Blockchain In Africa

Author:Mr Peter Kasanda and Lee Bacon
Profession:Clyde & Co
 
FREE EXCERPT

A number of countries in Africa have seen rapid technological development in recent years, as exemplified by mobile internet deployment across Uganda and Tanzania. This is largely due to a lack of existing infrastructure and regulation allowing for new technologies to leapfrog traditional solutions and for policy frameworks to be implemented in conjunction with new products. This results in stable macroeconomic environments which now sees countries, such as Kenya, as a favourable market for tech investors.

Blockchain and other decentralised systems are likely to be the next technology to capitalise on this 'test and learn' approach as they are well suited to manage data, financial assets and B2B transactions without the need for intermediaries. As a core principle, Blockchain improves the quality, reliability and accessibility of data and for this reason, they have the potential to alleviate various issues which can arise when conducting business.

Whilst recognising that there will be regional and national level nuances to Blockchain's implementation, this report highlights how the technology is expected to affect business across the continent. By no means exhaustive, the examples below represent areas in which Blockchain is likely to have a significant impact in the short to medium term.

Currency

Due to their reliance on international commodity markets, African currencies can lack stability. The result is that the US Dollar is often used as an informal currency, particularly by businesses. This presents its own issues as foreign currency reserves are often limited - as an example Zimbabwean banks cap daily cash withdrawals at USD 20.

By using cryptocurrencies, businesses can benefit from a stable store of value and hedge against inflation whilst avoiding reserve issues. Furthermore, cryptocurrencies aren't geographically restricted which has the potential to facilitate cross-border trade.

BitPesa is currently pioneering this process by hosting B2B payments and offering a real-time settlement at wholesale FX rates to frontier and emerging markets through mobile money networks.

Land

At present, land tenure in many jurisdictions lacks clarity and security - this leads to the issue of 'dead capital' as lenders are typically unwilling to securitise land. This prevents effective utilisation of one of Africa's most significant assets and hinders entrepreneurs who are otherwise unable to raise capital. Unclear land rights also pose difficulties to...

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