To help tell the story of bitcoin and blockchain technology in Africa, BitcoinAfrica.io has launched the “Meet Africa’s Blockchain Startups” series, which introduces startups that are leveraging blockchain technology and cryptocurrency to develop innovative new solutions that aim to change the status quo of business, banking and other sectors in Africa.
The first blockchain startup that will be introduced in our series is BitHub Africa.
The Blockchain Accelerator Program
BitHub Africa, in its bid to boost the application of blockchain technology to drive financial inclusion, is seeking to assist local companies that are deploying blockchain based solutions through its hub and coworking space in Nairobi. The accelerator program allows these startups to connect with a talented pool of blockchain developers at the BitHub space as well as have access to consultancy services.
Companies that are looking to leverage blockchain technology in sectors such as payment systems, agriculture, financial services, data storage and management, among other sectors, can apply to be part of their accelerator program. The requirements are simple and for a modest monthly fee their co-working space can be used complete with all the relevant amenities and strong internet connectivity. Also, participants in the incubator program can enjoy free blockchain consulting services.
In Africa, bitcoin and its underlying technologies have the potential to disrupt some key areas such as governance, by creating immutable voting systems that promote free and fair elections, by improving efficiency and transparency when it comes to the transfer of value, and the protection of intellectual property through notarizing services.
John Karanja in an interview with EY indicated BitHub’s current focus is microlending, energy distribution by deploying smart grids or green energy and providing access to farmers through smart contracts. He says,
“We’re seeing that businesses that want to make a true social impact, such as providing more access to energy or access to loans and credit, are the ones gaining traction. At the same time, they are attracting investment and launching quickly.”
The hub is already making strides in the micro-lending space, with the launch of pesazetu, a peer-to-peer lending platform in August last year. In addition, as part of its advocacy for blockchain-based solutions, BitHub Africa published the African Blockchain Opportunity Report in 2016. The report highlights the opportunities blockchain is creating for entrepreneurs in Africa based on the review of 16 cryptocurrency and blockchain platforms. They are also engaging the regulators and government ministries to push for inclusion of blockchain technology in Kenya’s ICT policy.
It remains to be seen how the blockchain accelerator program shapes up the local startup scene, but Karanja is optimistic about BitHub’s prospects,
“I am very optimistic. The ICT sector is growing exponentially in Kenya. We have a young and vibrant population with great ideas. We also have a lot of people coming from the United States and elsewhere to set up businesses here. So, we have a good mix of ideas and entrepreneurship. Kenya will go from nearly 6% connectivity to power the internet to 70% connectivity over the next decade. That is a tremendous leap, benefiting people in many ways, giving them access to services that were not available in the past.”