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Industry Pioneers will Define How FinTech is Accelerating Digital Transformation of Banking at Finnovation South Africa 2018

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Finnovation South Africa Fintech 2018

Nvalaye Kourouma

The unique environment for financial services in Africa is fertile ground for innovative FinTech players who are capitalising on the opportunities to disrupt or leapfrog established business models to make financial services more affordable, accessible and profitable across the continent.

Finnovation South Africa 2018, which will be held on the 6thof June 2018 at the Radisson Blu Gautrain, will gather international FinTech experts together with African pioneers, investors, government policymakers, entrepreneurs and leading bankers to harness the FinTech revolution to explore how the major banks and financial institutions on the continent are addressing the digital transformation of financial services and how their own digital innovations are being shaped and accelerated as a result of the gathering momentum of FinTech disruptors.

Finnovation South Africa Game Changers

Finnovation South Africa Game Changers

Finnovation South Africa 2018 is delighted to welcome a stellar list of keynote speakers, including David Gyori, CEO of Banking Reports and Founding Member of World FinTech Association; Chris Principe, CEO of Chain2Trade, Inc. and Publisher FinFuture & and Financial IT; Paul Mitchell, FinTech and Blockchain Lead of PWC South Africa; Nick Ogden, Executive Chairman of ClearBank; Assel Zhanassova, Chief Digital Officer of Astana International Financial Center (AIFC); and Nvalaye Kourouma, Chief Digital and Innovation Officer, ROA of Barclays Africa Group Limited. The opening keynote session will define directions on Aligning the Role of Government Policymakers, Incumbent Banks, FinTech Innovators, Investors, Multilateral Agencies and MNOs to drive a positive Eco-System for FinTech in Africa.

Juan Engelbrecht, CEO of MOBU, speaking ahead of his participation in the event, said that: “Throughout history, there have always been revolutionary ideas but those who lack the vision to embrace the future invariably get left behind. As the cryptocurrency market evolves, the global adoption of ICO fundraising structures has led to an explosion of new capital formation that has outpaced both the seed and venture capital investment markets. The 86 ICOs that were launched during the first term of 2018 were able to raise a mammoth amount of US $3,4 billion in total. The total costs of launching successful ICOs are a lot more cost effective in raising funds than IPOs. However, approximately 98% of these ICOs launched utility tokens.

Finnovation South Africa Interview

Finnovation South Africa Interview

The securities market is a multi-trillion-dollar arena which remains virtually untouched in the blockchain space. We know that a security token start-up can be a legal, technical and regulatory nightmare. MOBU is a decentralised organised all-in-one platform that facilitates the release of validated security tokens. By partnering with MOBU, cryptocurrency developers will be able to navigate the process with ease. Imagine unlocking that vast potential through a consolidated, enabling and self-regulating platform? MOBU offers a complete blockchain solution, by bypassing barriers and introducing a simple marketplace for security issuances and secondary trading. MOBU offers KYC, AML and SEC approval, escrow (safe-keeping proceeds of ICO funds), bank support to investors when fiat is converted to crypto and smart contract development, and facilitates all other processes needed to raise funds. MOBU’s user-friendly platform offers non-tech companies the opportunity to expand their horizons to launch security tokens with negligible fees, instant settlement times and round-the-clock trading. MOBU creates a network of confidence and trust that will boost economic and operational efficiency.

MOBU recognises the invaluable contributions of FinTech in accelerating these changing customers’ behavior and expectations. MOBU also looks forward participating in Finnovation South Africa 2018 by engaging with Fintech pioneers and leaders to address the most pressing questions for the digital transformation of financial services in the world and in South Africa. And this is only the start of this revolutionary epoch. Let MOBU take you there!”

Finnovation South Africa Keynote Speakers

Finnovation South Africa Keynote Speakers

Finnovation South Africa 2018 will also provide a platform to connect innovative start-ups with leading investors in the African FinTech space and the Enter the Wolves’ Den session is one of the most dynamic features of the event.The Wolves’ Den enables innovative FinTech start-ups and trail-blazers to real-time test the positive impact of their solutions. A panel representing savvy Investors/Venture Capitalists and seasoned Fintech Leaders and Pioneers will evaluate the business model of each chosen start‐up or trail‐blazer in a high-stress 10 minute “elevator pitch” to the “Wolves” who will ask the tough questions and provide the illuminating insights.

Speaking ahead of his participation in Finnovation South Africa 2018, Chris Principe, CEO of Chain2Trade, Inc. and Publisher FinFuture & and Financial IT, said that: “A very positive story, if one that is not yet well understood, is unfolding in Africa. New technology, new ideas and new business models are producing new opportunities. The distinctions between telecom services providers, payments services providers and financial institutions are breaking down. In virtually all African countries, there are sufficient numbers of mobile phones ‐ which are not necessarily smartphones ‐ for previously unbanked people to have access to high quality financial services at low cost. Innovative companies are using Blockchain technology and crypto‐currencies to resolve fundamental problems such as lack of access to electricity and lack of access to global financial markets. Finnovation Africa highlights how FinTech is transforming Africa for the better, facilitating payments, boosting financial inclusion and developing new enterprises. However, the conference does much more than that, as it engages key stakeholders to reveal how the entire world is changing. In many ways, Africa is a FinTech leader, rather than a follower.”

From the perspective of a leading fintech pioneer, Paul Mitchell, Fintech and Blockchain Lead of PwC South Africa, reinforced that “South African financial services players, old and new, are uniquely positioned on a high growth continent to seize the opportunities to create innovative solutions and harness the impact of FinTech in Africa, which could well make a more significant contribution and impact than what we are currently seeing in the US and Europe. Customers’ behaviour, and their expectations around how financial services companies traditionally interact with them, is changing rapidly. FinTech is accelerating these changes and the established players who recognise this are having to learn fast. This is leading to a reassessment of many elements of the customer experience and engagement process that will play out over the next few years. I look forward to participating in Finnovation South Africa 2018 and engaging with Fintech pioneers and thought leaders to address the most pressing questions for the digital transformation of financial services in South Africa.”

Finnovation South Africa logo 2018

Finnovation South Africa logo 2018

Finnovation South Africa 2018 will take place at the Radisson Blu Gautrain in Johannesburg, South Africa on the 6thof June 2018 and will gather all stakeholders and influencers in the African FinTech ecosystem, from innovative start-ups to banking powerhouses, representing the key markets across Africa and internationally.

Ethico Live Limited UK is an international trade & investment nexus that focuses on the digital transformation of financial services and the role that Fintech is playing in driving positive and profitable change through blockchain, AI, mobile money, finclusion, ethical finance/Islamic banking, payments, and data driven innovations. We support our clients who are transforming the global financial markets through our high-profile engagement platforms that connect investors, government policymakers, bankers and game-changing start-ups from across the Middle East and Asia – with a special focus on the exciting high-growth markets of Africa.

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WeWALK joins Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility Programme Using artificial intelligence to change the lives of the visually impaired 

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WeWALK joins Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility Programme Using artificial intelligence to change the lives of the visually impaired  1

WeWALK, the smart cane designed for people who are blind or with low vision which is now in use across 37 markets, has joined Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility programme to accelerate WeWALK’s capability by developing and validating a human behaviour model for visually impaired users and creating a Voice Assistant designed for the visually impaired, providing the right mobility information when needed and allowing for even greater control of the WeWALK mobility experience.

Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility $25 million 5-year programme is aimed at harnessing the power of AI to amplify human capability for the more than one billion people around the world with disabilities. Through grants, technology, and AI expertise, the program aims to accelerate the development of accessible and intelligent AI solutions and build on recent advancements in Microsoft Cognitive Services to help developers create intelligent apps that can see, hear, speak, understand and interpret people’s needs.

WeWALK’s new Voice Assistant will be released later in 2020 and will have immediate usability benefits, improving the user’s confidence as they mobilise. The assistant will be built on clearly derived requirements and natural usage patterns and the challenge that WeWALK is seeking to overcome is to make the assistant truly ‘smart’ and dynamic, where it will effectively categorize and deliver on the user’s commands in a host of different environments.

WeWALK’s human behaviour model is due for release in 2021 and is of significant importance as currently there are no accurate models for how a person who is blind moves and how their mobility holistically evolves, especially after receiving orientation and mobility training. As a result, healthcare, government, and mobility trainers cannot effectively track how a person who is blind mobilizes and whether or not intervention has had benefit. By using WeWALK’s built-in IMU (inertial measurement unit) sensors, including the gyroscope, accelerometer, and compass, as well as data collected from a connected smartphone, the model can be implemented and expanded organically through daily usage. The first stage will be rigorous data collection and user testing, followed by data manipulation and classification to ensure that optimum reliability and system usability can be achieved.

Commenting upon WeWALK’s entry into the program Jean Marc Feghali, R&D Lead at WeWALK. “By working on these two objectives, WeWALK can set the standard for visually impaired mobility for both the individual user and the organisations that support them. We are now rigorously collecting mobility data with novel experimentation, validating our work by continuously engaging our users to ensure an exceptional product powered by Microsoft’s best. Being a part of the Microsoft family truly excites us, bringing us closer to mobility trainers, researchers, and the global visually impaired community.”

Mary Bellard, principal innovation architect lead at Microsoft adds “At Microsoft, we believe AI solutions built thoughtfully by and with the disability community have incredible potential to offer meaningful independence in people’s daily lives.  That’s why we’re thrilled to support WeWALK on this important assistive tool that stands to empower the millions of people around the world who use a white cane.”

With the power of Microsoft AI, WeWALK’s impact will be wide-reaching explains Kürşat Ceylan, WeWALK’s co-founder & CPO  “As a blind person from birth, I know that it is very important to get the right habits of using a cane from a young age. It is amazing to see how WeWALK can enhance this aspect of our lives with high tech, making training and orientation more effective. I believe that the smart cane will be a symbol for the fully independent journey people who are blind or with low vision.”

Selected as one of the best inventions of 2019 by TIME Magazine, WeWALK is a member of YGA Ventures, which is an ecosystem of impact entrepreneurs.  The team envisions WeWALK as a platform for continuous and collaborative development, putting it at the forefront of cutting-edge assistive technologies. This is exemplified through WeWALK’s collaboration with Microsoft, where WeWALK participated in Microsoft’s 2019 AI for Good in the UK.

The WeWALK smart cane is currently available on the market and can be purchased on the company website www.wewalk.io. The free WeWALK mobile app which provides various features such as VIP friendly navigation and public transport tracking capabilities is also available for immediate download on both iOS and Android devices.

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Everything you need to know about APIs for business

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Everything you need to know about APIs for business 2

By Omar Javaid, president, Vonage API Platform, Vonage 

If your work brings you into close proximity with technology, chances are that you’ve come across APIs. Like many of the tech acronyms we hear –  DNS, VOIP, SaaS – APIs fall into a category of terms that most of us would consider best left to the IT department. However, APIs are a vital tool for any tech-enabled business, and a basic understanding of them at management level can help to drive sales, increase customer satisfaction, and improve the user experience.

Although they seem daunting, getting to grips with APIs is surprisingly straightforward. API stands for Application Programming Interface, and can be simply defined as a software tool used to control programmes. Essentially, APIs create sets of rules that allow applications to communicate with each other – they are the part of the server that receives requests and sends responses. Today, when data is transferred between a pair (or more) of programs or applications, an API normally makes it happen.

To give a real-world example: when a user types Instagram’s URL into their browser and hits the Return key, a request is subsequently transmitted to Instagram’s remote servers. That browser then processes the response code it receives and displays the page. For the browser, Instagram’s server is an API – allowing it to communicate and relay information back to you without interruption or delay.

The job of the API is to simplify the complex data exchanged between these servers, and to make the interaction as seamless as possible for the end user. Considering that the vast majority of our business and personal lives now take place virtually, any solution that optimises the online experience is extremely valuable.

Using APIs to improve the customer experience 

One of the core benefits of APIs is that they enable businesses to free themselves from the time consuming and costly process of developing in-house software to power a single core application. Instead, developers can outsource certain tasks to remote “off-the-shelf” APIs, saving time, money, and allowing resources to be channeled elsewhere. These add-on services allow businesses to offer a more complete, one-stop solution to customers, whilst streamlining the process to optimise user experience.

Omar Javaid

Omar Javaid

Although we may not always realise it, APIs are playing a vital silent role in almost every purchase and interaction we have online. Take booking a holiday for example. As we browse comparison sights, APIs are working furiously behind the scene to aggregate information from airline databases, hotel websites, and excursion providers. The API performs the back and forth needed to retrieve the information, whilst we are able to sit back and view all of the results on the same page. Simplifying this process enables travel comparison websites to make the search for holidays quick and easy, and encourages customers to stay on the site by offering all that they need in one easy to consume package.

APIs also allow smaller businesses to utilise tools provided by some of the world’s largest and most successful companies. Google’s Calendar API for example could be used within a beauty salon website to enable customers to book and schedule treatment reminders, whilst Apple’s weather tool could be plugged-in to an events company website to give customers real-time weather updates. While the API’s developer does retain ultimate control over how the API is used, there are still countless ways to integrate these tools to benefit your business and improve the functionality of your website.

Communications APIs

The recent Covid-19 pandemic in particular has highlighted the value of an API class that normally receives little attention; communication APIs.

Today, companies are boosting spending on unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS), along with video conferencing, collaboration, and voice technology solutions given the exponential growth in home and remote working as a result. Where face-to-face contact is limited by necessity, businesses need to be able to communicate with employees and customers in ways which are secure, simple, and cost-effective.

Given how rapidly the technology landscape changes, APIs are the clear solution to avoiding the expense of developing tools from scratch, in addition to harnessing the power of the advanced features offered by established API providers.

Using them, businesses are able to adapt to suit changing customer preferences; for example offering an online chatbot to handle customer queries, or by using multi-channel messaging to connect with customers via WhatsApp or Messenger. These tools are not only useful, but can also allow you to gain intelligence into a customer’s preferences and habits – both useful marketing gauges.

On the other hand, comms APIs can also help to address problems that may crop up internally within organisations and workforces. There are APIs which allow callers to automatically sync calendars, meaning that meetings will only be scheduled when all parties can attend. There are also APIs for timezone conversion, permissions requests, and for video link calls and messaging. With the work from home trend continuing for the foreseeable future, investing in these areas is critical if businesses want to keep delivering at the highest levels.

Considering all of the above, it’s clear that we can expect to see the adoption of APIs continue. Developers are constantly working to create increasingly sophisticated products, and many have moved towards exclusively building and hosting APIs, rather than building the apps themselves – creating a so called “API Economy” of sorts.

This focus on creating the best possible APIs has allowed smaller businesses to harness the collective expertise of the world’s largest and most successful companies, and the chance to use these tools represents a fantastic opportunity for growth. The reach of APIs extends far beyond the IT department, and with a basic understanding, they can be used by senior management and leadership teams to optimise all areas of the business – not bad for three small letters.

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Unexplained Wealth Orders: Rightly Celebrated or Over-Rated?

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Unexplained Wealth Orders: Rightly Celebrated or Over-Rated? 3

By Nicola Sharp of financial crime specialists Rahman Ravelli considers the attention given to unexplained wealth orders – and emphasises that they can be challenged.

There is little doubt that many sectors of the media – and their readers – enjoy a story that involves an unexplained wealth order (UWO). They do, after all, have many of the ingredients that many look for in a good tale: allegations of wrongdoing on a large scale, someone being made to hand over assets worth more than most people will earn in a lifetime and the sense that justice has been seen to be done.

In the latest UWO, which was widely covered in the media last week, Leeds businessman Mansoor Mahmood Hussain was compelled to hand over property worth just short of £10M, after being accused of acting as a money launderer. He has been ordered to surrender the assets because the National Crime Agency (NCA) believed his wealth was the proceeds of crime, and so considered him a suitable target for a UWO.

Introduced by the Criminal Finances Act 2017, UWOs give law enforcement agencies powers to require persons to explain how they came to possess their assets, and to show that their wealth has come from legitimate sources. A UWO can be sought without any civil or criminal proceedings having begun. There is no need for the subject of a UWO to have been convicted of an offence or to have had a civil law judgement against them. Agencies can apply to the High Court for a UWO against any property valued at over £50,000, if the person owning it is reasonably suspected of being involved in serious crime (or connected to a person who is) and there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a person’s lawfully-obtained income would be insufficient to allow that person to obtain that property.

Like Zamira Hajiyeva before him, Mansoor Hussain’s inability to provide a credible, innocent explanation for his wealth has cost him – and generated headlines. Hajiyeva may be best known for somehow racking up £16M of expenditure at Harrods. But this only became known when she was the first person to be the subject of UWOs. The NCA expected her to explain how she had bought a £11.5M Knightsbridge house and a £10.5M golf course in Ascot, bearing in mind her husband is the former head of the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan, had a salary of no more than $70,000 and was convicted of fraud and embezzlement. Earlier this year, she lost her appeal against the UWOs, thus enabling the media to re-run her story and giving the NCA the chance to make approving noises about UWOs being a valuable tool in tackling illicit finance.

But before there is a rush to applaud UWOs, it should be said that the NCA’s relationship with them has been a chequered one, to say the least. Since becoming available to the NCA, the agency’s success rate with UWOs has been patchy. This is despite the standard of proof for UWOs being significantly lower than that required in criminal cases. Last year saw the NCA granted three UWOs for London property valued at £80M. Yet less than a year later, these UWOs were discharged, with a judge criticising the NCA’s “unreliable’’ assumptions and “artificial and flawed’’ reasoning. The Court of Appeal then refused the agency permission to appeal this decision.

While a UWO is a tool that enables law enforcement agencies to seize assets they believe are the proceeds of crime without anyone ever being convicted, it does not yet appear to have become the great weapon against illicit wealth that many would have hoped. Of the four cases begun since UWOs were introduced, two are still being contested. Mansoor Hussain’s case is the first time a UWO has successfully led to the recovery of assets from an individual.

Although, a UWO can be seen as effective in certain situations, it will often be considered the most (and perhaps only) viable option when a prosecution has failed or when the authorities do not believe there is enough evidence for a realistic chance of a conviction.

When being faced with an UWO it should be remembered that whilst agreeing to settle and hand over property is not an admission of guilt, anyone facing a UWO must consider carefully how they respond to the authorities. It is vitally important to take the right advice. Deciding how to proceed when assets worth millions are at stake can be the biggest decision a person ever has to make.

In such circumstances it will often be the case that an intelligent, robustly-argued challenge to a UWO – and, in particular, to the allegations being made by the law enforcement agency seeking the UWO – will bring success. But that success will depend on knowing precisely how to respond – and who to turn to – if and when you become the intended target of a UWO.

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