Clic.World - reflecting on the journey so far and a look ahead for 2021
02nd March, 2021
The year is 2016; the place is Ntinda, a suburb of Kampala, Uganda, right in the middle of Africa. The price of bitcoin is pushing at $500 and XLM, well few people had even taken notice of it at $0.001!
Ntinda Complex, the first “real” office building in the area, is in its final stages of completion and Kahwa2Go Coffee shop has just opened on the ground floor. In the corner of the coffee shop, amongst the noise of drills and jackhammers sat three guys with their coffees — Emma and Andre doing their best to sell the concept of using the stellar blockchain as the foundation for social banking to Wensi! After long deliberations he finally bought the idea, and the rest was history as they say, Clic.World was born; a vision, a dream, and also a commitment to Africa. Not only were we trying to solve a very real problem where the majority of people are still excluded from mainstream financial services, but to contribute something to the rest of the world; to lead with a new community driven banking and economic model #SocialBanking.
Little did we know how long and challenging the road would be! But we were committed, and we had a passion. And absolutely NO idea of what was still ahead of us!
Thats why this morning, the 28th of February 2021, is so special, sitting again at the corner table at Kahwa2Go, five years later, working on the final details of our advertising campaign for Coin Market Cap that will be launched in two week’s time. Now, Clic.World is fully regulated by the FIA as the first Virtual Asset Service Provider in Uganda, to issue, trade and convert/deal in crypto. It’s almost a bit surreal to see that dream, that vision finally becoming reality! Partly humbled, partly excited, totally committed!
From that corner table 5 years ago, we occupied the first finished corner office on the floor above the coffee shop a few months later. There we started building the tools for Stellar, (developers today have it so good!) And yes, after working with Stellar for 5 years we can with confidence say it has delivered, we are now more convinced than ever that Stellar will ultimately replace the old rails like SWIFT and others to become the fiber of a new decentralized Social Financial Eco-system, the ultimate DeFi.
With the basics in place and the ability to start doing transactions, a chance conversation led us to partner with Badru and his team from NFT Consult to turn their mobile money ATM into the world’s first crypto-to-fiat ATM that could also do fiat-to-fiat forex exchange. This was demonstrated to the world at the 2017 Singapore Fintech festival.
We continued to build the wallet and also the social banking platform, while burning through XLM at $0.001 in our live testing like it was nobody’s business! Winning twice in the Stellar build challenge did compensate us though, and it certainly also helped us to survive those early days.
Long days of struggling with the question of how to scale a blockchain based wallet solution to millions in Africa finally gave birth to our PCA (Personal Cluster Authentication) security solution, another first at the time, using multi signature and personal relationships to provide a multi factor authentication for our secure vault in the wallet, and for PIN and device reset. This largely removed the need for expensive help desks, while significantly increased security. That quest later led us to using a feature phone to send Stellar blockchain based cross border remittances transactions, without internet, and at zero cost, using USSD, between Uganda and Rwanda, another world first we believe. This proof of concept, in conjunction with the use of QR cards operating native on the Stellar blockchain, opened the way for a very secure and cost effective solution for cash interventions for refugee communities, which are currently being explored for use in Somalia under the refugee communities there, as well as with Opportunity Bank in Uganda.
Along the road we made many friends, and although not all of them continued to walk the road with us, the few that did have turned into solid partnerships today. Rob and his DMA team in Tanzania, Davidson Madira and the guys from Nefima (now DIGIA), Lenny, the founder of SC Farm, and his team, Tony Brown, a great friend and longtime advisor and most important of all, our group of very loyal CLIX investors, who’s encouragement, advise and faith in us play a huge role in us reaching where we are today.
If there is one thing we have learned on this journey its this -
It’s not about the technology stupid! It all about people, communities and eco-systems.
The future of digital in Africa is human…it’s all about people and that’s why social banking, communities, personal relationships as security, and eco-systems, which all are related to core values of the traditional African society, is key to the new digital driven world we are entering today.
Three years ago we did the first social bank — eSACCO — as a pilot. The success of that pilot taught us a lot and helped to fine-tune the Social Banking platform as a fully integrated and real-time micro Core Banking System (mCBS) that forms the basis of an eco-system of community based micro banks clustered around our commercial banking partners in each of the countries.
Kahwa2Go became our fist pilot for ClicMe and the Clic2Go Merchant POS, the new P2P alternative to traditional payments, where Tony did the first remote crypto-to-fiat direct payment, paying for a milkshake ordered at Kahwa2go. The payment was made using XLM from Frankfurt, and the coffee shop getting a settled payment in Uganda Shillings in seconds. A few days later he sent XLM as UGX and had it cashed out at a mobile money agent on the street, all in under 2 minutes. With this we have entered into a new era for diaspora payments and remittances. All thanks to the vision and determination of a great pioneer, Jed Mcaleb, and his team at Stellar. None of this would have been possible without the solid, robust and fast Stellar blockchain. Yes, sending money like email, at almost no cost, is really possible!
Over the last 3 years a number of iterations of the wallet and social banking app have been tested and today the Clic2Go solution is in final stages of going live in Uganda and under the Vida Local brand in Tanzania. This fully end-to-end eco-system provides an easy to use multi-currency wallet, a social marketplace for SME’s, a soft POS for merchants, a mini ERP business hub and the ability to process payments over any social media channel as well as via QR coded bank cards (or keyring or teeshirt or tattoo…).
Yes, the road was long and the disappointments many and the months without salaries even more, but we managed to keep our focus, and (most of the times!) our sense of humor! A big thank you to our long suffering landlord for their patience with us! It was SO good this month to be able to pay our rent finally up to date!!
Today we can look back with satisfaction on a road well-travelled, and look forward with great expectation to the journey over the next five years.
We are in the final stages of a company restructure that will bring a very strategic financial partner into the business; a formal announcement will be made in the next 2 weeks.
This will allow us to finally complete the international holding company structure, which was originally in Singapore (but closed down due to cost) then Mauritius but registration never completed.
(Note to self — must update the LinkedIn profile, it still shows the Mauritius address!)
Talking about updating profiles and social media presence — this is probably one of the biggest criticisms we are getting, our lack of social media exposure and information sharing. Well, if you are one of those that are raising this as an issue, be assured of one thing, you have NEVER done a startup!! How on earth someone get the time to spend on social media AND run a business as chief cook and bottle washer is just beyond my understanding!!
But all of this is now changing, as we are shifting gears, moving from live pilots to go-live. And getting a dedicated comms person!
The team is expanding, starting with the appointment of Oscar Ofumbi as CEO last week. Oscar is one of the people that walked the road with us from the beginning as mentor and soundboard and it is with great pleasure we welcome him now fully into the team. His leadership through this period of restructure and public launch is invaluable and his expertise in the area of crypto, DeFi and finance will add huge value to our strategy. He was instrumental in securing our certification as Virtual Asset Service Provider, under the regulation of the FIA, the new crypto regulator in Uganda — again another first for us FIA-24-0001.
A seasoned international COO will be joining us shortly, and we are busy recruiting more developers to boost the team.
Our new strategic partnership with ABC Financial Services and ABC Capital Bank in Uganda and Kenya will enable us to further penetrate the Sacco space in both countries.
In Tanzania we have completed the live pilot with DMA to supply agriculture inputs to farmers using the social marketplace and business hub last year, and once our integration with Equity Bank Tanzania is completed in the next week we will start to roll out Social Banking.
Our partnership with Opportunity bank has resulted in a full integration into their core banking system, and we look forward to progress a number of projects with them this year.
Another partner that is very strategic to our ecosystem is kinesis.money. Yes, very soon you will be able to buy, sell and store gold and silver virtual assets in our wallets. We are looking forward to a much bigger partnership evolving during the course of this year.
Having done a full integration with Interswitch in Nigeria and now in Uganda, we are looking forward to completing the same in Kenya in Q2. With our Interswitch partnerships we are adding bill payments and inter-bank integrations to all our wallets.
Our integration with changenow.io means that our wallets can be loaded using over 200 tokens. We have also added USDC stable coin directly to our wallet eco-system. This means you can send BTC to the wallet as XLM and swap the XLM for USDC or for UGX (Uganda Shilling) or KES (Kenya Shillings) and cash it out at any mobile money agent on the street.
While the current focus is on Africa, Clic.World has a global community eco-system strategy, which will become reality this year with partnerships in UK, EU and Asia in progress.
In Asia we have partnered with Lenny Schutz, the founder of SC Farm; a man whose passion and vision is totally aligned with us and who has now become part of the Clic family. His farm is a testimony of this and we have set up a pilot with the marketplace and farm management platform for a group of farmers on the island. Our strategy to expand into the Philippines is in progress with the formation of the Block Group, a public company that will drive the partnership between Clic.World Philippines and SC Farm.
The weeks ahead are going to be a white water rafting experience, but also very exciting. We are busy with South Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia, while gearing up for a number of pilots to go live in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. The first pilots for the Africa Regional Order Hub is going live in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania and this is something we are extremely excited about. A seamless integrated B2B hub to aggregate and process orders from retailers to distributors to manufacturers and importers, providing the foundation for us to capitalize on the emerging inter-Africa trade under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
Our journey with the regulators is still ongoing, and we are exploring interesting avenues with the Capital Markets Authorities to have our fiat backed virtual assets classified as an asset class. We have been offered the chance to participate in the Kenya CMA sandbox to run a pilot using virtual assets for cross border remittances and payments.
Another area which we have been developing and are now ready to make public is our trading desk. Under Wensi’s expert guidance we have been building an extensive trading capability over the last 18 months. Now that we are officially licensed we will start trading in crypto as well as precious metals and forex. We have secured our first trading float and will be fully operational by April. Last year Wensi was recognised by Binance as the biggest trader by volume in Africa.
So yes, a lot happening and we are looking forward to make 2021 the “Year of Clic.World”!
Our main focus this year is on the key East African Community countries — Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania and in Asia on the Philippines to ensure we have the Social Banking, wallets and Business Hub operational and fully rolled out. Our target for this year is to load 1m users on the platform. In addition to this we will further explore the opportunities in South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Ghana with the view to start pilots in each of those countries.
Diaspora remittances, cross border payments and marketplace transactions stays key to our revenue streams.
On our technology roadmap for this year is a pilot of our AI neural network based loans module by Q2, and to launch ClicChat Banking by Q3. A number of integrations are lined up, including WePay and AliPay and to engage more Stellar anchors, starting with Tempo in the EU. Integration with the Kinesis gold tokens will start soon and we should be ready to test by end of the month. A DeFi token is in progress, expect an announcement soon.
I hope this have given some insight into where we came from and where we are going. We are just a bunch of ordinary guys, with lots of passion, a vision and a very good idea of how to make that vision reality. For us it’s not about the cool tech, or the tokens, it’s about shaping a new economic and banking model that will address the real issues of poverty and inequality in Africa and other developing economies like the Philippines, with a clear focus on local, green, economic development for SME’s and agri-business specifically. We see the future of shared and collaborative, or community economies, as the solution for Africa and other developing economies, that’s why we are doing our part in helping to build a global eco-system where this can become reality.
So when you see our CLIX token appearing on exchanges soon, know one thing, that token was not hyped based on a white paper and thin air. It’s build on a solid business case and reality on the ground, designed to make an impact on the lives of people in Africa and beyond.
We look forward to more friends joining us, and becoming involved in this exciting journey.