How Blockchain is shaping Africa’s payment future


Posted on: March 1, 2018 by Omar Cisse

Economies across Africa are growing along with their role on the global stage. With that growth comes pressure to align with global regulatory standards such as Know Your Customer (KYC).

Emerging technologies such as Blockchain are helping. Blockchain is helping my growing company, an African Fintech start-up called InTouch, meet its partners’ demands for increased security and transparency. It's also helping us enter new markets.

Let me share my story of why my company, which specializes in digital payment services and aggregation solutions, integrated Blockchain into our Guichet Unique platform and the challenges we’ve faced along the way.

Full transactional traceability

The KYC regulatory standards our partners need to comply with demands that digital payment solutions such as ours provide full traceability of all transactions. Doing so counteracts money laundering and the financing of terrorism, amongst other things. In the event of a terrorist attack, for instance, where money sent from a gas station has contributed to the attack, we need to be able to identify who was responsible for the transaction, where he initiated it and who he sent the money to.

Today, our solution is simply storing a limited amount of information about the customer and the transaction. We scan and store the customer’s ID card and some transactions.

We are now starting to implement Blockchain. The technology will not only give us the complete history of the transaction but also, and most importantly, ensure no one can delete it. With Blockchain, we can provide the KYC our services partners are looking for.

Opening up new markets

Guichet Unique is also able to accept cryptocurrency payments. This is a significant market opportunity for InTouch, and one that will allow us to connect to more regions across Africa.

After all, Africa’s use of cryptocurrencies is increasing. A big player in Africa operating in more than ten countries recently told me it would like to be able to be paid in Bitcoins. That made me realize how important cryptocurrencies are now in Africa.

From our experience, the types of companies most likely to use cryptocurrencies include those importing and exporting products, offering money transfer services and e-commerce players. In fact, some of our partners are already using Bitcoins; they want to transform cash into Bitcoins or transform Bitcoins into cash, or even send Bitcoins to a merchant or wallet.

Blockchain comes with its challenges

Blockchain technology is important, and I think it will grow very fast. But Blockchain and cryptocurrencies come with their challenges, as we have found.

Blockchain is quite new, which means Blockchain skills are scarce. At InTouch, we need our engineers to be involved right now, and so they can understand it and overcome any barriers that might prevent Africa from making more use of this technology.

Our partners also have a thirst for knowledge about Blockchain. While partners like Atos have high expertise in blockchain, when we go to other partners, we have to answer a thousand questions before we even start any real discussions.

But we shouldn’t be surprised by our partners’ intense questioning, particularly about regulation. It’s only natural that they would raise concerns about financial controls when we’re talking about cryptocurrencies. Most regulatory authorities, particularly in Africa, have not integrated cryptocurrency technologies or services into their regulations yet.

While the African Central Bank is working to address regulatory challenges, it will be up to companies such as ours to master Blockchain technology and build our customers’ confidence in it.

A technology for the future

While Blockchain is important, we do need global technology companies to help us raise awareness about the technology. Companies like Atos can help spread the word; bring Blockchain technology to the attention of our government and more companies.

There is one thing I am sure of: Blockchain is a technology for the future, and InTouch wants to be part of the Blockchain story.

 

In 2017, Worldline and Total signed binding technological, commercial and financing agreements with InTouch. To know more about the partnership >>

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About Omar Cisse

Founder and CEO of InTouch
Omar Cissé is a computer design engineer who graduated from Ecole Supérieure Polytechnique in Dakar in 2000. He then pursued an international MBA degree and various business management training courses. With other friends, he founded 2SI; a company specialized in software engineering, which he managed from 2005 to 2010. Drawing from his multiple entrepreneurial experiences, Omar Cissé participated in launching the first ICT incubator (CTIC Dakar). He managed CTIC Dakar until 2013. With the ambition to transform digital payments, he founded InTouch in 2014. The first services were launched on the platform in November 2015. Finally, with his business associate Olivier Furdelle and in partnership with Investors and Partners, they launched an investment fund called Teranga Capital in March 2015.

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