'Blockchain was meant for Africa'

Blockchain technology is currently not adopted widely in Africa as yet. But the technology could solve authentication problems across the African sectors according to ICT experts.

Speaking at a Blockchain Workshop organised by Coala (Coalition of Automated Legal Applications) held in Nairobi, Kenya, former Permanent Secretary for ICT and now a business and entrepreneurship lecturer, Dr Bitange Ndemo said the technology could hold promise in Africa.

"Personally, I think blockchain was meant for Africa," Ndemo, said. "We have a lot of problems ranging from corruption and fraud. We now have a technology that could alleviate some of these problems."

He added that having political will would enable the adoption and legalisation of this technology.

"The problem we (Africa) have is the system's (resistance) to change," he added. "Someone somewhere has to take a risk. Political will is so powerful in making this thing happen."

Legislative hurdles include the Central Bank of Kenya's description of bitcoin as part of the blockchain implementation as 'risky' and cautioned the public against using it.

Ndemo said that if government could engage the stakeholders in adopting new technologies, their adoption could be a smoother process.

On the other hand, lack of incentive on blockchain implementation has meant that fewer developers have taken interest in the technology.

Joshua Mwaniki country director at Andela, a tech talent training centre, said that there are less than 30,000 blockchain developers in the world compared to 18 million Javascript coders. This is not only a worry but poses an opportunity for African developers.

"There are a lot of opportunities to create a bit of a leap with Africa providing the talent," Mwaniki said.

"A lot of our developers are motivated by being world class engineers but also to be able to earn a living but many of them don't see those opportunities. There isn't a lot of excitement around blockchain. We need to find ways to activate that community."

Vitalik Buterin, the founder of blockchain platform Ethereum, said that the lack of legacy technology in Africa could place the continent at an advantage to quickly apply blockchain technology across various sectors.

Buterin was one of the heavy weight blockchain developers attending the workshop. Others included Bitcoin developer Peter Todd and Vlad Zamfir from Ethereum.