Blockchain technology is slowly but surely moving beyond secure, seamless, transparent, trusted and convenient transactions as new use cases of the transformative innovation emerge.
From finance, education, and governance institutions to enterprises in the energy, healthcare, and insurance space, companies are looking to experiment with the distributed ledger technology known as blockchain.
According to Paul Mitchell, Fintech & Blockchain Lead for PwC South Africa, “The speed at which blockchain technology is being adopted is unprecedented. There is a growing recognition that this technology has profound implications in many areas, and we are watching it move from a startup idea to an established technology in a fraction of the time it took for the Internet to be accepted as a standard tool.”
Experiments dating back a few years have been conducted and many more are expected to be launched. For example, back in mid-2015, South African bank, ABSA launched an Africa-wide blockchain supply chain challenge through their Rise open innovation platform and was said to have over ten blockchain-based experiments and research initiatives that were being piloted within the bank. In 2016, the bank also joined the R3 consortium.
Just a couple of years ago, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) launched the report on Project Khokha, a proof of concept designed to simulate a ‘real-world’ trial of DLT-based wholesale payment system.
The project focused on providing participants practical experience on aspects of using DLT in a realistic test environment where different deployment models were utilised. The results showed that the typical daily volume of the South African payments system could be processed in less than two hours with full confidentiality of transactions and settlement finality.
More recently, the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa (CAHF), research consultancy 71point4 and Seso Global also announced that their partnership meant to create South Africa’s first blockchain-based property register.
The pilot study area is expected to consist of almost 1,000 government subsidised properties located in four sites in Makhaza, Khayelitsha that have not been registered on the deeds registry properties. Cape Town blockchain-based startup Registree also struck a partnership with the University of Cape Town to create blockchain-based records for students.
Registree is utilising a combination of traditional databases and the Ethereum blockchain; the blockchain-based student registry is supposed to address several problems of youth unemployment rate and skills shortage.
It was also recently reported that the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (TDB) had closed the first live end-to-end trade finance transaction using blockchain technology in a US$22mn sugar transaction deal.
“With this transaction, there’s potential to transform how we finance cross-border trade at the bank,” said Michael Awori, Chief Operating Officer at TDB.
“We have plans to carry out US$10bn-worth of African trade transactions with the Asia Pacific region, including Japan, by June 2020,” said Samir Neji, CEO of dltledgers, an inter-enterprise blockchain company which was involved in the deal.
Local companies such as the digital asset exchange platform iCE3X are also bringing new innovations to the space. Recently, they launched the Instamyna Bitcoin Lightning Game as they see the gaming industry as one of the main drivers of cryptocurrency adoption in Africa. Crypto is ideal for online gaming as it has the main benefit of instant value transfer. Whilst the uptake is slow during the maturing stages of the industry, I can certainly see huge potential for digitised assets and markets.
I remember years ago how farms of gamers created digital fortunes by selling accounts for games like Diablo on eBay. I can see digitised assets trading for crypto online in the near future. Environments like Second Life are a great concept, but without real-world monetization at scale, it is a difficult sell.
Crypto changes this,” said Gareth Grobler, Founder & CEO of iCE3X exchange. The company has also added features to their exchange that enable people with no crypto trading experience to learn how to trade for free. People can learn to trade by practising on the demo trading pair: the bull/bear market.
Another international company with an interest in the local gaming arena and planning to launch it’s South African based initiative in the first quarter of 2020 is crypto online gaming and cryptocurrency payments provider Paybetr, according to Alakanani Itireleng, who is a representative of the company and the CEO of Satoshicentre based in Botswana.
Global companies looking to establish a footprint in Africa
Many companies across the globe are taking a huge interest in the potential Africa has to offer in terms of market growth for blockchain-based products. æternity blockchain, for example, a scalable blockchain platform that enables high-speed transacting, purely-functional smart contracts is “supporting the adoption of blockchain technology, which has the potential to disrupt the current centralised linearly structured systems that typically create bottlenecks and thus a perception of scarcity,” according Apollo Eric, the Africa lead for æternity Hub Africa – a Kenyan based software company developing decentralized applications on æternity’s open-source blockchain platform.
“Africa will hugely benefit from a decentralised planning of economic and governance systems, and in doing so, grow the continent out of poverty,” he added.
Paxful, the peer-to-peer platform, is another major player making real impact in people’s lives by enabling ecosystem participants to increase their income-generating potential to achieve financial independence while getting educated about new digital technologies. The company now services more than 3 million digital currency wallets with major market uptake across South Africa, Nigeria, and Ghana.