Q4 2023 – FinTech in Singapore & South Africa

Reflecting on Q4 of 2023, it has been a busy but fruitful one. In particular, 3 events stand out!

1. Singapore FinTech Festival 2023

Singapore (and APAC region) is pressing on full steam ahead with financial technology innovation – in particular, utilising AI and web3. The solutions on display highlighted how interoperability, convenience and seamless integration are top of mind for consumer finance products. As a web3 enthusiast, I was excited as seeing super apps such as Grab showcasing a web3 wallet that supports stablecoin payments (in partnership with Circle). In addition, central banks often get critiqued for being slow to experiment with emerging technology. This is not the case with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) who showcased a number of solutions including a CBDC management tool. Lastly, a recurring theme was that of ESG tracking and reporting solutions, which is as expected as this a growing trend in Europe and APAC in particular.

2. Mandla Money participated in the Ripple and Tenity XRPL Accelerator in Singapore

Mandla Money, a mobile money meets crypto platform that I founded, was 1 of 11 startups that participated in the second cohort of the XRPL Accelerator program which culminated in a demo day during the Singapore FinTech Festival week. The XRPL Accelerator is a program dedicated to nurturing innovation and development on the XRP Ledger, and supports entrepreneurs and builders looking to scale their projects on the XRP Ledger. The accelerator provided us with an opportunity to network with teams from across the world and helped refine our wallet-as-a-service value proposition going into the new year. S/O to Adrian Falk, Jorden Tan and their teams for making it happen.

3. MoMo from MTN API Hackathon 2023 South Africa

To cap of FinTech November, I circled back to South Africa, and alongside Nyiva Musyoka, Mordechai Serraf and Raees Abdool-Gaffar, I participated in the MTN MoMo Hackathon as a judge. It was an honour to deliberate on the variety of solutions which ranged from P2P lending and crowdfunding to cashflow financing. The hackathon underscored the notion that open banking APIs can be used to develop new payment systems that are faster, less expensive, and more convenient which potentially will positively disrupt the payment landscape and unlock new opportunities for FinTech startups and other innovative businesses.

Here is to FinTech making financial services more efficient, effective, and accessible!

#web3 #XRPLAccelerator #MTNMoMo #MandlaMoney #FinTech

Apex XRPL Developer Summit Amsterdam 2023

The 2023 edition of the annual Apex XRPL Developer Summit hosted by Ripple and the XRPL Foundation took place on 7th & 8th September in Amsterdam. The summit brought together developers, innovators, businesses, and investors for an inspiring two days, to exchange ideas on all things  blockchain technology and the XRP Ledger.

Offline Payments, Stablecoins and retail-CBDC

Last year, at Apex 2022, I spoke about how we (Mandla Money) are building low-tech digital asset wallets for financial inclusion and universal access leveraging the XRPL. This year at Apex 2023, I had the opportunity to give a talk on the more practical and operational considerations of administering an offline wallet that supports XRPL native and issued assets, and utilises capabilities of the ledger such as the decentralised exchange (DEX). In my talk, I discussed what desiderata for offline payments (the Mandla Wallet is an SMS wallet and I really should refer to this as semi-offline payments before I upset central bankers and economists), our approach to administering stablecoins (and by extension retail CBDC) in an “offline” setting and setting transaction limits for users based on their know-your-customer (KYC) level. I ended the talk with a demo of the corresponding features, and interoperability between the Mandla Wallet and other wallets in the XRPL ecosystem (I used Xumm wallet to illustrate this).

Here is a video of the talk.

Conference Highlights

The other highlights from the conference included:

  • Announcement of upcoming XRPL features:
    • Decentralised identity on XRPL (XLS-40d) – native support for world wide web consortium (W3C) decentralised identifiers (DIDs) on XRP Ledger. Decentralised identity (also known as self-sovereign identity) specifies a lifetime portable digital identity that does not depend on any centralised authority and fulfills requirements such as persistence, global resolvability, cryptographic verifiability, and decentralisation. This will allow XRPL account holder to  create, and manage their decentralised identifiers while having complete control over the private keys and contents of the identity object.
    • Automated market maker (AMM) on XRPL (XLS-30d) – An automated market maker (AMM) is a protocol for a decentralised exchange (DEX) that prices assets through an algorithm, rather than using an order book like a traditional exchange. Currently, the XRPL DEX provides liquidity exclusively by manual market making and order books. Introducing a native AMM will allow users to trade at a certain exchange rate on a DEX without having to find a counterparty e.g. instead of having to find a neighbour who is willing to trade USD for ZAR, or go to the airport currency exchange counter, the AMM allows one to exchange tokens freely.
  • A presentation on efforts and initiatives to grow and support the XRPL community including XRPL foundation, XRPL accelerator, XRPL grants and XRPL commons.
  • A breakout session on payments in emerging markets (e.g. Brazil).

All in all, I find Apex to be a great opportunity to network with the XRPL community and this year was no different – perhaps a little more special given the tailwind the community is currently riding given the glimpses of regulatory clarity around the XRP asset that is starting to emerge!

Teaching Blockchain at the FabLab Solidaire

Hands-on Blockchain Skills Development in Madagascar

Over the course of 5th June – 16th June 2023, I had the opportunity to teach a Financial Technology and Blockchain postgraduate course to a group of students enrolled in the newly launched Master of Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science degree at the University of Antananarivo, the leading academic institution in Madagascar. The opportunity to teach the course was a result of a collaboration between the University of Antananarivo, the University of Cape Town’s Financial Innovation Hub and the Algorand Foundation.

The cohort of 20 students comprised a mix of working professionals and students with backgrounds in mathematics, economics, statistics and engineering. During the course, the students learnt about financial systems, innovation and disruption, blockchain fundamentals and a hands on deep dive into the Algorand blockchain – including the Algorand Python SDK and smart contracts (using PyTeal). Reflecting on the teaching experience, I appreciated that in this digital age, development of blockchain skills at tertiary level is absolutely necessary (and is the bare minimum), especially if Africa is going to realise its potential and produce locally grown solutions to provide employment and economic agency. It was an incredible privilege to be part of this initiative, and to be involved in hands-on skills development and knowledge transfer in Madagascar.

2023 Blockchain Summer School – Monash University Blockchain Technology Centre

At the beginning of February 2023, I attended the Monash University Blockchain Summer School hosted by the Algorand Centre of Excellence on Sustainability Informatics for the Pacific (ACE-SIP). It was a two-days well spent at my alma mater as I got the lay of the land for all things blockchain – innovation, research and regulation – in Australia and the pacific region.  

Stablecoins and CBDC

One of the speakers at the event, a representative from Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) spoke about how they issued a Australian dollar stablecoin called the A$DC and are involved in a number of central bank digital currency initiatives in the region. Some quick googling revealed that National Australia Bank (NAB), a rival to ANZ Bank has been piloting a stablecoin called the AUDN. Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies whose value is pegged to an underlying fiat (government issued) currency and allow settling of transactions on blockchain technology in real-time. Issuing of stablecoins by ANZ and NAB – both in the ‘big four’ Australian banks – demonstrates one of the roles banks can play in driving innovation in the web3 economy, leveraging their brand visibility, domain knowledge and reputation.

General Innovation 

The summer school, also showcased/mentioned a number of innovative web3 solutions and opportunities for blockchain in the region. Some of these include: 

  • CValid – a credentialing system for education and recruitment from Monash University. This innovative solution is set to revolutionise the education and recruitment industry, providing a secure and efficient way of verifying credentials.
  • Water Ledger – a distributed, all-digital system modernising the way water rights are shared and reported (read more about Australian water rights here – https://www.pc.gov.au/research/completed/water-rights).
  • Powerledger – a peer-to-peer renewable energy blockchain trading platform that allows consumers and producers to track, trace and trade every kilowatt of energy that is produced off-grid. 
  • FreshChain – a blockchain-based system to protect Australian exports and provide assurances to trading partners and consumers about the safety and quality of Australia’s produce. FreshChain is a recipient of the Australia Traceability Grants program.
  • RedBelly blockchain – an Australian blockchain platform developed by the University of Sydney and  the Australian government’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). 


  • The Australian governments Clean energy regulator considering blockchain solutions for “Guarantee of Origin” assurance scheme to verify emissions associated with hydrogen, renewable electricity and potentially other products made in Australia such as metals or biofuels.
  • Sustainable supply chains e.g.tracking and tracing emissions across a supply chain – representing emissions digitally on a blockchain allows supply chain partners to make emissions data readily available and to share it with the next participant in the chain.


Major research themes I observed from the conference included:

  • Formal and quantitative analysis of blockchain platforms i.e. blockchain network benchmarking.
  • Post-quantum computing and blockchain security.
  • Micropayments and streaming payments using channels.

Special mention and thanks to ACE-SIP and the Algorand Foundation for organising the event and the opportunity to participate.

Apex Developer Summit Las Vegas 2022

Last month I had the opportunity to attend and speak at the premier event of the XRPL Ledger (XRPL) community – The Apex Developer Summit in Las Vegas, USA. At the event, which is hosted annually by Ripple and the XRPL Foundation I got to meet and engage with the XRPL community, which included David Schwartz, a co-founder and current CTO at Ripple.

Before jumping into a summary of David Schwartz talk on The next iteration of XRPL, recall that XRPL is a decentralised, public blockchain led by a global developer community – think of XRPL as a public good. XRPL makes use of a federated byzantine agreement algorithm that enables fast & cheap transactions with finality achieved in 3 to 5 seconds (in simpler terms, transactions with XRP or XRPL-issued assets complete in 3 – 5 seconds). You can learn more about the XRPL here and join the community on discord here.

Now, back to David Schwartz’s keynote, he started the talk with a look at the XRPL design fundamentals which include:

  • An integrated decentralised exchange (DEX) – the XRPL has features an inbuilt DEX since the beginning (circa 2012).
  • Invariant checking – the ledger has an ability to check for bugs without corrupting the ledger.
  • Rekeyable accounts – XRPL features rekeyable accounts, which is a feature that allows for changing the transaction signing key without changing receiving key.
  • Issued assets – XRPL supports the ability to issue custom assets (e.g. stablecoins or anything fungible that has value and behaves like currency) with ease.

David went on to note some of the exciting XRPL innovations which include:

  • XLS-20d – a proposed standard to issue NFTs on the XRPL i.e. mint/burn/hold/trade NFTs. The XLS-20d is designed for scale.
  • Project Clio – a development initiative to create massive storage reduction for servers that handle queries from clients. This will increase throughput, reduce cost to access the ledger and allow the ledger to scale (bearing in mind that the ledger cannot go any faster than consensus can).
  • Hooks -a feature of XRPL that allows developers to add smart-contract like functionality to the XRPL. Hooks are small, efficient pieces of code being defined on an XRPL account, allowing logic to be executed before and/or after XRPL transactions.
  • Sidechains – a feature of XRPL that allows anyone to run a sidechain to the XRP Ledger while having the freedom to decide how their chains work. You want XRPL mechanics but assets from other chains e.g. running an EVM sidechain to allow even more developers easy access to XRPL’s feature set and bring existing Solidity-based smart contracts written for EVM-compatible chains to the XRPL. Sidechains allow you to innovate at the blockchain level i.e. L1 level e.g. if you wish to tweak the TPS you can do so. Sidechains ultimately provide horizontal scalability.

In addition to David’s keynote, the summit included other keynotes on NFTs, blockchain and law, and new ways to build with some of the ecosystem tools. Here are links to the keynotes:

And then I earlier I mentioned that I got to speak at the conference. I gave a talk on how to send and receive XRPL-based assets in low-tech environments e.g. in place where there is no internet connectivity or smartphones. Here is the link to my talk – Transacting in Low-Tech Environments, Julian Kanjere – I will write a post on this soon.


No man's land between South Africa and Namibia (Vioolsdrift Border Control)

Exploring the Land of the Brave, Namibia

After recently road tripping across Namibia with some friends, I would best describe it as a country with endless stretches of road, an abundance of adventure activities, stunning landscapes and most importantly, friendly nationals who take great pride in the quality of Namibian beer, meat and biltong!

Our road trip took us across four provinces in Namibia – Karas Region (Keetmanshoop), Hardap Region (Mariental), Khomas Region (Windhoek) and Erongo Region (Swakopmund and Walvis Bay). Although we trekked across early July, which is mid-winter season, the day time temperatures consistently ranged in the mid-twenties, much to our delight. Below are some of the pictures from the roadtrip, enjoy.


Atlantic Ocean and Namib Desert separated by a road (Swakopmund)
Atlantic Ocean and Namib Desert separated by a road (Swakopmund)


Jetty Restaurant, Swakopmund
Jetty Restaurant, Swakopmund


Christus Kirche, Windhoek's best known landmark
Christus Kirche, Windhoek’s best known landmark


Sunset enroute to Windhoek
Sunset enroute to Windhoek


Quad biking in the Namib Desert, Swakopmund
Quad biking in the Namib Desert, Swakopmund


Exploring the Namib Desert, Swakopmund
Exploring the Namib Desert, Swakopmund


At the top of Dune 7, Walvis Bay
At the top of Dune 7, Walvis Bay


No man's land between South Africa and Namibia (Vioolsdrift Border Control)
No man’s land between South Africa and Namibia (Vioolsdrift Border Control)


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17 from 17 Flashback

It would seem as if we were just celebrating the start of the new year just yesterday and now it’s March already! I’ve decided to pen a flashback post with a selection of 17 pictures that I captured during the course of 2017 across Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. Enjoy!

Bird Watching (Karoo, South Africa)

Mariner’s Wharf (Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa)

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Weekend Camping Checklist

It is that time of the year when outdoor events, camping and music festivals become the order of the day weekend. Summer has come around (not quite in Cape Town), the sunny outdoors are calling and there is really no good reason to stay cooped up indoors! Some of the music festivals around this time of the year include Lake of Stars (Malawi), Rocking the Daisies (Western Cape, South Africa), OppiKoppi (Limpopo, South Africa), Synergy Live (Western Cape, South Africa), Vic Falls Carnival (Zimbabwe).  My inspiration for penning this camping checklist is that every time I start packing for a music festival or a camping trip, I can never seem to find the checklist I would have used before and have to write a new one. This will particularly be  useful if you are new to music festivals and/or camping!

Essential Campsite Items

  • Tent, Pegs and Rubber hammer
  • National Flag(s)
  • Torch, Headlamp(s) & Batteries
  • Camping Chair(s)
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Camping Mattress
  • Sleeping Bag, Blankets and Pillow(s)

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AfrikaBurn 2017 – Desert, Dust and Dance

It has been a little over three weeks ago since I took part in AfrikaBurn, the annual Burning Man like festival in the Karoo.

Describing AfrikaBurn as a festival probably conjures up thoughts of a dance / music. However, AfrikaBurn was so much more than that, it was more of an experience. Some of my best highlights included experiencing a gifting economy in a decommodified society, being exposed to a heightened form of creativity and expression that is otherwise lacking in everyday life and meeting a group of Zimbabweans (my birth country) who drove 41 hours from Zimbabwe to the Karoo in a nineties Land Cruiser!

Below are some pictures which hopefully are a glimpse of the experience.

Tankwa Padstal between Ceres and Calvinia in the Northern Cape Karoo desert of South Africa. A must stop when travelling through the Tankwa Karoo on the R355


Ostrich at Tankwa Padstal
Ostrich at Tankwa Padstal

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Entrance to The Sleeping Cave sign

Caves, Views and Deep Blue Waters

At the beginning of this year (2017), whilst recharging my batteries, I embarked on a day trip to Chinhoyi Caves National Park. The park is located in the small town of Chinhoyi,  approximately 120km away from Harare (Zimbabwe’s capital city). There was something rather special about walking through the lush green vegetation and seeing the fish swimming in the deep blue water illuminated by the piercing sun rays.

Sunlight filtering through to the Sleeping Pool
Sunlight filtering through to the Sleeping Pool


Fish swimming in the Sleeping Pool
Fish swimming in the Sleeping Pool

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