For many emerging ‘mobile first’ consumers from East Africa the internet is indistinguishable from Facebook and the internet does not exist outside of this singular social network.
Facebook is plotting a new cryptocurrency dubbed ‘Libra’ for its vast social network scheduled for release in 2020. Libra coin, a virtual currency, will be governed by Libra association, a conglomerate of 28 American and European corporations who will decide everything from who can join the network, process transactions and how much currency will circulate.
As an African, it is my opinion that the peoples of Africa, its governments and central banks should be concerned, because we risk ceding more control, from the little we have now, to a digital colonial version of the internet.
That is because, for many emerging ‘mobile first’ consumers from East Africa the internet is indistinguishable from Facebook and the internet does not exist outside of this singular social network.
In a future post, I will write on how Africa can redress this imbalance.
But today, I have 5 Reasons Why Facebook’s New Cryptocurrency ‘Libra’ is Bad News for Africa.
Continue reading “5 Reasons Why Facebook’s New Cryptocurrency ‘Libra’ is Bad News for Africa”
Kenyan online workers, PayPal and the UK Government are entangled in a mess that is paving way for Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies
A spat between the UK government, PayPal and Kenya freelancers has got everyone mixing up issues.
“Thousands of jobless graduates from Kenya who help lazy university students in developed countries to cheat academically could soon be forced to find something else to do after the UK government started clamping down on essay mills.
On Thursday, international digital money transfer service, PayPal, announced it was withdrawing its services to essay-writing firms selling to university students. This was after weeks of pressure from the UK government, which insists stopping payments for essay mills would go a long way in beating academic cheating.’ Daily Nation
There are 3 parts to this story.
First, the British Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, says when UK students tap cheap labor in Kenya for their assignments, it is unethical and cheating. 46 university vice chancellors last year wrote to Hinds, calling for the banning of cheating websites.
Secondly, PayPal is caught up in the wrangles for facilitating online payments between UK students and Kenyan freelancers. PayPal has come under pressure to stop processing these payments and declared it will not support unethical academic behaviour by UK graduates. Some people have suggested, cryptocurrency may serve well as an alternative for Kenyan freelancers.
Finally, in Kenya, we are all caught up debating whether it is cheating or job creation, as thousands of graduates are dependent on the thriving business for wages and employment.
This case is a glimpse of tectonic shifts at play on the future of Africa, its youth population and the web economy. It is easy to miss the forest for the trees.
To get at the heart of the matter, we need to go back to 2009 when it all began.
Continue reading “How PayPal & the UK Government are nudging Kenyan Online Workers to Bitcoin”
Using blockchain and cryptocurrencies, popular internet platforms, are about to disrupt Mpesa in East Africa, the same way Mpesa disrupted banks.
According to sources, Facebook Is Developing a Cryptocurrency for WhatsApp Transfers known a Facebookcoin. If true, this spells doom for Mpesa and Safaricom as they will soon end up as a commodified dumb pipe, like a utility company resigned to a passive role in the medium to long term future.
Popular internet platforms in East Africa have grown beyond social, and now support value exchange within their closed environments – for example Facebook and whatsapp, both social platforms where people engage in online trade and biashara.
By adding a US dollar pegged coin known as a stablecoin within its virtual network, more value can be captured and retained within the network until it is absolutely necessary to cash out into local currency.
Facebookcoin, platform based currencies and network cryptocurrencies pose a threat to Mpesa just because of the sheer size of the networks they command and everything that goes on within them. This is great news for Fintech startups and banks in East Africa who can reinvent themselves in a post Mpesa world.
Here is how I see it.
Continue reading “Why Facebook’s New Cryptocurrency Is a threat to Mpesa and Safaricom”
A new digital generation of informal African entrepreneurs have adopted and adapted gig economy tools and digital platforms to meet their needs for a flexible and negotiable digital marketplace. Apps that can drive demand and scale reach affordably are transforming African markets, opening up new opportunities for young Africans.
With contribution from Niti Bhan
When people think about the informal economy, this is the picture that often comes to mind.
What is often forgotten, is that the next generation of informal economy actors – mama mbogas, boda boda okada riders, wakulima farmers, traders, taxi drivers, matatu touts, drivers et cetera in Kenya and East Africa will be vastly different from the women depicted here.
The coming generation of Africa’s informal economy are today’s millennial digital natives – hungry, educated, exposed to global trends, with all the tools available to them like everyone else anywhere in the world. Only with no prospects of formal employment on the horizon.
‘Informal’ is no longer synonymous to the streets, associated with the roadside, automatically defaulting to the marginalized or vulnerable – it is not a disease to recover from. The informal economy is an equal opportunity, organized and commercial operating environment offering Africans the chance to achieve their aspirations.
Africa’s prosperous future will only be realized by embracing the informal. This is not a choice.
While my thoughts are presented in the context of East Africa, I believe it resonates with the broader, global ‘gig’ economy. So perhaps my 60,000 ft view from Nairobi, East Africa rings true for the rest of the world.
Allow me to paint a picture for you using one of the sectors of the informal economy – trade.
Continue reading “How Digital Platforms are Shaping Africa’s Informal Economy”