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Blockchain settlement comes to SA unit trusts

Using the blockchain, it enables the public to purchase and settle unit trusts directly from fund managers in a secure environment.

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Local stock exchange ZAR X, in conjunction with technology provider Adhara and nominee administrator Computershare South Africa, have launched the first distributed settlement system in South Africa for unit trusts.

The ZAR X system reinvents the traditional way of administering unit trusts using digital technologies as its foundation. Instead of monthly administration fees, investors pay a once-off transaction fee. Furthermore, they can transact in unit trusts either through their ZAR X broker or on any mobile device using the ZAR X Mobi App.

“Since inception, ZAR X has pioneered technology and introduced innovative products and services to capital markets in the country,” says Etienne Nel, CEO of ZAR X. “We have prioritised cost reduction in both the listing process and for investors. To this end, we are driving even more efficiencies by offering unit trusts on the blockchain which is likely to be the future of financial markets settlement,”

The system provides regulators and investors with full transparency and transaction history in real-time. As the blockchain serves as a ledger of events that are distributed or shared between different parties, it can only be updated by consensus of the participants in the system. This effectively means the blockchain provides a single version of the truth and eliminates the need for reconciliations.

The Adhara components allow for the unit trusts and cash to be tokenised on the same ledger. This ensures all transactions occur ‘on-chain’, providing real-time Delivery vs Payment (DvP) settlement.

“We are delighted to be part of this production-grade blockchain solution to go live internationally. Adhara has used its Token+ product for this solution that is built on Hyperledger Besu (an open-source, enterprise-grade Ethereum client),” says Peter Munnings, COO and co-founder of Adhara.

“This is an exciting initiative, and we are pleased ZAR X has appointed Computershare as the nominee administrator for the first distributed ledger settlement system for unit trusts. We have a proud track record of using robust technology and infrastructure to support the diverse and unique requirements of each of our clients,” adds Bennie van der Westhuizen, CEO of Computershare South Africa.

The project will go live in the last quarter of this year and will be available via the ZAR X Web site (www.zarx.co.za) and the ZAR X Mobi App available in Apple iOS and Android app stores.

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SA’s Internet goes down again

South Africa is about to experience a small repeat of the lower speeds and loss of Internet connectivity suffered in January, thanks to a new undersea cable break, writes BRYAN TURNER

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Internet service provider Afrihost has notified customers that there are major outages across all South African Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as a result of a break in the WACS undersea cable between Portugal and England 

The cause of the cable break along the cable is unclear. it marks the second major breakage event along the West African Internet sea cables this year, and comes at the worst possible time: as South Africans grow heavily dependent on their Internet connections during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

As a result of the break, the use of international websites and services, which include VPNs (virtual private networks), may result in latency – decreased speeds and response times.  

WACS runs from Yzerfontein in the Western Cape, up the West Coast of Africa, and terminates in the United Kingdom. It makes a stop in Portugal before it reaches the UK, and the breakage is reportedly somewhere between these two countries. 

The cable is owned in portions by several companies, and the portion where the breakage has occurred belongs to Tata Communications. 

The alternate routes are:  

  • SAT3, which runs from Melkbosstrand also in the Western Cape, up the West Coast and terminates in Portugal and Spain. This cable runs nearly parallel to WACS and has less Internet capacity than WACS. 
  • ACE (Africa Coast to Europe), which also runs up the West Coast.  
  • The SEACOM cable runs from South Africa, up the East Coast of Africa, terminating in both London and Dubai.  
  • The EASSy cable also runs from South Africa, up the East Coast, terminating in Sudan, from where it connects to other cables. 

The routes most ISPs in South Africa use are WACS and SAT3, due to cost reasons. 

The impact will not be as severe as in January, though. All international traffic is being redirected via alternative cable routes. This may be a viable method for connecting users to the Internet but might not be suitable for latency-sensitive applications like International video conferencing. 

Read more about the first Internet connectivity breakage which happened on the same cable, earlier this year. 

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SA cellphones to be tracked to fight coronavirus

Several countries are tracking cellphones to understand who may have been exposed to coronavirus-infected people. South Africa is about to follow suit, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From Israel to South Korea, governments and cell networks have been implementing measures to trace the cellphones of coronavirus-infected citizens, and who they’ve been around. The mechanisms countries have used have varied.  

In Iran, citizens were encouraged to download an app that claimed to diagnose COVID-19 with a series of yes or no questions. The app also tracked real-time location with a very high level of accuracy, provided by the GPS sensor. 

In Germany, all cellphones on Deutsche Telekom are being tracked through cell tower connections, providing a much coarser location, but a less invasive method of tracking. The data is being handled by the Robert Koch Institute, the German version of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In Taiwan, those quarantined at home are tracked via an “electronic fence”, which determines if users leave their homes.  

In South Africa, preparations have started to track cellphones based on cell tower connections. The choice of this method is understandable, as many South Africans may either feel an app is too intrusive to have installed, or may not have the data to install the app. This method also allows more cellphones, including basic feature phones, to be tracked. 

This means that users can be tracked on a fairly anonymised basis, because these locations can be accurate to about 2 square kilometers. Clearly, this method of tracking is not meant to monitor individual movements, but rather gain a sense of who’s been around which general area.  

This data could be used to find lockdown violators, if one considers that a phone connecting in Hillbrow for the first 11 days of lockdown, and then connecting in Morningside for the next 5, likely indicates a person has moved for an extended period of time. 

The distance between Hillbrow and Morningside is 17km. One would pass through several zones covered by different towers.

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said that South African network providers have agreed to provide government with location data to help fight COVID-19. 

Details on how the data will be used, and what it will used to determine, are still unclear. 

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