The potential blockchain has to change our world is incredibly exciting when you see how folks have been implementing the technology.

Smart contracts, greater control over your personal information and more streamlined services are just a few of the things blockchain can help facilitate and are in development or ready to launch in some instances.

Africa has, at times in the past, lagged behind when it comes to technology. In some instances the continent has leapfrogged other areas of the globe, particularly as relates to mobile connectivity.

Where Africa really stands to benefit however, is if solutions powered by blockchain come to the fore.

This is according to managing director at Cryptovecs Capital, John Lombela (pictured). The MD says that Africans should be embracing the potential of blockchain.

“When it comes to investing in technology, Africa needs to realise that the greatest wealth is created by being an early investor in innovation. Making such investment requires believing in something before most people understand it,” says Lombela.

That shouldn’t be seen as advice to invest in cryptocurrency, but rather to look at how blockchain can add value.

For example, the technology could be used to stamp out corruption (or at the very least minimise instances of corruption) as it inherently promotes trust, transparency and stability.

Everything on a blockchain?

With that in mind, could everything benefit from using blockchain tech? The short answer is no.

For one, the skills required to implement the technology aren’t common. That having been said, various initiatives in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa provide training regarding the technology.

Here folks can learn how best to implement the technology and not simply try to shoe-horn blockchain into everything. For example, you don’t need a social network built on a blockchain. While it’s nice and rather unique, time would likely be better spent on beefing up security or developing a less intrusive advertising solution.

“Even though the world has bought into the idea of blockchain and is implementing it wherever that makes sense, education still needs to be instilled because not every business model requires blockchain technology,” says Lombela.

As to where blockchain can help Africans, Lombela outlines the following:

  • Reinvent their financial services and democratise the way banking and investing is currently done and broaden the reach by allowing other participating members to become participants in the ecosystem.
  • Stimulate the economy by allowing more money to flood into projects that require investment, and allowing anyone to invest;
  • Create new business models based on the blockchain technology that would disrupt existing traditional or modern business models;
  • Solve the prosperity paradox for economic inclusion, business and entrepreneurship;
  • Rebuild governance and strengthen democracy;

Education is vital as it will help prevent folks from investing in passing fads and instead focus on real solutions.

A long journey ahead

As with the rest of the world, blockchain is not a magic wand that will solve all of our problems.

In fact, for the tech to really flourish in Africa the issue of connectivity and infrastructure needs to be addressed.

“Reality is that technology depends on how well the infrastructure is, however, it’s estimated that 70 percent or more of the African population still uses the old fashioned way or earlier forms of communciation. That is where the problem is,” states Lombela.

To our mind this screams that Africa needs 5G but here in South Africa we are at the mercy of lawmakers allocating spectrum for the connectivity standard.

Once the infrastructure is in place, and applications are developed, there is still a long road ahead before blockchain begins to show its worth.

“For Africa to fight against corruption it will need it to embrace technology that can improve and change the way many of the political leaders perceive using systems. And for it to succeed there needs to be governance within corporate entities and or government bodies,” the MD says.

“A complex solution because the former would need to abide by the attributes of the technology to allow its internal processes to be stored on a ledger they can trust, thus enforcing rules and opening up to the world transparency and traceability.”

And the crux of that problem is that folks don’t like change, especially if that change is going to highlight corruption.

While blockchain is making waves around the world, its clear that more needs to be done for its real value to shine through.