions we create at AppZone.
“We remain committed to our mission of connecting every financial store of value in Africa to the rest of the world. Recognitions like this will only spur us on to give more to Africa’s fast-evolving Fintech landscape,” Mr Obi said.
Every year since its inception, the Africa Fintech Summit brings together the most active and influential minds driving the growth of Africa’s fintech sector while recognizing excellence in entrepreneurship and innovation across the Fintech ecosystem in Africa.
Awardees at the Africa Fintech Summit 2022 were selected with a hybrid approach of leveraging public nominations and feedback from the AFTS Advisory Board.
Through its Layer-1 Blockchain network, Appzone digitizes fiat payments and enables the transition to digital currencies while connecting previously excluded financial institutions into an all-inclusive payment ecosystem.
In December of 2021, Appzone launched Zone, Africa’s first decentralized payment network, which allows participating institutions to connect directly with each other and perform payment transactions without an intermediary while completely automating settlement, reconciliation, and dispute management.
Nigeria’s Broadband Penetration Jumps to 44.5% as NCC Reviews Short Code Services
By Adedapo Adesanya
Nigeria’s broadband usage has continued to rise, moving up by 3.6 points from 40.9 per cent in February 2022 to 44.5 per cent in July 2022.
This was disclosed in a statement released on Thursday by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), through its Director of Public Affairs, Mr Reuben Muoka, a figure considered hopeful for achieving the national broadband penetration target of 70 per cent in 2025.
The statement quoted the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the NCC, Mr Umar Danbatta, as making the revelation at the beginning of a three-day public inquiry on five telecommunication regulations and guidelines which began in Abuja yesterday.
“With the technological advancements anticipated in the coming years, it is expected that there will be a proliferation of devices in the industry. It is, therefore, essential for the Commission to ensure that the right regulatory frameworks can accommodate such eventualities,” he said.
The agency’s boss said the public inquiry, which covered five areas of existing regulations, is aimed at achieving operational efficiency and operational excellence.
He listed the regulatory instruments under review at the public inquiry to include Type Approval Regulations, Guidelines on Short Code Operation in Nigeria, Guidelines on Technical Specifications for the Deployment of Communications Infrastructure, Guidelines on Advertisements and Promotions, as well as Consumer Code of Practice Regulations.
He said the focus areas were already articulated in some important documents guiding the operations of the Commission, which include the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020 – 2025, the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) 2020 – 2030, NCC’s Strategic Management Plan (SMP) 2020-2024, and its Strategic Vision Implementation Plan (SVIP) 2021–2025, which are being implemented towards achieving its mandate.
While stating that these strides are the results of the commission’s regulatory efficiency and focused implementation of policies and strategies of the Federal Government of Nigeria, Mr Danbatta said the public inquiry is in tandem with the NCC’s strategy of consulting stakeholders in all its regulatory interventions.
The EVC further stated that the amendment of these regulatory instruments was to reflect current realities, one of which is the anticipated deployment of the Fifth Generation (5G) technology, and management of shortcodes in Nigeria, including the Toll-Free Emergency Code 112.
Earlier, Head, Telecoms Laws and Regulations at NCC, Mrs Helen Obi, had stated that public inquiry allows the agency to incorporate the comments and suggestions of industry stakeholders, in the development of its regulatory instruments.
She said the process ensures that the NCC’s regulatory instruments are in line with the current realities in the industry as it had done with some regulatory frameworks and guidelines in 2021.
Tech Companies Making a Difference in Africa
Africa has long been touted as the continent with the most growth potential when it comes to tech and innovation. Many African countries are building their own equivalents of Silicon Valley and tech companies from all across the world have been setting up offices and launching themselves into markets across the continent. And in addition to growing their customer bases, these companies are also committing to making affecting change in Africa. Here’s how.
They are Investing in communities and equipping people to become entrepreneurs
Last year Airbnb announced a three-year commitment to South Africa to address barriers to becoming a tourism entrepreneur and to help rebuild a more inclusive and resilient domestic tourism economy. The commitment focuses on infrastructure, training and investment and builds on Airbnb’s 2017 $1 million commitment in Africa to boost community-led tourism projects, and the Africa Academy, which has trained more than 300 Hosts.
As part of this commitment, Airbnb announced its partnership with the University of Johannesburg School of Tourism and Hospitality to expand the Airbnb Academy programme to at least 1000 students over the next three years.
They are assisting in developing quality journalists and newsrooms
Over the years, Google, perhaps the biggest tech giant in the world, has been doing its fair share for small businesses, content creators and business owners across Africa. And just recently the company announced that five South African recipients have been selected as part of Google’s News Initiative (GNI) Innovation Challenge.
The GNI Innovation Challenge is aimed at helping the journalism industry thrive in the digital era. Their projects are among 34 chosen from 17 countries, to receive a share of $3.2 million in funding.
The recipients, among them 21 journalists and publishers from 10 countries in Africa, were selected for their work in promoting diversity, equality, and inclusion in the journalism industry. The GNI Innovation Challenge is part of Google’s $300 million commitment to helping journalism thrive in the digital era and has seen news innovators step forward with many exciting initiatives demonstrating new thinking.
Companies are nurturing talent from a young age
“At Huawei South Africa, we have long been committed to cultivating ICT talent and discovering new ways to harness technological innovation to advance sustainability,” says Vanashree Govender, Media and Communications Manager for Huawei South Africa. “Last year, we launched our Tech4Good Global Competition as part of our Seeds for the Future talent development programme, which exposes learners to courses on the latest technologies like 5G, Cloud, AI and IoT.
The Tech4Good competition gets students to think about how to use technology to address social and environmental issues. Through this programme, participants boost their creativity, hone their entrepreneurship skills, and develop a sense of social responsibility. This is a fun team effort, with coaching by Huawei experts and world-renowned social impact leaders”.
Huawei also runs a Tech4All program globally in which Huawei works with partners to create real change through connecting the unconnected, empowering underserved communities and protecting the planet. In South Africa, Huawei’s DigiSchool project in partnership with operator rain and educational non-profit organisation Click Foundation has connected over 100 urban and rural primary schools to the internet using 5G technology.
They are building the right skills through access to digital media education
Today, there are local entrepreneurs in fields as diverse as fashion, healthcare, and decor who have proven that with more equal access to the digital marketing ecosystem, it’s possible to expand regionally and internationally.
In order for that to happen at scale, they also need the requisite skills to market themselves online in the markets they want to reach. At the very least, those entrepreneurs should have easy access to people with those skills. It’s important to note here, that these aren’t just fundamental digital marketing skills, but ones that relate to the specifics of marketing on the world’s leading digital advertising platforms such as Twitter, Snapchat, and Spotify where people across the globe spend most of their time online. With the right types of messages, these platforms are the most effective places to reach new customers across a broad range of markets.
“This is something that we’re passionate about, and recently, Ad Dynamo by Aleph launched a free Digital Ad Expert programme for young people in Nigeria and Ghana, which aims to educate, certify and connect thousands of Africans with the digital skills needed to succeed in a rapidly digitising economy. While it’s entirely possible that someone with the right degree of determination and curiosity could develop those skills on their own, it’s critical that more and more resources are accessible to build them up at scale,” says Elyse Estrada, Global Chief Marketing Office, Aleph Group.
This is crucial to ensuring that markets such as Ghana and Nigeria aren’t just growth targets for international companies, but incubators for a new generation of entrepreneurs capable of competing on a global level themselves.
They are creating access for everyone
MFS Africa, the continent’s largest omnichannel payment gateway, believes in a “borderless world” to which everyone has access. Their comprehensive digital networks link 320 million mobile wallets, enabling cross-border payments remittance firms, financial service providers, and worldwide merchants.
MFS Africa CEO and founder, Dare Okoudjo, believes that interoperability is crucial in allowing customers of different mobile financial services providers to interact with each other. This can be done by making direct payments from the mobile money account of one provider to the mobile money account of another provider.
To do this, MFS Africa acquired Global Technology Partners (GTP) recently, broadening its bank and fintech base and supplying tokenisation in the mobile money space by connecting with established card ecosystems like Visa and Mastercard. The ultimate objective is to give millions of mobile money users on the continent access to the global digital economy and new possibilities. For its partners, these new capabilities enable scalability, security, and new markets and consumers as technology innovation continue to penetrate and reshape societies.
Visa to Support African Women Fund Managers
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
African women fund managers have been promised financing support by Visa to help expand their businesses across the continent.
The fund, according to Visa, is earmarked for only 55 women who participated in a programme organised in 2020 by the African Women Impact Fund (AWIF).
The money is mainly for the working capital needs of women fund managers across South, East, and West Africa, a statement from the payments platform said.
AWIF is a collaboration between Standard Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the grant is an extension of the She’s Next program, a global advocacy program for women-owned businesses that have been expanded to Sub-Saharan Africa to further champion and strengthen African women business owners as they build, sustain, and advance their businesses.
Visa’s funding will be directed towards activities that will assist the business owners with improving their technical skillsets, becoming investible to larger institutional investors, and running profitable businesses that will in turn invest in others including small and medium businesses.
“The aim of She’s Next is to help women-owned businesses thrive and our ambition with this grant is to enable access in a space where women-owned firms are under-represented.
“Through this programme, we aim to ensure that women are not only recipients but become decision-makers where institutional funding for businesses is concerned,” said Aida Diarra, Senior Vice President & Head of Sub-Saharan Africa at Visa.
“The funding will ensure that these business owners are able to focus on growing their enterprises without the burden of managing short-term debt and other operational costs related to building a successful business” added Diarra.
Women fund managers in Africa continue to face numerous challenges in building sustainable businesses. Research shows slow-moving progress in the visibility and inclusion of women fund managers due to systematic barriers and investor bias.
With African women accounting for just 7.6 per cent of private equity and women-led businesses receiving only 7 per cent of Private Equity (PE) and Venture Capital (VC) in emerging markets, this highlights the opportunities that exist to reduce the current gender gaps, further reflecting in the less than 1.3 per cent of the $69.1 trillion global financial assets that are managed by women and people of colour.
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