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Algorand Foundation, UCT set up fintech innovation hub

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UCT vice-chancellor, professor Mamokgethi Phakeng.
UCT vice-chancellor, professor Mamokgethi Phakeng.

A new fintech innovation hub is being set up at the University of Cape Town (UCT), with the support of Algorand Foundation, which is providing the initial grant of R37.5 million to run and operate the centre for five years.

The UCT-Algorand Fintech Innovation Hub will be housed within the faculty of commerce at UCT, the only university with a dedicated master’s programme in financial technology on the continent.

The fintech centre at UCT is a pilot project for the Algorand Foundation’s Algorand centre of excellence programme, which was launched in October and will also be the home for an extensive research programme on central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) in Africa.

“The partnership with the Algorand Foundation is crucial in enabling UCT to continue striving to produce graduates who are not merely going to seek a place in the employment space, but who are themselves going to create employment opportunities through the companies they are going to start,” says UCT vice-chancellor, professor Mamokgethi Phakeng.

“Furthermore, having an African focus as part of the three key pillars of the programme enhances UCT’s endeavour to not only be the best in Africa but the best for the continent.”

The innovation hub, among other fintech-related issues, will focus on academic research on blockchain, CBDCs, privacy, cyber security and digital inclusion.

Additionally, the hub will provide support to student-led start-ups with a uniquely African focus, which are also commercially viable.

Jason Lee, chief operating officer of the Algorand Foundation, says the grants programme serves as “the perfect platform and opportunity to support projects that will enrich the Algorand ecosystem and help provide education on the transformative power and opportunity that blockchain technology can offer everyone.

“Partnering with UCT supports our goal of global blockchain education, inclusion and participation, which will help deliver tangible results in the areas of rigorous academic research, support for start-ups in Africa, and a thought leadership platform.”

Co-Pierre Georg, director of the hub and associate professor at UCT’s school of economics, comments: “The sustained success of our master’s in financial technology means we are producing some of the country’s most sought-after graduates.

“But the main goal of our programme is to enable students to start their own companies and we’ve already had several start-ups successfully launching their journey from our programme. With the grant from the Algorand Foundation, we can take this to the next level and create a truly transformative environment that empowers students to launch their entrepreneurial journey.”

Furthermore, he says: “Over 80 central banks globally are currently investigating new forms of digital money, including the South African Reserve Bank and the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“The Algorand-UCT fintech innovation hub will accelerate our ongoing research in this area and advise government and private sector participants on how to best manage the digital transformation of our existing payments infrastructure. CBDCs are among the most exciting applications of blockchain technology and provide a huge opportunity for the continent.”

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13 Aug
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