Blockchain is a hot topic in the technological ecosystem, especially in the area of digital technology. Factors like transparency, data security and the elimination of the trust system make Blockchain an exciting technology for various industries.
For Africa, the expectation is that Blockchain is the technology that will enable it to close the development gap with other parts of the world. In other words, Africa as a continent may be the most robust stimulant that will enable the mainstream adoption of blockchain technology.
It is an opinion that is shared by a lot of scholars, including Executive Governance expert, Georges Remboulis. As part of the #africarising Series, Remboulis tells QBITtimes that Africa has to step up and lead the way in Blockchain adoption.
He notes that the citizens have a vital role to play, especially as it relates to critical success factors of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA). Remboulis, however, expects some resistance from what he describes as the Privacy vs Transparency issues, which he expects the people to deal with.
The Role of the State
The current state of African in terms of development primarily reflects the decisions of its various leaderships. Most leaders across Africa wield so much power that the impact of their choices is a huge factor in every major issue.
Therefore, it means that for Blockchain technology to thrive within the continent, the state must play an active role. According to Remboulis, Blockchain provides Africa with leapfrog opportunities, and this is the right time to take advantage of that.
“China, Russia, UAE and Europe have a strategic eye on Africa. We need to use a straightforward approach. Engage, Communicate, Educate, Replicate. The trick is to have stakeholders rally around specific things with tangible results that can be scaled & replicated.”
The Executive Governance Expert further states that the continent needs to do something similar to what is happening in the EU, but with a better approach. Canada is currently going through the same process, and the critical point is to promote public/private projects – Business to Government (B2G).
What he proposes is the creation of an African Blockchain Leadership Council, which can be the focal point for building Proof of Concepts (P0Cs). The role of government via this Council will be to create guidelines, frameworks and Standards.
“This has to be an independent organisation that will not be required to take orders from external stakeholders,” he thinks. “Otherwise, China, Russia, and whoever will end up calling the shots.”
In his opinion, this is especially crucial if, down the road, Africa creates an ACFTA continent coin. “One step at a time, let’s start with a few practical deliverables, but we must have our roadmap.”
The Role of Civil Society
While we all agree that the state plays an essential role in this effort, civil society must be responsible for taking the initiative. Since the state seems to be more interested in regulations, civil society must step up and give governments something to regulate.
Remboulis believes that starting with the route of least resistance is the way forward. When this happens, he believes that everything else will fall into place.
At this point, the state will see the momentum and fear of exclusion. The whole point of this is economic inclusion that will lead to growth.
Perhaps this may turn out to become the beginning of the much-needed revolution that Africa needs. Gone were the days when change emanated through the barrel of the gun.
What Africa needs now is the overwhelming influx of newer technology. It will be an irresistible digital revolution for positive change. As Remboulis already acknowledged above, the state will see momentum and fear exclusion.
While many believe that this might be the long-awaited opportunity for Africa, the challenges and obstacles ahead are well acknowledged. As expected, with matters of disruption and technological revolution, the concern lies with the government.
The fear of losing control is always palpable whenever there is an innovation that could disrupt an existing system. It is not different in this case.
Remboulis points out that the two blocking factors of change are: “I don’t understand” and “I don’t want to understand”. With the government, he reasons that we will be having a bit of both situation.
While the lack of understanding has a lot to do with the level of adoption that Blockchain has received, whether the political will to pursue such exists is another issue altogether. For most African leaders, it is, unfortunately, more about resisting change.
However, it is not an impossible challenge.
To overcome this challenge, Remboulis recommends two fundamental approaches, which are:
- Education by example (build PoCs), and show governments that they will need Blockchain to control and maintain compliance of the definite move towards crypto, taxation and trade.
- The African Blockchain Leadership Council will need to focus on Education & Regulations.
To achieve this, he notes that the main business will be about stakeholders in building the PoCs as this is a B2G effort.
“I am preparing a charter for that as an independent standards organisation. We must in support of this, engage educational institution to prepare specific curriculums associated to the PoCs. These PoCs will be rolled-out and will also create jobs. We need to have the educational institutions provide courses and certifications that will be recognised by The African Blockchain Leadership Council.”
It may all sound like a selfless sacrifice for those involved in pushing for the adoption of blockchain technology. However, businesses and individuals can make economic gains from this.
This particular group of people are also bound to explore the opportunities that are provided by Blockchain technology. Not just them, the continent as a whole can count their gains right from the introduction of Blockchain.
Some of the areas that were identified by Remboulis, where opportunities exist include the following:
- Economic inclusion – Banking the unbanked (a big issue in Africa)
- The possibility of new business models creating revenue and jobs.
- Education – Africa can become a leader in certifications and higher education in this area, and this will help Africa capture foreign direct investment by increasing people in high demand areas such as Blockchain and AI.
- More efficient delivery models in healthcare and several other opportunities.
The fact is that we are confronted with a situation where Africa can turn its setbacks into opportunities. The point that the continent is deficient in many areas of development, especially that of digital infrastructure creates a huge opportunity to embrace Blockchain and develop solutions. By working with this mindset, Africa can indeed stimulate blockchain adoption.
Image Credit: IDGConnect
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