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‘We Can No Longer Say It Is Not My Problem’

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Manal AlBayat Expo 2020

What brings you to Johannesburg?

I am here to raise awareness about Expo 2020 that takes place in Dubai, whether it is from a business participation perspective, nations for their impact people providing innovations, or solutions that we can showcase to the world at this Expo. This is the first world expo in our region, so the developing world hasn’t had an easier access of showcasing their developments to the world.

What is the current link between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Africa?

Historically, there have been a lot of ties between the UAE and Africa. The UAE is at the center of Africa and Asia. Between these two regions, you have some of the world’s largest growing economies and the largest growing societies. What we want to make sure is that we capitalize on that relationship, to bring value for both parties and the world.

There is an initiative, called Expo Live. It is a $100 million fund that supports innovation around mobility, sustainability and opportunity, with a social impact component. It supports grant recipients with an opportunity for unlocking potential for people and communities to be able to succeed in access to funding, in access to education, in access to markets, supporting entrepreneurs, empowering women and empowering youth. All of these are access to opportunities. …So far we have 45 recipients that have been grantees of Expo Live. From the 45, 14 operate or are from Africa.

You’ve been instrumental in regional business development and integration, where do you see Africa positioned in terms of global business?

There is huge potential in Africa. African nations have done a tremendous job in really leveraging their assets. I am not just talking about its natural resources, I am also talking about the educated young population. From a geographical perspective as well as historical relationship between Africa and the UAE, we want to make sure that this expo provides opportunities. In 2017 we have awarded about $3 billion in contracts – construction and non-construction related. On top of that we will have 180 nations participating in our expo. These nations will need help in terms of design, construction and content and exhibits. On top of that we will have 25 million visits to our expo during a six-month period. We will need all kinds of services. The expo is a huge opportunity for businesses that already have the capability, in terms of resources, brain power and passion, to be able to deliver to the world.

What attracted you to Expo 2020?

We live in a world that is so connected we can no longer say ‘it is not my problem, it does not affect me’. That is not right. Sooner or later it will affect everyone. That is why the social impact component is critical.

Each nation should have its own voice. It doesn’t matter how big your country is, in terms of land or the economy. If we really want to solve the world’s pressing challenges, everyone has to be on equal footing. Everyone has a voice towards that solution.

Do you see African cities attracting global events, like Expo 2020?

Already in South Africa you have an ability to host; you’ve had the 2010 World Cup that had so much energy, the rest of the world watching wanted to be here and be a part of it. For any major event there are certain criteria that you need. You need a solid infrastructure, you need a strong hospitality sector, in terms of hotels services and food and beverages. From a communications perspective, you need to be able to tell the stories. You need a safe environment. You need support from the business community and from the people of the community itself. There are a lot of African nations that have made great strides in all of these areas.

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Nasdaq Is Now Working With 7 Cryptocurrency Exchanges

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Cryptocurrency exchanges who want to use Nasdaq’s proprietary surveillance technology need to have more than money.

A team of about 20 people contribute to helping in an elaborate due-diligence process aimed at ensuring that any exchange who wants to use the technology that scans for fraudulent transaction patterns is both technically capable, and morally inclined to use the powerful software wisely.

For exchanges who pass the test (and can foot the bill) they’ll be granted access to the same surveillance technology Nasdaq itself uses to ensure its clients that trading volume is as free from fraud and manipulation as possible.

So far, seven cryptocurrency exchanges have passed Nasdaq’s muster, according to a Nasdaq representative speaking with Forbes, though only two, Gemini and SBI Virtual Currency, have been publicized. As more cryptocurrency exchanges seek to lure new customers, the assurance of Nasdaq’s technology is already being used to attract institutions and traders used to more mainstream venues.

During a briefing with members of media today, Nasdaq’s head of exchange and regulator surveillance team, Tony Sio, who works within the market surveillance division, shared the questions every cryptocurrency exchange must answer as part of a larger presentation on the state of the industry around the world.

“Historically, we don’t do such a large vetting process for our clients because they are much more well-known,” said Sio. “But as we started working with less well-known names, startups, then we realized we needed to do this check process.”

During the briefing at Nasdaq’s offices earlier today, Sio presented a detailed overview of how the company on-boards its crypto exchange clients, broken down in to three categories: Business Model, KYC/AML, and Exchange Governance & Controls.

While the press briefing was for educational purposes, in an interview following, Sio provided Forbes with further context, explaining how his team of legal and technical experts use the criteria to evaluate possible customers for risk. Not everyone makes the cut, he says.

The first section of a document, titled “Key Questions to Ask When Evaluating a Cryptocurrency Exchange,” was called “Business Model.” Of the questions in that section, one jumped out: “How reputable are the products available to trade on the venue?”

What’s interesting about this is that it shows Nasdaq is concerned about who is using crypto assets, and how they are being used. As questions about the importance of how a crypto asset was used in the past (Was it used to buy drugs? Does that matter?) continue to be sorted out, this point will likely only continue to raise in value.

The second section of the document is called “KYC/AML,” which stands for know-your-customer/anti-money laundering. Like the questions about business models, the most interesting question in this section relates to reputation. “What is the organizational structure and what are the founders’ backgrounds (i.e. tech expertise, financial markets expertise, etc.).”

What stands out about this question is the importance that past experience plays. From the early days of cryptocurrency, and now into other crypto-assets, the industry’s biggest value proposition was that it would democratize finance and a wide range of industries by letting retail consumers build and manage their own financial products.

Instead of innovation coming from the top down, crypto would be grassroots. While Nasdaq has shown a willingness to work with some unusual clients in the cryptospace, the ones we know about support what these questions reveal about Nasdaq’s interest in working with proven entities, something other regulated exchanges and technology providers will likely follow.

In the third and final section of the “key questions” document, “Are crypto asset listing standards in place?” is the most insightful. While some of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges, like Circle (which owns the Poloniex exchange) and Coinbase, publicly post their new asset listing process, others are much more opaque, leaving open the door to pay-to-play allegations and other potentially fraudulent activity.

Most recently, in June 2018 SBI Virtual Currencies run by Japanese financial giant SBI Holdings, announced it was using Nasdaq’s matching system. Before that, in April 2018, the heavily licensed Gemini cryptocurrency exchange run by Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, announced it was using Nasdaq’s SMARTS surveillance system. “Our deployment of Nasdaq’s SMARTS Market Surveillance will help ensure that Gemini is a rules-based marketplace for all market participants,” said Gemini CEO Tyler Winklevoss in a statement at the time.

Beyond providing technical support to these exchanges, Nasdaq’s interest in blockchain has been largely limited to investing in other non-cryptocurrency applications of the technology. In September 2015 Nasdaq joined a $30 million investment round in Chain, a blockchain startup that eventually partnered with Nasdaq to launch Linq, a platform for issuing private equities. Then, last week Nasdaq led a $20 million investment in Symbiont, another blockchain company building services that eliminate middlemen in traditional financial workflows.

While competitors like the New York Stock Exchange have partnered with Microsoft and Starbucks to launch its own cryptocurrency exchange, Bakkt, later this year, Nasdaq’s cryptocurrency exchange guidelines are likely to be limited to providing technical support for now.

“The objective that we’re trying to work with crypto, is we see this as a growing asset class,” says Sio. “So we’re working to help provide our technology, it could be around matching, it could be around surveillance, to help our customers as they grow their marketplaces.”

Michael del Castillo Forbes Staff

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Climate Investment Funds to Issue $500 Million Green Bond This Year or Next

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The Climate Investment Funds (CIF) plans to raise $500 million this year or next by issuing a green bond to finance renewable energy projects, the organization’s head said on Sunday.

The $8 billion fund gets most of its money from development banks and donor countries and finances more than 300 environmentally-friendly energy projects in some 72 countries.

“U.S, European and Japanese investors are interested in green bond offerings,” Mafalda Duarte said in a phone interview, without giving further details on where the CIF plans to issue the green bond.

Green bonds are fixed income securities that raise capital for projects with environmental benefits.

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The CIF will use the proceeds to fund projects that could range from promoting the transition to renewable energy and improving resilience to climate change to stabilizing power grids amid the growing use of intermittent sources of power.

The CIF also sees opportunities in electrified transport, Mafalda said.

She also stressed the need to cut the cost of concentrated solar power technology, which uses mirrors or lenses to concentrate a large area of sunlight, and to promote the integration of regional energy markets.

Such issues will be examined at a conference on Jan. 28-29 marking the CIF’s tenth anniversary.

The conference will be held in the south-eastern Moroccan city of Ouarzazate, where the CIF contributed $535 million to building a 580 megawatt (MW) solar power plant, the world’s largest. -Reuters

-Ahmed Eljechtimi

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Ugandan Firm Uses Blockchain To Trace Coffee From Farms To Stores

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An Ugandan company has started using blockchain, the technology behind virtual currency Bitcoin, to certify shipments of coffee to try to meet growing demand from consumers for more information about where products have come from.

Carico Café Connoisseur said the move could help to boost farmers’ incomes, as consumers are usually prepared to pay more for goods that can been traced back to their origins.

Blockchain works by providing a shared record of data held by a network of individual computers rather than a single party. Its supporters say this makes it hard to tamper with, and so a secure way to track goods along the supply chain

Carico Café Connoisseur CEO Mwambu Wanendeya told Reuters a blockchain-certified shipment of one of its coffee products, Bugisu Blue, arrived in South Africa last month. He declined to give the size of the shipment, but said it was several tonnes.

Uganda is Africa’s largest coffee exporter followed by Ethiopia, according to the International Coffee Organisation, and has some of the world’s highest quality beans. It predominantly cultivates the robusta variety, but also has extensive fields of arabica trees.

Limited domestic processing capacity means the country exports nearly all of its beans in raw form.

The blockchain certification means consumers can trace the coffee’s journey by using their smartphones to scan the product’s QR codes or via the certification site provenance.org.

Every step of the beans’ journey – from when farmers drop them off at collection centers to warehousing, inspection by regulators and shipping – is recorded.

“The idea is to give the consumer an appreciation of what happens on the journey and also to ensure that there’s more linkages with the farmer,” Wanendeya said.

“Traceability is important because people are increasingly concerned that … farmers get rewarded for their work.”

The process will provide consumers with information such as the type of coffee bean, the year it was harvested, and where it was grown.

Founded in 2016, Carico Café is working with two farmer cooperatives with hundreds of members. Wanendeya predicted the innovation could boost farmers’ incomes by 10 percent.

“Consumers are willing to pay more if they can know where exactly the coffee is coming from,” he said.

Just a phone scan away – website reveals ethically sourced food

Uganda is keen to increase coffee exports from the current level of around 4 million 60-kilogramme bags per year.

However, a seedlings distribution program it hoped would boost production has yielded modest results, in part because of a decline in interest in coffee among farmers due to often low and unstable prices. -Reuters

– Elias Biryabarema

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