How China 🇨🇳 Is Taking Over East Africa’s Digital Economic Stack (China Africa Podcast)

In places like East Africa, Chinese technology is indispensable up and down the stack

The technology stack, either in a company or a country, is comprised of the different technology layers that together form a digital communications ecosystem. And in places like East Africa, Chinese technology is indispensable up and down the stack — everything from the internet cables that deliver connectivity to the networks that route all of the data and, most visibly, all those Chinese-made mobile phones that are ubiquitous.

So, when the U.S. government focuses a disproportionate amount of attention on Huawei, and ZTE to some extent, they’re missing the much bigger picture where Chinese technology is pervasive throughout East Africa’s digital ecosystem.

And Chinese tech companies aren’t just playing in the hardware space, they’re also becoming increasingly active in the African app market, e-commerce and laying the ground work for emerging technologies including blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Kioneki (Michael Kimani) is closely following all of this from Nairobi where he’s an independent blockchain advisor to companies and governments in the region. He joined Eric Oliander and Cobus van Staden on this edition of the China Africa Podcast to unpack how China has taken over the technology stack powering East Africa’s digital economy.

From minute 06:18 – 38.08

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Why Africa’s Policy Makers Should be Worried About Virtual Platforms and Virtual Currencies

In a lot of ways, Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company. What does this mean for Africa’s Governments, fintech industry and policy makers?

“In a lot of ways, Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company” – Mark Zuckerburg

The rise of virtual internet platforms such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Telegram, Kakao is challenging established regimes of state and sovereignty, monetary policy and issuance of currency, control, ownership and governance of virtual resources in developing countries in Africa.

Billions of users, including Africans are spending more time on virtual networked platforms that command the attention of far greater audiences than the populations of individual nation states. WhatsApp has 1 billion, Telegram 200 million users and Facebook has 2.3 billion users worldwide.

Now, these virtual platforms are all getting into the business of  issuing currencies using ‘blockchains’ or shared ledgers to monetize all the possibilities of economic activity within the confines of their platforms. 

Out of all of them, Facebook’s Libra coin drew the most attention. No surprise at all considering the sheer size of its 2.3 billion people user base.

What does this mean for Africa’s fintech industry and policies, that tech giants from overseas can monetize the digital economy of Africa through non-sovereign means including issuance of digital currencies?

What follows is a transcript of conversations between Michael Kimani  and Andile Masuku, about the current shift to internet virtual platforms, and currencies, and what lies ahead for Africa’s Fintech policy.

Michael Kimani is Head of Business Development East Africa at Zippie, a mobile blockchain platform, a Fintech Innovation Advisor for Visa and Secretary General of the Blockchain Association of Kenya. He is one of East Africa’s renowned digital money analysts.

Andile Masaku is a Co-founder and Executive Producer at Africa Tech RoundUp.

Some parts of this Q&A were pulled from a podcast with Andile, while some of it are from phone discussions with Malak Gharib of NPR and Ronit Ghose of Citi Bank.

The structure is presented in the format of a Question and Answer. Enjoy!

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