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People say Facebook’s Libra undermines the dominance of America. Zuckerberg says they got it all wrong

Izunna Okpala

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Facebook has a new strategy to persuade U.S. lawmakers to embrace their plan to launch a digital currency: appealing to their nationalism.

Regulators should see Libra as an instrument of American geopolitical power, argued CEO Mark Zuckerberg several times at the House Financial Services Committee’s six-hour hearing on Wednesday.

The prospective currency has been referred to as a threat to the dominance of the US over the global financial system. Because the dollar is the most common reserve currency in the world, other nations need access to it to trade with each other, and a great deal of global trade flows through US banks. That means the country’s government has a unique power over other states and international organizations.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California, chair of the Committee on Financial Services, said she was concerned that the dollar would “rival” Libra if it were allowed to launch. California’s Congressman Brad Sherman, also a committee member, was perhaps the most outspoken critic. He argued that Libra has the ability to “transfer power from the U.S. government to sanctions and tax evaders, terrorists, and drug dealers while weakening the value of the U.S. dollar as the reserve and commercial currency.”

Zuckerberg said the opposite was true in his opening testimony on Wednesday. Libra will be backed by a reserve consisting of several sovereign currencies, as currently envisaged. But as the fund would “mostly” be dollars, Zuckerberg said, it should be seen by regulators as an opportunity to “expand the financial leadership of America as well as our democratic values and regulation around the world.”

He also referenced one of the real rivals of America. China “moves quickly” to release a digital version of its currency “in the months ahead,” Zuckerberg said, adding that it plans to “sell” its currency worldwide.

But while Chinese officials have previously suggested that the digital renminbi is “near,” they have said “no timetable” for its launch more recently.

That doesn’t say that he’s right with the aspirations of China. Some foreign policy analysts believe that China can encourage countries to adopt its currency as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, a global trade infrastructure development strategy.”If America does not innovate, there is no guarantee of our financial leadership,” said Zuckerberg at the hearing.

Why should a private entity be trusted in creating a global currency, even if he is right? The potential risks raised by the widespread adoption of something like what Facebook said it envisaged in Libra are not fully understood as a new report from the Group of Seven highlights.

Ultimately, many people argue that the state should be responsible for issuing and managing currency. Can we see virtual dollars being released by the Federal Reserve to compete with China? The bank’s representatives have said, at least for now, that’s not in the cards. But this scene is rapidly changing. Patrick Harker, president of the Philadelphia Fed, said earlier this month it is “inevitable” that central banks including the Fed will eventually issue digital currencies. Still, he said, “I don’t think we should be the first mover as a nation to do this.”

Source: MIT TechReview

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A conference on blockchain and health is scheduled to be held at the Africa Blockchain Developers Call.

Izunna Okpala

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The Africa Blockchain Developers Call (ABDC) Pan-African Bootcamp on blockchain technology has declared its intention to hold a weekend conference on incorporating blockchain technology into Africa’s health sector.

In an attempt to execute comprehensive blockchain training sessions and promote the implementation of specially designed applications for different sectors in Africa, the Bootcamp, officially launched on 5 September, has taken on a host of African developers.

The Bootcamp also features virtual weekend conferences on many use-cases for blockchain. These conferences are aimed at encouraging creative and comprehensive discussions on the implementation of blockchain technology in Africa, including platform presentations by businesses and panel sessions on many Blockchain issues. The first meeting, focusing on Blockchain in Finance, took place on September 5. It featured a keynote speech given by Professor Anicia Peters, University of Namibia Pro-Vice Chancellor for Science, Innovation and Development.

The next conference, scheduled to take place on October 3rd, will focus on the theme: Blockchain in Health. The keynote speech will be given by Arnab Paul, President of the Kolkata Chapter in India. Several organizations and startups will also give platform presentations via their representatives based on medical use cases for blockchain technology.

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Pan-African incubator, MEST Africa to invest $700k in its Class of 2020

Izunna Okpala

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After graduating its 2020 class a month ago, MEST Africa, the Pan-African incubator, revealed that it will invest $100k each in seven start-ups.

In the final pitching event, fifteen teams participated, but only seven were picked, adding $700k to the overall funding round for this class.

In addition to the funding, start-ups can also participate in the ongoing incubation programme at MEST.

Ashwin Ravichandran, managing director of MEST Africa, had this to say, speaking about the range.

This was the first time that our entrepreneurs were educated online and away from our campus for the most part, and I’m proud to say they came out stronger than ever. We are incredibly excited about the 7 companies in which we have chosen to invest and look forward to continuing our support and mentorship as they start their companies across the continent.

The seven startups include:

Shopa, a last-mile ordering and delivery startup for informal retailers in Africa.

Heny, a forum to explore new flavors and perspectives for young professionals by changing the way diners eat.

Boxconn, a network that offers companies and individuals access to a list of confirmed distribution partners nearest to them, instantly delivers packages from one location to another.

KPILens, a start-up that automates the documentation, tracking and assessment process for development organizations and makes it simpler.

Tendo, an online network that ties independent resellers to companies, aims to tackle two of the biggest issues facing Africa: unemployment and gender inequality.

Joovlin, helps fintech platforms and merchants increase their sales by interconnecting mobile wallet users and allowing them to transact with each other.

Eleka, streamlines onboarding procedures for customers that are fraught with lengthy and expensive labor measures.

Move In Rentals, Credia, Uyolo, VendoorPro, Trastea, Cornerstock, Colibri, and JidiTrust are the other startups that didn’t receive funding from MEST.

Last year, MEST invested $100k in eleven startups while celebrating its 11th year in business. The sum, $1.1 million, represented the organization’s largest single cohort investment.

And although the amount this year is $400k smaller, the selected startups will have the opportunity to enter the incubator ‘s portfolio of over 40 startups across Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa.

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Facebook empowers 7,000 women with digital competencies in SSA

Izunna Okpala

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In 2019, Facebook trained more than 7,000 women-owned businesses in digital skills across sub-Saharan Africa.

Nunu Ntshingila, Regional Director, Facebook Africa, said Facebook is committed to investing in its youth, entrepreneurs, creative industries, tech ecosystems and many other communities.

“I am excited about the future of Facebook and our family of apps here in Africa, as well as the potential of this young, mobile and dynamic continent. I also look forward to creating partnerships in 2020 and beyond.”

The tech company has hit its 45th developer group, now in 17 African countries with circles representing over 70,000 participants.

When celebrating the region’s key achievements, Facebook said some of its investments have translated into significant support aimed at increasing the developers, entrepreneurs, creatives, and other communities ecosystems. In a document called’ 2019 Year in Review,’ Facebook revealed its approach towards making the world a global village and celebrated 79 meetings with community leaders with over 2,650 people in attendance.

To combat fake news in Nigeria, Facebook in collaboration with MainOne launched Dubawa as a participant in its Third-Party Fact-Checking program. In Edo and Ogun States, this was to build and operate more than 750 km of terrestrial fiber network for metro fibre connectivity.

“Facebook hosted the first-ever iD8 Nairobi Conference with over 400 African developers and startups in attendance, expanded Third-Party Fact-Checking across 10 African countries, announced the creation of the world’s most detailed population density maps of Africa, created by Facebook AI researchers to help humanitarian aid and relief agencies; and much more,” the statement added.

In addition, in collaboration with satellite hubs across Nigeria, Facebook initiated an eight-week incubation program at NG Hub, focusing on mentoring and practical training for prospective entrepreneurs. The position of Safer Internet Day 2019, which has partnered with over 20 African Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) across 16 countries, should not be forgotten.

“We unveiled our first pop-up in Africa with ‘it’s Your Facebook: Lagos’, a creative space for visitors to explore our products and attend various training. We announced the creation of the world’s most detailed population density maps of Africa, created by Facebook AI researchers to help humanitarian aid and relief agencies. In the same year, we celebrated one year of NG Hub and our digital skills training in Nigeria – with over 526 events held, 11,490 attendees, and partner events with Co-creation Hub, US Consulate, SheLeadsAfrica, Paystack, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Women in Tech Africa.”

In the University tour aimed at boosting recruiting across the country, South Africa was not left behind and collaborated with the Dream Factory Foundation and the Youth Fellow Nadine Maselle Facebook Community Leadership Program to open a computer lab at Salt River High School in Cape Town. Facebook opened in collaboration with Samasource its Content Review Center in Nairobi and employed up to 100 local language content reviewers.

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