UWIN Corp, a company founded by MIT Media Lab entrepreneur in residence and former Wells Fargo technologist Julius Akinyemi, has been given a mandate by the Cameroon government to implement a mobile-based commodity exchange.
The MoComEx project, which will eventually enable rural primary producers to access market prices for their goods, as well as trade in futures contracts, has already been piloted in Senegal.
Speaking at the FintechStage Inclusion Forum in Jakarta, Akinyemi explained the three main components of the project’s aims. First, it aims to encourage African citizens to register their productive assets such as land to free up this dormant capital and make it possible to leverage for further financial purposes - something that is taken for granted in developed nations.
“But there is a valid concern among many Africans that if assets are documented it will lead to taxes,” he says. “So we have to make the situation win-win, so even if primary producers are taxed more, they won’t mind if they are still making even more money than before.”
That’s where the democratised commodity exchange comes in. Rather than commodity trading being conducted through specialized traders in a capital city, it would be in the hands of primary producers who have had their productive assets attested using a reputational index built in collaboration with MIT Media Labs. The index makes use of reputation not only at an individual, but also a community level, using community policing and social structures such as the influence of village elders to protect against fraudulent claims.
Akinyemi says despite the Cameroon government interest he was keen to ensure the exchange was not government owned, as he believes a purely private-sector owned business, with in-kind asset support from government, would be better placed to earn the trust of exchange users.
To this end, UWIN Corp is working with investment and technology partners to provide the associated mobile wallet and implementation funding. But once the solution has been deployed in Cameroon, Akinyemi says surrounding countries, which have healthy trade flows with Cameroon, are committed to coming on board as well.
In a separate development, the Kenyan Government has introduced a three-year bond that can be bought by phone users without any need for a bank account. The new bond will be offered via M-Pesa and similar telco-based mobile account service providers. Both bond purchases and coupon payments will be made through phones.