The Conference on Blockchain Technology in Africa
The UN meeting about blockchain in Africa ended in Ethiopia on November 24, 2017. With the aim having been to build on their knowledge of the use of cryptocurrency and discuss its potential in Africa, it was deemed to have been a success.
Positive Conclusions for all Member Nations
Kasirim Nwuke of the Economic Commission for Africa ended the meeting with the following summary:
“We have learned that [blockchain] 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.”
According to Nwuke, the discussions had during the conference brought to several light areas in which blockchain technology could be implemented. He mentioned food production, pharmaceuticals, luxury manufacturing, supply chain and shipping logistics as examples of this.
With bitcoin forming a recurring point of interest for the members present, it was discovered that there remains value for the cryptocurrency, despite the environment being poor and developing countries in Africa. Members also addressed the fact that systems security was still an object of contention for many.
It was assumed that bitcoin is most prominent in countries such as the USA, whereas Japan and China are some of the primary bitcoin markets. With China’s recent ban on cryptocurrency, Japan has moved to the top spot regarding bitcoin usage and acceptance within its borders.
Kenyan members of the conference were especially interested in the social and solidarity financial impacts that blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies could have on their country. Applications of this include the promotion of financial inclusion as well as lower-level business efforts.
Representatives from Holland took from the conference the knowledge of how blockchain could positively impact civil and identity registration.
More to the above, all participants discussed the potential for bitcoin to empower those in impoverished and developing countries, and the following are some of the key motivating factors thereof:
Bitcoin can be considered a reliable and cost-effective method of transferring lesser amounts of funds internationally.
Bitcoin provides individuals with a means to store money without the use of a standard bank account.
Blockchain technology for international trade of a lesser scale. Further to that, it can be used to bridge the gap between different forms of fiat money.
Obstacles & Challenges to a Blockchain Future
Nwuke acknowledged the obstacles that would be present in the adoption of blockchain in an African environment. “[It] requires a change in the record systems of transacting parties to evolve a common data structure,” he said.
He continued by explaining that existing systems need to be significantly altered to make way for blockchain solutions. Not only is it technically demanding, he said, but also expensive and complicated.
Before concluding the UN Blockchain meeting, members of the conference agreed that blockchain implementation in Africa rested heavily upon supporting regulation and legislation. Examples of these include legal contracts, property records, and mobile bitcoin.
Nwuke added that security, privacy, and control continue to be serious concerns. He mentioned that cybersecurity concerns, as well as cultural issues, need to be tackled and solved before the successful implementation of blockchain technology.