Akoin: Building the Digital Economy in Africa With Blockchain

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Finally, a large scale blockchain project that can actually live up to its potential.

What excites me the most about Akoin is that it doesn’t scream “hammer in search of a nail”. It’s not trying to use blockchain for blockchain’s sake or decentralize things that don’t make sense. Instead, it’s identified a problem that’s been around for a while, and is repurposing an existing solution and making it better. To top it off, it’s led by a team with a track record of executing on their shit and deep relationships in the target market.

Akoin, Stellar, and the Akoin Ecosystem

Akoin is a digital token powered on the Stellar blockchain and the primary currency of the Akoin Ecosystem. It’s goal is to provide millions of Africans access to the digital economy through a multi-currency digital wallet, a DApp-based marketplace, and a network of human ATMs known as the “Trusted Agent Network” within the Akoin Ecosystem.

Time is Money

In 2014, only 34% of adults in Sub-Saharan Africa had a bank account.  As a result, many people rely on prepaid minutes as a form of currency.  Prepaid minutes are so popular that “minutaires” (i.e. prepaid minute millionaires) are a thing in Africa. Time is literally money to them, and they trust it more than their local currency. 

There are approximately 477 million unique mobile subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa as of 2019.  272 million are mobile internet users, expecting to reach 475 million by 2025.  A lack of reliable financial service infrastructure, combined with distrust in local currencies, make prepaid minute smartphone users a viable target market for Akoin.

Source: GSMA

BitMinutes, DApps, and Unlocking Entrepreneurship

To bridge the gap between prepaid minutes and cryptocurrency, Akoin plans to tokenize prepaid minutes using a DApp called BitMinutes. After downloading a multi-currency wallet on their smartphone, users will be able to swap between prepaid minutes, Akoin tokens, and fiat currency. For those without bank accounts, local prepaid minute vendors trained through Akoin’s Trusted Agent Network (TAN) can convert their cash into BitMinutes or Akoin.  Over 100 TAN agents have already been trained in Nigeria alone.

The next phase of Akoin is the DApp Marketplace, which will provide users access to services such as micro lending, universal addressing (similar to ENS), and crowdfunding. There will even be a DApp Builder Tool that provides a sandbox for any entrepreneur to create their own DApp in the Ecosystem.

The Akoin team has made it known that the token is for end-users in Africa and NOT for speculative trading purposes. To my knowledge, the token is only currently being used in Kenya’s tech hub, Mwale Medical & Technology City, as part of a pilot program for a select group of residents. The residents will receive their salaries in Akoin and are able to use it to pay for food, drink, gas, and clothes.

Source: Akoin

Rooting for Akoin

I would not bet against Akon, the former R&B singer leading the project. The guy has already provided electricity to more than 32 million Africans as part of his Akon Lighting Africa initiative, and is backed by a team of industry leaders spanning media, technology, entertainment, and social impact. Navigating Africa’s politics and regulatory hurdles will be a challenge, but I am rooting for this all the way.

Further Reading

Akoin Whitepaper

Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa Infographic