Blockchain technology has garnered substantial global media attention since the beginning of this year. This trend can also be witnessed in the African media landscape who has covered this new technology intensively. In as much as the blockchain may not be the much-awaited savior in all aspects of human life (contrary to what some ‘over-zealots’ preach), there are several features and functions inherent with the technology that can go a long way to better the lives and societal systems of mankind.
In fact, there are several solutions that blockchain technology has to offer, which is desperately needed by the African continent to better the lives of its citizens and to increase the economic and social development of African nations.
Blockchain technology through the use of cryptocurrencies or tokenized fiat currency can help reduce and even possibly eliminate the bottlenecks that pertain to traditional money transfer systems. The issue of delayed transactions with platforms such as SWIFT, Western Union, Money Gram and some mobile payment systems can be solved using blockchain technology as it is able to provide higher transaction speed than its peers. With blockchain, thousands of dollars can be sent from one point of the globe to another within minutes or even seconds. Additionally, the costs of these blockchain-based money transfers tend to be significantly lower than traditional systems.
By the end of 2015, it was estimated that yearly remittances of Africans in the diaspora back to the continent stood at a figure of $35.2 billion. The associated cost of these transfers, however, made up about 10 percent of the amount. This meant that a significant amount of those monies ended up with third-party service providers instead of getting to intended beneficiaries. Blockchain-based money transfers should have significantly lower fees and are peer-to-peer, which means that third-party institutions that rake out a significant chunk of the remittance can be eliminated since money can be sent directly from the
Blockchain-based money transfers should have significantly lower fees and are peer-to-peer, which means that third-party institutions that rake out a significant chunk of the remittance can be eliminated since money can be sent directly from the diasporan to his or her beneficiary.
The problem of proper identification and citizen data management seems to be a general debacle with most countries on the continent. Countries like Ghana and Nigeria embark on a regular vicious cycle of public sector payroll purging all in “efforts” to weed out “ghost names”. This issue can be effectively addressed if blockchain technology were to be applied.
Blockchain technology can neither be altered, manipulated nor can its data be erased as such its implementation in solving the issue of citizen identity in Africa seems like a very plausible option that should be considered by governments. By making use of cryptographic hashing and blockchain technology, individual citizens can be identified by a set of codes that will be almost impossible to hack due to the decentralised nature of the technology.
For example, US-based blockchain startup Civic leverage Bitcoin’s public blockchain to deliver identity management solutions for business and individuals. African governments can leverage the services of such players to not only solve their pestering public wage bill discrepancies, but it can be escalated to help address issues of citizen authentication and identification.
The Electoral Process
On a continent where election results and outcomes are often disputed, it is increasingly becoming important to have full-proof electoral systems to help keep the sanity of societies and communities. There have been several instances where disputed election results have led to violent agitations causing loss of lives and properties.
In the last elections that happened in The Gambia, for example, it was observed that voters made use of stones to cast their ballots, a process of this nature may not only be rife with inefficiencies, but it also goes against the ethic of privacy that should generally characterise an electoral process. Voters were expected to drop their stone ballots in containers for aspiring candidates much to the visibility of other voters and officials.
Blockchain’s public and transparent nature can be applied to electioneering just as with the case of citizen identification. Voters will be able to electronically cast their votes faster and results could be collated almost immediately with little or no disputes since the platform is practically immune to manipulation and data on it can be generally regarded as valid because the eligibility of citizens by way of age and other criteria can be assured.
Land Title Registration
The case of land and its attendant ownership issues is an albatross around the necks of most landlords and aspiring land owners in Africa. Blockchain technology comes in handy to help address this challenge and in fact, some African companies like Bitland are already contributing their quota in this regard.
With the power of blockchain technology, Bitland aims to streamline and automate the entire process of land registration to provide a better system of records immune to human manipulations and shenanigans. Bitland helps existing and aspiring land owners as well as other stakeholders with the services of surveying and recording of deeds onto Bitshares blockchain.
Transparent Government Expenditure
Going against the grain of what is popular in the news about crypto-transactions being shrouded in secrecy, more often than not the opposite is the case. Bitcoin transactions are actually available on a public ledger and can be viewed by all. This presents an opportunity for unrivaled transparency and can be translated into the system of governance in Africa.
Being a continent that is plagued with government officials allegedly misappropriating public funds, it would be a milestone for African nations (as well as Western nations for that matter) to introduce blockchain technology into track government spending.
The introduction of blockchain technology into governance would help the ordinary citizen track government spending and know what their taxes are being used for. The blockchain would be able to fight public sector corruption way more effectively than any legislative instrument enacted by parliaments would. Government spending could be followed in real-time and past transactions could be quickly called-up without the need to wait for annual audit statements before resource misappropriations can be uncovered.
Governments across the globe are increasingly off-loading aspects of their operations onto the blockchain and it is only fair and progressive that African governments follow suit for the ultimate benefit of their citizens and posterity.