Kenya Slowly Becoming a Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Hub

Week after another, especially on weekends, you will find cryptocurrency and blockchain meetups and events hosted at various places in Nairobi. A quick lookup at Meetup and Eventbrite generates several searches about meetups and events aligned to crypto and blockchain interests, as well a trading tutorials, past and those that are yet to be hosted, with a motive of discussing opportunities in cryptocurrencies and blockchain space. They are about a technology and digital money that is poised to take over the world after fiat (national currencies) -- and cryptocurrency is nicknamed the "next generation" money.

During these events, speaker and guest after another will praise this "newly found' solution for all things money, finance, and economy in general. Meet the new young and old crypto enthusiasts, traders, investors, leaders, experts, trainers, and CEOs of young companies in this space. And Kenya, like the rest of the world, is preparing to host not just the few local and international groups, experts, companies, and startups that are already positioning themselves ready to the take mantle in the cryptocurrency digital space especially in developing nations but also see "traditional" companies converted to cryptocurrency business with a rebrand. All have a promise for a digital revolution, making businesses easier and cost-effective by way of reducing middlemen, introducing instant payment for businesses, revolutionizing the way we manage information in almost every sector of our economies, and the possibility for providing new job and business/investment opportunities such as through trading exchanges and crypto careers.

But what exactly is the role and future of cryptocurrencies and blockchain solutions in developing nations like Kenya? Is it a promise we can bank on and in the long run? One of such events was hosted last weekend by Cryptocurrency Academy, an education solution for all things crypto and blockchain, for both the young and old.

Blockchain gaining more acceptance and crypto adoption is real in the country

Unlike five or three years ago, now blockchain technology needs no further introduction within government and private sector circles. In Kenya alone, like the rest of the developed and developing world, blockchain, coupled with Artificial Intelligence and other tech could become the new normal for how we do private and public government business a few years to come if the recommendations by the Kenya Blockchain & Artificial Intelligence (AI) Taskforce and Blockchain Association of Kenya are anything to go by.

These technologies, going by the "hype", could propel a whole generation, wipe out poverty and unemployment in no time, simply by re-looking at data and information management and information movement, information security and revolutionizing payments platforms. Without hype, implementation of blockchain could help reduce corruption, improve efficiency of private and public sector processes, reduce cost of doing business and unlock trillion dollars informational economies in entirely any sector of any economy. But much is to be done to achieve that goal.

According to the Kenya Blockchain & Artificial Intelligence (AI) Taskforce report released earlier this year, Kenya requires to adopt the technology to not only deal with rampant corruption, but in order to improve business and government processes. The report is full of recommendations that include the necessity of the country launching a central bank controlled digital currency and which can be traded globally. If there would be anything to pick about blockchain and digital assets from the report, the country is about to further cement the important role blockchain and digital currency can play in bettering financial inclusion, reducing transaction costs within business and non-commercial operations, helping with delivery of affordable housing, improving health and drug safety and medical supply traceability, improving land titling and many other things. Cryptocurrencies aside, if the report can inform government's approach towards blockchain, the findings of the report could help encourage further expansion of the blockchain space in the country for instance by encouraging private and public ventures in the space and creating necessary conditions for their thriving.

More Kenya-born and grown startups

On the ground, although local blockchain and cryptocurrency ventures are hardly mentioned outside of the crypto circles and beyond crypto media channels such as BitcoinKe or even cryptomorrow.com, you will be encouraged to meet startups born and and grown in Kenya. And the number is increasing. Ubrica (Ustawi Biomedical Research Innovation and Industrial Centers of Africa) for instance, a crypto project specializing in lifescience and health production, is using Ubricoin to incentivize biomedical research and facilitate quality healthcare in the country.

During the cryptocurrency education campaign event or class held last weekend at the Ambassador hotel and organized by yet another crypto education-oriented Kenyan-based Cryptocurrency Academy, Ubrica project and Ubricoin President Dr. Macharia Waruingi said that cryptocurrency has potential to bring the required changes in health and other sectors of the economy and that digital assets are the future for the country. That indeed, crypto and blockchain can help end poverty and diseases.

The company aims at solving low quality health in Kenya, lack of access to health service and the high cost of healthcare services.

"Cryptocurrency is the money of the future and that is precisely where we want to be," Said Waruinge. "If you don't have cryptocurrencies in 5 years, you are out of money. The good thing about cryptocurrency is easy to handle. Its like what we call "Whatsapp.' It's on the phone..everybody's phone."

The company uses Ethereum blockchain and crypto to facilitate a market (Sokojanja) for and global movement of local produce and heathcare goods and services.

"And because it is money, we create enough money to support healthcare development in our own nation," He said. The coin is listed on CoinMarket.

Still there will be many international cryptocurrency projects with local presence in Kenya and developing worlds of Africa, among them DIVI Project and DagCoin just to mention a few,

Locally-inspired crypto and blockchain development initiatives

There are a host of limitations and conditions to adhere to when it comes to utilization and integration of global cryptocurrency payment gateways and fiat payment gateways for platforms and organization in the local scene. Many are denied linkages at local scenes because local payment methods may be seen and regarded not as competitive enough at the global scene, security-wise.

Thus the presence of a strong local developer community comes in handy. And Kenya's crypto developer community is becoming larger by day. Represented at the event was KeshoLabs, a Kenyan-based blockchain innovation and development hub/center, represented by their Chief Marketing Office Roselyne Wanjiru. Like the EOS Nairobi community, KeshoLabs community of blockchain developers and innovators develop in-house solutions as well as nature local and Africa-born blockchain solutions that can be banked on.

Some of their notable innovations include mobile based Pesabase, a payment and remittance solution that allows people to send money and pay for goods and services across East Africa.

They are also into offering training and education, with Cryptocurrency Academy being at the forefront of equipping everyone including cryptocurrency traders, crypto investors, blockchain innovators, and even young generations with practical knowledge about cryptocurrencies and blockchain. They are considering incentivized cryptocurrency education with beginner and detailed training modules targeted at starters and advanced traders and investors in the space. CEO of CCA Joyce Shiphra said blockchain and crypto training offered by the startup would help people to learn the opportunities including job opportunities in the crypto and blockchain space. She said the introductory tutorial was meant to introduce the basics of blockchain and digital money but more was on the way. CCA also offers more: ICO reviews and cryptocurrency project analysis for its audience and is coming back in the space after a few years of dormancy.

Outta scams and into adequate knowledge and information

Brian Adams Kuria, the COO of Cryptocurrency Academy was among the earliest guys to get into crypto in the country when very few hands could get a hold. He said he was motivated by profits and "money" to get into this space, but he later came to realize the potential of the entire space if people would be empowered through knowledge to participate. Himself has earned lots of money trading on crypto exchanges such as OKEx and Binance and investing in ICOs especially in 2017 and 2018 but has fallen to different scams that were popular in 2017 and 2018 in the country when cryptocurrency buzz grew to surmountable levels in the country, especially during the meteoric rise of Bitcoin prices so much that everyone wanted in which made unsuspecting people fall easily to scams from local and global scams that have since vanished with their money.

During the Bitcoin's meteoric rise in 2017, I was already busy at Crypromorrow writing and advising people regarding trading and discussing all things crypto and blockchain and how to avoid scams and identify genuine crypto projects. Guests at the event agreed that scams are a major impediment to success of genuine crypto and blockchain projects in the country. Even to new entrants. Our journalist for the event, who is also a motivation speaker, Keith Muoki, himself said had been scammed by a cryptocurrency exchange known as changehigh and $3000 bit the dust the first month he got into crypto this year. The exchange claims to facilitate quick and easier PayPal crypto purchases. Even in local peer to peer exchanges like Paxful and localbitcoin, stories are live about charge-back based scams. Makes sense for everyone to be equipped with enough knowledge and information about digital currency.

"What we learned when I came into the cryptocurrency space in 2017, even before OKEx, is that there are many scams in cryptocurrency in Kenya." David Kariuki, Community Manager for OKEx, a global cryptocurrency exchange said. "That is why OKEx is partnering with Cryptocurrency Academy to provide people who want to trade and invest in cryptocurrency with the right knowledge and information on genuine platforms they can use and how to do it."

Echoing the statement that blockchain and crypto are the future of economic, financial and business systems of the world given their potential to cut down lengthy and costly processes and eliminate middlemen, he said the partners are trying to raise a serious debate around crypto and blockchain topics to help people discover the many opportunities abound in this industry and each to find their place in it.

"Each has a place in the crypto world including the middlemen," he said.

OKEx is partnering with local trainers in order to host local events and trainings month after another, about crypto trading and investing and all matters cryptocurrency, to equip people interested in trading and investing and the blockchain space in general. Kariuki said given scams in the space, people needed exchanges and platforms to assure them the security of their money when trading and investing whenever they deposit, to ensure the money doesn't just disappear.

Nevertheless, cryptocurrency, like in any field, success won't come by giving up or burying your head into sand and stopping once you are scammed. It is not a field for the faint-hearted and will require persistence and trying out new things.

"Whenever I got scammed, I came across something new that got my attention, so I wanted to dig more and find more information about what is this what is this blockchain, what is this Ethereum what is this whole thing Cryptocurrency Academy?" Said Adams. "And each and every day you find that the whole marketcap was rising in terms of value so that really kept me going, but what I really wanted most is to learn and you find that this industry keeps evolving at a very fast rate. Every time you find something new. We had ICOs Initial Coin Offerings now we have other things like staking, lending and mining and all that. And you find they are very nice ways of positioning yourself for the future."

Still, even as cryptocurrency offers such as margin trading on OKEx, Binance and other cryptocurrency exchanges get too tempting, buyers and sellers willing to earn profits from trading and investing need to be more careful. Comes back to the need to gain more information about crypto trading and investing.

"I would really advise for anyone before you get into margin trading, please understand how to trade because margin trading is basically borrowing money," Said Adams. "Let's say you have $1000 and you can borrow 2 times what you are holding, but it means whenever you are making losses the OKEx platform never incurs any losses so if you borrow $2000 it means you are making a 2% loss. You have incurred a 2% loss of $2000 on your $1000. So you really need to understand how to trade. You really need to understand how to mitigate risks. How to control emotions and that's the psychology part of it." It's what they will be teaching to those willing to look at this investing and trading opportunity. Himself started trading in 2017, said it took a couple of years to learn the art and has tried margin trading at OKEx and other platforms. He said people need to be careful with such things as fear of missing out because price decrease when one has taken leverage or margins can mean huge loss.

George Mwakisha Africa's Business and Investment Manager for KubitX said cryptocurrency trading and investing is very lucrative right now but advised traders and investors to first gain adequate information, start by learning to trade and invest in crypto before they can get in. They should do own research for any cryptocurrency they want to invest in, check legitimacy of the project, start small according to their estimation, consult where possible.
How to identify genuine and scammy project? check background thoroughly, take time to dig details of owners and rely on informed analysis.

Entry of global exchanges and companies will boost space

Remitano, Bitpesa, Belfrics, Localbitcoins and Paxful are all popular names among local Kenyan crypto traders, being cryptocurrency exchanges and crypto purchase platforms that are based and developed out of the country or have good coverage if not developed in the country (for the likes of localbitcoins and paxful). They facilitate the direct exchange of local currency (fiat such as Kenya Shillings) with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. The bad side is that they are not only too expensive but also they do not support as much crypto pairs beyond bitcoin or Ethereum. Not much.

Right now, there'sn't as much demand for local crypto-to-crypto exchanging services which is what most global exchanges with physical local presence are both offering currently with possibilities of extending local fiat linkages. But as the cryptocurrency space expands, and as more dApps keep developing on top of popular platforms such as Ethereum and Tron, more demand for crypto-crypto exchanging on OKEx and other exchanges is going to arise.

That would create more demand for tokens other than Bitcoin. Branding has never been so important like now at such a time when many people are looking for not just heavyweight but genuine non-scam exchanges to call home. Its time to get things right.

Pan-African exchange KubitX is working on supporting local currency (fiat) purchases of cryptocurrency and is developing the solution through Interswitch banking gateway in order to allow customers to buy crypto with money in their bank accounts; said George Mwakisha Africa's Business and Investment Manager for KubitX. For now, many will need to be comfortable with buying Bitcoin and crypto from the local peer to peer exchanges and depositing that into exchanges that do not offer fiat linkages or solutions (buying and selling cryptocurrencies with local currency) except likes of OKEx where customer to customer transaction is set to be enabled.

When it comes to direct payment gateways where an exchange integrates fiat or local currency payment method to allow customers buy directly from cryptocurrency exchange through methods such as MPESA, PayPal and banks, regulation and politics around crypto could take a tighter grip to protect fiat methods unless where innovations such as Customer to customer (c2c) payments can be used where a customer would send local currency directly to another customer say to their bank, paypal accounts, or mobile phone when using mobile payment methods. But those have their challenges as well when it comes to implementation.

Nevertheless, Mwakisha said local exchanges are short of options such as margin trading offered at OKEx, which is set to hold another event on November 30 to train people on cryptocurrency margin trading. He said OKEx is now focusing on Africa and is starting to offer such new services in Africa which local exchanges are missing on.

OKEx offers other services such as mining, staking and piggybank where customers can deposit cryptocurrency and earn from their spare tokens and Bitcoin. It offers more than 100 token pairs for trading and different customers who love buying into ICOs and IEOs to hold (hodl) coins hoping to sell them at high prices later have reported profits. Still, although buying at local exchanges is more costly, one can deposit Bitcoin to trade margins, hold, save, or to swing/day trade on this and other exchange.

David Kariuki

David Kariuki likes to regard himself as a freelance tech journalist who has written and writes widely about a variety of tech issues that affect our society daily, including cryptocurrencies (see cryptomorrow.com and coinpedia.org); climate change (cleanleap.com), OpenSim and virtual reality (see hypergridbusiness.com). He is currently pursuing a MSc in Environmental Management at Open University. He does write here not to offer any investment advise but with the intention of informing audience, and articles in here are of his own opinion. Anyone willing to use any opinion here as advise to invest in crypto should obviously take own responsibility and accountability of their losses (or benefits) thereof. You can reach me at eqariu@gmail.com or david@cryptomorrow.com

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