Leapfrog Africa: The future of…

I had the immense privilege to be invited to a Singularity University (SA Chapter) event in Johannesburg on the 16th of May.  The event took place the stunning ‘Park House of Events on 7’ and the speakers were amazing.  The focus was the Future of Finance and how crypto currency and blockchain technology will have a “LEAPFROG AFRICA” effect and ultimately future proof Africa!

Partners and collaboration

The evening was exciting, eye opening and very informative.  Let me be completely honest – I have been quite skeptical of Crypto Currency up until now, but this event have given me a lot to think about.  It certainly challenged my view point.

The event was in collaboration with Standard Bank, global partner – Deloitte and strategic partners:

  • MTN
  • SAP
  • Hewlet-Packard
  • Liberty

Exciting topics

Other topics that were touched on:

  • The future of Work
  • Fintech
  • Crypto currencies (did you know there are over 1600 of them!?)
  • Automation
  • The 4th industrial revolution
  • Robotics
  • Blockchain
  • Investments (“The most foolish thing you could do is to put all your money into crypto currency.  The second most foolish hing you could do is not to buy any crypto currency” – Arif Ismail)
  • The future of regulation

The speakers

Mic Mann (host and MC)

Mic Mann talking about cashless societies

Director of Mann Made Media and co-organizer of the SingularityU South Africa Summit kicked off the evening – clearly excited about SingularityU.  Mic talked about (among other things) a village in deep, dark Africa where there are like 8 shops in the village.  The incredible thing about this village is that the shops trade completely cashless!

During the rest of the evening, this was elaborated on that a completely global cashless world is far off, if it ever gets to that point.  The point of the village case, is that it is possible to live cashless if you choose to do so.

Antoinette Hoffman

SUSA - Antoinette Hoffman

Antoinette is the Head of digital payment wallets at Standard Bank.  Her talk was about the Change in Africa and she kicked of by stating that “Digital penetration is on the rise”.

Here are some statistics she shared:

Africa’s Total Population: 1231 million (41% urbanisation)

Internet Users: 362 million (29% penetration)

Active Social Media users: 170 million (14% penetration)

Mobile subscriptions: 995 million ( 81% of population)

Active mobile social users: 150 million (12% penetration)

Antoinette went on to say that a completely cashless society is far off, and it may never actually happen.  Here are the challenges the inhibit this from becoming a reality (good or bad?  You tell me).

Inhibitors of a cashless society

There are however great advantages of adopting digital payments like Snapscan or Zapper – it makes life so much easier since we already carry our cellphones with us wherever we go.  The aim is to serve the unserved and underserved (or unbanked and underbanked) people of the continent.

Side Note: Surveys have shown (FinTrust) have shown that 75% of South Africa’s population is now banked and there are plans to increase this to 85%.

Nasreen Saunders

Nasree Suanders at future of finance talkNasreen holds positions as Content Wrangler and Program Manager at Thomson Reuters Labs as well as being a consultant at the Blockchain Academy.

As Nasreen started her 15 minute or so talk, she mentioned that there are (as of that morning) 1617 different crypto currencies.

She also drew attention to this quote:  “Your mindset is your biggest weapon.  Technology can take things that are scarce and make them abundant” – Dr Peter Diamandis (see some of my own thoughts on “Mind over Matter“).

Her vision is to harness the power of Blockchain and Crypto Currencies to prosper Africans.  It is because of this vision is is learning to code.



Nasreen went on to present real life case studies of how Crypto Currencies are impacting the lives of Africans.  One such case reveals that, through the Usizo project, a school in South Africa has been receiving electricity bought by Bitcoin via a smart meter.

You can now have a smart meter, a bitcoin blockchain-enabled meter, and foreign donors can send money directly to the meter without having to send it to an organization that will take or re-distribute the funds.  See the full story here: How Bitcoin Brought Electricity to a South African School.

Nasreen also mentioned Bankymoon, BitPesa, Luno as locally developed solutions using Blockchain and crypto currency.  There is so much excitement around this and Nasreen’s enthusiasm was contagious.

I went home that evening determined to get my hands on some Bitcoin, or some other crypto currency.

Arif Ismail

Arif Ismail on 4th industrial revolutionArif currently holds the position of Divisional Head Oversight for the National Payment System at the National Reserve Bank.

His talk revolved around the 4th Industrial Revolution and asked the question: “Does it hold promise or peril?”  Arif presented a list of 7 Phenomena that impact the market structure: “The A to G of 4IR” (listed below).

He said that “We must develop a comprehensive and globally shared view of how technology is effecting our lives and reshaping our economic, social, cultural and human environments.  There has never been a time of greater promise, or greater peril”.

  • Artificial Inteligence
  • Bionanotechnology
  • Cloud (and Quatum computing)
  • Distributed data & Ledgers & Big Data
  • Energy – revisited and renewed
  • Fintech
  • GAFA (Google and Facebook type companies)

In Arif’s Q&A with Mic, he mentioned that he and other colleagues in the regulatory circles are starting to talk about the future of regulation.  He said that in the future, maybe regulation will be driven by principle rather than laws, rules and bylaws.  Simply because technology is advancing so quickly, that regulations cannot keep up.

Although this seems to have always been the case – people start adopting technology, and then only the regulations are put in place.  Regulators will certainly need to collaborate and come up with better solutions in the future, because regulations cannot operate in silo’s any longer and wish to perform their functions effectively.

Arif ended off by saying: “The most foolish thing you can do is to put all your money in Crypto currency.  The second most foolish thing you can do is not to buy ANY crypto whatsoever.”

A lot to think about

My thoughts were racing on my way home that evening.  As I mentioned before, I have been very skeptical of Bitcoin and crypto currencies up to this point in my life, but being at this event and seeing what possibilities it may bring, made me think that I may have been foolish.

What I did take away from the evening are the concepts of “Leapfrog Africa” and “Future Proof Africa”.  We have the opportunity to catapult our country, our people and our economy onto the world stage!

PS: I still haven’t invested in any crypto at this point, but at least I have started trading.  Hopefully I am playing my part to help Leapfrog Africa.


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