Top 5 African Blockchain Applications
This month's game-changing innovations from across the continent!
... to this month's blockchain innovation roundup.
A collection of five of the most captivating applications of blockchain technology from (or for) Africa, accompanied by localized insights from our experts on-the-ground.
Whilst perusing these innovations, it's worth considering the following:
1. What are the fundamental human needs / wants/ desires behind this innovation?
2. Why is this innovation relevant today in Africa and what are the key drivers?
3. What changes would you need to implement to make this innovation applicable or valuable to your customers?
Here come the BLOCKCHAIN BELIEVERS...
Governments, institutions, brands and entrepreneurs are jumping on every blockchain bandwagon the continent has to offer!
Blockchain in Africa...
A trend or a fad?
Yup! Everyone is talking bitcoin. But in Africa, a continent still grappling with an unbanked majority, to date cryptocurrencies have mostly offered opportunities to serve those without access to traditional financial services. And while there's no denying that many businesses have gone 'crypto-crazy', a greater breadth of organizations are also busy tinkering with, and unlocking value, from the revolutionary technology that's behind those cryptocurrencies: blockchain.
As a transparent, secure and decentralized ledger, the potential blockchain technology has when it comes to disrupting Africa's business arena is indisputable. Especially at a time where governments and industries are still rife with corrupt deals, poor record-keeping and untraceable transactions.
But why blockchain?
Three (very African) factors driving this movement...
CRYPTO-FACTOR: Bitcoin worldwide rocketed in 2017 (USD 7,810 at the time of writing!). And in Africa, a market more than used to leapfrogging technologies, a myriad of localized cryptocurrencies have been adopted too, bringing the technology to the forefront of the consumer landscape. As consumer awareness continues to increase, so will the demand for brands and institutions to harness its power.
TRUST CRISIS: The bad track records of governments, institutions and even corporations operating across the continent means that citizens rarely trust those in positions of power. Blockchain's P2P system allows trust between strangers without recourse to any middlemen or hierarchical structures. This feature is both a crucial and timely solution for many forward-looking Africans.
DATA FIRST: Yes, citizens will benefit from blockchain's ability to tackle issues of transparency and accountability. Yet governments and institutions are spearheading the adoption of blockchain technologies too, due to its efficient management of large quantities of data – which might otherwise be non-existent.
Blockchain beyond the bubble...
African leadership wants in too!
Africans are embracing the shift towards more technocratic leadership. A few examples of how governments across the continent are responding to the blockchain revolution:
South Africa's newly-appointed president Cyril Ramaphosa made an announcement in February 2018, stating that a 'digital industrial revolution commission' would be set up in partnership with the private sector and encompass new technologies, such as blockchain.
The same month, Kenya's Ministry of ICT appointed a team to produce a blockchain roadmap. Led by Dr. Bitange Ndemo, the 11-member team will spend three months researching artificial intelligence and the potential use of distributed ledger technology in Kenya.
In January 2018, Tanzania’s Central Bank Director expressed concerns over the East African Community (EAC) states' plan for a single regional currency. Bernard Dadi stated 'the process to have a single currency is still underway with consideration of available challenges including the growth of Bitcoin'.
Let's see how African brands and institutions are harnessing blockchain technology, to provide citizens with complete control, total transparency, and low prices.
Blockchain used to authenticate diamonds across Africa
January 2018 saw South African-founded diamond company De Beers announce a pilot program using blockchain to ensure its diamonds are authentic, conflict-free and natural. Blockchain provides a permanent, unchangeable record for every diamond registered from the moment they are mined. De Beers aims to fully launch the initiative over 2018.
Blockchain comes bearing a much-needed virtue lacking in most businesses operating in Africa:
Authenticity through transparency.
Despite many businesses in Africa implementing legitimate and thorough processes, the plethora of non-compliant or untrustworthy stakeholders existing within the supply chain can, at best, be tough to manage and, at worst, detrimental to a brand's reputation.
For customers too, the notoriety that businesses operating in Africa have, especially when it comes to an inability to adhere to regulatory standards, means it's difficult to trust brands that claim to deliver products that are authentic and ethically sourced. Brands that utilize blockchain to help mitigate these issues will not only provide their customers with the much-needed vote of confidence on their products' quality, but will also empower staff internally to understand all facets of the supply chain.
Interpol & VoguePay
Blockchain-based platform tackles crime in Nigeria
February 2018 saw the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) partner with online payments provider VoguePay to develop a blockchain-based information portal for crime control in Nigeria. The citizen-focused platform, named interPort, will allow Interpol to access information and manage stakeholder engagements and crime reporting.
Despite all other failed attempts...
Blockchain finally presents the continent with a more convincing solution to cybercrime.
A blockchain-driven cybersecurity system might prove to be the most effective way of tackling otherwise hard-to-trace cybercrime in and outside Africa. Blockchain systems that focus on secure transactions are somewhat revolutionary for the continent, where fraud and other virtual crimes are common.
The growth of e-commerce on the continent continues to be stifled by consumer anxieties, from the lack of effective security measures to anonymity. But now individual data can be properly recorded in publicly accessible digital ledgers, partnering with organizations that can hold those that commit crimes accountable is a step in the right direction and will surely put the minds of vulnerable retailers and customers at ease.
The Democratic Republic of Congo
Pilot scheme uses blockchain to monitor the DRC’s cobalt industry
A pilot scheme, set to launch in Q3 2018, will use blockchain to monitor cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo.The scheme aims to ensure that cobalt used in lithium-ion batteries (found in everything from cellphones to electric cars) hasn’t been mined by children. Companies are under increasing pressure from consumers and investors to show that cobalt has come through supply chains free of rights abuses, similar to other minerals such as tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold.
Blockchain can, and should…
Be channeled for social good!
It's easy to limit expectations of blockchain and cryptocurrency to get-rich-quick schemes without considering the social solutions it could yield. Since blockchain technology has the capacity to improve transparency, why not use it to address problems of social mistrust by exposing exploitation and bad behavior?
And of course, this applies to anyone operating anywhere in the world. One example? In Jordan's Azraq refugee camp, the United Nations' World Food Programme uses blockchain-based transactions to log track food distributions in multiple locations to 10,000 refugees, boosting efficiency, preventing fraud, and ensuring everyone gets fed.
WISeKey & Microsoft
Partnership helps the Rwandan government to adopt blockchain technology
October 2017 saw Switzerland-based cybersecurity company WISeKey partner with Microsoft to help the Rwandan government develop blockchain-based initiatives. The partnership is part of an ongoing collaboration to turn Rwanda into a blockchain and IoT center of excellence. The first phase of the initiative includes digitizing Rwanda’s Land Registry to aid authenticity – proving ownership of land and property in developing countries is a well-documented problem.
African countries as blockchain centers of excellence?
An achievable but also very necessary goal.
Blockchain solutions are like gold dust for governments in Africa, who have long been plagued with issues surrounding data collection, organization and integrity. Using blockchain technology to digitize, secure and keep track of records will not only circumvent the issues around of information mismanagement that many institutions struggle with, but could also restore trust in the public sector – which many African citizens have lost faith in.
Furthermore, if these blockchain-driven initiatives are applied properly, governments stand to gain an even richer understanding of their populace and their assets across various sectors, which would undoubtedly elevate these countries to blockchain centers of excellence!
Pick n Pay
South African grocery retailer trials bitcoin payment
During September 2017, a Cape Town branch of Pick n Pay accepted bitcoin as a payment for groceries and services. The pilot was developed in partnership with software payments provider Electrum and bitcoin company Luno. To checkout, shoppers scanned a QR code using the Luno app and confirmed the bitcoin transaction.
If Africans are already transacting with cryptocurrencies online...
Then why not provide this option in the real world too?
This supermarket is taking the lead by trialing bitcoin payments for purchased goods. Limited payment options can act as a deterrent for many potential customers.
Nimble brands that offer a variety of up-to-date payment options will attract more customers than those that don't – whilst appearing ahead-of-the-curve too. Win win!