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World Economic Forum publishes blockchain ‘Bill of Rights’

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COVID-19 has accelerated the development and use of emerging technology across industries. For blockchain technology to scale in its next phase, global alignment between the public and private sectors is needed.

To help individuals and companies build trust and preserve the fundamental values of blockchain technology, the World Economic Forum’s Global Blockchain Council developed the “Presidio Principles: Foundational Values for a Decentralized Future.”

Co-designed at the World Economic Forum’s offices in the Presidio of San Francisco, sixteen principles aim to protect users and preserve the values of the technology so that all can benefit.

“The blockchain ecosystem needed a baseline for designing applications that preserve the rights of users,” said Sheila Warren, Head of Blockchain and Data Policy, World Economic Forum. “During our council meeting, we realized we could help curb many of the mistakes and missteps seen so far if we were able to provide developers, governments and executives with a ‘Bill of Rights’ style document.”

Rights are grouped into four broad pillars: Transparency & Accessibility – the right to information about the system; Privacy & Security – the right to data protection; Agency & Interoperability – the right for individuals to own and manage their data; and Accountability & Governance – the right for system users to understand available recourse.

The Presidio Principles

Applications built on top of blockchain-based systems should preserve the following participant rights. A participant should have access to information that would enable them to:

Understand how a service is operated, including potential risks of the service, availability of source code, and the rules and standards upon which it is based.
Understand the potential risks and benefits of a service’s use of blockchain technology.
Understand system performance expectations and where the responsibility for service delivery lies.
Understand the rights and obligations of different participants in the system.

A participant should be able to:

Create, manage, and independently store cryptographic keys.
Manage consent of data stored in third-party systems.
Port data between interoperable systems or parts of a system.
Revoke consent for future data collection.
Have access to information sufficient to facilitate system interoperability.
Assess if their data is at risk through appropriate disclosure procedures, which may include, but are not limited to, an examination of audit results, certifications, or source code.
Have their data protected in accordance with internationally recognized technical security standards.
Limit data collection to that which is necessary and data use to the purpose for which it was provided.
Verify – through third-party or self-created tools – that operations have been completed and confirmed in accordance with the system’s rules.
Access information needed to: (a) understand the system’s governance and rules and (b) pursue effective recourse mechanisms.
Opt-out of using applications that don’t treat data in accordance with internationally recognized governance and data protection standards.
Rectify demonstrably false, inaccurate, or incomplete data when necessary.

The Principles include a menu of options for how organizations or individuals can take action. A list of signatories is available to view and self-regulate/hold others accountable.

The genesis for this idea came during the first meeting of the Forum’s Global Blockchain Council in 2019. The content was developed and workshopped in sessions around the world, including at the Annual Meeting in Davos 2020 with a variety of members of the blockchain community, government officials, civil society members and business leaders. A public comment period on the developer platform GitHub was open from 10 April 2020 to 5 May 2020.

“Our Global Blockchain Council membership reflects varying ideological perspectives on what blockchain technology is appropriate for and where it is going, ranging from bitcoin maximalists to enterprise service providers,” Warren said. “This highly opinionated group came together and agreed that the blockchain community needed the foundational principles we are presenting today. Agreement from across Council members, despite their divergent perspectives, indicates the critical need for a values-based document like this in order to ensure that the technology remains true to its roots as the application layer starts to scale.”

The Forum is partnering with ecosystem leaders from Hyperledger and Ethereum, as well as the consulting and investor communities to issue specific “Guidance Documents” around how the principles can be implemented on a more tactical level. These will further help developers, governments, executives, corporate boards, international organizations and others implement the principles and take action now.

Additionally, Global Blockchain Council members will be partnering with individual organizations, associations and membership-based entities and investors for virtual sessions on how companies can meaningfully implement the Principles in their operations.

Early Adopters and Supporters

“I accepted the nomination to Co-Chair the Global Blockchain Council because I believe despite differences in methods and philosophies, there’s a shared feeling in the blockchain ecosystem that this technology is truly disruptive, democratizing access to money and ownership of data in ways that we never could before,” said Elizabeth Rossiello, Chief Executive Officer, AZA Finance. “As a founder and entrepreneur, I know that the Presidio Principles will encourage wider accessibility to emerging technologies and therefore wider potential for adopters.”

“As fiduciaries, it is our responsibility to act not only in the interest of our investors, but also in a manner that better aligns investor outcomes with the broader objectives of society,” said Meltem Demirors, Chief Strategy Officer, CoinShares. “By incorporating the Presidio Principles into our investment analysis, ownership policies, and disclosures, we will introduce a voluntary set of investment guidelines for professional asset managers allocating institutional capital into digital currencies and blockchain networks.”

“As open sourced and decentralized systems keep moving forward, we have seen how challenging it can be to build guidelines that apply to different and evolving blockchain projects, and that help teams work to solve problems together,” said Aya Miyaguchi, Executive Director, Ethereum Foundation. “Fortunately and thanks to the hard work of everyone involved, I believe that the Principles will provide a high-level framework that can really help these critical conversations continue throughout the lifespan of the technology.”

“As an open source community, we are focused on developers,” said Brian Behlendorf, Executive Director, Hyperledger, Linux Foundation. “How they choose to build their solutions affects not only the users of today, but the trajectory of the technology. We are exploring ways for our community of developers to not just read and sign onto the principles – but look for ways to meaningfully integrate them into their processes.”

“Decentralized protocols are designed to enhance trust and security through transparency,” said Joseph Lubin, Founder of ConsenSys. “The Presidio Principles are a valuable next step for creating ecosystem-wide accountability to these goals. We hope all builders of Ethereum-based projects – and across the blockchain landscape – will sign on to demonstrate their commitment to the users of their systems and applications.”

“We have built our blockchain business around the key needs and requirements of our clients and we are excited to join with others to advance these principles,” said David Treat, Senior Managing Director and Global Blockchain Lead, Accenture. “Our focus is to responsibly apply this technology to drive real value with a priority on inclusion and social impact, particularly in these challenging times where there is so much potential to help.”

“The World Food Programme has been exploring blockchain technology for many years to help expand refugee choices for assistance more efficiently, transparently and securely,” said Arif Husain, Chief Economist and Director of the Food Security Analysis and Trends Service at United Nations World Food Programme. “Ensuring that the people we serve truly benefit from every blockchain deployment is of utmost importance to us. We welcome the opportunity to use these principles ourselves but also to share more widely with our peers in the International Organisations community.”

“The Presidio Principles will become a global benchmark for good governance and accountability for the next generation of decentralized technology platforms,” said Tomicah Tillemann, Founder and Director, Digital Impact and Governance Initiative, New America. “At a moment when demand for accessible digital services is surging, the Principles will help the private sector and government create solutions that offer people more control of their data, privacy, and digital rights. We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the World Economic Forum and an extraordinary group of leaders in developing this framework.”

“In our mission to empower everyone with economic freedom, we created and support Zcash as a fair and open currency,” said Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Electric Coin Company. “Our values and commitment to high standards of user consent, security, and organizational transparency align strongly with the Presidio Principles and we look forward to their use as a standard in support of human freedoms.”

“Colombia views the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a significant opportunity for our country and we have worked to create an environment that favours and accelerates the transition to Industry 4.0,” said Victor Munoz, High Presidential Counsellor for Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation, Colombia. “We supported the creation of the Presidio Principles – as well as guidelines and design principles for public institutions – because we wanted to ensure that progress can continue rapidly and responsibly, ensuring that basic characteristics like security and data privacy are secured for our citizens.”

“In the Digital Economy 1.0 the focus was mainly on centralized efficiency and scale, too often at the expense of individuals’ privacy and rights,” said Jen Zhu Scott, Founding Principal, Radian Partners. “The Presidio Principles are designed to encourage aspiring entrepreneurs, builders, and participants to co-create a Digital Economy 2.0 that is inclusive, transparent, and with profound respect and protection to individual digital rights so we can empower the people as well as the businesses.”

“Ongoing dialogue between all stakeholders is critical to help businesses and governments alike navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by blockchain innovation,” said Greg Medcraft, Director, Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Affairs, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “The Presidio Principles are an important contribution to this essential dialogue”.

“Blockchain, as the Internet of Value, holds enormous potential to build a more sustainable, prosperous, healthy and just world,” said Don Tapscott, Co-founder and Executive Chairman of the Blockchain Research Institute. “But people and organizations will determine how and to what goals this innovation is applied. The Blockchain Research Institute was pleased to contribute to the Presidio Principles and we commit to advocate them globally to help ensure the promise of this technology is fulfilled.”

“Technology holds great potential for increasing trust and transparency – but if not deployed correctly, it also holds great risk to the world’s most vulnerable,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International. “We want to use these Principles in our work across the globe to ensure that the user and technology’s potential for good is at the heart of each design choice.”

“We commend the World Economic Forum’s initiative on achieving wide alignment and responsible adoption of transformative technologies,” said Linda Pawczuk, US Blockchain Leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

“Everledger was founded in 2015 with the mission of digital transparency,” said Leanne Kemp, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Everledger. “The space has evolved over time, but it is clear that most are here to transform the way things operate for the better. We are excited to use the Principles in conversations internally and with our partners to hold each other accountable to the vision we are trying to achieve.”

“At OmiseGO, we believe that the ability for people to transfer money globally and without restrictions has become a basic human need,” said Vansa Chatikavanij, Chief Executive Officer, OmiseGO. “Our contribution towards a more financially accessible world is to launch the OMG Network to scale Ethereum transactions and lower the cost barrier, without sacrificing security. User protection and governance are critical for fintech players. The Presidio Principles is a starting point to help ensure innovation can progress with sufficient consideration.”

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Africa Region

AfCTA: NITDA Partners Namibia to Build Digital Market

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AfCTA: NITDA Partners Namibia to Build Digital Market, SiliconNigeria

As Nigeria is moving fast towards diversifying its economy using technology, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has proposed partnership with Republic of Namibia in the areas of Innovations and Entrepreneurship through African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA).

This is because Africa as a continent lost out during the First, Second and Third Industrial Revolutions due to the huge capital investments but with the Fourth Industrial Revolutions comes endless opportunities that all it needs is talent and vibrant, young technological driven generation. It is therefore imperative for African countries to encourage “Made in Africa” products by exploring and exploiting opportunities provided by emerging technologies to build an enviable global market standard.

The agreement in finding a viable route for digital trade resolution was made when the High Commissioner of Namibia to Nigeria and Permanent Representative to ECOWAS, His Excellency, Mr Humphrey D Geiseh paid a courtesy visit to the Agency’s Corporate Headquarters, Abuja.

Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi CCIE, the Director General of NITDA, expressed his delight and privilege at the High Commissioner’s enthusiasm in seeking collaborations with NITDA in building a stronger relationship and developing technological products between the two countries.

Abdullahi stated that the Agency has been implementing the National IT Policy until 2019 when the Ministry’s mandate was expanded to cover Digital Economy. He averred that this was because Communications was not an end but a means to an end.

He said it was important to calibrate activities and align them with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) which necessitated the Agency to come up with a new Strategic Road Map and Action Plan.

The DG stated that ‘Emerging Technologies’ which is a strategic pillar in the road map should be used to create and capture technological values in Africa.

“These emerging technologies come with promises and perils and the Agency’s focus is to avoid the perils and achieve the promises”, he noted.

He disclosed that the Agency established the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics specifically for researching best ways to apply these technologies in the Health and Agricultural sector just to mention a few. “I will invite you to visit our Centre as well and see how you can borrow some of the ideas and domesticate it in Namibia”, Abdullahi said.

The DG mentioned that “Promoting Indigenous and Local Content, which is another strategic pillar of the Agency is aimed at supporting local start-ups and encouraging Made in Africa products.

He opined that African countries should share experiences and ideas in order to build world class product while laying emphasis that it is easier to procure products from neighbouring countries rather than other continents.

“Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in the country provide about 95% of the workforce and produce more than 50% of the Nation’s GDP. It is therefore necessary to ignite processes in the digital ecosystem with the use of technology.” Innovations don’t happen in isolation, you need to connect with what others are doing in other parts of the world and apply them domestically to create wealth for the Nation and the continent at large”, Abdullahi noted.

The DG said that Agriculture, which is one of the major sources of income in Namibia is one of the areas the Agency identified in which technology can be used as a game changer. He stated that the National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture, (NAVSA) which is one of the initiatives of the Agency can help Namibia boost her productivity in Agriculture. “This is an area we can explore partnership where we can get some startups who can develop solutions for you and on our part, also learn how you manage your agricultural business.”

“NITDA has a yearly flagship programme called ‘e-Nigeria’, an international conference and exhibition programme where local start-ups are invited to showcase their products, and this year’s programme would be tagged ‘Digital Nigeria’ because of the evolution from electronic to digital system.”

“We are having a one-week Digital Nigeria International Conference and we are extending the invitation to you. You can bring people from Namibia to the conference to have a glimpse of our ecosystem where you will meet some of our startups, share ideas, challenges and see how we can use technology to grow our economy as a continent”, Abdullahi concluded.

His Excellency, Mr Geiseh in his earlier remark said that Namibia and Nigeria are both African countries who have been long standing friends since Namibia’s independence.

He disclosed that Namibia has a population of about 2.4 million and almost one-third of her population are internet users according to statistics as of 2018.

He mentioned that the country is committed to providing necessary opportunities for the youth to be exposed to concepts and technologies that will dominate their lives in the near future.

“In Namibia, we recognise the role of the youths in the development of the country in the future prosperity of the Nation which has prompted our visit today to basically know how your agency has advanced in the areas of ICT so we can identify common challenges and proffer solutions in areas where both countries can work together”, the High Commissioner disclosed.

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CNN’s Connecting Africa Explores Business Leadership Across the Continent

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CNN’s Connecting Africa Explores Business Leadership Across the Continent, SiliconNigeria

In the latest episode of Connecting Africa, CNN International’s Eleni Giokos looks at business leadership in Africa, meeting leaders from across the continent.

CNN’s Connecting Africa Explores Business Leadership Across the Continent, SiliconNigeria

Giokos presents the show from the site of Expo 2020 in Dubai, where Africa will be very much in the spotlight. From October, every African nation will showcase their innovations and culture in designated country pavilions, for the first time in 170 years of World Expos. While the site is still under construction, Giokos visits the Ghanaian, Egyptian, and Nigerian pavilions, using them as a backdrop as she profiles some of the continent’s most innovative leaders.

CNN’s Connecting Africa Explores Business Leadership Across the Continent, SiliconNigeria
Elena Giokos at Nigerian Pavilion

In South Africa, Giokos meets Fleetwood Grobler, the CEO of Sasol. Formed in 1950, Sasol describes itself as an integrated energy and chemical company and Grobler talks about their market reach, “We have quite a market presence in Africa, which we are growing. I’m remiss not to mention all the neighbouring countries in South Africa. So Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Mozambique, the SADC countries, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, they are all within reach by road, and we supply many, many products through that logistics systems into those countries as well, going broader than only the industrial solvents and polymers.”

CNN’s Connecting Africa Explores Business Leadership Across the Continent, SiliconNigeria

Sasol has constantly transformed and innovated to keep up with market trends. Grobler speaks about how the company is adapting to be more sustainable, “We’ve sharpened our focus on sustainability, and climate change is a cornerstone of our strategy because we know it is an item that we can’t wish away. We have to address it head on. And that is the crux of the matter. And so, we are preparing ourselves to travel a pathway where we can have significant steps in our decarbonisation of our processes in terms of using different feedstocks and eventually through renewables.”

Grobler has been the CEO of Sasol since 2019. He describes his plan for the future of the company, “If we can use technologies and renewables and sources of carbon that’s sustainable, those would be the long-term areas that we should focus on to unlock value in Africa.”

Next, Giokos takes a look at the oil industry in Ghana. One of the key companies in the country’s burgeoning energy sector is the Springfield Group, the first Ghanaian owned company to produce oil in the country. CEO Kevin Okyere speaks about the importance of the company’s Ghanaian roots, “The most important thing about Springfield is us being Ghanaian and one would ask why? And I said because it gives hope. It gives hope that a Ghanaian, a black African, can dream big, and achieve that dream. It gives hope that we too can do it and do it better.”

CNN’s Connecting Africa Explores Business Leadership Across the Continent, SiliconNigeria

Okyere is passionate about his company and his country, “Ghana is actually the gateway to Africa. Ghana is open for business and Ghana is welcoming Africans and foreign companies to come in and invest in Ghana. So, Ghana has so much potential, so much potential on tap, which gives room for Ghanaians and Africans and multinationals.”

The programme then visits a farm owned by the Egyptian Growers Organisation. Created in 2015, the company says it is the country’s first cooperative venture for farming and exporting produce. Managing partner Hussein Marei explains the idea, “The idea behind the cooperative venture is that, for the longest time now, exporting fresh fruits and vegetables from Egypt has largely been an individual effort. Individual farms, individual companies. But lately, given the world that we live in and the various obstacles that we face, we found that the road forward requires cooperation. Cooperation between farmers, cooperation between companies, cooperation between people are involved in the whole supply chain from farm to table.”

CNN’s Connecting Africa Explores Business Leadership Across the Continent, SiliconNigeria

Exports have been increasing consistently and, according to Marei, Africa could become the next big market. He details why Egypt has good farming trade links with countries in southern Africa, “South Africa is in the southern hemisphere and Egypt is in the northern hemisphere, so we have opposite seasons, and we benefit each other with these opposite seasons so when we have grapes, they don’t have grapes, when we have oranges, they don’t have oranges and vice versa. So, we’re able to export to each other, and exchange the expertise between us, as we do now with other African countries.”

Finally, Giokos meets Nigerian banker Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede. A former group managing director of Access Bank, Aig-Imoukhuede is the founder and chairman of Coronation Capital Limited. He tells Giokos about the importance of leadership, “I believe that if we can show the Nigerian, what Nigeria truly could be and that actually it doesn’t take that much, okay for us to change the narrative and get there is simply a function of good leaders.”

Aig-Imoukhuede is positive about the future for African businesses. He outlines his vision, “There’s no continent that’s actually growing at the population growth rate that Africa is growing, from a population demographic standpoint. Now, that’s our greatest advantage, right, if we make it one market. it could be in essence actually the world’s greatest market. That’s what we have to focus on. We have to build, break down, all those barriers to this operating world as the world’s largest market.”

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SMEs: Government Support and Effective Policies Key to Future Growth-Mastercard Study

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SMEs: Government Support and Effective Policies Key to Future Growth -Mastercard Study, SiliconNigeria

New research by Mastercard has highlighted the important role of government support in helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) to recover, position for growth, and contribute to economic prosperity.

In the inaugural Mastercard MEA SME Confidence Index, government support and implementation of effective policies was highlighted as ‘important’ by 88% of the region’s SMEs, 50% of which rated this point as a ‘must-have’ essential.

This sentiment was especially pronounced in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) (92%) and Sub-Saharan Africa (90%) regions.

Multitude of opportunities

In addition to looking for effective regulatory support from governments, 92% SMEs in MEA said they are also looking for support in upskilling of their teams, and 88% highlighted the importance of improved telco infrastructure – pointing to opportunities to effect positive change in wide-ranging areas from education and skills development to systems and infrastructural progress.

Public-private partnerships are crucial for effective development and implementation of initiatives that advance financial inclusion and inclusive growth. To achieve this, governments and the private sector must play a joint role in enabling a safe and secure operating environment.

Mastercard works closely with governments and the wider business community to advance SME inclusion into the digital economy through tailor-made digitization strategies, cutting-edge technologies, insights, and policy advice.

Government-led initiatives key to positive growth

Across MEA, 51% of SMEs say government-led initiatives could have a positive impact in supporting their businesses.

These include the UAE, where Dubai Government launched a third stimulus package to support small and medium enterprises maintain business continuity by reducing operational costs, while the Abu Dhabi Executive Council allocated AED 3 billion to the SME Credit Guarantee Scheme. The Central Bank of Egypt made it easier for SMEs to access capital by encouraging banks to raise their share of loans to MSMEs. A six-month debt relief finance scheme for SMMEs was launched by the South African government, along with a spaza support scheme and an agricultural disaster support fund for smallholder and communal farmers.

Public private partnerships a catalyst for growth 

Furthermore, SMEs in the region recognize the great potential of public-private partnerships (PPP), and 63% think private sector initiatives and partnerships will benefit businesses and the markets in which they operate.

One in three SMEs (32%) think that collaborating with governments and businesses outside their markets could impact their growth. In Southern Africa this was especially pronounced, with over half (56%) agreeing.

The need for the public and private sectors to work together to create a better environment for small businesses has been outlined in a public policy paper* titled Reimagining Support for Small Businesses, released by the Mastercard Policy Center for the Digital Economy in partnership with global consulting firm Kearney. The paper outlines a number of strategic recommendations which highlight how effective policy and innovation can address many of the challenges faced by business-to business SMEs.

The key recommendations are:

  1. Ensure ongoing working capital stability for SMEs by driving solutions that ease cash flow burdens.
  2. Remove barriers that hinder women-owned businesses’ ability to receive capital by making IDs more accessible, and allowing different types of collateral.
  3. Make funding and resources available for B2B SMEs to build their digital capabilities by offering digitalization support for SMEs buying and selling internationally.
  4. Ensure a safe and secure operating environment for SMEs, in terms of cybersecurity, trust and transparency, as SMEs become increasingly digital.
  5. Build B2B SMEs’ knowledge of the financial and digital tools and resources available to them.
  6. Facilitate partnerships in which private entities, non-banking financial institutions (NBFIs), development finance institutions (DFIs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are incentivized appropriately to provide cash flow management support, capital or digital services to B2B SMEs.
  7. Improve the collection, analysis and availability of B2B SME data for use by governments and B2B SMEs.
  8. Model best practices by buying goods and services directly from SMEs, adopting payment and invoice digitalization and increasing the credibility of emerging businesses.

“Collaboration is the key to developing a commercial landscape that is fit for future growth. Through effective partnerships, the public and private sectors can together create a supportive environment where SMEs can thrive. The contribution of small businesses to regional economies is ultimately about much more than the immediate gains to livelihoods – it’s also about the sustainable development of an ecosystem that can advance inclusive growth and prosperity for all. This is why it’s so important that we prioritize public-private partnerships for SME growth, and why we’re putting our technology, expertise and global network to work, helping to develop the infrastructure to connect more people – and more small businesses,” said Valerio Murta, Senior Vice President, Core Products, Middle East and Africa, Mastercard.

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