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Blockchain Technology Discussed at UN Conference in Ethiopia

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Blockchain technology was a key topic of discussion at the UN conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from the 21st to the 24th of November. The just-concluded four-day conference saw experts discuss the use of blockchain technology in Africa.

The conference was held to review a new Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) with the main aim of the report being to explore the opportunities that the blockchain technology presented to the African continent.

Blockchain technology is an innovative open-source distributed ledger technology that records, stores and transfers data across a distributed network of computers. It was initially invented for the digital currency, bitcoin, but experts have over the years found other applications for the blockchain.

Issues Affecting Adoption of Blockchain Technology In Africa

Speaking to an Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) on the theme “Exploring opportunities for Blockchain technology in Africa”, Chief of the New Technologies and Innovation Section (NTIS) in the ECA’s Special Initiatives Division (SID), Kasirim Nwuke, stated that there was a lot of publicity around the blockchain technology even though little is known about it.

“Like every new technology, blockchain faces many barriers which must be understood and overcome in order for Africa to take full advantage of it,” he stated.

Mr. Nwuke went on to say Africa lacks sizeable infrastructure, developed financial institutions, strong political stability and lots of capital that can facilitate instant adoption and distribution of technologies. He added that technical constraints were a hindrance to the prevalent adoption of the blockchain technology in Africa.

Such constraints included scalability and speed of transaction of the distributed ledger systems, compatibility of various ledgers, the flexibility of the system against possible cyber attacks and network security, cultural barriers as well as regulatory frameworks.

Incorporation of Blockchain Technology

“It is with the above in view that we commissioned the report which we are presenting to you today, as experts in the field, to review and advice. Our aim in the report is to explore the opportunities and challenges that blockchain technology presents in the context of skills and resource limitations as is the case in most African countries,” added Mr. Nwuke.

“We hope that this report will contribute to ongoing efforts on our continent to understand blockchain technologies, to harness it and to fashion adequate responses to it. We hope that the report will help governments and firms to begin to identify where to begin to build blockchain capacities or capabilities, to ensure that higher education and skills training institutions begin to offer programmes that incorporate this new technology, to ensure that employees, regulators, and citizens understand not just the possibilities of blockchain technologies but also the risks.”

According to Mr. Nwuke, there was and continues to be an increased use and development of the blockchain technology by Africans with Tunisia being the first African nation to place its fiat currency on a blockchain.

Andrew Rugege, the Africa Director for International Telecommunication Union (ITU), remarked on blockchain being a disruptive technology that although still in its development stages, has been proven to work hence a key reason why Africa cannot afford to ignore it.

“It is one instrument that Africa can use not only for financial digital inclusion but to accelerate to attainment of all SDGs. As the Specialized Agency for ICTs and telecommunication, ITU stands with Africa in this endeavor,” stated Mr. Rugege.

He said how important it is for people to trust the blockchain technology if ICTs are to become enablers in the execution of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Mr. Rugege went on to say blockchain has the capability of securing the trusted use of ICTs in a broad range of domains.

Bitcoin Empowerment in Developing Countries

Speaking at the end of the four-day conference, Mr. Nwuke said,

“We have learned that BC is an emerging technology with a breakthrough potential. We have learned harnessing this technology will require huge investments and that careful evaluation by member States and firms is needed not only to determine the suitability of the technology to help mitigate identified needs but also return on investment.”

The discussion also revolved around bitcoin and how its use can empower people living in developing nations. Bitcoin use was discussed as an avenue of facilitating low-cost remittances and its use as a liaison between other dominant currencies.

“We acknowledged that the technological environment for blockchain adoption in Africa remains challenging. Implementing blockchain requires a change in the record systems of transacting parties to evolve a common data structure,” Mr. Nwuke said.

“Put differently, blockchain solutions require significant changes to existing systems. This is an effort that is not only technically demand but also complicated and expensive. Further, we have to replace our current ways, notably, Near Field Communications, of linking physical products with digitization.”

In addition, participants agreed on the fact that blockchain implementation in certain areas is highly possible with supporting regulation and legislation. These include legal contracts, property records, elimination of financial institutions and mobile bitcoin.

As the ECA continues to work on the final report that will help guide African policymakers in this critical area, its acceptance will not only strengthen the use of blockchain technology in African nations but will also help in the widespread adoption of digital currencies such as bitcoin in Africa.

Blockchain Technology

Interpol and VoguePay to Launch Blockchain-based Crime Control Platform in Nigeria

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Online payments provider VoguePay and the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) are set to launch a blockchain-based crime control platform in Nigeria.

Crime Control on the Blockchain

The crime control platform, which will be called interPort, will obtain information and manage stakeholder involvement and crime reporting.

“The partnership with VoguePay will help the agency to increase the safety of Nigerians, and to protect the economy while enabling citizens and businesses to comfortably embrace available technologies to grow their businesses, increase their profits, and create more jobs,” Interpol Commissioner of Police in Nigeria, Olushola K. Subair, stated.

Thanks to its experience in payments security and blockchain implementation, VoguePay will enable Interpol to increase citizen engagement and cooperation with partner networks to curb crime in Nigeria.

“Blockchain technology is the next evolution in identity management and that by leveraging it, Interpol is now better positioned to offer cross-agency data and biometric management,” Michael Simeon, CEO VoguePay, said.

Crime in Nigeria

Criminal activities in Nigeria range from kidnappings and robberies to contract killings and terrorism.

The Nigeria 2017 Crime & Safety Report by the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) states: “Crime is a risk throughout the country with significant terrorism threats, especially in northern Nigeria. Boko Haram is suspected of or has claimed responsibility for most of the terrorist activity in Nigeria.”

For instance, the Lagos State and Federal Capital Territory recorded a total of 58,566 crimes in 2016. With such high crime levels, the partnership between Interpol and VoguePay could be a step in the right direction to make Nigerians feel more assured that perpetrators will be caught and charged for their crimes.

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Kenya’s Capital Markets Authority Issued Warning Against Initial Coin Offerings

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Kenya’s Capital Markets Authority has issued a public warning against initial coin offerings (ICOs) in an attempt to warn Kenyans about the risks involved in investing in newly issued digital tokens.

“It is notified for general information that the CMA has not as of this date, approved any initial coin offering. The ongoing offerings are unregulated and speculative investments with considerable risk to the investor […] ,” the notice reads.

The risks cited by the CMA include a heightened potential for fraud, cross-border distribution risks, information asymmetry, and liquidity risks.

Currently, two Kenya-based cryptocurrency projects that are conducting ICOs include Nurucoin and UwezuCoin. Both, however, have been criticized by members of the local cryptocurrency community and it is unlikely that these projects will raise a notable amount of funds during their token sales.

It is also important to note that the current regulatory environment in Kenya is – for the most part – anti-cryptocurrencies but very much pro-blockchain. This is also reflected in the CMA’s statement, which says:

“CMA is cognisant of the importance of FinTech and the benefits that can be derived from leveraging blockchain technology and is willing to work with interested parties through the already established Sand Box model for purposes of supporting innovative FinTech products in a controlled and safe environment.”

The most prominent African token sale to date has been the SureRemit ICO, which managed raised over $7 million for the non-cash remittance platform. In 2018, several African blockchain startups are expected to launch token sales to fund their operations. Whether the Kenyan financial regulator’s warning will deter Kenyans from investing in these ICOs remains to be seen.

For investors, it is extremely important to conduct thorough research into a blockchain project before investing any funds as the barriers to entry for launching a token sale are extremely low and there are many scammers out there looking to prey on newcomers to the crypto asset investment space.

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CoinFest Nigeria Comes to Abuja on April 5, 2018

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The “decentralised convention for decentralised currency” CoinFest will take place in early April in multiple cities across the globe. One of these cities will once again be Abuja, Nigeria. CoinFest Nigeria will be held in Abuja on April 5, 2018.

The event aims to connect cryptocurrency enthusiasts, programmers, entrepreneurs, merchants, investors, entrepreneurs, traders and the general public to discuss ways on how to incentivise cryptocurrency acceptance, educate the public on the benefits of digital currencies and the blockchain.

Promoting Cryptocurrency Technologies Through Collaborative Initiatives

CoinFest Nigeria began in 2017 with support from Cryptographic Development Initiatives of Nigeria (CDIN), Humaniq, BitPesa, CryptoMart and other crypto-friendly organisations. The event attracted participants from many West African countries, particularly Liberia.

CoinFestThe event comes at a time when Nigeria boasts a vibrant bitcoin community evident from a number of successful cryptocurrency conferences and meetups held last year. The country is also becoming a fertile breeding ground for blockchain innovation with a number of successful startups and organisations taking advantage of the high number of bitcoin freelancers, traders, and miners.

The event, which is hosted in seven countries across the globe, is expecting a bigger turnout this year than the year before. The activities planned for the day include panel discussions, in-depth analysis and speeches, informative sessions, networking opportunities, and cryptocurrency and blockchain product exhibitions.

“Nigeria, being a major destination has increasingly come to realise the potentials and opportunities of Crypto and Blockchain Technology in several ways, relevant to individuals, and businesses. However, there is need to intensify more collaborative efforts in engaging interested groups, and relevant agencies on the right path of its adoption to emerging economies like Nigeria,” states CoinFest Curator, Kayode Babarinde.

Attendance is free with the event being held at Civic Hall, Civic Innovation Lab, 50 Adetokunbo Ademola Cresent, Beside H-Medix Pharmacy, Wuse II, Abuja, Nigeria, from 9 am. Speakers will be announced soon on the CoinFest website.

For registration, inquiries, sponsorships, exhibitions or speaking opportunities you can check the CoinFest Nigeria website.

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