Blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger that can be programmed to store virtually everything of value in a verifiable and permanent way thus can only be updated by a consensus between participants in the system. Blockchain technology provides ways that can enable data to be stored correctly, safely, transparently and in a secure manner. Blockchain technology is likely to change the way many industries operate in Africa. Some of the industries that blockchain is likely to revolutionize are
Large subsets of banks revolve around KYC, i.e. Know Your Customer. KYC mandates that all institutions must know their customers with the correct matching details in all their systems. The main challenge with this process is that it creates unnecessary costs and consumes time and it is the sole responsibility of individual banks who are involved in creating the new account. Currently anywhere you go to open a bank account in Africa; your details are verified afresh. This makes the process redundant. Instead of each bank conducting its own KYC, they can have a third party do it, and this is very possible if they embrace blockchain technology, as banks could simply verify customers against global system. So once a customer opens an account details are recorded and stored permanently such that he/she does not need to re-verify the details ever again no matter how many banks they open accounts with.
Global Forum for Cyber security Expertise (GFCE) Initiative released a report on cybercrime, cyber security trends and governments responses in Africa. Cyber insecurity arises due to negligence and data being easy to access as hackers can steal access codes. Cyber security is also caused by uninformed and careless employees according to Kaspersky Lab and B2B International Report These are the type of employees that will notice a cyber-insecurity and keep to themselves without knowing that their silence can cause dangerous consequences to the organization. Sometimes the said employees are used by cybercriminals to access company’s systems. Blockchain technology helps encrypt all actions performed into a code that is inherent in a file; this encrypted information cannot be omitted, removed or altered by anybody as it is permanently recorded and stored hence no possibilities of it being hacked. Blockchain can be used to secure a huge amount of sensitive and useful data by removing possible points of failure through decentralizing the network.
One of the most important industries in the African society that blockchain is likely to revolutionize is the voting system. For instance, there were claims that the elections in 2017 Presidential elections were rigged. This is not the first time that the parties have forwarded such claims in Africa e.g. Kenya, Uganda. Blockchain technology can be used for voter registration, voter verification, electronic voting process and electronic vote counting to ensure only legitimate votes are counted and none is changed or removed. In order to have free and fair elections, African governments should embrace blockchain technology and create an immutable, publicly viewable ledger of all recorded votes. We have Follow My Vote which is a startup aiming at creating blockchain based online voting system for governments.
Public sector/ governments
Blockchain is a decentralized public ledger. Utilizing a distributed, secure ledger, blockchain can improve data transparency, inspection rates, record keeping, security and visibility of bound international shipments in public sectors in Africa. Blockchain technology can also be used to reduce corruption brought about by government controlled centralized registry. For instance in Ghana there is a new Blockchain-based initiative called Bitland Initiative that is determined to implement blockchain technology to provide a permanent and auditable land record. This initiative will ensure that all land surveys and title deeds are recorded on Bitland Blockchain and as result land disputes will be solved permanently in Ghana.
Elsewhere, Sweden is planning to place real estate transactions on blockchain so that all the involved parties in the transactions can be able to track the progress of the agreement. By doing this, instantaneous confirmation of valid transactions is enabled and with utmost levels of security and integrity.
Lack of trust, high costs and inefficiency of insurance industries in Africa are the major reasons why there is a high level of underinsurance. For instance, in Nigeria its only 4% of the population that has National Health Insurance Scheme since its inception in 2005 https://www.vanguardngr.com/2016/12/4-nigerians-covered-nhis/. Not only in Africa, less than 20% of California households have earthquake insurance even if the chances of experiencing losses from an earthquake is high. Blockchain can aid build trust of consumers because it is secure and transparent. Blockchain can be used to verify different types of data or contracts, such as insured person’s identity since it’s a new way of managing trust.
Telecommunication and networking
Samsung (Nexledger blockchain platform) and IBM ( IBM Blockchain) are using blockchain to create a decentralized network for the IoT devices. The blockchain will help eliminate a central location that handles communication between them, as they will now have a public ledger for larger number of devices. This will also help customers build secure blockchains in the networks and as a result there will be reduced cost and complexity of getting things done in the real world.
Health care is an industry that relies on legacy systems and is ripe for disruption by blockchain. One challenge that hospitals in Africa have is lack of proper platforms to securely store medical records for their patients. Blockchain can create an immutable ledger that would enable hospitals to safely store medical records and share it with patients and authorized professionals with no risk hacking or manipulation.
Health care has embraced blockchain in the past years and is continuing to innovate and invest in it. For instance, Estonia has begun implementing blockchain to secure its nationwide health records. This will be the first country to use blockchain in the Health sector. African governments should implement blockchain technology in the health sector operations which will enable them store medical data in a transparent, secure and immutable manner.
The idea of shared public ledgers may not sound fascinating but neither did double entry book-keeping nor joint-stock companies. Just like them though, blockchain has the potential to transform how people and businesses co-operate.