Kenyan blockchain technology start up, Kesholabs was recently named as one of the finalists from CeloCamp blockchain accelerator program. Kesholabs is one out of five tech start ups from Africa to make it to the finals.
In total 18 finalists will compete for the first prize of $10,000 while the runner-up will pocket $5,000. Three teams chosen by public voting are set to receive $2,000 each.
The CeloCamp initiative is sponsored by the open-source payments network Celo, and it seeks to foster the development of an open financial system accessible by mobile phone prior to the network’s own launch.
Roseylene Wanjiru, the chief marketing officer with Kesholabs, recently spoke to AfricaBlockchainMedia about Kesholabs’ recognition by the Celo community and the mood of the team going forward.
“We honoured to be part of the 18 finalists selected globally out of the many teams that expressed interest in participating in the Celo Camp. This (recognition) can be attributed to the tireless efforts by Nhial Majok (CEO) and his team on one hand and the Celo team on the other to build on their protocol our Pesabase app,” said Wanjiru.
Pesabase is a payment platform which will make it as easy to send money to friends and family as well as make merchant payments in about a minute.
According to Wanjiru, their project also got the recognition because there is an increased interest in the practical and industrial application of blockchain technology, as seen by the investment not only by Celo, but by other blockchain firms.
Kesholabs’ Pesabase was initially born out of a desire to serve the Southern Sudanese community, which has been working to rebuild its people and its economy after years of conflict. One of the key challenges the country in this rebuilding process was a lack of sufficient financial infrastructure to serve the entire population. The South Sudanese people had to, in some instances, travel to neighboring Uganda just so they could send or receive money.
This costly exercise meant that some families were simply excluded from accessing financial services. Pesabase, which eliminates the need to travel long distances as well as intermediaries, is expected to ease this process of sending or receiving money for both consumers and merchants alike.
For the South Sudanese, the Pesabase is not just another payments application, but an application with real utility.
While blockchain and related tech companies continue to evolve on the continent, it is the operating environment that remains a difficult one. Wanjiru also took time to discuss some of the challenges they face as an industry. She narrowed these down to three, namely internet access or the lack of, education gaps and regulation.
Need for blockchain education and better internet access
Wanjiru states that internet access and cost remains quite high on the African continent while the quality of connectivity is greatly varied. According to IWS, internet penetration in Africa stands at 39.3% and this represents both opportunities as well as challenges. There are opportunities because large groups of people are not
Next Wanjiru laments financial education levels or the lack thereof. She cites a study by Future Africa Forum, which reveals that a greater majority of the population in African countries have relatively low financial literacy levels. One study reveals Botswana as the African country with the highest percentage of its population that is deemed to be financially literate at 51% while Somalia sits at the bottom at 15%.
Such low levels means that the likelihood of someone losing money and financial wellness simply because they are not well informed of the risks or benefits beforehand is higher than it should be.
Reports or incidences of scams that copy or mimick legitimate cryptocurrencies have increased and fraudsters are racking up millions of dollars from such. Unfortunately, this dents people’s view of cryptocurrencies thus slowing adoption.
Therefore, a great deal of financial and crypto-related education needs to go into every crypto entrepreneur’s portfolio to rightly guide their communities from such risks.
In spite of these challenges, Wanjiru is still confident of Kesholabs’ chances of winning the main prize.
“It will mean a great deal to us that the Celo team and community believe in us and in our project at this time, and we get a wonderful opportunity to serve families and communities, not only in Africa, but around the world through the Celo platform and using perhaps the greatest technology of this decade – blockchain!
Aside from winning the main prize, the Kesholabs team believes working with mentors from the Celocamp, some of the most sought after professionals and investors in blockchain will likely give it opportunities to grow beyond the camp itself.