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South African Nedbank Stakes Claim in Metaverse & More

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In this week’s news roundup, you’ll read about Metaverse Magna securing $3.2 million to develop the largest gaming DAO in Africa, GPH and African Union call for more women and youth to be involved in digital assets investment, and the launch event for TRUST, a graphic novel and motion comic in Nairobi, and more.

TRUST, a Graphic Novel and Motion Comic that Imagines an Alternative African Future Set to Launch in Nairobi

TRUST, a graphic novel, motion comic, and NFT collection, will be launched on September 21, 2022, in a launch event that will be held at UNSEEN Nairobi between 6:30PM – 10:00PM EAT.

TRUST is co-authored by Chief Nyamweya, a Kenyan writer, illustrator and Co-Founder of Freehand Studios and Anne Connelly, the founder of Exponential Technologies Inc, a company dedicated to blockchain education, and produced by Sarah Mallia, Co-Founder of Freehand Studios.

The motion comic was produced by Freehand Studios, an African digital arts and social impact studio. The story is set in a fictitious African Republic and is a gripping story of a young whistleblower, Moraa, who uncovers a plot by one of the most powerful men in the country to illegally acquire the oil-rich Olorur Valley in Wahengaland.

With the help of her community and blockchain technology, she goes on a perilous journey to protect her homeland – the last autonomous region in the country – from cultural and ecological destruction at the hands of the ruthless oligarch Max. Along their journey, they learn about the power of blockchain to organise, fundraise, and transform their future.Graphic Novel Blockchain

Speaking of TRUST, Chief Nyamweya, the Co-Founder of Freehand Studios, said, “Young Africans are hungry for a vision of an African future rooted in trust, sustainability, and freedom from unaccountable state power. It is the desire to satisfy this hunger with a story of a practicable grassroots alternative that led us to create this transmedia project called ‘TRUST.’ We wanted to use the power of storytelling to speak to readers and viewers about blockchain technology, inspiring them to see a decentralized future rooted in justice and ecological sustainability.”

Since its inception in 2019, TRUST has received overwhelming support from the blockchain community from across Africa and around the world. The novel and motion comic are being distributed freely worldwide via online platforms, including webtoons, YouTube, and the Trust Website.

Additionally, a unique non-fungible token (NFT) collection from the TRUST story Universe is already available.

Crypto Gaming Platform Metaverse Magna Raises $3.2 Million to Create Africa’s Largest Gaming DAO

Metaverse Magna (MVM), the largest gaming community in Africa, has secured $3.2 million in a seed token round of funding.

MVM was incubated in partnership with a multi-strategy blockchain investment fund known as Old Fashion Research (OFR). MVM’s investment round saw participation from investors such as Wemade – a South Korean video game developer, Gumi Cryptos Capital (gCC) – a Japan-based blockchain-focused venture capital firm, Tess Ventures, Hashkey, LD Capital, Taureon, AFF, Polygon Studios, Casper Johansen (Spartan), and IndiGG.

The platform enables gamers to not only compete and earn crypto but also to build a network of people who share the same interests. Currently, the startup has more than 100,000 members cut across its products and community with opportunities for earning added for competitive and casual gamers, allowing them to earn from free-to-play web2 games they already love. In addition, the startup is also looking to launch a social gaming app called Hyper that will help it achieve its goal.

Yemi Johnson, MVM’s General Manager said, “Our goal is to build Africa’s largest gaming community while providing the tools across the ecosystem for gamers, investors, game developers, and guild operators. We believe this investment is a huge leap in creating value for all our stakeholders and facilitating the expansion of MVM’s operations to provide opportunities for casual gamers through Hyper, our social gaming app with an embedded virtual wallet.”

MVM plans to use the funds raised to expand its efforts to create Africa’s largest gaming DAO and provide gamers with access to world-class opportunities.

Global Policy House Calls For Investment Of Digital Assets Among Youth and Women

The Global Policy House (GPH), in partnership with the African Union (AU), has held a summit to encourage the use of digital investments among the youth and women in Africa.

GPH is an investment, digital economy, and blockchain solutions business that exists to close the digital, finance, and identity divide, ensuring that no one is left behind.

Speaking in a panel discussion at a Nairobi hotel, held on Spetmeber7, the GPH Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Michelle Chivunga stated that digital assets like central bank digital currency (CBDC), stablecoins, and cryptocurrencies should be adopted as they have created an economic opportunity in Africa.

In a year, we have around 105 billion of Crypto currency circulating in Africa and over 90 percent of Central Banks around the world are looking at Central Bank Digital currency. We are going to focus on educating women, Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) and youths because they are the drivers of growth in the economy,” said Chivunga.

She went ahead to state that women need to be familiar with digital assets and have the knowledge, skills, and understanding of how to operate the assets to create an opportunity for competitiveness with global operators in order to grow their business internationally.

Although Chivuga acknowledged that various investors are keen on digital assets, she emphasized the need to have the institution develop a regulatory policy to guarantee the safety of the business environment.

Nigeria Set to Establish a Special Economic Zone for Crypto in West Africa

Nigeria is seeking to create the first economic free zone for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in West Africa through the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA).

The West African country is in talks with global cryptocurrency exchange, Binance, as well as Talent City, which specialises in building special economic zones.

Speaking of the partnership, Adesoji Adesugba, NEPZA’S Managing Director, said, “Our goal is to engender a flourishing virtual free zones to take advantage of a near trillion dollar virtual economy in blockchains and digital economy.”

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US Treasury Sanctions Hit Russian Arms Dealer’s Crypto Wallets

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The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has imposed full blocking sanctions on 22 individuals and entities across several countries, including Russia and Cyprus, as part of its sanctions evasion network that supports Russia’s military-industrial complex.

The sanctions were imposed under Executive Order 14024 and are part of the U.S.’s strategy to target sanctions evasion globally, close key channels, and limit Russia’s access to revenue for its war in Ukraine.

US Treasury Goes After Russian Arms Dealer’s Cryptos

The U.S. Treasury’s sanctions were imposed by the Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO) Task Force, a multilateral effort to identify, freeze, and seize assets of sanctioned Russians worldwide. This task force leverages information from international REPO partners and key data from Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to share information, track Russian assets, and sever Russian proxies from the international financial system.

The REPO Task Force aims to maximize the impact of multilateral sanctions while preventing opportunities for Russia to evade or circumvent U.S. and partner sanctions.

The primary target of the sanctions is a Russian sanctions evasion network led by Russia and Cyprus-based arms dealer Igor Zimenkov and his son Jonatan Zimenkov. The Zimenkov network has been involved in projects related to Russia’s defense capabilities, including supplying a Russian company with high-tech devices after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. They have also supported sanctioned state-owned Russian defense entities, Rosoboroneksport OAO and State Corporation Rostec, which are critical components of Russia’s military-industrial complex.

Igor and Jonatan Zimenkov have worked closely together to enable Russian defense sales to third-party governments and have engaged directly with Rosoboroneksport’s potential clients to facilitate sales of Russian defense material. Igor Zimenkov has also supported the Belarusian military-industrial complex by enabling the sales efforts of State Owned Foreign Trade Unitary Enterprise Belspetsvneshtechnika in Latin America.

Today, Igor Zimenkov was designated for operating in the defense and related materiel sector of the Russian Federation economy, while Jonatan Zimenkov was designated for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for Igor Zimenkov, Rosoboroneksport, and other sanctioned entities.

The Zimenkov network used front companies to funnel money and maintain a lawful appearance. Singapore-based Zimenkov network shell company Asia Trading & Construction PTE Limited and its director, Serena Bee Lin Ng, have sold helicopters to clients in Africa on behalf of the Zimenkov network. Additionally, Cyprus-based Zimenkov network shell company Lobster Management Limited and its director, Mikhail Petrov, have facilitated sanctions evasion by providing support to sanctioned entities.

The Treasury’s OFAC continues to work with its international partners to coordinate information sharing and enforcement and to travel the world in pursuit of sanctions evasion. The sanctions imposed today are a clear signal to Russia and its military-industrial complex that the U.S. and its partners are committed to tightening sanctions enforcement and preventing the evasion of international sanctions.

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BeInCrypto has reached out to company or individual involved in the story to get an official statement about the recent developments, but it has yet to hear back.



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Digital Wallet Growth Will Enable More Closed-Loop Transactions

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Crypto and fintech investment firm Ark Invest has made bold predictions about digital wallets, estimating that more than half the world will soon be using at least one.

In its Jan. 31 ‘Big Ideas 2023’ research report, Ark Invest revealed that digital wallet global population penetration is currently 40%. This equates to around 3.2 billion users, the firm added.

However, the research suggests that the number of online wallet users will increase at an annual rate of 8%. The firm predicted that this will result in a global population penetration of 65% by 2030:

“Having onboarded billions of consumers and millions of merchants, digital wallets could transform the economics associated with traditional payment transactions, saving them nearly $50 billion in costs.”

It also noted that digital wallets were gaining market share in online and offline transactions. Cash is definitely in decline, accelerated by government initiatives to go digital, as recently seen in Nigeria.


Payment method trends - Ark Invest
Payment method trends – Ark Invest

Digital Wallet Growth to Continue

Ark reported that digital wallets were scaling faster than accounts at traditional financial institutions. Furthermore, U.S. digital wallet adoption rebounded in 2022, surpassing previous highs following a COVID-induced dip.

The firm estimates that U.S. digital wallet users will increase by 7% annually during the next eight years. This will be a growth of around 160 million in 2022 to more than 260 million by the end of the decade.

Digital wallet user growth - Ark Invest
Digital wallet user growth – Ark Invest

Furthermore, online wallets are enabling “closed-loop” ecosystems. This is where consumers and merchants can transact directly, cutting out the middleman. 

“Digital wallets are onboarding millions of merchants to platforms that enable direct consumer-merchant transactions that disintermediate traditional financial institutions,” it noted.

In this closed-loop environment, wallet providers capture more value per transaction, enabling savings to be shared with merchants and consumers.

Open and Closed Lopp transactions - Ark Invest
Open and Closed Lopp transactions – Ark Invest

Additionally, Ark noted that closed-loop transactions could boost the margin structure of wallet providers.

It used Block Inc. (formerly Square) as an example, stating that it paid around 60% of customer transaction fees to third parties in 2022. The fees were paid for interchange, assessment, processing, and bank settlement fees. Block’s net take rate could more than double if customers transacted directly with merchants.

Block Inc. fee structure - Ark Invest
Block Inc. fee structure – Ark Invest

Closed Loop Transactions Could Top 50%

Finally, Ark predicted that these closed-loop transactions could account for over 50% of digital payments by 2030.

It used China as an example where wallets and merchants are largely internal or domestic only.

Closed loop cost savings - Ark Invest
Closed loop cost savings – Ark Invest

In conclusion, digital wallet growth is set to continue. Cutting out the intermediary which they facilitate is beneficial to both the consumer and merchant.

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BeInCrypto has reached out to company or individual involved in the story to get an official statement about the recent developments, but it has yet to hear back.



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Strike Launches Lightning Remittances in the Philippines

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Bitcoin fintech giant Strike rolled out its Lightning Network money transfer service Send Globally in the Philippines, a $35 billion remittance market.

Send Globally launched in the Southeast Asian country on Jan. 31, 2023, enabling businesses and tourists to receive international money transfers in the Philippine peso. The country receives $35 billion in remittances globally.

How Strike’s Send Globally Service Works

“Remittances are a broken system and Strike delivers an incredibly empowering experience for people to send money around the world in nearly an instant,” Strike CEO Jack Mallers said.

According to a press release, Strike’s remittance service converts a sender’s fiat into Bitcoin and sends the Bitcoin to a Strike partner in the destination country using the Lightning Network, which in the case of the Philippines, is Pouch.ph. Pouch.ph then converts the Bitcoin to the recipient’s fiat currency and credits their bank or mobile money account, with Strike shielding both parties from the tax implications of handling Bitcoin directly.

Bitcoin’s Lightning Network is a layer-two solution on the Bitcoin blockchain that allows micropayments between nodes over a payment channel. Unlike traditional payment networks, Lightning’s low fees enable almost zero-cost remittances.

Recently, Mallers announced a trial to bring Bitcoin Lightning Network payments to retailers through a partnership with Fiserv’s point-of-sale solution Clover Commerce. The trial allows any application with Lightning capability to pay Bitcoin for goods and services at Clover merchants.

Philippine Smartphone and Internet Adoption Auger Well for Strike

Send Globally rolled out to Strike users in Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya on Dec. 6, 2022, where it has reportedly gained rapid traction.

However, mainstream adoption in the Philippines will depend heavily on network effects, driven by smartphone and internet penetration.

According to Statista, the number of smartphone users will increase from 85 million in 2022 to 87 million by 2023. Additionally, forecasts suggest smartphone users will increase to 91.5 million in 2025, representing roughly 83% of the island nation’s population.

Smartphone Adoption in the Philippines
Smartphone Adoption in the Philippines | Source: Statista

Additionally, Statista predicts that about three-quarters of the population will have internet access by the end of 2023. Growing internet access increases the chance of Strike’s success, since it helped drive adoption of crypto game Axie Infinity.

For Be[In]Crypto’s latest Bitcoin (BTC) analysis, click here.

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BeInCrypto has reached out to company or individual involved in the story to get an official statement about the recent developments, but it has yet to hear back.



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