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Happy pre-Friday 🎉

At TechCabal’s Moonshot Conference last year, we were privileged to meet a lot of you, and one of our most important highlights was learning how differently-abled people are using tech in Nigeria. 

My colleagues Noah and Tobi spent some time with Victor Ekwueme, a visually impaired software developer who’s now leading a company that’s helping other visually impaired Nigerians find their path.

We’d like to share Victor’s story with you. You should meet the blind Nigeria prodigy helping others see through tech.

Crypto

Patricia announces five-year repayment plan for customers

WOW GIF
GIF Source: GIPHY

Patricia’s customers are about to face a marathon to repayment.

The crypto exchange’s latest time frame for repayment is now two to five years which the company says it set for “expectation management purposes.”

After a $2 million hack in 2022 was revealed in May 2023, thousands of customers’ funds have been stuck in the crypto exchange. Since then, Patricia has tried several measures to repay its customers including an app relaunch, a stablecoin backed by the dollar, and fundraising. However, several customers remain frustrated as they have yet to recover their funds.

PR stunt or genuine concern? Although Patricia claims it has paid 24% of its customers, a customer reportedly says Patricia requested a video testimonial as a precondition for getting their money back. Patricia says this will help ensure a safe process for everyone, but it remains to be seen why the company would need video testimonials if it has records of all its users. It calls into question if Patricia is showing genuine concern or pulling a PR stunt. 

Seven identified suspects: Hope flickered in the form of a police investigation in November 2023, when the police identified a politician as a suspect in the hack. He had confessed to diverting ₦607 million ($760,000) to his account. In January 2024, 7 more suspects were identified. They reportedly stole ₦142.8 million ($155,734) from the fintech. A trial slated for June 2024 offers a potential path to justice, but for customers desperate to access their funds, it’s a cruel consolation prize.

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Funding

VC veterans launch Accelerate Africa to become the YC of Africa

Aboyeji and Koschitzky-Kimani
Aboyeji and Koschitzky-Kimani

Iyin Aboyeji and Mia von Koschitzky-Kimani have invested over $10 million into 101 startups across Africa. Now, Aboyeji who was a two-time unicorn founder and Koschitzky-Kimani, an investment powerhouse, are teaming up under Future Africa to launch a new venture: Accelerate Africa.

Both veterans want Accelerate Africa to become the Y Combinator (YC) of Africa, to help produce the next generation of global businesses.

Speeding up new drivers: Accelerate Africa’s first cohort will run for eight weeks, admitting ten pre-seed and seed-stage startups from any sector and any African country. Think of founders who would have made it into YC but lack access now. 

The accelerator will run in person in two cities, Nairobi and Lagos, simultaneously for the first six weeks. The final two weeks will see collaboration between teams in Nairobi and Lagos. Success will be measured by how much follow-on funding the startups secure during and after the programme. According to the duo, selected startups will pitch to investors who typically write checks ranging from $250,000 to $500,000. 

Filling the vacuum: Accelerate Africa arrives at a time when established accelerators like YC are retreating from Africa

YC has been a major player in shaping Africa’s tech ecosystem. The accelerator has backed over a hundred African startups, including Flutterwave, Wave, and the Stripe-acquired Paystack. YC’s Winter 2022 batch comprised 24 startups from Africa. After this cohort, fewer African startups were accepted into the global accelerator. Its Summer 2022 batch had just eight African startups, a 63% decline from the previous cohort, and the Winter 2023 cohort welcomed only three startups. The American accelerator has made a significant shift towards its homeland, which comprised over 90% of the Winter 2023 cohort.

Could Accelerate Africa be the mission that fills that void?

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Fintech

Access Bank takes another stab at digital lending

Vodafone Group CEO Margherita Della Valle and Microsoft chairman and CEO Satya Nadella. Source: Vodafone Group

After two years under the Quickbucks name and 7 million users, Access Bank’s Oxygen X is making a comeback.

The company’s idea for Oxygen is to extend digital lending solutions beyond the bank’s existing customer base, targeting a broader market in Nigeria. Although the launch date is undisclosed, Access has secured approval from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to commence operations.

Competition awaits: Unlike other holding companies in the financial services sector, such as GTCO and Stanbic who have Squad and Zest as their digital lending arm, Access is launching Oxygen X as a standalone digital lender, positioning it to compete directly with other digital lending players like OPay which has over 30 million users.

The app’s rebrand needs to deliver though. The old version languishes with poor ratings due to clunky UX and weak offerings. To compete, significant service improvements are essential. If the app must win, it must give people better access.

An expansion play: Access Corporation is on a strategic acquisition spree, expanding beyond traditional banking. In the past three years, the company has made six significant acquisitions ranging from its 2021 acquisitions of the Mozambiquan and Botswana arms of BancABC to the 2022 acquisition of Finibanco Angola. More recently, the company, the company has made two strategic acquisitions this month: Zambia’s Atlas Mara and Megatech Insurance Brokers, the latter of which points to its venture into insurance.

Access also announced its expansion into Asia in November 2023, joining the ranks of South Africa’s TymeBank which announced an expansion to the Phillipines. 

AI

OpenAI says no to politics

we dont do that here
GIF Source: GIPHY

The makers of ChatGPT have said they will not allow the platform to be used for any political campaign reasons. Starting now, the company will use embedded watermarks in images generated by its image generator DALL-E.

Why? The World Economic Forum (WEF) is worried that the use of generative AI may disrupt upcoming national elections this year.

Here’s why it matters: More than 50 countries including the US, South Africa, Russia, India and Spain are holding elections this year. There are fears that AI might be used as a tool for disinformation, manipulation, and even inciting violence during these elections.

More than half of the respondents of the WEF report on global risks identify AI misinformation as the biggest global risk in 2024, placing it second only to extreme weather in the 2024 Global Risks Report. OpenAI has said it is ramping up efforts to launch tools that can counter the effect of AI misinformation.

The big AI picture: For the average citizen, the implications of weaponised AI use in political campaigns are worrying. A deep-fake audio from a respected figure in society recommending a candidate can be used to lure voters. Also, a flood of AI-generated political content can make it difficult for voters to discern truth from fiction leading to voter apathy and disillusionment. Last year, for example, an AI-generated image of the Pentagon almost crashed the US Stock Markets and sparked conversations across the world. Another AI image of ex-US president Donald Trump and 

Misinformation has never been easier to create or spread, and if Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis or the US’ 2-16 elections are any pointer, these kinds of news spread too fast. Watermarked or not, there may be stopping the use of AI in the coming months. Watermarked pictures can be cropped out, embedded ones can be flipped and campaign copy can always be recreated. Chatbots like ChatGPT and Bard have been known to create false information—a warning OpenAI shares with users—and politicians across the world are bothered about the chaos this will cause.

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Consumer Tech

Unpacking Samsung S24 Series

Samsung S24
Image Source: Samsung

Samsung wants you to unlock your potential with Galaxy AI.

At its January 2024 Unpacked event yesterday, Samsung officially launched its new flagship phone, the Galaxy S24 Ultra and unveiled suites of AI-powered products on the new device. Samsung also shared that it will be giving 7 years of security and software upgrades on the Galaxy S24 which has a starting price of$1,299.

On the hardware part, Samsung isn’t sporting anything new with the S24 series. The latest iteration to its flagship comes in three models: S24, S24+, and S24 Ultra. The base phone has a 256BG storage option, a 4,000mAh battery capacity, and a triple rear camera unit comprising a 200-mega-pixel, 50-mega-pixel primary camera and a 10-mega-pixel wide-angle camera respectively. 

On the software part though, the company has some interesting additions through its partnership with Google’s Gemini AI.

Real-time voice translation while on a call: On the new S24 device, users will be able to make real-time audio and text translations of calls. This built-in interpreter translates your calls to two-way live, no matter the device. The feature is currently available in 13 languages. Samsung also now has an AI-powered speech-to-text recorder that can translate your transcriptions into another language

Chat Assist: In more about language translation, users will be able to translate languages directly within the text message app with the “Chat assist” feature.

Circle to Search: Samsung is introducing a way for you to make a Google search without switching apps. Through its partnership with Google Search, users will be able to make Google searches within another app by scribbling, circling or highlighting a particular object on the screen. The feature is available across all three models of the Galaxy S24. 

Quick share: Samsung is also introducing a new “Quick share” app that allows you to share high-resolution images almost instantly without losing any quality between multiple Android devices including your Windows PC. 

Crypto Tracker

The World Wide Web3

Source:

OneLiquidity  logo

Coin Name

Current Value

Day

Month

Bitcoin $42,574

– 1.51%

+ 2.20%

Ether $2,526

– 1.69%

+ 16.31%

Xai

$1.05

+ 0.42%

+ 55.11%

Myro $0.18

+ 33.26%

+ 720.47%

* Data as of 06:10 AM WAT, January 18, 2024.

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Opportunities

  • Gen F, an initiative facilitated by Founders Factory, is set to invest in startups from Africa through its Entrepreneur in Residence programme. Selected startups will receive a $250,000 seed funding injection upon successful pitching. Apply here.
  • The Federal Government of Nigeria has opened applications for companies that could serve as hosts to its Code Clubs initiative in 16 states of the federation. Launched in collaboration with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the Code Clubs will enable Nigerians aged 7 to 17 years to learn a broad spectrum of coding and technology-related subjects. Apply here.
  • Deji Alli ARM Young Talent Award (DAAYTA) 2024 for Innovative Nigerian startups (₦12,000,000 in funding) is open for applications. DAAYTA is an ARM initiative, in partnership with TechnoVision’s TVC Labs, that aims at providing young Nigerians with an opportunity to develop innovative startup ventures that add economic value to Nigeria. Apply by January 16.
  • Applications are open for the Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa: Doctoral Dissertation Research fellowship 2024 (up to $15,000). The Social Science Research Council offers fellowships to support the completion of doctoral degrees and to promote next-generation social science research in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. The fellowships support dissertation research on peace, security, and development topics. Apply by February 11, 2024.

Written by: Mariam Muhammad & Faith Omoniyi

Edited by: Timi Odueso

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