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Just months after a failed initial coin offering (ICO), South African blockchain consultancy Ekasi Bucks plans to launch what it calls “the world’s first crypto-mall and on-demand transport service for townships”.
The two services will be unveiled this Monday (21 May) by the startup in three launches in Gauteng, namely in Mabopane, Soshanguve and Soweto.
The launch comes after the Gauteng based startup last year sought to raise R50-million in an ICO to fund a blockchain-based rewards programme for township residents that buy from certain affiliated township businesses. But the ICO raised just R500 000, most of which was returned to investors.
Speaking to Ventureburn this week, Ekasi Bucks co-founder and president Lucky Kgwadi (pictured above) said the startup had intended to use much of the R50-million to buy land and pay for the initial building of a physical mall — but after the failed ICO the company has now “opted to therefore go digital” he said.
The digital mall will allow businesses based in the township to sell products on an online portal in exchange for the Ekasi Bucks token.
Ekasi Bucks says it has received 800 applications for the crypto-mall and 20 for its on-demand taxi service for townships
The on-demand taxi service will operate similar to Taxify or Uber, but instead of paying with cash or credit cards customers will pay for the service using Ekasi Bucks.
Initially Ekasi Bucks will source users for the token from their existing rewards programme which the company has been running since 2016 and is already active across the country with over 4000 merchants and 20 000 card users.
These users will be able to swap their points for Ekasi tokens, said Kgwadi. In the launch on Monday the company will offer R5-million worth of tokens.
Ekasi Bucks is also in talks with two local cryptocurrency exchanges, namely Coindirect and Ice3X, to make the Ekasi token available there.
‘Over 800 applications for crypto-mall’
Kgwadi said Ekasi Bucks has been running an awareness campaign for the past six weeks to recruit vendors to the mall and has received 800 applications from township entrepreneurs so far, to sell items such as clothing or food delivered from local restaurants. The mall will likely add services, at a later stage, he said.
Ekasi Bucks will charge vendors a monthly administrative fee of R50 to host them on the mall. Kgwadi added that the idea is to have unique malls for each township — with a Soweto mall to be the first one planned.
“We are trying to allow residents to shop from their own townships and to shop from their own home,” he said.
Kgwadi is adamant that township residents, given the opportunity to do so, will buy from local retailers. “It’s not a matter of products and markups — people just don’t know where to find the product,” he added.
‘Commission for taxis will be 10%’
In addition, the company has been running Facebook ads for its on-demand taxi service and has received just over 20 applications from drivers interested in joining the on-demand taxi service.
Kgwadi said after drivers are vetted, the initial batch would form the first pilot.
Ekasi Bucks, he said, will charge drivers a commission of 10% on each token transaction — which is far lower than the fee that Uber and Taxify deducts from drivers (which are about 15% to 20% and 30%, respectively).
He said the company has also signed on an insurance partner to offer life cover to drivers who are part of the on-demand taxi service. The insurance is a white-labelled offering which is under written by Lion of Africa.
While the startup wasn’t so lucky with its ICO last year, Kgwadi hopes the company’s new offering will gain more traction — despite admitting that it won’t be easy, given how sceptical many people are of cryptocurrency.