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Fintech and Bitcoin get special track at AfricaCom

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Debuting this year at AfricaCom are a range of talks, presentations, case studies and prospects around Fintech and eCommerce, designed to inform and push the boundaries of invention.

AfricaCom 2017 has added a specific track focusing on Africa’s financial digital fluency.  Debuting this year at the continent’s single largest and most influential technology, media and telecoms event, are a range of talks, presentations, case studies and prospects around Fintech and eCommerce, designed to inform and push the boundaries of invention.

The 20th staging of AfricaCom takes place from 7 to 9 November in Cape Town.

“More than ever before, AfricaCom 2017 will provide the ability for Africa to shape itself for the future, drive itself forward and serve as an example for other economies looking to get ahead, as Africa’s innovation often leads, not follows,” says Tom Cuthell, Portfolio Director of AfricaCom organiser KNect365.

“Digital disruption equals digital democracy and nowhere will this be more keenly felt than in the ability for all levels of society to engage in the monetary exchange and rewards that fin-tech can provide. For this reason, we have developed a detailed stream of content to appeal to all players in the financial value chain – from developers, payment partners, retailers and end users. It is a must for any business looking to transact online.”

It’s a wide open and thoroughly exciting time for players in this market to disrupt the status quo and champion more equality and opportunity, agrees Shirley Gilbey,  Head of Rise and Co-Creation at Barclays Africa Group Limited, who is responsible for driving partnership with the world’s best and brightest start-ups and experts to create the future of Barclays Africa and who will deliver a keynote address on Wednesday, 8 November 2017 12:10 – 12:30.

Also on the agenda at AfricaCom, are a host of discussions and debates such as a look into future mobile payments trends, the uptake of wearables, near-field-communications (nfc) and M-Pos that are driving the global mobile payment market.

Not to be excluded from the conversation, retailers are also realising the fruits of digital and mobile payments.  A panel discussion on how retailers can incorporate eCommerce as a central strategy will explore greater insights into customer profiles and preferences; examine whether the consumer is driving their own experience or not, and, where that leaves retailers in the communications and trading mix. In another, but related discussion, the question of reward and redemption will be tackled by speakers like Peter Miller, head of Retail at wiGroup and Andreas Demeleitner, Peach Payments.

While much has been done to include the previously unbanked, still more has to happen to truly realise an economic democracy.  Things like mobile money and decentralised virtual currencies such as Bitcoin and Blockchain are going a long way to addressing these needs, and disrupting global markets, What’s next? Is Bitcoin the digital version of Gold?  It’s not hard to see how these technologies can be deployed in Africa, a continent that has famously leapfrogged many technological stages, but is it enough? To find out, delegates will hear from the likes of Elizabeth Rossiello, CEO and Founder of BitPesa, a pan-African digital FX and payment platform.

On the other side of the coin, disruptors like Abraham Cambridge, founder of The Sun Exchange, are using crypto-currencies to create new paradigms in powering Africa using solar energy to spark positive change.

But to define the real opportunities in Africa for blockchain, delegates will be invited to hear from a panel of experts that include South Africa’s foremost blockchain expert, Lorien Gamaroff, founder of blockchain and cryptocurrency consultancy BankyMoon.  Lucien has addressed the IMF, World Bank, FBI and Commonwealth Secretariat, the South African Reserve Bank, TEDx and a host of banking professionals and attorney generals throughout the world. He offers insight and guidance to business executives and advises government on blockchain technologies and their implications. Many of these he will share at AfricaCom 2017.

Africa is in the throes of a technological revolution, with increasing access to the digisphere through the Internet and mobile phones, changing the lives of ordinary Africans everywhere. The rapid acceptance of digital technologies across Africa presents real opportunities for development and economic growth across the continent, not only modifying all sectors of the African economy, but triggering a radical transformation of the entire society.

AfricaCom 2017 is therefore, an essential resource for enterprises, start-ups and entrepreneurs alike, to become financially fluent in the digital age.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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