Untapped African potential provides fertile ground for blockchain innovation

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Nikola Stojanow, æternity, Chief Business Development Officer.

Blockchain technology has been heralded as the next great enabler of innovation, and while a number of countries have emerged as leading blockchain hubs, the great continent of Africa provides fertile ground for blockchain innovation in the years ahead. Blockchain can fast-track economic empowerment, transform logistics operations, provide safe protocols for entrepreneurs and mitigate fraud.

Over 85% of employment in Africa is informal, compared to 25% in Europe. Employment informality can result in a number of issues such as a lack of social protection, impeded work rights, subpar working conditions, with the knock-on effect of low productivity. For enterprises, informality can hinder access to finance while for governments, informality can impede the collection of tax revenue. As the informal economy is more susceptible to fraud and privacy breaches, blockchain could provide a much needed layer of security and transparency. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has underlined the importance of transitioning workers to the formal economy across Africa, and blockchain could be the gateway to realizing this vision.

As the power of blockchain technology continues to spread around the world, shaping industries and institutions from financial systems to supply chain networks, the reality is, communities across Africa still have much to gain from the technology’s massive potential. If harnessed correctly, blockchain technology could fundamentally transform many types of public and private services and enhance the prosperity of these local communities. Blockchain could be the springboard for Africa to progress in leaps and bounds, as many African countries are yet to establish mainstream mechanisms that are commonplace in other regions.

I recently spent some time in Kenya, engaging with local communities in Nairobi, working to build the blockchain community in the country. This outreach laid the foundation for some very exciting developments, including the opening of æternity’s first satellite there. This will allow æternity to not only cover Kenya but also branch out to Nigeria and beyond. Having surveyed the African technological landscape, I am confident that decentralized technologies can remedy some of the problems that have hindered certain technological developments across the continent. The country’s transport, health, insurance and security sectors have already explored the use of blockchain technology, and the creation of Kenya’s blockchain task force is another positive step towards mainstream adoption.

I was incredibly enthused to see that there is a growing interest in blockchain technology, as well as a coherent plan for developing IT education. IT professionals in the region have extensive experience and are equipped to tackle the issues that are being faced globally. One of the goals of Kenya’s Vision for 2030 is to establish a computer supply programme to equip students with modern IT skills. The ambitious and talented individuals that we encountered there have the opportunity to grow into industry leaders, which is why we are also supporting education, through our ongoing engagement with universities in Africa. We are striving to create partnerships to facilitate access to blockchain technology for students.

I firmly believe that a collaborative industry-academia approach is needed for blockchain education, and we have given expression to this idea with our unique partnership with SoftUni, Eastern Europe’s leading provider of high quality IT developer education. Through online courses in association with SoftUni, the æternity platform is providing students and blockchain enthusiasts with the opportunity to learn how to develop blockchain software and write smart contracts. We have the same ambition to create a similar platform for students and blockchain enthusiasts alike in Africa, developing the next generation of innovators.

We also intend to organize hackathons to identify promising projects, which we are also looking to fund through our community and network. We will be organizing meetups around Kenya, in order to grow our community and reach more people, and recently had a very successful meetup in Mombasa on April 26th.

While we have an ambitious vision for a blockchain-fueled transformation across the continent, our work in Africa has already begun. We are now supporting a project from the African Albinism Network, which will allow the tracking and ensured delivery of donated sunscreen, which until now has not been possible. Therefore, we will sponsor a Proof of Concept, led by Nyambura Karumba, the Head of AALNET, a mobile app built on distributed ledgers to facilitate the delivery of services to persons with albinism.

This week, the Africa Blockchain Summit was held in Tunisia, an important step in laying the foundation for an African blockchain revolution. It was great to see the Tunisian Central Bank Governor acknowledge the massive potential for the technology to fuel growth across the continent. I share his ambition for Africa and look forward to seeing this blockchain revolution take shape.

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