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Partnership and collaboration: keys to promoting Blockchain adoption in Africa

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Blockchain technology

A World Economic Forum survey forecasts that about ten percent of global GDP will be stored on blockchain by 2027. The global spending on blockchain solutions is also expected to increase by almost 12 billion dollars by 2022. As promising as blockchain appears, it cannot thrive successfully without effective collaboration and partnership. 

The need for effective collaboration in the blockchain space cannot be overemphasized. Akin Sawyer, Strategy and Governance Lead for Decred, comments that “blockchain technology is very much influenced by current and upcoming regulation, and the overall government attitude towards this technology.” The blockchain industry in Africa cannot progress and experience mass adoption without effective partnership with the government and the development of effective regulations by the government. “In some cases, regulation is missing and that uncertainty can spook a lot of investors. By adopting business friendly regulation, some European countries like Switzerland, Estonia and Malta, have become fertile grounds for many blockchain startups.” 

Regulation is critical to the development of blockchain in Africa, and this can only be achieved through effective partnership with the government. The absence of regulations scare away many potential investors from Africa’s budding blockchain industry because of the great risk and uncertainty associated with such investment. Considering that the industry requires sufficient investment to increase the adoption of  blockchain technology in Africa, the absence of regulatory frameworks in most parts of the continent may significantly hinder the growth of blockchain. In September 2020, Nigeria, through the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), proposed a regulatory framework for blockchain in the country. This move signalled a greenlight to investors, innovators, solution providers and leading organizations, to participate in the blockchain space. Although there is still more that needs to be done on the development of regulations for blockchain in the country, the  SEC regulation and the anticipated National Information Technology Development Agency(NITDA) Blockchain Policy Strategy Document promises a speedy widespread adoption of blockchain in the country in the near future. An effective synergy between the government and the blockchain industry in Africa is necessary to speed up the adoption of blockchain in the continent.

The blockchain space is an interconnected industry and no organization can single-handedly drive the desired adoption. This warrants the need for an effective collaboration between several players within the blockchain industry. For impressive growth to occur, all hands must be on deck. Africa needs to encourage more collaboration between local organizations within the blockchain industry and the rest of the global blockchain industry. Prominent global blockchain players like IBM have branches in Africa. A lot of these organizations have sufficient resources that can be tapped into, via effective collaboration, to facilitate the adoption of blockchain in Africa. 

Blockchain adoption can only be strengthened through the increased usage of the technology. In Africa, for blockchain to experience increased adoption, there is a critical need for blockchain solution providers to collaborate with existing organizations to implement the use of blockchain. The prevalence of blockchain solutions in the continent will usher in the need for Africans to learn more about the technology after becoming users of the technology. In 2018, the Nigerian Customs Service embraced the use of blockchain in its operations. The organization has integrated the Oracle blockchain to automate processes and ensure transparency. Collaborative efforts like this, are moves that will draw Africa closer to the realm of mass adoption of blockchain.

Africa needs active Blockchain education

Another critical facilitator of blockchain adoption in Africa is blockchain education.  Sufficient education of the continent’s populace can only be achieved when organizations partner with one another for the overall growth and development of the industry. Africa is home to over a billion people. Hence, to facilitate blockchain education in this densely populated region, more partnerships have to be created between necessary parties like the government, necessary institutions, and local and international blockchain-focused companies to supply the resources that are required to achieve this goal. One of such developments is the BlockchainDev1000 program that was created by the Blockchain Nigeria User Group, in partnership with IBM West Africa, Vite Labs, Hyperledger and Radical Hub, amid other organizations. The program was designed to train 1000 blockchain talents in Nigeria, within 2 years. If thousands of this kind of initiative exist across Africa, 2 years will be more than enough to raise a significant workforce for the blockchain industry. The more people are educated about what blockchain is, the higher the chances of increased adoption.

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Blockchain Technology

How blockchain can bridge the trust gap in governance

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Governments and authority figures have existed throughout history to serve many purposes amongst which trust is central. In matters of social and economic concern, some form of trust and/or distrust has enabled people in all cultures across all times to transact and interact, to exchange value and advance cultural agenda. This is so important that our very concept of money is built on trust or value induced by trust.

However, for most of history up till now, authorities have wielded central power and that has always been an avenue for corruption, a lack of transparency which leads to wastage of resources and spirals down to a lack of trust by a populace in the authority over them. Evidently, this is paradoxical, the governments are to be trusted by virtue of the authority given to them but it’s this centralization that ends up upending it down the line.

Evidently, many people in many countries do not trust governments to do things the way they say they’d do them. The question is, what can a hypothetical government do about massive distrust from citizenry?

Enter the blockchain. As with many things, technology often has something to offer. The blockchain which underlies cryptocurrencies like most famously, Bitcoin, has been imbued with a certain peculiar philosophy; one of democratization. Although this is more of a mantra within crypto circles, it’s not difficult to see why. First is the blockchain’s nature; distributed ledger built on cryptography with certain features which make it functionally immutable. It’s most famous and defining uses have been with crypto but it could be so much more. A record keeping system for example, one that would be immutable and most importantly, transparent, open to all to see.

So, in the administration of nation states, blockchain technology has the ability to fit into a lot of places. The main idea is to be able to carve out trust from distrust i.e. the apparent reality of being watched and having all records secure is an incentive for governments to act transparently. In some use cases, governments (as well as private businesses of course) could leverage smart contracts, a task built into a blockchain that’s executed when the conditions specified are met. These systems in governance would undoubtedly improve transparency, cut down on corruption as well as its accompanying wastes and overall be more efficient.

So, will we see a trend where governments would like to use blockchain technology? Overall, this is for now unlikely. World governments, it would seem, do not understand blockchains very well and hence are apprehensive about them even to the point of banning the cryptocurrencies built on them. At the end of the day, the use of blockchain at the governmental level of any nation depends on the nation’s own unique set of problems and issues. All in all, the next few years will be interesting no doubt in this regard.

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Africa Blockchain Institute

Africa Blockchain Institute Organized The First African Blockchain Summer Bootcamp For Teenagers In Ghana

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In the spirit of catching them young, the Africa Blockchain Institute organized the first-ever Blockchain Summer Bootcamp for teenagers (age range 13 to 19 years old). A successful Bootcamp, according to the participants’ testimonials and stakeholders, held at the OpenLabs, Ring Road, Accra Ghana, between Monday 2nd August, and Friday 6th August 2021. 

The teenagers applied from across Africa, and selected participants all converged at the OpenLabs, Ghana, for an intensive five days of learning, interacting, and implementing personal  Blockchain projects. The participants were divided into three significant tracks, thus; Blockchain Development, Blockchain for Creatives and Blockchain Entrepreneurship. 

Blockchain Summer Bootcamp for Teens by ABI
Blockchain Summer Bootcamp for Teens by Africa Blockchain Institute

Across these three tracks, the teenagers learnt introductory units to Blockchain Development for societal challenges, Blockchain evangelism, Non-Fungible Tokens, and how Cryptocurrency works. Another highlight of the program was the excursion to the Accra Digital Centre, where the Boot Campers were introduced to the tech ecosystem and feel of the Ghana Tech Lab and Accra Innovation Hub spaces. A visit was also made to the Museum of Science and Technology, and the teenagers got to understand the history of technology in Ghana. 

Worthy of mention was the panel session aimed at motivating the students to pursue a career in technology. While making his comments during the panel session, the founder of BankLess Africa, Mr. Muntala Mohammed Shaibu, urged the teenagers to stop seeing themselves as too young to experiment with new technologies. In her remarks, Ms. Elohor Thomas, CEO & Co-Founder of CodeLn, urged the teenagers to continue to explore their interest in technology and blockchain early.

Blockchain Summer Bootcamp for Teens by ABI
Panel Session, Blockchain Summer Bootcamp for Teens by ABI

The Bootcamp ended with personal project presentations from the Blockchain Development and the Blockchain for Creatives & Entrepreneurship tracks. Projects such as NFT blogposts, Blockchain product reviews and Blockchain for transport and logistics were presented. The best presentation won the OpenLabs scholarship for Robotics Course. Thanks to Dr Sujith Jayaprakash, the Director of OpenLabs, Ghana, for the offer of scholarship. In his closing remark, the Executive Director of the Africa Blockchain Institute, Mr. Kayode Babarinde, urged the teenagers to continue using the  skills and knowledge gained during Bootcamp to explore Blockchain-related solutions further. We also appreciate Mr. Ganzaro Omar, Chairman, AfroBlocks, for his supports, and fostering collaborations with the Ghanian Blockchain community.

The Africa Blockchain Institute will continue to hold future Blockchain Summer Bootcamp series in various African cities to drive Blockchain knowledge into innovators early enough. 

Oluwaseun David ADEPOJU

Head of Research,

Africa Blockchain Institute. 

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Artificial Intelligence

How AI Is Helping Fintechs Provide Intelligent And Better Financial Services

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AI fintech services

We live in an era of data. In today’s world, data is the new gold. The quality of services now significantly depends on how much insight can be extracted from data to help in the creation of the services. For fintech organizations, building services that harness the power of data and artificial intelligence has now become necessary to ensure that the services are tailored to meet the needs of customers. Artificial intelligence is now being used in various ways to help fintech companies provide intelligent and improved services. Some of the major areas of AI application in fintech are discussed in this article.

Risk Assessment

From insurance companies to banks and other fintech institutions, assessing credit worthiness and estimating the level of risk associated with every transaction has become very crucial. Now, many fintech companies employ the use of AI in determining the credit profiles of clients which helps to minimize financial losses when customers fail to repay loans or meet other financial commitments. 

Predicting and preventing fraudulent transactions is another challenge that fintechs are using AI to solve. Using machine learning algorithms, fintech organizations are able to build more accurate fraud detection mechanisms to curb the activities of scammers. The advantage of using machine learning for fraud detection in financial systems is that the machine learning model can learn from the financial data by itself. Thus, it is able to uncover hidden patterns and make a more robust prediction compared to traditional fraud detection algorithms. AI-based fraud detection algorithms can also be used to verify insurance claims and flag fraudulent ones. 

Churn Prediction

Customer churn is an important Key Performance Index (KPI) for any organisation. Preventing customer churn is aimpoaaaustomers and improve customer engagement. Many fintechs across the world now use AI to increase customer retention by understanding customer behaviour and making data-driven decisions to retain the audience of customers.

Intelligent Customer Service

Customer service is an aspect of fintech that has been significantly transformed by AI. The use of AI in this area has drastically reduced the need for human customer care representatives and the cost associated with employing these representatives. With AI, more customers can be attended to more efficiently via chatbots, virtual assistants etc. 

Chatbots are, particularly, one of the most common uses of AI in fintech customer service. Chatbots are sophisticated conversational AI applications that can engage with customers, address complaints and basically fill in the gap of a human employee. Chatbots have now become faster and easier means for customers to fix issues they have while using fintech services.

The Future of Fintech With AI

The use of AI in financial technology extends beyond risk assessment, churn prediction and intelligent customer service. Areas like payment processing and sentiment analysis are also being transformed by AI. Organizations like MasterCard and Visa have been able to improve the quality of their services by leveraging AI to achieve this. Personalized banking and financial services will define the future of financial technology. Better experiences will be developed for each customer in a unique and personalized manner. This may be impossible without AI. The future of fintech is geared towards smarter and more intelligent services, with AI steering the wheel to this future.

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