Cube Bucks, The Sun Exchange and Bankymoon went head to head in the hotly contested Blockchain & Bitcoin category of the 2016 African FinTech Awards at the Finance Indaba Africa at Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on 13 October 2016.
- Panel discussion #afta16: Towards a financially inclusive continent
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The venue was packed for this segment of the programme, with a tangible sense of anticipation. Blockchain is a secure transaction ledger database that is shared by all parties participating in an established, distributed network of computers. It records and stores every transaction that occurs in the network, essentially eliminating the need for third parties. The innovation has been described as the innovation as a "transfer of trust in a trustless world".
The judging panel consisted of Citibank's Njogu Ndamburi, Old Mutual Life Assurances' Stanley Gabriel, Valter Adão from Deloitte Digital Africa, Heinrich Degener from hdpmcS and Danielle Laity from Standard Bank.
"Blockchain is the word on everyone's lips at any FinTech and it is by far the most exciting development on the horizon," said Ndamburi.
Cube Bucks CEO Jan MacKay called for a revolution in online trade:
"Traditional financial institutions are hampered by legacy systems and have to comply with regulations, while FinTech startups are free to focus on innovation, exploit opportunities and democratise financial services. People need banking, but we don't need the banks."
Inspired by the image of a crop circle, his company focuses on digitising money, online storage, micro-purchases at low cost and a storefront for trading vouchers. According to MacKay, Cube Bucks is different from Bitcoin in that it has intrinsic value derived from a variety of asset bases and this value can be extracted painlessly.
Morwesi Ramonyai, Chief Commercial Officer of The Sun Exchange, introduced the solar power platform, which she claimed was the first to monetize the Blockchain in a move towards a silicon-based economy. "We found that the communities with lowest access to electricity in Africa, also had the greatest solar power potential, hindering economic development. We wanted to help communities or businesses develop solar power and made it possible for investors to be streamed into solar power projects through a Bitcoin-based remittance system. It is a marketplace for peer-to-peer to own a fleet of solar panels and earn real-time revenue," she said. Morwesi did concede that there were challenges to regulation with the platform. A pilot project in the Western Cape was successful.
Finally, Lorien Gamaroff, CEO of Bankymoon, a startup that focuses on creating and refining existing Bitcoin streams of revenue:
"Trust has always been an issue with e-cash. I believe Bitcoin does have intrinsic value, as it is useful and we are dedicated to growing it as an alternative asset class. We established the world's first Bitcoin-based system to help individuals and recover electricity costs. You can top up your electricity from anywhere in the world without incurring remittance costs."
The company's Centbee app, billed as the world's first consumer-friendly bitcoin wallet, offers integrated merchant and consumer services, allowing for easy payments.