The big cryptocurrency global brands include Bitcoin, Litecoin, XRP, Dash, Lisk and Monero, but Bitcoin leads the pack in Africa. Created in 2009 by a person or people with the alias Satoshi Nakamoto, investors hope Bitcoin becomes the new mode of financial transaction in the digital age.
Cryptocurrency is not bound by geography because it is internet based; its transactions are stored in a database called blockchain, which is a group of connected computers that record transactions in a ledger in real time.
Mr. Sharma says that citizens of countries battling high inflation are likely to opt for cryptocurrency, because “with their paradigm of decentralization, cryptocurrencies offer an alternative to disastrous central bank policies.”
Interest in cryptocurrency, a form of digital currency, is growing steadily in Africa. Some economists say it is a disruptive innovation that will blossom on the continent.
” Africa is rarely mentioned among the largest markets for cryptocurrency, but it may be set to steal a march over other markets,” says Rakesh Sharma, a business and technology journalist.
The difference between cryptocurrency and, say, Visa or Mastercard, is that a cryptocurrency is not now regulated by government and doesn’t need middlemen, and transactions rely on the internet, which means they can happen anywhere in the world.
Stealing a march
There will be 725 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa by 2020, according to the GSM Association, which represents the interests of mobile operators globally. That means more Africans will have the tools to plug into the cryptocurrency ecosystem, says Mr. Sharma.
South Sudan’s inflation rate was 102% between September 2016 and September 2017, according to the World Bank. Other countries with double-digit inflation rates include Egypt, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is no surprise that some of these countries are among the main Bitcoin economies in Africa. The main Bitcoin countries are Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe, according to gobitcoin.io, a website dedicated to Bitcoin news in Africa. The BBC adds that cryptocurrency is gaining ground in Uganda.
” I check my Bitcoin every day on my mobile phone and any chance I can get. Any minute, any hour, anytime, as often as I can,” Peace Akware, a Ugandan millennial, told the BBC.
Zimbabweans and citizens of other African countries transact in Bitcoin “as opposed to their local currencies, which are plagued with hyperinflation,” comments Emmanuel Tokunbo Darko, vice president of marketing for ICOWatchlist.com, a platform that hosts cryptocurrency tokens.
When Zimbabwe’s inflation skyrocketed in 2015, forcing authorities to print $100 trillion notes (each worth just $40), some Zimbabweans turned to Bitcoin.
The Plaas Application is a mobile app that enables farmers to manage their stock on the blockchain.
As of December 2017, the global demand for cryptocurrency had increased to the extent that a Bitcoin sold for $20,000. Its value had been $1,000 one year prior.
Another recommendation is that transactions are anonymous, and users’ information is private and safe; there is little possibility of identity theft, which is common with other forms of digital payment.
Industry experts believe that cryptocurrency will be around for years. That Bitcoin users can send money to just about anywhere there is an internet connection for relatively small fees and with no third-party interference is an advantage that standard government-issued currencies can not offer.
Despite some analysts likening Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to a Ponzi scheme, many Africans are taking the risk to invest in them.
Fearing a collapse of the banking industry or arbitrary appropriation of money by the government, Africans without access to banks and who live in politically unstable countries could be attracted to cryptocurrency. “Bitcoin transactions help to eliminate the procedural bottlenecks that plague traditional banking and financial services,” Mr. Darko explains.
There is also the fact that cryptocurrency can be used by criminals to funnel funds. In 2011 Bitcoin was a currency of choice for drug peddlers, according to the US Justice Department, which seized almost $48 million worth of illegal contrabands that year, and discovered that the criminals involved had made transactions totaling 150,000 Bitcoins (approximately $130 million.
Some 15 cryptocurrency-related operations began in Africa in the past year alone, reports Mr. Sharma. But South Africa– based Luno Exchange, established in 2013 and now boasting 1.5 million customers in over 40 countries worldwide, is the first to be based in Africa.
There are reports that South Africa’s central bank is actively studying cryptocurrency and may institute guidelines to foster innovation. Those guidelines could be a slippery slope to regulation. The Sunday Times of South Africa reported in March that 27,500 individuals, including South Africans, lost more than $50 million when they were duped into transferring their Bitcoins into an online wallet. The publication called it “one of the biggest scams to hit South Africa.”.
Other experts, such as Mr. Darko, believe Africa should warmly embrace the innovation. “Truth be told, Africa needs blockchain technology and its resultant cryptocurrencies more than any part of the world,” he says.
That African governments are not now regulating cryptocurrency may be a factor spurring its growth on the continent; however, there is no guarantee that governments will not change their current mindset.
” I started mining Bitcoin in September 2017 and, so far, this is the best business I have ever tried,” Gladys Laboi told Africa Renewal, adding: “Under six months, I earned $800 after investing in $700.”.
Quartz Africa, an online business news publication, reported last December that a similar scheme, Mavrodi Mundial Moneybox (MMM), once had over two million users in Nigeria, while also operating in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Not to be left out, some governments are moving into the virtual currency terrain. Tunisia’s eDinar is a government-issued digital currency. Senegal is in the process of creating eCFA, which, if successful, could be emulated by other Francophone countries in Africa.
Launched in 2013, Kenya’s BitPesa facilitates virtual remittances transfers to both African and international locations, to and from individuals’ mobile wallets, where cryptocurrency is stored. LocalBitcoins.com in Kenya reported trading volumes in excess of $1.8 million as of December 2017, underlining the lucrativeness of the business.
Others, particularly cryptocurrency-based remittance services, are popping up in various countries. These services include Abra, which operates in Malawi and Morocco, GeoPay in South Africa, BitMari in Zimbabwe and London-based Kobocoin, which was launched by Nigerian entrepreneur Felix Onyemechi Ugoji.
Rather than simply not wanting to, governments may be powerless to regulate cryptocurrency, the Nigerian central bank indicated recently. Currently tackling the country’s 12% inflation rate, the Nigerian apex bank announced that it could not control or regulate Bitcoin, “just the same way no one is going to control or regulate the internet. We don’t own it.”
At 22% (the world average is 48%), Africa has the lowest rate of Internet usage of any region, according to a 2017 report by the International Communications Union, which may undercut optimistic projections of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology on the continent. Also, poor power supply in many countries continues to impede the internet access on which cryptocurrency largely depends.
There will be government-issued cryptocurrencies in Africa in the near future, predicts Shireen Ramjoo, ceo of Liquid Crypto-Money, a South Africa-based cryptocurrency consulting firm.
Countries such as Bangladesh, Ecuador and Kyrgyzstan believe the risks outweigh the gains and have banned Bitcoin as well as initial coin offerings or ICOs, which are used by start-ups to evade the demand for capital by banks and other financing institutions.
Without regulations, cryptocurrency is a double-edged sword; there may be gains from time to time, but any precipitous crash in price could leave investors with no escape route. Manasseh Egedegbe, an investment manager based in Nigeria, says that Bitcoin’s frenzied prize surge seems like the dot-com bubble at the turn of the millennium.
” Every single computer device on the surface of the planet with an internet connection can access information on the blockchain and make ‘transactional’ inputs onto it. The information can not be distorted, deleted, modified or destroyed, and computer device has the same information as everybody,” says Mr. Darko.
Nevertheless, some industry watchers refer to cryptocurrency as a risky and temperamental scheme, citing the crash to $8,700 in the value of Bitcoin last February, from a high of $20,000 in December 2017.
Never feel limited or kill your dreams or passion just because you think some one else is already doing it
Kevin York Systrom (born December 30, 1983) is an American programmer and entrepreneur. He created Instagram, the world’s largest photo sharing website. He co‑founded Instagram along with Mike Krieger. Instagram is ranked world’s 14th most visited site by Alexa rankings. He was keen programmer and loved photography. Under Systrom as CEO, Instagram has become a fast growing app, with 800 million monthly users as of September 2017. Systrom resigned as CEO of Instagram on September 24, 2018.
Early life and education
Systrom was born in 1983 in Holliston, Massachusetts. He is the son of Diane (Pels), a marketing executive at Zipcar, who also worked at Monster and Swapit during the first dotcom bubble, and Douglas Systrom, Vice President in Human Resources at TJX Companies. Systrom attended Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts, where he was introduced to computer programming. His interest grew from playing Doom 2 and creating his own levels as a child. He worked at Boston Beat, a vinyl-record store in Boston, while he was in high school. Systrom attended Stanford University and graduated in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in management science and engineering. At Stanford, he was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity. He spent the winter term of his third year in Florence, where he studied photography. He got his first taste of the startup world when he was chosen as one of twelve students to participate in the Mayfield Fellows Program at Stanford University. The fellowship led to his internship at Odeo, the company that eventually gave rise to Twitter.
After graduating Stanford, he joined Google working on Gmail, Google Calendar, Docs, Spreadsheets and other products. He spent two years at Google as a product marketer; Systrom left Google out of frustration of not being moved into the Associate Product Manager program.
After leaving Google to join Nextstop, a location recommendation startup founded by ex-Googlers that was acquired by Facebook in 2010, Systrom thought of combining location check-ins and popular social games. He made the prototype of what later became Burbn and pitched it to Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz at a party. He came up with the idea while on a vacation in Mexico when his girlfriend was unwilling to post her photos because they did not look good enough when taken by the iPhone 4 camera. The solution to the problem was to use filters, effectively hiding the qualitative inferiority of the photographs. Subsequently, Systrom developed the X-Pro II filter that is still in use on Instagram today. Today, here in Africa we rather turn to shy away from the problems we are faced with daily. Here is an American who has the same blood that flows through our veins in his, transforming and seeing great opportunities in the problems he is faced with. Today, the world has no choices but talk about Kevin York Systrom.
After the first meeting, he decided to quit his job in order to explore whether or not Burbn could become a company. Within 2 weeks of quitting his job, he received US$500,000 seed funding round from both Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz. While in San Francisco, Systrom and Mike Krieger built Burbn, a HTML 5 check-in service, into a product that allowed users to do many things: check into locations, make plans (future check-ins), earn points for hanging out with friends, post pictures, and much more. However, recalling their studies in Mayfield Fellows Program, Krieger and Systrom identified that Burbn contained too many features and the users did not want a complicated product. They decided to focus on one specific feature, photo-sharing. The development of Burbn led to creation of Instagram. A month after launching, Instagram had grown to 1 million users. A year later, Instagram hit more than 10 million users.
In 2010, Systrom co‑founded the photo-sharing and, later, video-sharing social networking service Instagram with Mike Krieger in San Francisco, California.In April 2012, Instagram, along with 13 employees, was sold to Facebook for US$1 billion in cash and stock. According to multiple reports, the deal netted Systrom US$400 million based on his ownership stake in the business. One of the key contributions to the acquisition is that Mark Zuckerberg stated Facebook is “committed to building and growing Instagram independently”, allowing Systrom to continue to lead Instagram. Systrom stated in an interview with Bloomberg that the pros of becoming a part of Facebook were that “we got to pair up with a juggernaut of a company that understands how to grow, understands how to build a business, has one of the best, if not the best, management team in tech and we got to use them as our resource”.
In an interview with Forbes, he stated that “Instagram is a new form of communication that’s an ideal fit with the always-with-you iPhone in today’s social media world. Instagram’s a social network built around photos, where people can quickly comment on or ‘like’ photos and share them on Twitter or Facebook.” Systrom identifies Instagram as a media company, which explains the roll-out of video advertisement by big companies such as Disney, Activision, Lancome, Banana Republic and CW in late 2014.
Under Systrom’s leadership, Instagram developed key features like the Explore tab, filters, and video. Over time, Instagram has rolled out features allowing users to upload and filter photographs and short videos, follow other users’ feeds, geotag images, name location, and comment on other users’ photographs and short videos. Instagram allowed the development of web profiles in 2012, connecting accounts to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr in 2013, an Explore tab in mid-2012, and Video in June 2013. Instagram offers 19 photographic filters; Normal, 1977, Amaro, Branna, Earlybird, Hefe, Hudson, Inkwell, Kelvin, Lo-fi, Mayfair, Nashville, Rise, Sierra, Sutro, Toaster, Valencia, Willow, X-Pro II. Systrom hired former Yahoo Vice-President James Everingham, as well as Kevin Weil, who formerly headed product development at Twitter, as high-ranking executives at Instagram.
As of October 2015, 40 billion pictures had been shared on Instagram.
As of June 2016, Instagram had over 500 million active users.
Also in 2016, CNN quoted a study according to which Snapchat was regarded as the most important social network among teenagers aged 14 to 19, the first time in two years that Instagram did not feature at the top.
Instagram currently employs around 450 people. The app is used by 600 million people per month and 300 million per day. Its competitors Snapchat and Twitter employ more people for a smaller user base, with Twitter having 3,500 employees for 317 million monthly users, and Snapchat employing 1,500 people for half of Instagram’s daily user base.
In the future, Systrom seeks to develop Instagram further to better integrate the use of videos into the app. He also stated that in a few years, the company might be getting involved in Virtual Reality products.
According to Quartz and the New York Times, Systrom and Krieger implemented a system to overcome bottlenecks and slow decision-making in the company by scheduling meetings in which only decisions are taken. This approach was informed by Systrom’s interest in academic business theories, in particular Clayton M. Christensen‘s concept of The Innovator’s Dilemma.
On September 24, 2018, it was announced that Systrom has resigned from Instagram and will be leaving in few weeks.
Views on copying ideas in the industry
Instagram has been accused on multiple occasions for copying various new functions from its closest competitor Snapchat. Regarding the issue, Systrom argued that all new services launched by tech companies nowadays are “remixes” of existing products, and that “all of these ideas are original when you remix them and bring your own flavour”. Systrom also argued that ‘you can trace the roots of every feature anyone has in their app, somewhere in the history of technology’ and that this was simply ‘just the way Silicon Valley works. Never feel limited or kill you dreams or passion just because you think some one else is already doing what you are thinking of. The curent system just demands that you add your own flavour and move on.
In 2014, Systrom was listed in the Forbes 30 under 30 list under the Social/Mobile category.
In 2016, the magazine ranked Systrom as a billionaire with an estimated net worth of US$1.1 billion. The fortune came about as a result of Facebook stocks rising more than 500%.
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