Akon: A Visionary for Africa

Akoin, the cryptocurrency developed by Senegalese-American singer and visionary Akon, is set to see a major roll-out in September 2021. After a successful pilot test, Akoin is now setting its sights on handling up to $5 million worth of transactions every month. Let’s explore this marvelous development in more detail and learn a little more about Akon and the people behind Akoin…

Akon is something of a unique character. On top of being an award-winning singer, he is also a record producer, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is mainly known as a solo artist but has released several tracks featuring popular artists such as Eminem (Smack That) and Snoop Dogg (I Wanna Love You).

You might be wondering how a Grammy Award-winning singer got into crypto? Well, in 2014, Akon invested in Bitcoin, so he’s been aware of crypto and Blockchain technology for some time now.

However, there was a defining moment when mere interest galvanized into the idea of creating his own cryptoasset. Apparently after returning from a trip to Dakar, Akon tried to convert West African CFA franc into Euros at a French Exchange.

The exchange staff told the Star, ‘Unfortunately we don’t take them.’ He was left with a pocket full of currency that he couldn’t spend or do anything with. This was a real shock to him because CFA francs is the currency used in many French-speaking West African countries (including his own native country, Senegal).

This was the moment Akon realized that Africa needed its own currency that could be accepted throughout the continent and even beyond.

In an interview with Bloomberg Quint, the singer stated:

‘It really just opened my eyes…that really catapulted the energy to say “we have to have our own currency. I don’t care what it takes – we are going to fix this.”’

Akon announced plans to launch his own crypto in 2019 at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Crypto Philanthropy

In addition to being a musician and crypto entrepreneur, Akon is well-known for his philanthropic work. For one, he is the founder of Lighting Africa, an organization that provides off-grid electricity to energy-deprived communities.

According to the Lighting Africa website, approximately 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live without grid electricity. Instead, they are forced to use kerosene lamps and candles as sources of light and heat. The fumes from these mediums cause respiratory problems and are a major fire hazard.

Energy-poverty is a major barrier to educational and business opportunities in Africa. Lighting Africa is working across 25 African countries and has major plans to expand the operation throughout the continent.

Akon is also involved with Konfidence Foundation, a charity committed to helping underprivileged children. Akon founded the organization in 2007 with the help of his mother, Kine Gueye Thiam. The initiative aims to empower children in Senegal by providing them with education, mentoring programs and scholarships. Interestingly enough, Akon created a song titled Oh Africa with Keri Hilson. Part of the proceeds from this song and subsequent tour went directly towards financing the Konfidence Foundation.

A cryptocurrency enthusiast to say the least, Akon has plans to build AKON CITY in Senegal. AKON CITY will be a futuristic, Wakanda-style smart city powered by Akoin.

AKON CITY definitely deserves an article of its, own so I’ll be following-up in a future piece. Watch this space!

So What is AKOIN?

Akoin is a Stellar-based cryptocurrency designed to empower entrepreneurs in Africa and beyond. Africa is home to 54 countries and over 40 volatile fiat currencies. With spiraling inflation, strict government legislation and thousands of unbanked adults, it’s difficult for Africans to set up businesses and save money. Akoin aims to solve these problems by providing a suite of tools to help people set up businesses and trade both locally and internationally.

Young entrepreneurs in Africa are facing real hardships in creating and building businesses — problems that have hampered sustained development for too long – Akon, Chairman and Co-Founder of Akoin

Akoin also funds a foundation that runs programs for identifying and encouraging entrepreneurs in Africa. Some of these programs include education, mentoring Akoin ambassadors, business incubation, community networking and activations. The foundation invests in Decentralized Apps (dApps) joining the Ecosystem, leveraging them as token distribution vehicles to ensure Akoin maintains its utility for its end-users.

Akoin underwent testing at the Mwale Medical and Technology City (MMTC). The MMTC is a fascinating development in Kenya. It’s built around a 5,000 bed state-of-the-art hospital. With solar powered lighting, a waste-to-energy facility and rainwater harvesting, the city aims to be completely self-sufficient and entirely sustainable in the near future.

The initial testing phase for Akoin ran from November 2020 to July 2021 and involved residents and employees of MMTC. People were paid and could effect payments using Akoin. The transactions were then converted into cell phone minutes or other forms of exchange. According to Akoin, the test was a huge success, and the aim is to have all residents and businesses in the city transacting solely with Akoin by September 2022…that’s about a year from now, so we’ll find out soon enough!

Where Is This All Headed?

A spokesperson for Akoin stated that by the end of 2022, Akoin is expected to become the ‘second-most popular payment platform after M-Pesa,’ a mobile-phone-based money transfer and micro-financing service popular in Africa and other parts of the developing world.

These are grand plans indeed, and I personally wonder how long it is before a movie or documentary is made on the whole Akoin project. I for one would definitely watch it. Wait a minute, that’s a great idea! Remember movie moguls, you heard it here first, so I’ll expect some credit for the idea!

I will be following Akoin with great interest and bringing you updates on its progress. With a famous co-founder, huge plans for expansion across Africa, designs to build a self-sufficient smart city in Senegal, and the sustainable MMTC project, you wonder if the project will succeed or simply disappear. Only time will tell I guess…

Intro to Cardano

Cardano is a peer-reviewed Blockchain. The non-profit foundation responsible for Cardano assembled a network of academics and scientists from various universities to review its protocols prior to their release. Cardano is a third-generation cryptocurrency and smart contract platform.

History

Cardano’s development began in 2015. The Cardano platform and its ADA token launched on 29th September 2017. Input Output Hong Kong (IOHK) oversee the development of Cardano and ADA. IOHK’s lead developer is Charles Hoskinson, a well-known contributor to the cryptocurrency industry and noted co-founder of Ethereum and Bitshares.
Purpose

ADA describes itself as the first third-generation cryptocurrency and aims to tackle scaling and infrastructure problems prevalent on other platforms such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.

More specifically, Cardano seeks to solve problems related to scalability, interoperability, and sustainability on cryptocurrency platforms. It calls itself the first-ever peer-reviewed Blockchain platform. Cardano does not have a White Paper – instead, it began with a set of design principles, engineering best practices and possible avenues for exploration.

Founders

Charles Hoskinson

Charles Hoskinson led the research, design and development of Cardano. He is the current CEO and founder of Cardano.

Hoskinson was also one of the co-founders of Ethereum. However, Hoskinson left Ethereum in 2014 after a dispute over whether the project should be commercial (Hoskinson’s view) or a nonprofit (Buterin’s view)

Funding

Cardano raised $62.2 million in its ICO which ended in January 2017. In July 2020, Cardano Inc. announced that they had entered into an agreement with an undisclosed party to receive $340 million in funding to develop the first-ever cryptocurrency credit card for Europe.
Technology

There are 3 entities involved in the development of Cardano: The Cardano Foundation, IOHK and Emurgo.

The Foundation is a not-for-profit organization based in Switzerland that seeks to standardize, protect and promote the Cardano protocol.

IOHK, or Input Output Hong Kong, is a research and development company founded by Charles Hoskinson and Jeremy Wood. IOHK oversees the architecture, design and maintenance of Cardano.

Emurgo is a multinational company based in Japan. Its aim is to support and incubate commercial ventures that want to use Blockchain technology to improve their company.

Cardano uses a version of the Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus protocol called ‘Ouroboros.’ This protocol rewards participants for taking part in the network by either operating a staking pool or delegating a stake in ADA to a stake pool.

Ouroboros processes transaction blocks by dividing chains into epochs. These epochs are further divided into time slots. Each time slot holds an election for a slot leader who is consequently responsible for adding a block to the chain. Each new slot leader must consider the last few blocks of the received chain as transient, and settlement only occurs once the chain precedes a prespecified number of transient blocks. This is also referred to as the settlement delay, and it is the mechanism through which the ledger is passed securely between participants.

Token

The native token of the Cardano platform is ADA. It can be used as a store of value or transfer medium.

ADA is staked to the Blockchain to help stake pool operators verify transactions on the Blockchain. Holders of ADA that stake to the Blockchain are rewarded with ADA. This staking system helps maintain security throughout the Blockchain.

ADA is also used for governance. Holders can vote on changes to the Cardano protocol.

Facts

Cardano’s token, ADA, takes it name from Ada Lovelace, a 19th Century mathematician often referred to as the first computer programmer.
Cardano owes its name to Gerolamo Cardano, a 16th Century Italian polymath who was one of the key figures in the foundation of probability. He is the earliest advocate of the binomial coefficients and the binomial theorem
Cardano’s Shelley mainnet launched in July 2020

Play-to-Earn: Changing the Way We Game

Play-to-Earn is a new phenomenon in gaming quickly gaining traction with people all over the world. Players collect rewards in the form of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) within a game and have the option to convert them to fiat currency later on. Amidst the global pandemic in which many have been plunged into unemployment or under-employment, this has literally been a life-saver.

 What are NFTs?

Non-Fungible Tokens (or NFTs) are essentially digital properties. They can take on many forms such as memes, animated GIFs and in-game assets. An NFT’s record of ownership is stored on a Blockchain, and players actually own their in-game collectibles. NFT items in Blockchain-based games can transfer off the platform and be exchanged in any open market.

Play-to-Earn in Action

When COVID-19 hit, many Filipino workers overseas lost their jobs and had to return home. In a country with already-high unemployment rates, these returning workers faced grim prospects of finding any jobs. However, Play-to-Earn has enabled many Filipinos to earn money to feed their children and make ends meet.

By playing games such as [Axie Infinity](https://axieinfinity.com/), Filipinos are reportedly earning several hundred dollars a month, more than the current minimum wage. Axie Infinity is like a cross between Cryptokitties and Pokemon: players breed, train and battle Axies and earn actual rewards in return for their progress and effort.

Axie is massive in the Philippines: of the half a million daily Axie players, 60% of these are in the Philippines.

Filipino players typically go to local internet cafes to play on PCs, or they participate on their phones. Word has gotten around, and now entire communities are playing games to earn money. Family members are reportedly playing in shifts, racking up to 20 hours of game time every single day.

Yield Guild Games

[Yield Guild Games](https://yieldguild.io/) (or YGG) is a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) established to invest in NFTs. Their mission is to create the biggest virtual world economy, optimizing its community-owned assets for maximum utility and sharing profits with its token holders.

YGG supports a number of games including Axie Infinity. YGG acquires in-game assets and lends them to their community members as a form of scholarship. The recipient of the scholarship is called a scholar. The scholar’s earnings are split between the scholar (70%), Yield Guild (10%), and the Community Manager (20%). The Community Manager is responsible for recruiting, training and mentoring the new player.

> YGG funded a documentary exploring Play-to-Earn in the Philippines. You can view it [here](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yo-BrASMHU4/).

YGG also supports Blockchain games [League of Kingdoms](https://www.leagueofkingdoms.com/) and [The Sandbox](https://www.sandbox.game/en/). The former is an MMO strategy game where players fight for dominion while the latter is a virtual world where participants can play, build, own, and monetize their virtual experiences according to their personal preferences.

Whilst the majority of YGG members are currently located in the Philippines, it is rapidly gaining popularity in other countries such as India and Brazil.

The Future of Play-to-Earn

Could Play-to-Earn be an alternative career choice that allows people to earn a decent living? The only real requirements are time, internet connectivity and a smartphone. The idea of earning money while playing and having fun may sound patently absurd to many, but the truth is that gaming is already a viable career option for many Filipinos. Value is created when communities come together and work to achieve something greater than they could as individuals.

The digital world is clearly having a profound effect on populations all over the world and helping to lift people out of poverty. As more communities come to realize this, there is little doubt that Play-to-Earn will continue to grow and may one day be an integral part of the global economy.

Decentralization has allowed people to gain ownership over assets that provide them with the ability to make money and add value to society as well as their own communities at a grassroots level. At this point, Play-to-Earn isn’t just here to stay- it’s a new way of life.

Unraveling Web3

The internet is arguably one of the most significant advances in technology we have ever seen. Indeed, for most of us, it is hard to imagine life without the internet.

The internet has only been around for approximately 30 years. But during this time it has changed dramatically.

Web 1.0

In the beginning, we had Web 1.0. This had only a handful of content creators. The majority of Web 1.0 users were content consumers.

Web 1.0 websites were static pages, the content was stored in files rather than databases, there was little interaction between users and content. It is no surprise to learn that Web 1.0 is called the read-only web.

As time went by, connection speeds increased, developers gained more skills and servers upgraded. This led to the emergence of Web 2.0 or the Social Web as its sometimes known.

Web 2.0

Web 2.0 enabled a tidal wave of user-generated content, social media, instant website creation, blogging and platforms that allow users to upload content that anyone can search and view. This is the internet that we are familiar with today.

The Darkside of Web 2.0

Web 2.0 saw the rise of massively all-powerful tech companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon. These companies rely on data to drive their business model. Data is collected from internet users, analyzed and then monetized by targeted advertising. Most of the time, users don’t even realize their data is being used without their permission. Meanwhile, these big tech companies are making a fortune!

Not only are these big tech companies exploiting users data, they also have complete control over who uses their services or not. Popular YouTubers and Twitter accounts have been famously frozen or cancelled because they allegedly violated regulations. This might not sound like a big deal, but getting a lot of engaged followers takes a lot of time and effort.

So What is Web3?

Put simply, Web3 is an umbrella term that covers a variety of Decentralized applications or Dapps. In fact, Web3 is often referred to as the Decentralized web.

The concept of decentralization came about due to the development of Bitcoin and Blockchain technology. Decentralization means that no one person, organization or company controls a project.

Web3 believers feel that decentralization is the future of the internet. People should be free to browse the internet without big corporations tracking their movements and stealing their data.

Does Web3 sound like a pipe dream? The answer is no. There are plenty of Web3 projects out there. Projects using AI, NFTs and Blockchain games. Web3 is still in the early stages, mass adoption is still far off. But it looks like Web3 is here to stay!

What is AI?

Once you start looking into AI (artificial intelligence) you find that people have mixed views about it. Some believe that AI will cause wide-scale job losses. Some think that AI can solve all the world’s problems. Before we can answer those intense questions we should find out what Artificial Intelligence is and learn about some of its applications in today’s world.

Artificial Intelligence is the idea that machines can do human tasks and improve upon their performance by learning. We’re not talking about futuristic robots like the T-800 rampaging through Los Angeles or HAL in Space Odyssey going rogue against the humans. We’re talking about machines that can carry out tasks by mimicking human reactions. These machines can improve their performance based on the information they receive. Now I say machines, but AI can also be software running on devices. For example chat-bots, FB recognising faces in photos and viewer recommendations on Netflix are examples of AI in action. Granted the software part is not as exciting as a real robot, but these are examples of systems that can learn and adapt.   

This brings me to the question: what is the difference between Artificial intelligence and robotics? Strictly speaking, these are two separate fields. Robotics is a technology branch that deals with physical robots — programmable machines designed to perform a series of tasks. On the other hand, AI involves developing programs to complete tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence. However, the two fields can overlap to create artificially intelligent robots!

History of AI

Alan Turing, back in the 1950s was talking about “thinking machines” and he is usually credited with the origin of the idea of AI. A few years later John McCarthy first used the term “artificial intelligence” to describe machines that could think autonomously. He described the concept as “getting a computer to do things which, when done by people, are said to involve intelligence.”

So the idea of AI isn’t a new thing and over the decade scientists have argued over the terms “thinking”, “intelligence,” and what “fully autonomous” is. 

AI has made many advances in recent years. The ability of AI systems to incorporate intentionality, intelligence, and adaptability in their algorithms has come on leaps and bounds. Rather than being mechanistic or deterministic in how machines operate, AI software can learn and incorporate real-world experience in its decision making.

The Different Types of AI

The four artificial intelligence types are reactive machines, limited memory, Theory of Mind, and self-aware. These AI types are hierarchical, the most simple level requires basic functioning, and the most advanced level is all-knowing.

The simplest types of AI systems are reactive. They can’t learn from experiences or form memories. Reactive machines react to some inputs with some output. The system perceives the world directly and acts on what they see. Self-driving cars are an example of limited memory AI. They make immediate decisions using data from the recent past. They use sensors to identify steep roads, traffic signals, and civilians crossing the streets. 

In Psychology, the “theory of mind” refers to the ability to attribute mental state — beliefs, intent, desires, emotion, knowledge — to oneself and others. An AI system with the Theory of Mind would understand that humans have thoughts, feelings, and expectations for how to be treated. That way, it can adjust its response accordingly. We have not gotten to the Theory of Mind stage in AI yet so yelling angrily at Google maps isn’t going to change its output!

The next stage in AI is to build self-aware machines. Self-aware machines, in theory, could form representations of themselves. It is an extension and advancement of the Theory of Mind AI. However, this is movie and comic book territory. Self-aware machines don’t exist at the moment.

Examples of AI in Action

We have already mentioned chatbots and social Text editors which are a form of AI. There are others that you may be familiar with. Grammarly detects spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes. It suggests corrections and gives information on readability and plagiarism alerts. This is all made possible by Natural Language Processing or NLP algorithms. Another example of AI is digital assistants. Siri was the first digital assistant and since then many others have been developed. Digital assistants are adaptive and can analyze user preferences, habits, and schedules. They can organize and plan actions such as reminders, prompts, and schedules. Smart home devices   

Many smart home devices use AI to make life easier for users. Smart- thermostats use our daily habits and heating/cooling preferences to adjust home temperatures. Smart refrigerators can create shopping lists based on the content on the shelves.    

Summary

This article is only a very brief introduction to AI. Its purpose is to show that AI is not just in the realm of sci-fi. But, that it exists and aids us in our daily lives.