Adriaan Roets
4 minute read
18 Aug 2018
6:15 am

Entering a different digital world with Tumelo Ramaphosa

Adriaan Roets

Saving animals: nature conservation with cryptocurrency.

Tumelo Ramaphosa. Picture: Instagram

How do you escape the constant spotlight of being part of the first family? Find an innovative new business that uses crypto-currency to, among other goals, save gorillas in Uganda.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s youngest son Tumelo is aiming to climb the ranks of Blockchain in Africa and the world with his company StudEx Wildlife.

Ramaphosa is focused on globalising farming auctions through the digitisation of livestock, wild animals and endangered species by turning them into digital tokens.

In turn, funds raised by Initial Coin Purchase (ICO) will be used to fund a conservation effort to track a list of animals that are under threat of extinction, like mountain gorillas. While this might sound lofty, these plans have been in motion since 2016 – and are gaining traction globally.

“It started as an entrepreneurship project where we either had to come up with a startup or create a business solution. I chose the start-up route.

“My whole mission initially was to go to the USA to establish my start-up and to take advantage of the start-up space. So I created a cryptocurrency for auctions we have in South Africa, and to conserve endangered wildlife.

“The idea is by having cryptocurrency you have more payments and you can take bigger payments in less time,” he says.

Private farmers in South Africa have the ability to reproduce endangered animals as well as livestock, before auctioning the animals. With StudEx, this auction widens to a global scale, and through the crypto-currency investment, StudeEx hopes to fund its virtual reality (VR) wing.

“In many ways, StudEx is trying to create and decentralise this monopoly that happens in South Africa. You have farms where farmers have their animals, with StudEx we’d be able to raise more funds through initial coin offers on the animals.

“With these funds, we’d be able to achieve our conservation objectives of having industrial drones, for instance, to track the animals with artificial intelligence and deep learning modules,” Ramaphosa explains.

In layman’s terms, StudEx is digitising animals, which includes livestock, that can be traded, sold or bred. Each animal is essentially its own coin.

So, if there’s a $1 million buffalo, a number of investors can own part of that animal – because just like Bitcoin the value is split among investors buying the animal or coin.

When StudEx Wildlife launches, there will be a list of animals on its pre-sale as part of its ICO, and people will invest in animals according to investment appetite.

It’s only when the initial coin offering finishes that it is listed on the exchange where it jumps (or falters). But because it’s global, the hope is there will be more people auctioning on the animals StudEx has, pushing up the price.

Part of its appeal is the fact that in some ways buyers will be able to interact with animals.

“StudEx is a VR business. We have a VR application in development where you can immerse yourself in the world and see what the drone is seeing,” he says.

On the livestock side, drones will fly around farms where animals like Ankole Cattle that are part of buyers’ investment portfolio are penned or roaming.

Ramaphosa thinks this creates transparency where investors can see their investment – but will also have up-to-date knowledge of endangered species StudEx hopes to conserve through this funding module.

The innovation stems from Ramaphosa’s competitiveness, as he mentions he was on the water polo team at St Stithians College, and that translates to Silicone Valley in San Francisco where he’s based.

“There’s more start-ups which means more competition which helps the drive.”

Ramaphosa hopes to launch StudEx Wildlife in 2018 by offering ICO. He’s also part of a group growing Blockchain on the continent.

On August 25, he forms part of group of keynote speakers at Unlocking Blockchain Africa at a conference he helped organise. He’s proud of the fact that it opens up discussions on new markets in Africa.

Speakers include Lonely hit-maker Akon Thaim, who founded Akoin that focuses on using crypto-currency as investment for young entrepreneurs in Africa.

“I’ve been in the Blockspace chain since 2010, buying bitcoin, but developing something new helps push digital currencies forward.”

Ramaphosa’s faith is that digital currencies are still one of the most disruptive and exciting technologies of this century and, thanks to new ways of thinking like Akoin, it connects the real world with the way money is utilised digitally – and that’s what’s happening when animals get tokenised for international investment. It is also how you escape the limelight of being a presidential son.

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