Let’s face it: we’re accustomed to instant gratification in the Internet Age. With the expansion of technology, Amazon order confirmations arrive in email inboxes instantaneously, while hungry customers track the location of their much-awaited pizza delivery each step of the way.
Instant gratification is a sign of the times!
Likewise, if you want to run a sustainable, profitable business in 2019, then digitization is not only useful– it’s necessary. And it’s easier than you think.
Did you know that 30 percent of tasks involved in over half of all jobs could be automated using technology that exists right now?
According to McKinsey & Company, a global management consultancy firm, this number will grow even higher as technology develops–which is great news for your business, your employees and your profits.
And no, we’re not talking about robots coming to take over your job (although some pretty cool robots exist). From automatic “Abandoned Cart!” emails to payroll and employee onboarding, automation is already a mainstay of modern organizations.
So, looking for inspiration? Here’s just a few of the amazing ways to automate your business.
Artificial intelligence is taking over the world–and it should be taking over your daily processes. Machine- and deep-learning AI provides a cost-effective solution for both carrying out mundane day-to-day tasks and engaging with customers.
For example, AI-powered bots are revolutionizing customer service abilities by providing 24/7 assistance for regular inquiries and troubleshooting.
Meanwhile, SiriusDecisions, an industry analyst firm, found that sales reps spend only about one-quarter of their entire work week actually selling to customers. The rest of the time–approximately 27 hours each week–is spent on administrative tasks like data entry.
These duties tend to consume a lot of time and energy. Instead, by automating the process, employees could spend their time closing deals and making connections to new leads and investors.
Customer and Employee Relations
At its core, CRM, or customer relationship management, includes all the technologies and strategies involved in these relationships, like email marketing, telephone calls, mail and social media marketing
If it sounds like a lot — well, that’s because it is. Manually logging all customer data (accurately) throughout the sales funnel is time-consuming and subject to human error. It’s also nearly impossible to maintain communications with every single lead. In those cases, both the business and the customer suffer.
Thanks to automated email responses, data collection and communications, these problems are a relic of the past. According to a study by Enterprise Apps Today, over 60 percent of respondents believe that automation boosts customer experience. Digitization not only eases business processes, but it improves B2C ( business-to-consumer) relationships, too.
Hackers and cybersecurity threats are growing more complex and common every day. Automating your data security systems with AI machine learning can provide a base level of protection while freeing up IT professionals to focus on progressing your business’ systems or confronting only the most complex of threats.
According to McKinsey, digitizing data-heavy processes within businesses can cut costs by up to 90 percent. You can automate everything from employee and customer onboarding, legacy-system integration, data migration and far more.
Although the initial implementation of automation can take time, effort and money, the payoff is well worth the investment.
Where Should You Start?
To figure out where to start digitizing your business, there are a few questions you should be asking yourself, like: what would improve my customer’s experience and, how can I better communicate with customers?
Further questions such as: which tasks can I automate to save time and cut costs; and finally, how you can ease the daily tasks of your employees in order to better utilize their skills (productivity) are also important points to consider.
Whether you begin with cybersecurity, automating payroll and onboarding, or equipping your site with AI-powered technology, digitizing your small business will lead to happier employees, satisfied customers and a profitable structure for the future.
Did you know that there are still more than 700 million people in the world who live in extreme poverty? These people must scrimp, starve and struggle to survive off less than $1.90 per day. By 2030, the World Bank estimates that more around 90 percent of those people will be concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This is perhaps one of the greatest developmental failures of the modern world. Despite the continent’s expansive natural resources and increasing connectivity, foreign actors still feel it’s too risky to heavily invest in their markets.
Blockchain, however, could be the key to changing that!
Bitcoin and “Blockchain” were created in the mass wave of distrust in banks after the 2008 financial crisis. Therefore, the technology enables individual, distributed data storage that could become the perfect evidence base and financial infrastructure for a developing country.
With the right implementation, Blockchain holds the potential to completely revolutionize and revitalize such economies, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.
So, what is this Blockchain?
Blockchain is essentially a kind of decentralized database that allows individuals to have a safe, secure way to handle their data without the need for third parties.
For example, people with Bitcoin can make or accept payments in real-time without needing a centralized bank.
“[It is] a way for one Internet user to transfer a unique piece of digital property to another Internet user, such that the transfer is guaranteed to be safe and secure, everyone knows that the transfer has taken place, and nobody can challenge the legitimacy of the transfer,” said software entrepreneur Marc Andreessen.
“The consequences of this breakthrough are hard to overstate.”
Why Blockchain could be the perfect fit for Africa
Until the mid-twentieth century, most of Africa was ruled under a colonial system meant to exploit the people and the resources for European benefit. However, they were rushed into development according to European standards rather than homegrown ones.
The legacy of rapid development, distrust and corruption left behind an economic system failing to recover in the 21st century.
While the World Bank celebrates a decrease in global poverty levels, the number is expected to remain stagnant in Africa. Today’s poorest people are living in places with the least economic growth. Sadly enough, poverty and lack of investment in many developing countries stem from how they were integrated into the world system.
The land was cut into countries according to European treaties and agreements, rather than by traditional and tribal land divisions. This situation worsened upon the handover of colonial power to so-called “democracies,” where power often shifted to the ethnic groups that former colonizers favoured.
Corruption multiplied in the form of bribes, political persecution, rigged elections and a massive wealth gap—all of which still affect the wealth distribution and investment potentials of many developing countries.
Of course, this created a lack of trust in banks and government throughout much of Sub-Saharan Africa. During a 2012 study conducted in rural Western Kenya, Stanford University researchers waived the costs of opening a basic savings account for a number of unbanked individuals.
While 63 percent of the subjects opened an account, only 18 percent of them used the accounts. This was likely due to three factors: a lack of trust in banks, unreliable service and prohibitive withdrawal fees.
Unfortunately, the prevalence of unbanked individuals in the informal sectors scares off foreign investors, who heavily rely on transactional evidence to make investments. Otherwise, pouring money into markets is too risky. That’s where Blockchain comes in.
How would it work?
Blockchain can host an entire evidence base of transactions, loan repayments and asset titles. The technology is also decentralized and requires individual confirmation, creating an element of trust and transparency beyond traditional banking systems.
According to Victor Olorunfemi, Director of Products for Pan-African tech and cryptocurrency exchange, KuBitX, Blockchain’s major benefits lie in “frictionless P2P and cross-border payments, transparent elections, land registry management [and] transparent crowdfunding.”
Let’s look at some of the different ways Blockchain could benefit developing economies, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.
1. Creating financial infrastructure and accountability
According to a study by the Milken Institute, viable financial markets require consistent, accurate data on assets and credit histories. Luckily, Blockchain may fulfil these needs.
The use of Smart Contracts technology is ideal in areas lacking accountability, such as the real estate or land/agricultural sectors. In Africa, a lack of record-keeping practices often leads to “missing” or non-existent title deeds. In some cases, this is intentional.
Title deeds “go missing,” only to end up in the hands of benefactors other than the rightful owners. Smart Contracts could eradicate these issues through the use of special tokens that cannot be duplicated, changed or removed. See the article on tokenization.
Likewise, Bitland, a company in Ghana, currently helps individuals record deeds and land surveys. By resolving land disputes, Bitland creates more stability while accurately recording land asset data.
Blockchain has the potential to build up individual credit histories, as well. An individual could record on-time bill repayment or smaller transactions to obtain loans.
“There’s a massive number of people in the informal sector, but there’s not much data being collected on them right now,” said Merit Webster, co-president of the MIT Sloan Africa Business Club.
“That means you don’t have that credit history or payment history for them. If you have a decentralized approach to collecting data, you end up with more malleable data. [This] is very valuable for creating credit histories.”
The agricultural industry also has the potential to thrive using Blockchain.
“In the case of small-scale farmers, Blockchain technology helps with transportation logistics,” said Webster. “Blockchain could be used to track goods around the world. This allows farmers to earn a fair wage for their goods.”
Also, farmers could use record-keeping technology to streamline the supply chain and document resources. This would lead to better efficiency, lower transactional costs and improved logistics—especially for commercial farming activities that invariably contribute to exports.
2. Security in banking
According to the World Bank, there were 1.7 billion people with no bank account in 2017. This situation is worst in developing countries, especially African ones. For example, over 62 million of these people lived in Nigeria.
Besides, data from Google Trends reveal that Lagos, one of Nigeria’s biggest cities, ranks globally as the number one city based on the volume of online searches for Bitcoin (BTC). Clearly, for the city’s 21 million-odd people, there an immense interest in some form of an accessible payment system.
Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect bank branches to magically appear in every remote corner of the world. However, a digital database using Blockchain technologies has the potential to reach far beyond physical banks.
Many Africans value trust and transparency. In developing countries, this lack of trust goes beyond the Internet. Developing countries with less industrialization tend to have higher levels of corruption. This reduces national investment opportunities in the public sector and instils a lack of trust in centralized oligarchs handling international investment.
Because its power lies within the community of users, Blockchain can combat these trust issues. All data logs and amendments must pass through this community and identification confirmation tests.
Blockchain technology also secures its data incredibly. Hacking and data breaches are all too common nowadays. In 2017, for example, around 3 billion Yahoo user accounts were stolen. When information is stored in the same place, hackers have one, easy target. In contrast, Blockchain is a distributed entity. This dissemination of data leaves it far less vulnerable to cyberattacks.
3. Fostering Entrepreneurship
Coupled with the Internet, Blockchain technology could be the perfect platform for aspiring African developers. Because the ‘source code’ is free of charge, skilled coders can adopt, create and configure special applications, called DApps, via Crypto platforms provided by companies like Ethereum, Tron and even a South African firm specializing what they called the Keto-Coin.
Rather than waiting for governments to drag their feet trying to create jobs—which they tend to do—individuals on the continent can form small firms that build and sell Crypto-based Apps locally or abroad.
“Despite the frictions and impediments mentioned,” said Olorunfemi. “Blockchain can still provide an avenue for promising African tech (and even non-tech) projects to access capital (foreign direct investments) via token offerings on digital assets exchanges.”
Many courses are even readily available online to quickly learn about the new technology. Microsoft, for instance, offers a platform via Azure to build and learn about the Blockchain.
One-man shops in countries with unfavourable economic systems, like Zimbabwe, can also adopt smaller, stable, Crypto-built Apps/coins to facilitate or replace payment systems. In cases of rampant inflation, Cryptos can temporarily act as a store of value or help pay for things until the currency stabilizes again.
There is also the option of Crypto-mining. Now before you pull out the high-energy (electricity needed to power PCs that mine Cryptocurrency) argument, think outside the box for a moment. What about energy sources that are free and available nearly 24/7? Like water and the sun!
The African continent is full of capable scientists and mechanical engineers. One could build special solar-powered energy centers to power Bitcoin-mining.
And without the expertise, governments or private companies could alternatively just invite Crypto companies with abundant financial resources to mine (cleanly) for a special tax/fee while creating jobs for the locals.
In addition to the financial side of things, Blockchain technology could help eliminate some forms of corruption. For example, many African countries’ elections are incredibly vulnerable to the social scourge. In some extreme cases, some officials change or forge written ballot votes to rig elections.
To combat this, Blockchain databases could record votes, which are nearly impossible to tamper with using Smart Contract technology. Having fair elections improves infrastructure, which then increases development and economic dependability.
While some might see Africa’s economy as underdeveloped, others might see it as a blank canvas well-suited for a large-scale implementation of Blockchain. Economic and governmental systems are shifting and slightly shaky in many Sub-Saharan African nations.
Although these facets have been detrimental in the past, this also means that there is no rigid current economic system to upend to implement Blockchain.
Don’t just take our word for it—African nations have often implemented new, practical technologies before the Western world. Let’s look at the example of M-Pesa. Back in 2014, Americans and Europeans were amazed by Apple Pay’s launch.
However, this mobile payment system wasn’t exactly “new.” By that time, Kenyans had used M-Pesa, a very similar technology, for years.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to leapfrog the way the West developed and have these more unique African solutions, but it needs to come from within,” said Webster.
“It needs to come from entrepreneurs in the continent who want to implement these solutions. It’s important to engage people very early on. Systems incubated in the West don’t stand as great of a chance to work as African ones do.”
With the possibility of an experimental, large-scale takeover of Blockchain technology to improve African infrastructure, the nations there could leapfrog in development and growth, surpassing current World Bank expectations and its developing national counterparts.
This must begin internally. According to Olorunfemi, “Education—of policy makers and other stakeholders—which is often ignored has to be a critical factor in paving the way for the acceptance and adoption of new technologies and the accompanying investment.”
The results in Sub-Saharan African countries could help eliminate much of the world’s poverty, along with remnants of mistrust and corruption left behind by the days of colonial exploitation.
While there are some obstacles to large-scale Blockchain implementation, we can’t think of a better benefactor than there. The possibilities for business using the Blockchain are endless!
To learn more about how to get started with Cryptocurrency mining or purchasing, visit our resources page for useful links and guides.
Additional input by Bobby Quarshie (BQ).
Citations: Christopher Lee and Jackson Mueller.
Swan, Melanie. “Anticipating the Economic Benefits of Blockchain.” Technology Innovation Management Review 7.10. Oct. 2017.
Bitcoin Lessons from Venezuela, Where Hyperinflation Reigns. Online Source: https://www.lathropgage.com/newsletter-237.html
Banks are no strangers to controversy – we only get a glimpse of their colossal levels of errors of judgement during times like the great financial crash of 2008.
Most big banks have a mandate (without your consent) to use funds deposited to trade and participate in complex and highly risky investments like stocks, currencies, futures and derivatives – but to what extent?
This also brings to the fore a potential issue of what is known as the principal-agent problem. Where the agents – bank employees, are given a ‘license to “ deal’ in all sorts of investments, often under the radar of both local and global financial authorities.
When one of such agents makes an overwhelming error in judgement, causing a large chunk of investment monies to be lost; the agent is said to ‘go rogue’. Questions arise as the agents often do not operate alone without supervision or consent from their seniors/managers.
A good example is that of a convicted bank fraudster; imprisoned and released on good behaviour, 38-year-old Kweku Adoboli who was eventually deported from Britain to Ghana.A country he has lived in for 26 years in comparison to Ghana where had lived for a mere 4 years. This ends a long-protracted appeal process to allow him to remain and continue living in the UK after serving his sentence.
Some say he was a scapegoat for the deportation policies in the UK and argue that the colour of a person’s skin has no bearing on the immigration policy of Britain. This assumption holding some substance after what happened with the Windrush scandal.
Others have also contended that he was the perfect scapegoat to throw in jail as a warning shot that the UK was willing to crack down on fraudulent bankers especially after the 2008 financial collapse which banks played a significant role in.
This is also the reason why no top manager went to jail at UBS. Had Adoboli believed regulators did not know about money laundering and illegal trading in central London? The banks want to continue raking in profits and the last thing they wanted was a former insider with an appetite to take them on. These are the practices that have made them powerful. Adoboli failed to recognise that.
“Adoboli did not syphon money to a private personal account, he did not pay himself a golden parachute, he did not launder money for terrorists or drug cartels, he did not manipulate interest rates and did not cause financial loss to the UK government. Other UK bankers who were never prosecuted however did.”
The word scapegoat is applicable because the banks that needed bailouts like RBS were savings banks, unlike UBS which was at least at that time, an investment bank. Adoboli did not syphon money for himself, he did, however, recklessly trade to make money for the Bank.
UBS is a bank which ordinary folks do not readily have access to. The very practices by Adoboli that lost the bank $2 billion led them to eventually record an overall profit of over $3 billion that same year. We, therefore, need to deprive our minds of the fact that Adoboli defrauded taxpayers of the UK and was a rogue agent of the bank.
He was, however, not alone in this practice and UK taxpayer bore no responsibility for the money that he lost. Therefore, in several ways, the own architect of his misfortune; either advertent or inadvertently.
Let us, however, turn our attention to finance because this is what this post is about. And even before that, it is essential to get some perspective before jumping on to ‘lynch’ Adoboli. The Royal Bank of Scotland which manages cheque accounts of ordinary workers had to be given taxpayers money of £45,5 billion as a bailout.
It appears that the government will not get the money back according to the current chair of UBS, Sir Howard Davis. Interestingly enough, no one was arrested for causing financial loss to the state (that happened). UK taxpayers had to take a hit for this.
Another interesting issue worth considering is the LIBOR scandal which was the manipulation of interbank lending rates by a host of global financial institutions. These banks, incidentally, including UBS by the way, have been implicated in manipulating interest rates for profit sharing. This was as far back as 2003 according to the council of foreign relations. Again, no one was jailed for this ‘heist’. Before addressing Adoboli ’s case again, some large multinational banks were publicly known to launder money (for terrorists and drug cartels) guess who was convicted? That’s right, no one.
We do not refute that what he did constituted a crime –it apparently was and perhaps he deserves the jail time he got. But the way he was plastered all over the newspapers in the UK in 2011 as some poster boy for out of control banking in the UK was why the term “scapegoat” was used.
In investment banking, trading of commodities and currencies can go wrong which is why he should have insured his bets. But then, what no one is willing to talk about is the reward associated with high risk (uninsured) betting in the financial markets. That is the modus operandi of these banks; which does not make for sufficient juicy material for the corporate press.
This is the height of the power of the big financial institutions and what they can get away with. Lose taxpayer’s money and there is no consequence. Fund terrorist or drug cartels and you will just be fined a fraction of your profits; fix international interest rates and all you receive is a fine. However, dare to lose their money through a risky bet and you will be undone just like Adoboli was.
Until the current financial framework is considerably changed to end monopolies of big financial institutions, the risky bets will continue. With blockchain and cryptocurrencies, who knows what the future hold? All the best to the “rogue trader” in his future endeavour nonetheless.
**This is a summarised section of a column by Julius Owusu-Paddy. He is a staunch advocate for challenging social norms that elevate the powerful and suppresses the powerless. The full article can be read here. This section attempted to cover the issue of principal-agency problem and related issues in the financial industry.
One unanswered question is why investigators never scrutinised the practices of the entire UBS bank rather than just hauling two comparatively low-level managers to court (the afore-mentioned Kweku Adoboli and another Ron Greenidge). UBS did, however, make a profit that year despite the loss of $2 billion attributed to Adoboli.
The latest abbreviation in finance and crypto-world is ‘ICO’. A word that gives both local and global financial authorities like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nightmares for several reasons.
Not to be confused with Initial Public Offering (IPO) which is used by firms to raise cash through the issuing of shares to the public. An ICO (Initial Coin Offering) serves the same function and works like crowdfunding , but for digital currency and tokens only.
We recently covered a feature on raising funds and capital for a business but missed out on one relatively new method. More and more companies are using ICOs to raise capital for their businesses.
The concept of an ICO works similarly to how a company raises capital through shares in that it is all based on contrived value.
Funding raising in effect boils down to sales! If your actual product or service has nothing substantial or intrinsic to offer a client base, then it is nothing more than a scam.
Launching an ICO is quite easy, and to an extent, many tech companies are now catching onto it.
An ICO is the cryptocurrency space’s rough equivalent to an IPO in the investment world. ICOs act as fundraisers of sorts; a company looking to create a new coin, app, or service launches an ICO — Investopedia.
The alarming spurt rate of ICOs often brings with it a scourge of potential scammers. The SEC and other institutions have to step in to monitor and regulate them.
Social media Platforms like Facebook and Google – which house a bounty of users (potential investors) have banned ICOs ads due to possible prey on unsuspecting investors; exposing them to con artists.
Basically, the scammers use fancy websites, laden with impressive figures and terminology to con users into buying into their coins or tokens.
Though the tokens barely even cost a cent, it adds up if they have millions of people buying in. Once they have reached a certain amount in funding – they close shop and disappear!
Hypothetically speaking if one wanted to create a new coin called ‘DebunqedCoin’, these are the steps:
Create a product concept or Business Plan for the coin or what is called a Whitepaper. This describes in great detail what the coin or token aims to do; the core technologies behind it; the team and their qualifications; the product’s lifecycle/growth path etc.
Once completed and water-tight, the whitepaper would be submitted along with an application to one of the best Cryptocurrency Exchanges for review.
Naturally, the business would need some initial working capital for liquidity. Some of this is raised by the owners and other institutions (through loans) etc. These will serve as collateral/insurance that there is indeed genuineness in the venture for all stakeholders.
You must then assure your investors of a solid return on investment (ROI) and deliver – which goes back to sales and growth. Unless your offering is a scam you actually need to do some work! This comes with regular updates (marketing campaigns can have a tremendous or adverse impact on the uptake and price) on milestones reached.
The above is necessary to keep the investors abreast with progress and in the process, getting them to possibly increase funding. Growing interest and addition of more funds creates demand for the coin/ token which, in turn, drives up the price and market capitalization.
Voila! you would then be in business!
Here are some of the most successful ICOs of all time
Known as “China’s Ethereum”, and backed by Microsoft, Alibaba and the Chinese government, NEO uses smart contract applications. It does so, however, with the addition of decentralized commerce, digitized assets and identification.
It enjoyed a considerable hike in token value from $0.03 to $88.20, NEO has big things coming with a 294,000% ROI.
Unlike Bitcoin, the second-most valuable cryptocurrency in the world has more functionality than just being a coin. Its ledger technology is used to build and deploy decentralized applications a.k.a. “smart contract” technology.
Ethereum’s ROI has been nothing short of jaw-dropping at 230,000%. Having sold its tokens at $0.31, an Ether token now sits at a whopping $713, second in value only to Bitcoin.
The “premier privacy-focused cryptocurrency” enables users to send and receive currency worldwide with total anonymity. It is currencies like SpectreCoin that have most government tax offices quaking in their boots.
If you had repurchased a token in November 2016, that puny $0.001 would be worth $0.64 today, or an ROI of 64,000%.
The prospect can be daunting for a cryptocurrency investor looking to make money off new investment opportunities, while remaining cushioned from fraudulent ICOs and dodgy coins and tokens.
As there is no guarantee that any cryptocurrency or blockchain-related start-up will be genuine or successful. One simply needs to be vigilant and take steps such as getting to know the core team, poring over the whitepaper with a big magnifying glass. Naturally you should be monitoring progress of the token sales.
Most importantly, one must just using common sense to gauge just how feasible the project is to ensure that you’re not falling for a scam.
Remember, if it’s too good to be true, then it isn’t true!