Blockchain technology applications in Africa. Many technology start-ups in Africa are developing innovative products based on the blockchain technology.
This article examines the blockchain technology, its applications, potentials and challenges in Africa.
A blockchain is a digital ledger containing blocks of information. It is also called distributed ledger technology or cryptographic ledger.
These are blocks of information such as transactions and agreements which are stored across a network of computers.
In addition, the blocks of information are stored chronologically.
The system was designed to ensure anonymity and security for users.
That is, preventing the tampering or hijacking of the network.
Therefore, a blockchain enables the secure transfer of money, assets and information through the internet without the need for a third-party intermediary or central authority such as a bank.
However, the information stored can be viewed by a community of users.
Blockchain technology applications
Some of the applications of blockchain that highlight its economic benefits are:
- Digital money (Cryptocurrency).
- Leapfrog technology (Finance).
- Digital asset registries.
Blockchain technology applications in digital money (Cryptocurrency)
The most obvious application of blockchain technology is the digital money system.
Cryptocurrencies run on blockchain technology. They are digital or virtual currencies that can be used to pay for things in the real world.
For a long time, there has been several failed attempts to create digital money. People did not trust digital money because someone always had to be in charge to manipulate the supply.
Furthermore, it was easy to forge. However, people are excited about cryptocurrencies (the most popular cryptocurrency is Bitcoin) because of the blockchain technology.
Cryptocurrencies are in form of digital tokens which are held in online wallets and can sent anonymously between users.
There is a clever math behind the blockchain technology; that makes it difficult for cryptocurrencies to faked, hacked or double-spent.
How does blockchain technology work for cryptocurrencies?
Blockchain technology works on the basis of three properties.
It is easy to understand these properties through its cryptocurrency application:
Firstly, blockchain is decentralized technology. Think of the blockchain as a big book or a database. The same record exist across a large network. That is, every bitcoin owner has identical copies of the database.
Secondly, blockchain’s transparency shows every time you send a bitcoin to someone else. The record of that transaction goes into the database. Therefore, every bitcoin owner can see the transaction.
However, nobody is in charge of the database – no bank, no government, not even the person who invented it. Also, nobody can change it.
Thirdly this inability to change or alter the database shows the immutability property of the blockchain technology.
Blockchain technology applications in leapfrog technology (finance)
The leapfrog application of the blockchain technology is a game changer for financial inclusion in Africa.
The concept of leapfrogging refers to innovations that bypasses the intermediate stages of technology. African countries skipped the landline infrastructure of laying copper cables, moving directly to mobile telecommunications.
Providing internet access through 3G networks.
The leapfrog application of blockchain technology is in the area of financial services.
How can blockchain technology adoption impact payment channels and banking services?
Blockchain technology can make it easier for FinTech (financial technology) to reach millions of people without access to financial services such as bank accounts and ATM (the unbanked).
For example, FinTech start-ups are providing cheaper and faster mobile money transactions.
With the blockchain technology, the need for data center infrastructure will be eliminated.
Rather, technology hubs are able to create secure services.
This would open up new markets and cost-effective methods to service providers. eWallet banking apps can reach the unbanked.
In addition, payment channels to execute financial contract over time. For example, BitPesa offers cryptocurrency liquidity and exchange – buying and selling of bitcoin.
Blockchain technology applications in digital asset registries
One of the biggest application of blockchain technology is digital asset registries.
A digital asset registry is a listing of assets that are registered to a blockchain. The digital registration makes it easy to verify and transfer a digital asset.
The blockchain technology provides the means to record and transmit digital goods over the internet.
In addition, the immutability characteristic of blockchain technology ensures that these digital goods cannot be copied or multiplied.
The adoption of blockchain-based property rights system enables the recording, transfer and verification of asset ownership.
Such as titles for land, homes and automobiles. It is also used to verify ownership of stocks, bonds, insurance and mortgages.
Furthermore, blockchain technology is applied to preserve the authenticity of sensitive records and documents such as passports, wills, birth and death certificates.
How is blockchain technology application transforming land title in Africa?
Land title registration is a practical application of blockchain technology in digital asset registry.
In Africa, a larger percentage of land ownership are undocumented.
Ghana is one of the countries in the pilot program applying blockchain technology to develop efficient and effective land title registration.
That is, land acquisition, valuation and record keeping.
In Ghana, 80% of all land registries are undocumented. This encourages fraud and misappropriations.
A blockchain property rights system ensures that digital records of land ownership exist. Therefore, land ownership can be easily verified.
In addition, the possibility of multiple registration is eliminated. Reducing fraudulent land ownership and sale of land to multiple people.
Although implementation is stalling due to the Ghanaian Security and Exchange Commission’s hesitation to issue regulation on cryptocurrencies.
Blockchain technology applications in healthcare
Blockchain technology is expected to have significant impact in the healthcare industry.
The decentralized property of blockchain means it can be applied in healthcare applications. Patients own and are in control of their health data.
Both healthcare stakeholders and patients would be able to know how, when and who has access to medical records because the network creates an atmosphere of transparency.
The immutability property of blockchain ensures that stored medical records can’t be altered or modified.
In addition, the encryption means that health records can be shared anonymously, when necessary, among health stakeholders.
In addition, blockchain technology ensures the integrity and validity of healthcare records.
Are there examples of successful blockchain technology applications in healthcare?
Although blockchain gained popularity in its application in cryptocurrencies. There are growing interests in its application in healthcare.
The different areas of application of blockchain in healthcare are:
- Validation of patients identities.
- Electronic medical records – healthcare data ledgers to store patients medical and other health-related data.
- Medical records management – permissions, authorization and health data sharing between medical entities.
- Another application is in medical insurance claim processes – to facilitate transparency in healthcare insurance claims.
- Medical services payment.
- Health data analytics – for predictive analysis of healthcare data.
- Biomedical research and education – to eliminate the falsification of data and to ensure accurate reporting of biomedical research.
- Remote patient monitoring (RPM) – the use of body sensors and mobile devices to remotely monitor patients outside hospitals.
- Drug/pharmaceutical supply chain – to detect prescription drug fraud.
Although the healthcare blockchain technology application still has a long way to go in Africa. An example of health tech startup in Africa using the blockchain technology is Afya Rekod .
The Kenyan start-up provides a portal for healthcare data using AI and blockchain.
Blockchain technology applications in education.
Education is another potential area for the application of blockchain.
Universities and institutes that have applied blockchain technology, have done so to support academic degree management and learning outcomes.
Examples of blockchain applications in education are:
- Storage and retrieval of academic data e.g. students achievements, academic certificates and other degree information.
- Reducing degree fraud – data stored in blockchain can be checked and validated. Blockchain immutability and transparency ensures that transcript and degree fraud is reduced.
- Recording learning experience – blockchain learning ledger allows the detailed recording of information about user’s learning.
- Formative evaluations – can be used in the design and implementation of the learning activities.
- Keeping track of learning process and transparent evaluation of teaching performance.
- Smart contract – to solve educational issues that occur during instruction and learning activities e.g. attendance, assignment completion, behavior management etc.
- Library – enhanced metadata archive and management of digital rights.
- Publishing – purchase book from authors platforms using tokens.
These are examples of the potentials of the blockchain technology in powering education in Africa.
In addition to regulatory challenges, there are other factors that affect the application of blockchain technology in most parts of Africa. One is the lack of reliable infrastructure such as stable electricity. Another is internet connectivity.