Many Kenyans rely on brokers and advocates when it comes to the transfer of land title deeds due to the tedious amount of paperwork and long queues they have to deal with otherwise. The result is that most advocates or brokers end up taking advantage of the situation by charging high fees with some transactions even being rather unscrupulous. However, if planned blockchain technology adoption by Kenya gets the green light, things could change for the better as a blockchain-based process can create transparency by linking an individual’s details with his or her land or any other property they own.
The Blockchain is an immutable distributed digital ledger that is used to record and process transactions across a decentralised web of computers. Land records stored using the technology will thus be void of fraudulent editing, human error, and deletion.
The use of blockchain technology in resolving land registry issues will put Kenya on the map together with developed countries that are already utilising the technology for its endless benefits. This also comes at a time when leaders in the technology industry have been researching on the use of blockchain technology beyond digital currencies.
Transparency in Land Ownership and Transfers
In December 2016, the Kenyan government issued a statement saying they were piloting the use of the technology to keep track of land transactions and educational data according to BusinessDaily.
“This will not only increase security but will also help fight corruption by distributing the maintenance of records to all parties involved, rather than to a few. By allowing participants to see who owns, sells, and divides land, the technology will enhance verification and transparency,” said the Technical Manager, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), Mr Lyford-Smith.
The institute is an accountant’s body based in the United Kingdom and is a pioneer member of the Chartered Accountants Worldwide and the Global Accounting Alliance. The institute stated that blockchain technology can boost coherence in land registry.
In the latest report released by Blockchain and the Future of Accountancy, the institute believes that land registration can gain from the technology, particularly in the history and transfer of proprietary rights of property.
Mr. Lyford-Smith went on to add,
“The technology can create a clear and permanent record of ownership and transfer of ownership, which can facilitate additional liquidity in the economy.”
The report cited examples of the use of blockchain technology to digitise title deeds and minimise property fraud that were done in Sweden, Georgia, and Honduras. In Honduras for instance, the report highlights how corruption can be a thing of the past by use of the blockchain to issue land title deeds that are free from any human edits while the government of Georgia has partnered with BitFury to develop a blockchain-based network for land registration. Bringing it closer home to Africa, Bitland, a Ghanaian-based startup, is also making use of blockchain technology to provide land registry services.
Ending an Era of Fraudulent Brokers and Advocates
Land cartels have for a long time now been conning unsuspecting Kenyans. Many experts feel the Kenyan government should emulate the countries that are already utilising the blockchain as most Kenyans have lost trust in the purity of title deeds and security of tenure.
The report by ICAEW indicates that the process of land registry on the blockchain would begin by tokenising the land in question. This means each portion of land will have a representation created that showcases it as a digital asset recorded on the blockchain after which each landowner will have the right tokens issued to them. While the benefits of blockchain technology are massive and beneficial, the report observes that the change process is no small task based on the complexity of the existing structures.
The Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning recently upgraded its electronic management system so as to fasten the transaction process. This means that Kenyan citizens will now need to make use of the e-citizen platform to pay for all the necessary duties and fees online.
“For your land to be listed on the ‘manage property’ page, you are required to validate it with your local land registry with your original title or certificate of lease, your original Identity Card (ID) and Kenya Revenue Authority pin during working hours,” mentioned Nicholas Muraguri, Lands principal secretary.
Kenya, being an economic giant in the East African region, will gain a lot by implementing the land registry process using blockchain technology and can join countries like Ghana and Rwanda that are already making use of the technology to digitise their land registry process.
Medici Land Governance Signs MoU with Liberia’s Ministry of Finance to Digitise Government Services
Medici Land Governance (MLG) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning in Liberia. The aim of the agreement is to explore the potential for the digitisation of current government services and the creation of e-government platforms.
The Pilot Project
The pro bono pilot project will support the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) and the Pillar II (Economy and Jobs) in the PAPD agenda. This is agenda is a Liberian government initiative.
Additionally, the pilot project will investigate how to shift Liberia to a digital and blockchain-focused economy and how to enable interoperability among government services.
MLG will also train Liberians through knowledge transfer as well as create jobs during the initial phase of gathering data and after the implementation stage where trained personnel will be needed to maintain the system.
Through the pilot project, Liberia joins countries like Rwanda and Zambia who are undertaking blockchain projects in partnership with MLG.
Ali El Husseini, the CEO of MLG, said: “Medici Land Governance’s work is a major component of Medici Ventures’ goal to create ‘a blockchain tech stack for civilization. Liberia is well-positioned to explore implementing a blockchain backbone for e-government, which connects the various government ministries as their services are digitised and brought online. This pilot project is an excellent opportunity for Medici Land Governance to demonstrate how we can tailor our products and services to the needs of Liberia’s government and economy.”
MLG is a blockchain subsidiary of Overstock Inc., a Utah-based online retailer and technology company.
Digitising Liberia’s Economy
According to the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel Tweah, the agreement with MLG is a sign that Liberia is ready to digitise its economy and move government services to a digital platform.
“We believe that the free pilot project when implemented, will showcase Liberia’s readiness to digitise the economy and migrate to an e-government platform that will facilitate full interoperability of the Government of Liberia services and systems,” he said in a press release.
Medici Ventures aims to introduce blockchain technology to existing markets in order to “eliminate middlemen, democratise capital, and re-humanise commerce.”
Patrick M. Byrne, Chairman of MLG and founder and CEO of Overstock, observed: “In 2019, I have been pleased and honoured to see African nations growing enthusiastic about the possibility of using blockchain to accelerate their development. Liberia now becomes the third African country to agree to give [our suite of blockchain-based land governance products] a try.”
South African Reserve Bank to Conduct Central Bank Digital Currency Feasibility Study
The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) is set to conduct a central bank digital currency (CBDC) feasibility study according to an expression of interest (EOI) issued on April 29, 2019. Through the EOI, SARB is looking for solution providers to offer technological infrastructure and skills to the project.
The CBDC Feasibility Project Charter
Developed in May 2018, the CBDC Feasibility Project Charter aims “to investigate the feasibility and desirability of central bank issued digital currency to be used as electronic legal tender, complimentary to cash.”
Additionally, the purpose of the feasibility project will be finding out how issuing a CBDC can support SARB’s vision of leading “in serving the economic well-being of South Africans through price and financial stability.”
The establishment of this project was as a result of a mandate the Currency Management Department of the SARB gave in 2016. The order required the selected team to investigate the case of a CBDC issued and backed by SARB.
According to the expression of interest, the CBDC feasibility project will be carried out in a contained innovation lab environment. The innovation lab will comprise of software, technical skills, infrastructure, and business skills. However, SARB makes it clear that the CBDC feasibility project is exploratory in nature and does not constitute any long-term plan or commitment to issue a government-backed digital currency.
The study only focuses on issuing the CBDC as an electronic version of cash as opposed to a universally accessible form of central bank reserve money or a central bank issued version of commercial bank account money.
CBDC Project Stages
The feasibility project will be carried out in the innovation lab in two stages. The first stage will be internally conducted and will entail testing principles, validating the feasibility of recommended technical solutions, and increasing the body of knowledge.
The second stage will extend participation to external banks and mobile network operators and potentially to payment service and niche technology providers. In addition, the set of use cases will be increased to incorporate the full value chain so as to establish the possibility of the solution to satisfy SARB’s objectives.
In the EOI, SARB makes it clear that there is no preference of basing the project on a distributed ledger technology platform, the blockchain, or existing traditional technology.
“It is envisaged that a solution could be based on any one or a combination of technologies,” SARB explains.
Some of the policies that will guide CBDC include:
- Only SARB must issue the CBDC as legal tender
- Commercial banks must issue the CBDC under SARB’s regulatory oversight
- Must enable the issuance and distribution of CBDC to commercial banks or licensed service providers
- CBDC must be issued on a one-on-one parity with the rand
- CBDC transactions must be free or low-cost to consumers
- CBDC must provide an incentive to increase its use
- CBDC must be accepted as a means of payment by all businesses and the government
- Consumers must be able to make transactions with CBDC without the need for a bank account
- CBDC must not be easily counterfeited
- CBDC must be scalable
- It should be possible to cancel a CBDC serial number that is proven to be a counterfeit
The CBDC feasibility project comes after the successful trial of SARB’s blockchain-based Project Khokha. Once the project is complete, SARB will decide on the next steps to take based on the outcomes.
Applications of the expression of interest will close on June 6, 2019, at 11:30 am.
Blockchain Association of Africa, AfriPlains Digital And Blockchain Worx to Launch Blockchain Innovation Centres Across Africa
South Africa-based Blockchain Association of Africa will collaborate with Afriplains Digital and Blockchain Worx to equip Africans with blockchain education, tools, and expertise to shape the continent’s future.
The partnership aims to promote technology education, community outreach, and local talent in order to increase blockchain adoption across Africa. As a result, the three partners envision that these efforts will contribute business value to the continent.
To achieve this goal, the partnership will establish Blockchain Worx’s Blockchain Innovation Centre in Tanzania, South Africa, Rwanda, and Uganda.
The Chairwoman for the Blockchain Association of Africa, Yaliwe Soko, said: “Africa is no longer the Dark Continent, and everyone is looking at Africa now. Blockchain will ensure that Africans are now stakeholders in what the continent has to offer and it all starts with education. This partnership will ensure that the upcoming generation is equipped with the right skills and expertise to move the continent further.”
The Blockchain Association of Africa is an organisation that brings together blockchain stakeholders from across the continent to drive collaboration, innovation, and education while Afriplains Digital is a next-generation technology services company based in Tanzania. The company uses technologies like the blockchain to solve business and socio-environmental issues.
Blockchain Worx is a FinTech-RegTech venture with its headquarters in Singapore. Blockchain Worx offers solutions such as anti-money laundering transaction monitoring systems and securities tokenisation platforms.
The Blockchain Innovation Centre
The Blockchain Innovation Centre will help both private and public institutions to understand and leverage the blockchain.
The innovation centre offers a wealth of knowledge, ready-to-use development tools, and a set of PoC/demo applications that help institutions to deploy their own blockchain innovation labs in a short period of time. These resources help institutions with understanding the technology and building and evolving applicable use-cases.
“We are super excited to team up with the Blockchain Association of Africa and Afriplains Digital to deploy our premier Blockchain Innovation Centre solution across communities and local chapters in Africa. We truly believe that Africa has potential to lead the way for the rest of the world and showcase how to effectively leverage and make use of technological advances for sustainable and inclusive growth,” said Sumantra Naik, co-founder, and COO of Blockchain Worx.
The Potential of Blockchain Technology in Transforming Africa’s Economies
According to an article by Briter Bridges, blockchain technology could be what Africa needs to catch up with developed countries. While this impact is yet to be seen, interest in the blockchain across the continent is depicted through events, communities, blockchain trials, and government support.
Merlin Van Lawick, Director of Afriplains Digital, observed: “As the interest in blockchain technology gains momentum across Africa, […] it becomes imperative that we build the necessary infrastructure and ecosystem [to] create awareness, provide effective tools to develop skills and talent locally, and create innovative use-cases that are truly designed to solve the problems that we as African businesses and society experience.”
The Blockchain Innovation Centre could, therefore, be one of the steps that will help Africa to catch up with developed economies.
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