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Blockchain Technology Discussed at UN Conference in Ethiopia

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blockchain in ethiopia

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

AI and Blockchain-Powered Project CareAi Could Improve Healthcare in Africa

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CareAi

CareAi is a project of the Joint Research Centre from the European Commission that has the potential to improve healthcare services in Africa through the use of artificial intelligence and blockchain technology.

The open-source solution provides intelligent and anonymous healthcare and can diagnose diseases like typhoid fever, malaria, and tuberculosis within seconds through the use of AI. The aim of the project is to reach out to undocumented migrants, ethnic minorities, and populations secluded from healthcare systems. The anonymous nature of CareAi also allows patients such as migrants to receive a diagnosis without worrying about deportation.

How It Works

CareAi is a machine featuring a finger prick and a lab-on-a-chip technology initiated by a Harvard University chemistry professor called George Whitesides.

To receive a diagnosis, a patient will have their finger pricked and the blood sample is deposited on the chip, put in the machine, and anonymised. Once this is done, CareAi’s AI-powered health assistant analyses the sample by referencing it to a wide range of medical and diagnosing data and then displays the results on a screen and provides a printout for the same.

The results come with actions that the user should take such as getting a prescription from partner chemists or seeing a participating NGO doctor that provides anonymous treatment and who can claim back payment for services rendered.

Additionally, CareAi correlates medical data with records of academic data and journals anonymously. The anonymised data is securely stored on the blockchain while smart contracts manage the rights, permission, and access to the stored health data.

Organisations use a distributed app to access the data through smart contracts. For instance, if a government wants to access the stored data for policy purposes, it has to buy tokens called CareAi Points. These tokens are then used to pay the participating healthcare NGOs and for machine maintenance.

According to a Medium article by Lucas Lorenzo, these points can propel “economic interactions in the form of a valued currency, locally and at scale; exchanging economic value and intelligent healthcare feedback for anonymised data.”

The Possible Applications of CareAi in Africa

CareAiAlthough CareAi targets refugee camps in Europe, the technology could also make a positive impact on the African continent according to the founder of cloud-based health records platform Medcera, Ndubuisi Ekekwe. He believes:

“[…] Products like CareAi could become catalytic when they begin to penetrate into villages and cities across the continent. If AI systems could handle some of the minor healthcare issues, the available healthcare professionals could focus on the most difficult issues.”

Ekekwe also says AI systems, such as CareAi, can enhance drug prescriptions where the medical history of a person is entered into the system. This enables the AI system to confidently prescribe drugs and connect the patient to the right pharmacy.

However, he notes that although AI and blockchain technology could change the healthcare systems in Africa, nations must invest in other areas such as training more healthcare professionals and installing electricity and clean water in all healthcare facilities. He also believes that the challenge of inadequate data has to be solved for AI to have a future on the continent.

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Blockchain Technology

Kenya’s RideSafe to Receive $140,000 in Funding from Aeternity Starfleet Incubator

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RideSafe

Kenyan tech startup RideSafe is set to receive $140,000 in seed funding from the Aeternity Starfleet Incubator, which it partook in earlier this year.

In Kenya, one of the easiest ways to get around is through motorcycles known as “boda bodas.” This subsection of the transport industry has been largely unregulated, creating a myriad of risks for riders and commuters alike. It is, therefore, quite likely to find riders creating associations or small social groups for their collective interests and pooling their resources and support in order to secure solutions for financing, health, and insurance.

RideSafe is a startup that has stepped up to provide health solutions for riders in real-time in case of accidents. Many riders are exposed to hazardous conditions daily. Hence, there is a need for robust solutions to safeguard their wellbeing.

Æternity Starfleet Incubator

RideSafe

Image by RideSafeApp.com

Earlier this year, RideSafe participated in the Aeternity Starfleet Incubator, which is specially designed to empower startups that seek to leverage blockchain technologies. From an initial round of 60 participants, RideSafe qualified for the shortlist of 17 teams, among which Vite and Utu were the only other African startups to participate.

Asiimwe Benson, the CEO of RideSafe, revealed in an interview that he met the Aeternity team at the World Blockchain Summit in Nairobi in early 2018, where he got an opportunity to sign up for the incubator and funding. With the $140,000 prize, the CEO intends to expand operations to serve more riders nationally; ultimately targeting the masses. The funding will also be used to build capacity and secure technical support.

Nikola Stojanow, the CEO of Aeternity Ventures, remarked that the finalists of their training program demonstrated passion, dedication, and far-reaching potential through their ability to take counsel and fine-tune their business models and road maps for best practice.

The ten teams that made it through Aeternity’s incubator have paved the way for other teams and startups to learn and gain meaningful experience in sustainably innovating solutions based on blockchain technology.

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Coinfirm Partners with KAD ICT Hub to Launch Africa Blockchain Lab in Nigeria

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Africa Blockchain Lab

London-based blockchain regtech company Coinfirm and Nigeria’s KAD ICT Hub have launched the Africa Blockchain Lab with the aim of taking up companies focused on creating blockchain-based services and products for African economies.

The new hub based in Kaduna, Nigeria is especially interested in companies that are focused on financial inclusion and has already accommodated one such startup called Kora.

Kora, founded in 2017 by Dickson Nsofor and Maomao Hu, is a blockchain-based infrastructure for an inclusive financial system. According to the Inclusive Growth Forum, “the Kora Network will provide access to identity, secure storage, money transfer, and marketplaces on a low cost, universal access platform accessible via SMS/USSD on feature phones, or with internet access via a mobile app, enabled by blockchain technology.”

CoinfirmCoinfirm’s co-founder and CMO Grant Blaisdell said in a press release: “A Silicon Valley out-of-the-box solution approach has generally not worked in regions such as Africa; it requires a ground-up, organic approach. Coinfirm has already successfully built leading blockchain solutions, the largest structured blockchain database and coverage, and the first blockchain lab for Central Europe. Now, working with KAD ICT Hub, who share our vision of bringing transformative, blockchain-based solutions to African markets, and who have the local knowledge and expertise, we are going to do the same in Africa.” He added:

“We want to work with and provide opportunities for African entrepreneurs working in one of the most exciting and disruptive fields today while bringing our own solutions like our AML/KYC Platform and AMLT Network.”

The KAD ICT Hub

Launched in 2017, the KAD ICT Hub based in Kaduna, Nigeria is an IT innovation hub that receives support from the Nigerian government.

Africa Blockchain LabCo-founder and chief executive of the KAD ICT Hub Yusuf Bashir said: “[…] The transformative potential of blockchain is enormous, and we are confident that, working with Coinfirm, we can provide the testbed and support for today’s leading African blockchain companies, giving them the opportunity to become global leaders. Here in Kaduna, Nigeria’s third-largest state in terms of population, and leading learning and innovation hub, we are extremely fortunate to have a governor who is not only supportive of what we are doing but had ensured we are backed by the Kaduna State Government.”

The hub has been working with Trudatum, Coinfirm’s blockchain-based data document verification platform, which Poland’s largest bank PKO Bank Polski has recently started to use. Additionally, Trudatum could be used in Nigeria to securely store documents in government institutions and universities.

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