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African Blockchain startups to compete for fintech awards

African Blockchain startups to compete for fintech awards.

Discussions within the continent's fintech sector could take a take a slight turn at the first edition of African FinTech Awards and Conference.

This is because of the representation by startups working with Bitcoin and Blockchain that are registered among more than 160 fintech startups being considered by votes for the best African FinTech companies at the event scheduled for South Africa later this month.

The number of use cases of Blockchain technology-related innovations is still relatively low in Africa due to several factors including its newness. Though discussions surrounding it have started to spread on the continent, it is still on a low scale compared to suggestions that the technology is getting bigger in adoption especially for banks worldwide.

However, IBM (a major sponsor of the African event), recently published a report that says 15% of banks worldwide expect to widely implement blockchain by next year and 66% to have blockchain in commercial production and at scale in four years, based on a survey of 200 global banks. This follows another report by the World Economic Forum report that says 80% of banks are predicted to initiate blockchain projects by 2017.

Among the African startups that are being considered in votes are thirteen companies sorted under the Blockchain-Bitcoin category. They include Bitpesa, a Bitcoin payment platform in Kenya that is connecting African payment infrastructure with the rest of the world and has expanded to Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria; Cubebucks, an application with the ability to make micro payments directly from a smartphone; Kobocoin, a digital currency and payment system similar to Bitcoin with an African heritage; ICE3X, NairaEx, Bitsoko, and BitFinance bitcoin wallets; and Tikebit, a means of access to cryptocurrencies without banks or credit cards.

Others are Bitx, an emerging market Bitcoin exchange startup in South Africa with branches in Nigeria, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia; Bankymoon, which provides Blockchain-based solutions and provide consulting services for organisations; The Sun Exchange, a crowd-funding marketplace for the purchase of solar panel assets used for validated commercial projects in sunny locations; Cripto-Pay for payment with Bitcoin and altcoins; and Bitsure which provides an innovative payment solution using the blockchain technology to link fiat-backed cryptocurrency transactions to effect payment via phones.

Voting is ongoing to choose the best among these firms for their support for the development of new and innovative financial services and boost financial inclusion across Africa.

Though the latest voting scores show that payment service and bank-linked operators still lead the pack, the participation of this level of blockchain-related firms may signify the beginning of the technology going mainstream in Africa too in accordance with the touted claim especially in other parts of the world that blockchain adoption will increase drastically between now and 2017.

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