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Emtech to advance its regtech and CBDC stack solutions with $4M led by Matrix Partners India on August 3, 2023 at 8:08 am

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Emtech, an African provider of central banking infrastructure, introduced its Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) Innovation kit last month. The kit caters to fintechs and financial service providers interested in experimenting with solutions and business models based on digital currencies pioneered by central banks.

The New York-based business is today announcing a $4 million seed investment led by Matrix Partners India. It plans to further the development of this CBDC stack and that of its regtech solution. BTN, Vested, Equity Alliance and LoftyInc Capital are some of the other investors in the round. They join Emtech’s previous investors, including Noemis Ventures, Octerra Capital and 500 Global on its cap table. This round brings the four-year-old’s total investment to $10 million (including a $4 million pre-seed last year and a recent $2 million extension).

The CBDC Innovation Kit’s unveiling in July comes as no surprise. Last March, founder Carmelle Cadet said Emtech would deploy its first version of a CBDC platform this year. Emtech’s digital regulatory platform previously included the innovator’s center, which assists fintechs in preparing and testing requirements for numerous regulators and pre-market technological integration. The regulatory sandbox enables regulatory bodies to respond to innovations based on live testing results.

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The four-year-old startup had hoped to work with at least 10 central banks by now. However, it is currently working with six. It has presently developed regtech and CBDC stack solutions for the Central Banks of Ghana, Nigeria and the Bahamas. That’s in addition to collaborating with fintechs in other countries to provide crucial regulatory and innovation insights.

“We’re the only company globally working with that many central banks at a time,” CEO Cardet told TechCrunch in a recent interview, stressing that Emtech had to open up its seed round, which took a year to complete, to follow through on the partnerships with these banks. “Like other companies, fundraising wasn’t easy because of the downturn and the FTX and Terra Luna saga. We had to manage our cash flow and resources and grow our footprint across the region while delivering for the central banks, especially now that we’re on a journey of digitizing cash infrastructure for them.”

Performance of local digital currency

Emtech also signed a collaboration deal with the West Africa Monetary Institute this June. In addition to establishing a joint central bank, the institute’s long-term objective is creating a single currency for the area. What more effective way to achieve the latter than through CBDCs? Central banks globally have been exploring and producing digital versions of their currencies for retail and wholesale use. This is to avoid leaving digital payments to the private sector as cash usage drops. With $10 trillion cash in circulation, the percentage of banks engaged in CBDC climbed from 80% to 93% in 2022. Also, according to a BIS survey, 24 central banks will have digital currencies in circulation by the decade’s end.

Nigeria is one of just a few countries having an operational digital retail currency: the eNaira as it’s known. Yet, it’s had an abysmal acceptance despite the central bank’s incentives to make it appealing to its Nigerians. Earlier this year, the country’s cash scarcity — an ill-conceived government initiative to push for a paperless economy — demonstrated how much citizens disliked the eNaira. Per Bloomberg, less than 0.5% of Nigerians have utilized the eNaira since its inception two years ago.

The event showed that most Nigerians preferred waiting hours for cash rather than using digital money. However, Cadet feels that the eNaira’s implosion should not overshadow the relevance and benefits of CBDCs in general. “Although the eNaira was launched to major fanfare, there were missteps in planning, technology, and implementation. Most importantly, the architecture was not open to fintechs,” she stated. “What we’ve had the opportunity to do is present an alternative that is fintech-friendly. We think the fintech ecosystem has many untapped opportunities regarding CBDC.”

Deployment of the innovation kit

That’s where its newly released innovation kit comes in, she says. Emtech’s regulatory sandbox promotes relationships between central banks and fintechs regarding licensing required to go to market. Similarly, the CBDC innovation kit will provide these fintechs access to a digital cash infrastructure that banks may imitate.

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Emtech’s simulated token “Beyond Cash (BYDC)” will be utilized for innovation initiatives, leveraging the Hedera Hashgraph as a layer 1 protocol and the ERC-20 (standard for tokenization). The CBDC Innovation Kit functions as a simulator accessible through APIs and a “bring your app” framework. Here, fintechs gain access to a CBDC simulator wallet BYDC and extract data from the ledger to test transactions and new business models. Emtech believes this route will close the gap observed in the current system between fintech innovation and central banking oversight.

“Our point of view has been consistent: enabling central banks to deploy their CBDC as a digital cash infrastructure safely. Imagine if the $13 trillion or more of paper cash floating worldwide was issued digitally, used and accounted for securely, in real-time and seamlessly. Imagine what fintech apps could do for their users. That’s truly exciting to us,” said the CEO, a former IBM blockchain executive, in a statement. Emtech has about 200 fintech companies on its waitlist, ready to work on the platform.

Digital assets and programmable currency in the form of regulated CBDCs, according to Aakash Kumar, principal at Matrix Partners India, may turbocharge financial inclusion in Africa. “Emtech’s vision of shaping blockchain-powered fintech infra for CBDCs and solutions for fintech regulation is compelling, and we are excited to partner with them on their journey,” he said on the firm’s investment in Emtech.

​ Emtech, an African provider of central banking infrastructure, introduced its Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) Innovation kit last month. The kit caters to fintechs and financial service providers interested in experimenting with solutions and business models based on digital currencies pioneered by central banks. The New York-based business is today announcing a $4 million seed 

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X Opens the Door to Adult Content With New Policy

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X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, has made a significant policy shift by officially permitting adult content on its platform with some restrictions and guidelines.

In an update to its rules, X stated that users can now share “consensually produced and distributed adult nudity or sexual behavior” as long as it is properly labeled and not prominently displayed in areas like profile pictures or header images.

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“We recognize that many of our users are adults who want to freely express themselves by sharing legal adult content,” said an X spokesperson. “At the same time, we have a responsibility to protect minors and prevent exposure to explicit material without proper labeling.”

Under the new guidelines, users who “regularly post” adult content must adjust their settings to automatically mark images and videos as sensitive content, which blurs or hides the media by default. By default, users under 18 or who haven’t entered their birth date cannot view this sensitive adult content.

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The policy prohibits content “promoting exploitation, nonconsent, objectification, sexualization or harm to minors, and obscene behaviors.” It applies to all adult content, whether photographic, animated, or AI-generated.

X has stated that it will monitor user-generated content and adjust account settings for those who fail to properly mark pornographic posts. Similar rules and enforcement will apply to violent content as well.

The move aligns X with Apple’s app store guidelines, which allow apps with adult content as long as it is hidden by default and behind proper age gates and content warnings.

While adult content was already present on X, this policy update officially permits and regulates it, aiming to balance freedom of expression for consenting adults with protecting minors from exposure to explicit material.

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However, enforcing these rules consistently may prove challenging for X’s reduced content moderation teams following recent layoffs and cost-cutting measures.

The policy shift has drawn mixed reactions, with some praising X for embracing adult expression while others raise concerns about the potential for the platform to become inundated with pornographic content despite the restrictions.

As X navigates this new territory, the effectiveness of its labeling requirements, age verification measures, and content moderation efforts will be closely watched by users, regulators, and advocacy groups alike.

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Trump’s Conviction Raises Stakes for 2024 Election

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In a stunning fall from grace, Donald Trump has been convicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to a hush money payment made to conceal an alleged affair during the 2016 campaign. While Trump has vowed to appeal, the guilty verdict represents an unprecedented legal rebuke of the former president and frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination.

The question now is whether this first-ever criminal conviction of a former U.S. president will derail Trump’s increasingly plausible path back to the White House. The answer likely hinges on a narrow but potentially decisive sliver of persuadable voters in battleground states.

For Trump’s ardent base of supporters, the conviction seems to matter little. They have remained stubbornly loyal through past scandals, impeachments, and investigations. Many have already shrugged off the guilty verdict as an expected outcome from a “witch hunt” prosecution. In their eyes, Trump is the victim of a politicized injustice system rigged against him.

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But for the moderate Republicans, independents, and suburban swing voters who abandoned Trump in 2020, this criminal conviction could prove a bridge too far. The idea of reinstalling a convicted felon in the Oval Office may be unpalatable, even for those underwhelmed by President Biden’s leadership.

Trump’s ability to win back these key voting blocs in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin will likely decide if the conviction is a fatal blow or a mere speed bump on his return to power. A small but decisive number of alienated moderates could make the difference in another nail-bitingly close Electoral College finish.

Of course, Trump has repeatedly defied conventional wisdom and political norms throughout his improbable rise. His supporters point to examples like Eugene Debs garnering over 900,000 votes while campaigning from prison in 1920 as proof a conviction does not disqualify a candidate.

And Trump will surely leverage the conviction to his advantage, stoking grievances and portraying himself as a martyr persecuted by the “deep state.” His rallying cry will be that the American people, not corrupt prosecutors, should decide his political fate.

Ultimately, the impact of Trump’s conviction may come down to the sentencing and outcome of appeals. A lengthy prison term would be a near-impossible hurdle. But if he avoids incarceration, the stain of being a convicted felon on the campaign trail is a heavy burden.

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In a nation deeply divided over Trump’s legacy, voters in 2024 will judge whether his norm-shattering presidency warrants a norm-shattering return to power as a convicted criminal defendant. The stakes for American democracy have never been higher.

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Trump is Found Guilty by Jury

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The jury in Donald Trump’s hush money trial has reached a verdict after deliberating for less than two days. The 12 jurors will return to the courtroom shortly to announce their decision on the 34 counts of falsifying business records that Trump faced related to the $130,000 payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

Trump has been present in the courtroom awaiting the verdict.  The jury had requested to rehear portions of testimony from key witnesses David Pecker and Michael Cohen during their deliberations, suggesting they closely scrutinized the evidence around the alleged hush money scheme.

A guilty verdict would represent a significant legal setback for Trump as he campaigns for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. An acquittal would be a boost for his campaign efforts. The high-profile trial has garnered immense attention, with the testimony providing insight into the alleged cover-up of the payment to Daniels.

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