Concepts like contracts, transactions, and records are crucial pillars that sustain economic, legal, and political systems as we know them. However, today’s world has shown that these tools and the protocols put in place to manage them have struggled to keep up with the fast-paced digital transformation that is happening around the world.
In the digital world, therefore, a new way of regulating and maintaining administrative control is needed. Blockchain – the technology at the heart of Bitcoin and other digital currencies – promises to bring about the changes we want.
Blockchain is an open, decentralized and distributed ledger technology that can record transactions between two parties in an efficient, verifiable and secure manner. These records are embedded in digital code and stored in shared databases, which guarantees transparency, data security and integrity as records cannot be manipulated or falsified.
In addition, the blockchain ledger itself can be programmed to trigger transactions automatically, i.e. without human intervention, based on reliable data sources that can provide the required information.
This means that individuals, companies, machines and algorithms can act and interact smoothly and without bureaucratic intermediaries.
Blockchain networks can be public – open to everyone; private – controlled from a central point; hybrid – a combination of private and public elements; or federated – a decentralized platform managed by multiple organizations.
The multisectoral outlook of blockchain
While most of the current blockchain applications focus on cryptocurrencies and facilitating payments with Bitcoin or Ethereum, the technology has immense potential to revolutionize business processes, redefine companies and entire sectors, and transform economies.
In a white paper on blockchain technology entitled “Blockchain Technology: The Future of Africa’s Digital Economyâ, Explains the Interswitch Group, Africa’s leading integrated digital payments and e-commerce company, the applications and potential of blockchain technology in several sectors.
Blockchain-enabled financial instruments in the form of digital assets such as Bitcoin and intelligent or self-executing contracts in the Ethereum network for insurance companies have so far been the most widespread use cases of the new technology. Smart contracts can also be used by lawyers as they prevent falsified documentation.
In the education sector, certifications can be issued, evidence of education stored and fees paid seamlessly using blockchain technology. and within hospitals, patient or physician reports can be easily updated and / or transferred.
For their part, governments could use blockchain-enabled platforms to ensure transparency in public processes, be it for voting, public spending or managing citizen data.
Blockchain promises a world where every agreement, task, process, and payment has a secure, verifiable, and shared digital record and signature – be it for securing land ownership and transfer, for transparency of supply chain deliveries and deliveries, or for Administration of loyalty programs for travel and tourism clients.
Rating of the blockchain game in Africa
As with most emerging technologies, Africa is lagging behind advanced regions in adopting blockchain. But as individuals, companies, and governments across the continent increasingly adopt the technology, blockchain should become mainstream – like the internet – in the decades to come.
There are currently several private and government-led initiatives aiming to develop their own blockchain solutions for Africa. For example, a number of banks in South Africa use encrypted, secure distributed databases, while in Rwanda an initiative called Bitland is using Ethereum to protect land ownership by making property details available to the public.
In two of the continent’s other leading centers of technology activity, Nigeria and Kenya, the use of blockchain technology is even deeper. Nigeria recently launched its digital currency, eNaira, and blockchain for education is being tested in partnership with the Cryptography Development Initiative of Nigeria (CDIN).
BitPesa, a money transfer platform in Kenya, East Africa, converts digital currencies into fiat without the involvement of third parties. And in the transportation sector, the National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA) has connected many government agencies to its service to educate security forces about vehicle insurance and ownership. In addition, almost all public hospitals in Kenya share a common hub through the development of a cloud-based database.
All of this indicates progress, albeit slowly. And in the way of broader acceptance and success of the blockchain in Africa have long been problems of poor infrastructure, a lack of human resources and capital, as well as political forces. These are in addition to the technical, regulatory, and institutional challenges that cripple blockchain adoption by companies and individuals.
So what’s next? According to the Interswitch whitepaper, the promising future of blockchain requires private and public actors to make necessary adjustments and incorporate blockchain into their policies and invest in the necessary infrastructure.
Private stakeholders also need to position their business strategies to embrace the technology and mandate those responsible to influence politics and regulation in favor of the technology.
Above all, bespoke training courses and workshops should be geared towards producing skilled developers, integrators and administrators who can create and maintain systems based on blockchain technology across Africa.