UAE based IOTA ecosystem, DLT Foundation, has committed $10 million investment fund to support early-stage startups and ventures in the UAE and Africa. The funding will focus on TradeTech, TradeFinance, and tokenization solutions.

It aims to bolster a digital tradetech ecosystem in the UAE, Africa, and around the globe by advancing the roll-out of digital trade and finance solutions. The initiative builds on a recent collaboration agreement for the establishment of the TLIP organization, announced at WTO MC13.

The first investments will be shared publicly over the coming weeks and will include newly founded tradetech ventures and dedicated startup accelerator programs for startups building on IOTA.

This announcement follows the official signing of the collaboration agreement for the Trade Logistics Information Pipeline (TLIP) at the WTO MC13 event. TLIP is a public global trade infrastructure initially developed by the IOTA Foundation and TradeMark Africa. The TLIP Consortium will be founded jointly by the World Economic Forum, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, Trademark Africa, the Institute of Export and International Trade, and the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation. Together they will advance TLIP by developing a neutral governance framework and establishing TLIP as a global, public goods infrastructure for trade.

With its investment of $10 million, IOTA supports a flourishing tradetech ecosystem that advances trade digitization, and, in doing so, makes trade finance more accessible for all. The funds are earmarked for early-stage startups, accelerator programs, and pilot programs that will drive the development of digital trade infrastructure.

Dominik Schiener, Co-Founder of IOTA and Chairman of the IOTA Foundation, emphasized the strategic importance of this initiative: “By investing in the future of TradeTech, we are not just facilitating smoother trade transactions; we are laying the groundwork for a more interconnected and efficient global trade ecosystem. Our collaboration with leading organizations through the TLIP is a testament to our commitment to innovation and excellence in this field.”

This initiative will be kickstarted with the launch of a public grants program over the coming weeks, followed by an accelerator program for startups in the UAE before summer and in Africa before the end of the year. These programs are designed to empower entrepreneurs and innovators who are building new trade solutions on the IOTA and TLIP infrastructure, offering them the resources and support needed to bring their visions to life.

Moroccan BDO advisory has partnered with Naoris Consulting to integrate Naoris’s solutions including their blockchain based security protocol into their service offerings.

According to the announcement the integration is specifically designed to meet the unique challenges of the French-speaking African market.

The synergy between BDO Advisory and Naoris will make it possible to develop tailor-made digital transformation strategies, with a particular emphasis on cybersecurity. The objective is to use Naoris’ advanced technology to strengthen the resilience and competitiveness of African organizations and businesses, explains BDO Advisory.

On LinkedIn, Zakaria Fahim Managing Partner of BDO Morocco, stated, “We are excited to promote our strategic partnership for advancing decentralized cybersecurity using blockchain technology. This collaboration is key to providing innovative, secure solutions for Morocco and Africa.”

He added, “Our shared goal is to develop advanced cybersecurity systems leveraging blockchain’ s decentralization and transparency. This partnership will enable us to offer robust solutions tailored to the unique challenges faced by our enterprises in Africa and globally.”

Naoris Consulting on LinkedIN noted, “We are excited to share a pivotal chapter in our story. We’re embarking on a strategic partnership with BDO Morocco, a union of vision and expertise to revolutionize digital transformation with cybersecurity as a backbone in Francophone Africa. Envision a landscape where every organization in Francophone Africa is empowered to thrive digitally, bolstered by unyielding cybersecurity. This partnership is our stride towards turning that collective dream into a tangible reality, ensuring a safer and more innovative future for all.”

More and more Blockchain companies are moving to Morocco to serve the African region, including entities such as The Hashgraph Association, IR4Labs and others.

Tunisia is set to witness the first Hedera Hackathon taking place from January 26th to 28th, 2024. The event is a collaborative effort between Dar Blockchain, The Hashgraph Association, ESPRIT University, and SUP’COM University. The aim of the Hackathon, backed by the Hedera Network, is to boost the adoption and understanding of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) in the country.

Dar Blockchain, a pioneer in the blockchain technology space, dedicated to redefining the digital landscape toward decentralization, and The Hashgraph Association, a non-profit organization that supports training and education programs across multiple industry verticals through broad adoption of Hedera-powered, enterprise-grade solutions, have partnered with two leading universities in Tunisia to establish a platform that explores the latest in Web3 technologies. 

ESPRIT University, a distinguished institution specializing in engineering and technology, and SUP’COM, the Higher School of Communication of Tunis or Engineering School of Communication of Tunis, will utilize the Hedera Hackathon to emphasize the innovative possibilities offered by the Hedera Network.

Participants will have the opportunity to learn, collaborate, and contribute to the transformation of industries through engaging activities and access to a specialized Web 3.0 Decentralized Academy.

Mohamed Mnif and Jaafar Saied, the Co-founders of Dar Blockchain, said: “ We are proud to be launching the first Hedera Hackathon at two reputable universities as part of our aim to set up chapters in local universities and offer training as we lay the foundation for a real understanding of DLT and blockchain. Tunisian youth and university students will be equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to foster Web3 adoption, not only in MENA but globally.”

The Hedera Hackathon will offer tracks that include DeFi (Decentralized Finance), revolutionizing finance with accessible and secure financial services for the Tunisian and African community, DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations), reimagining organizational structures for innovative university organization management and collaboration across the country, as well as tracks on the metaverse and NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens). 

Teams of three to five members are eligible to participate and must send in their applications no later than January 20th , 2024. At least one member of the team needs to be certified on the Hedera ecosystem.

Participants will be required to build solutions that leverage Hedera’s DLT, addressing real and current needs within the African community and showcasing practical applicability and positive impact.

At the end of the Hackathon, teams will need to submit a live and functioning project which includes a URL, a PowerPoint presentation outlining the business case and functionalities, and a three to five minute demo video demonstrating the project’s key features.

Selection criteria for the best projects will be based on relevance to the Hedera Hackathon’s themes, effective usage of the Hedera DLT Network, technical functionality, clear business case, scalability, team composition and collaboration, and effective presentation capabilities.

Kamal Youssefi, President of The Hashgraph Association, added, “Our support of the proliferation of innovative DLT solutions in the African continent is one of our key objectives. We believe that it is through the utilization of the Hedera Network and distributed ledger technology that we can empower future generations to build enhanced economies, technologies, and societies. Working with DAR Blockchain and future-driven universities such as ESPRIT, and SUP-COM is a privilege and an honor.”

In 2023 Dar Blockchain and The Hashgraph Association signed a partnership agreement to develop blockchain in Tunisia and the African continent.

According to Egypt’s communications and Information technology Minister Amr Talaat, Egypt has started with phase two of its AI strategy which will focus on increasing the scope of AI investments and conducting public awareness campaigns while pursuing integration with Big Data and blockchain technology.

Talaat confirmed that the second phase will commence in Q2 of 2024 and will cover several key economic sectors. He explained that Egypt’s AI plans will see the government introduce initiatives across governance, human resources, technology, information infrastructure, data, and environment. A significant portion of the second stage of the national strategy builds upon the accomplishments of the first round of AI initiatives introduced by the government.

He added that the second phase will roll until the middle of 2027 and will consolidate the impressive gains made by Egypt over the last two years.

The NAIS is part of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology’s Digital Egypt initiative announced in 2017. The strategy comprises three phases until 2030. The published document only focuses on phase one, with hints about the following two. That phase “deepens the use of AI technologies to transform the economy, going beyond just adopting technology.” The ultimate goal is that companies and the government would have to “fundamentally [rethink] business models, and [make] big changes to reap productivity gains and create new areas of growth.”

Its primary focus is to introduce AI solutions in government services, agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, finance and economic predictions, and natural language processing (NLP). Another emphasis is training schoolchildren, postgraduate students, and professionals in the latest AI technologies, regulations, ethics, and use cases. The strategy also aims to cooperate with international partners to ensure technology transfer.

Set for completion in May 2024, phase one explored the deployment of AI in a valiant attempt to achieve Egypt’s sustainable development goals (SDGs). A series of government-backed initiatives were introduced to explore a myriad of AI use cases and deepen the existing talent pool for local and global AI developers seeking to set up operations in Egypt.

Data from Tortoise Media shows Egypt has gone up seven places in the Global AI Index in under 12 months, buoyed by increasing adoption of the technology.

MetaMask self-custody crypto wallet announced on twitter that it has partnered with several entities across the globe including Egyptian payment provider Vodafone Cash to offer new ways to onboard crypto around the world.

MetaMask stated, “We’ve unlocked new ways to onboard to crypto around the world! -Vietnam: VietQR, Mobile Money, Philippines: GCash, Indonesia: QRIS, Thailand: Thai QR, Egypt: Vodafone Cash and Chile: Webpay

MetaMask has introduced a new ‘sell’ feature on its mobile app, enabling users across the world to exchange crypto for cash easily. In Africa, the feature is available for Nigerian and Egyptian users.

Metamask also announced that it is offering local transfers in  in Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, and South Korea.💰

The partnership between MetaMask and Egyptian based Vodafone Cash is interesting given that Egypt has not legalized or regulated crypto trading and transfers.

The MetaMask wallet was downloaded the most in India and the United States, although 2023 data suggests growing popularity in other countries, most notably Brazil, Indonesia, Russia, India, and Nigeria.

In the Arab World, Metamask has been downloaded in Algeria, and Egypt.

MetaMask in December 2023 had 30 million users globally.

Although MetaMask is user-friendly, the wallet only comes pre-installed with the Ethereum network. Those wishing to add additional networks – such as Binance Smart Chain or Polygon, need to do this manually.  It doe not support Bitcoin.

MetaMask supports all cryptocurrency tokens on the Arbitrum, Optimism, Binance Smart Chain, Polygon, and Avalanche networks.

This comes as Egypt develops its CBDC ( Central Bank Digital Currency). In December 2023 Abdel Monem Al-Sayed, Director of the Cairo Center for Economic and Strategic Studies, noted that the state is prioritizing digital transformation. The aim is to decrease reliance on cash and printed currency.  

Egypt started on its CBDC project in December 2022. Egyptian Central bank announced that it was currently studying the implementation of CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) which should offer a safer and more secure replacement to current cryptocurrencies and the risks associated with them while making use of digital economy.

Ripple Blockchain and crypto solutions provider has partnered with Onafriq, fintech payments entity, previously known as MFS Arica to offer digital asset enabled cross border payments in Africa, GCC ( Gulf Cooperation Council) countries as well as UK and Australia.

Onafriq utilizing Ripple payments, will open three new payment corridors between Africa and the rest of the world. In GCC Onafriq will be working with Blockchain enabled Pyyple fintech payments entity.

Antti Arponen, CEO at Pyypl, said: “The success of the GCC in drawing in people from all over the world to live and work here has made it a hub for remittance payments. So we are really pleased that our ever-increasing number of customers seeking to send money to Africa will greatly benefit from our new connection with Onafriq, which will allow them to send remittances quickly and cost-effectively to the continent. ”

The partnership is bringing faster, more efficient, and cost-effective international money transfers to Africa, and is set to accelerate financial inclusion across the continent.

“For a number of years, Ripple has supported crypto-enabled, cross-border payments to individuals and businesses, and we are particularly excited to expand the reach of our solution into Africa thanks to our Onfriq partnership,” said Aaron Sears, SVP, Global Customer Success at Ripple. “Connecting our partners PayAngel, Pyppl and Zazi Transfer with Onafriq over Ripple Payments will bring the benefits of faster and more cost-effective cross-border payments to individuals seeking to send money into Africa from around the globe.”

Onafriq has the largest mobile money movement footprint across Africa at a time when mobile money is a significant driver of financial inclusion and has revolutionized access to financial services across the continent. The fintech’s payment hub connects over 500 million mobile wallets across 40 African countries, and operates across more than 1300 payment corridors on the continent, underpinning regional payment interoperability and seamless cross-border payments.

The announcement is being made as Dare Okoudjou, Founder & CEO of Onafriq, is set to appear at Swell Global 2023, the seventh edition of Ripple’s annual customer conference, which this year takes place in Dubai.

Dare Okoudjou, Founder & CEO at Onafriq, said: “Our mission is to make borders matter less when it comes to payment within, to, and from Africa. We are advancing this mission through our partnership with Ripple, which is already enabling new types of connections with fintechs such as PayAngel, Pyppl and Zazi Transfer. These connections are set to enable fast, secure and low-cost remittances at scale between Africa and the rest of the world, and represent a bold first step for our crypto strategy to leverage blockchain technologies to amplify our impact on people and businesses on the continent.”

The Hashgraph Association, the non-profit organization accelerating the broad adoption of the Hedera network globally, has partnered with Dar Blockchain to nurture projects, facilitate growth, and profoundly shape the MENA technology landscape. The partnership focuses on the education and nurturing of Web3 talent within the region through facilitating meetups, hackathons, and university groups, as well as publishing a monthly podcast. Through their focus on Web3 talent, The Hashgraph Association and Dar Blockchain will strive to advance innovation within the region, furthering the expansion of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) and blockchain across the globe.

Together, Dar Blockchain and The Hashgraph Association will work to provide insight into blockchain ecosystems, as well as promote the Hedera network, the most innovative, sustainable, enterprise-grade public ledger for the decentralized economy. To foster curiosity and capabilities within the MENA region, Dar Blockchain and The Hashgraph Association are partnering to host four hackathons, starting in October 2023.

These events are part of a broader strategy that includes community-building activities and a sourcing phase for an upcoming incubation program tailored for the North African community. This incubation program, to be announced soon, will further support and nurture promising projects emerging from these hackathons. In addition to the hackathons, the collaboration will offer bespoke training sessions, fueling the growth of communities and enterprises, while showcasing the endless possibilities of Web3.

Mohamed Mnif and Jaafar Saied the Co-founders of Dar Blockchain, said: “At Dar Blockchain, our foundation is built on the belief that education is the cornerstone of innovation. We were established with a clear vision: to support and nurture local talents while forging a vital connection between our local Web3 ecosystem and the global blockchain landscape. By providing training sessions that dive into the Hedera Network, and setting up chapters in local universities to connect students from different backgrounds, Dar Blockchain and The Hashgraph Association will lay the foundation for the true realization of DLT. This partnership underscores our commitment to empowering the next generation of innovators across the MENA region, equipping them with the skills and knowledge to drive the widespread adoption of Web3 technologies on a global scale.”

Recently, the MENA region has been a frontrunner for Web3 growth and innovation. In October 2022, it was announced that the region was home to the world’s fastest-growing cryptocurrency markets. In August 2023, the Dubai AI and Web 3.0 Campus committed to cutting license fees of Web3 and AI firms by 90% in an effort to encourage the move of companies and organizations to the city. 

Kamal Youssefi, President of The Hashgraph Association, said: “The Hashgraph Association’s partnership with Dar Blockchain will accelerate the mass adoption of DLT in the MENA region. With the favorable outlook on crypto in the region, we wish to support this growth and ensure its continued upward momentum. It is a result of this openness to Web3 that we are partnering with Dar Blockchain and committing to advance the MENA Web3 industry.”

With each event and initiative, Dar Blockchain and The Hashgraph Association hope to provide a starting point for those interested in the world of Web3. By establishing ways to support Web3 talent in MENA, The Hashgraph Association and Dar Blockchain will further advance MENA’s blockchain boom and its position as a leader in the field. More details about the collaboration can be found at: Darblockchain.io

In the fourth annual Chainalysis Global crypto adoption index, identifying countries where the most people are putting the greatest share of their wealth into cryptocurrency, once again Morocco takes lead and is listed as one of the top 20 countries placing an Arab country on the map, while Turkey places the MENA region. The 2023 report states that global adoption is down, but not in one crucial subset of the world.

More specifically, there’s one crucial segment of countries where grassroots adoption has seen a much stronger recovery than anywhere else: Lower middle income (LMI) countries.

The full report will be out in October, but compared to 2022, the countries on the top 20 list are still almost the same.  In 2022 Turkey, Egypt and Morocco led not only in MENA  region but globally. All three countries were in the top thirty list of countries with most crypto savings, usage of crypto for remittance payments and permissive crypto regulations.

As for Sub Saharan Africa, the adoption of Bitcoin is the highest in the world with 9% growth rate. Nigeria was one of only six countries in the world whose transaction volume grew year-over-year. The use of homegrown Sub-Saharan Africa-based exchanges continues to outpace global exchanges.

In a recent LinkedIn post, Zul Javaid, CEO of UAE Trade Connect, the UAE’s first trade finance platform to combat fraud, announced that they had hired Wissam Massud to lead their international expansion.

As per the post, Massud will define market-entry strategies as UAE Trade Connect widens its horizons to GCC, other Middle East, Africa countries.

In the post, Javaid states, “We know that UTC’s unique #blockchain technology addresses a real-life pain for banks and tradefinance lending everywhere, so we fully expect to be knocking on lots of countries’ doors in the coming year.”

Prior to this announcement, In May 2023 Zul Javaid coming back fro a recent participation at Global Trade Review conference in KSA had noted that UAE Trade  Connect was interested in offering its solutions to the Saudi Arabian banking sector.

As per Javaid, “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a robust banking market, and we are very keen to bring our unique blockchain and AI based engine into the country to help banks de risk their trade finance lending.”

UAE Trade Connect currently has 11 UAE banks among its members and has surpassed $27 million in transactions identifying interbank duplicate financing and preventing fraud attempts.

Cardano blockchain suppored venture capitalist, EMURGO Africa and Middle East, has invested $250K in African blockchain carbon market tech company, ChangeBlock.

Changeblock, a carbon market technology company, aims to revolutionize the carbon trading landscape by leveraging the power of blockchain technology. With this investment, EMURGO Africa aims to foster sustainable development and environmental responsibility while driving transformative change within the carbon market.

“Our investment in ChangeBlock is in line with our commitment to foster the development of climate change reversal technologies and impactful solutions on Cardano’s third-generation and environmentally-sustainable blockchain.” Said Ahmed M. Amer, CEO of EMURGO Africa and Executive Director of EMURGO MEA.

“Together with ChangeBlock, we hope to bring the world’s regulators, business leaders, and global changemakers to foster and double down on their commitment to a global net zero strategy that is both economically viable and monetizable” Amer added.

“Our shared vision with EMURGO Africa is to turn sustainable action into a valuable, tradeable asset for Africa. By leveraging the power of blockchain, we’re creating a transparent and efficient market that incentivizes sustainable practices and attracts climate-focused investments.” said Billy Richards, CEO of Changeblock

According to the news, this investment aligns with EMURGO Africa’s overarching vision of advancing blockchain adoption and fostering economic growth and social progress in Africa and the Middle East.

This comes as the UAE based Venom Blockchain has signed an MOU ( Memorandum of Understanding) with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and environment to launch the first blockchain enabled national system for carbon credits.