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New kid on the African block(chain)

New kid on the African block(chain)

Diversified investment group, Sekunjalo Investment Holdings (Sekunjalo), has partnered with leading Chinese public blockchain firm Ultrain Technology Limited (Ultrain), to develop a pan-African open Blockchain business ecosystem - The African Chain 3.0.

Dr Iqbal Survé, Chairman, Sekunjalo Investment Holdings told ITWeb Africa the partnership was established following his company's participation in the Belt and Road Initiative and the First Council of the Belt and Road News Network (BRNN).

BRNN is part of China's President Xi Jinping's One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative, a project that focuses on improving connectivity and cooperation among multiple countries spread across Asia, Africa and Europe along two routes – one overland and one maritime.

Dr Survé said, "One of the key objectives is the development of partnerships between businesses – this is one such example. Ultrain has seen how rapidly its blockchain solution has grown in China and wanted to work with a partner in Africa to replicate the success. Sekunjalo has long seen the requirement for a technology platform such as Ultrain's and with their undoubted success and expertise, approached Ultrain to execute a similar strategy."

"Aside from the above, Ultrain's founders have an incredible track record. The co-founders have vast amounts of experience gained from the likes of their time at Alibaba, IBM etc. They have demonstrated that their system works - it is off the drawing board and is in action," he added.

African Chain 3.0 will see Sekunjalo and Ultrain team up to develop what they describe as "a robust new generation of financial infrastructure in Africa that is commercially sustainable, and responsible."

In a statement the partners add: "The African Chain will be run in unification with Sekunjalo's pan-African e-commerce platform. The foundation will be built on the public access for commercial use Blockchain model developed by Ultrain, to handle payments, clearing and potentially, lending, among other key financial services, all of which is aimed at providing African people and businesses with convenience and accountability."

African Chain 3.0 is targeted at businesses in travel, luxury goods, supply chain, sharing economy, health care, retail, media entertainment and new energy sectors, among others.

Dr Survé said the game-plan is to replicate Ultrain's successes in China. "Blockchain should not be over-complicated. It is in essence a technology backbone, a decentralised platform and one that will afford Africa the opportunity to take maximum advantage of the fourth industrial revolution. Leveraging this platform across the continent will see Africa accelerate the technology progression - in a decentralised way - and it also reduces the cost of unit utilisation for Africans."

He continued: "Sekunjalo is delighted that the advances China has made in technology, are now going to be made available for an African payment infrastructure. The opportunities for collaboration with Ultrain are immense and we are therefore looking forward to growing our joint footprint on the African continent, and positively contributing to Africa's digital evolution."

Emma Liao, co-Founder at Ultrain remarked: "It's crucial to build a convenient, secure and reliable financial infrastructure for African people. We are honoured to work with Sekunjalo and to build such a tool together, and to promote it with the help of Sekunjalo's matrix of businesses. We will also provide training and solutions to other African enterprises or ventures who wish to use blockchain features to get on board. We believe this has huge potential to benefit the end users and businesses, with a better purchasing experience and more efficient transactions."

Secure exchange

Regulation and security remain issues surrounding heightened blockchain adoption and use cases in Africa, particularly involving cryptocurrencies.

Experts in the market believe there is an increase in knowledge of the technology and a sense of maturity.

As reported by ITWeb Africa recently, Irlon Terblanche, the founder and chief executive at Blockchain Capital (South Africa) said: "The blockchain is just a distributed database system. It is only one component of a cryptocurrency. And there is no regulation stopping anyone from using a distributed database or distributed ledger as it is more commonly called.

"For me, the most important assessment that trumps everything else is that the bulk of people, even so-called 'experts' do not truly understand Bitcoin, cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. And as a result, you have all kinds of disparate initiatives from different companies, using different platforms, trying to win market share in the lucrative remittance space."

Dr Survé added that Sekunjalo and Ultrain acknowledge that security is paramount for any transaction that involves different parties where there is an exchange - whether of information, data, currency or value in any form.

"One of the reasons why we selected Ultrain is that they are acknowledged as being the top in the world in terms of security for blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies etc. Ultrain has the foremost blockchain security features already built into their platform system for example. Sekunjalo will also make an announcement in the first quarter of 2020, with regard to further partners, particularly around bolstering cybersecurity."

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