The African blockchain environment has developed into a very dynamic ecosystem. It currently portrays an industry that is affecting so many sectors of the population, albeit in both positive and negative ways. This is not surprising, as such usually comes with most novel ideas and technologies. The only concern in this case is whether the positive population is doing enough to set the right narrative for this emerging technology.
Blockchain technology is no doubt a step forward towards the global data management systems. It is also a technology that has introduced new ways of extracting value from data. This is an economic aspect of the technology that is responsible for most of the developments that the industry is experiencing. The associated incentive of value extraction from data, despite its huge potential, is also at the nucleus of the negative developments that the industry is experiencing today.
Africa and Technology
Generally, the disposition of the African continent towards emerging technologies is unique. Majority believe that the advent of technologies like blockchain provides a real opportunity for Africa to leapfrog and catch up with other parts of the world. Primarily, this is because such technologies permit the boycotting of certain unpleasant policies and inefficient systems that are embedded within the mainstream protocols. In other words, emerging technologies are offering the African population an opportunity to have more control over their resources.
While the above described scenario is very suitable for development, the associated level of non-regulation has also provided an opportunity for bad actors to flood the ecosystem. These are the ones who capitalize on the people’s ignorance, greed and desperation to execute dubious scams that tend to give the industry a bad name.
The above description of the African blockchain industry divides the entire community into three major categories:
- The Builders (BuidL)
- The Influencers
- The Engagers
The Builders (BuidL)
The Builders within the African blockchain industry are primarily the startups in the ecosystem. This category of participants are creating products by adopting blockchain technology in bringing their ideas into existence.
Builders in the African blockchain ecosystem comprise of crypto exchanges, blockchain-based ecommerce platforms, blockchain solutions in land registry, and a lot of other projects running on top of the novel technology to create value. Actual builders in the present African blockchain industry are few. A number of them are among the few that survived the crypto winter of 2018, shortly after the ICO boom. Others are the more recent projects that are being developed on top of blockchain technology.
Majority of builders in the African blockchain ecosystem still have their projects as “work in progress”. While certain aspects of their protocols are already in existence, work is still ongoing towards completion. At the same time, one common denominator across these builders and their products is the pursuit of mass adoption. Perhaps, they may need to understand how their foreign counterparts navigated the rungs of the ladder to come as far as even taking over the markets in Africa.
The role of influencers is becoming more popular around the digital assets ecosystem and across the internet as a whole. Simply put, an influencer is a person or group with exceptional social followership. Influencers usually play the role of intermediaries in creating awareness, and possibly leading their followers in the direction of projects that they believe in or are incentivized to promote.
Recently, the trend in the crypto ecosystem is one that has seen influencers operate even in more dynamic ways. While a good number of them have taken up the role of blockchain and crypto evangelists, many others have delved into different kinds of ponzi schemes . Those who have adopted the ponzi approach tend to do so simply for economic reasons. Since they already have a battalion of followers, they often create their own ponzi, or adopt an existing one to collect the people’s money.
Unfortunately, even though the real builders in the industry frown at such developments, it remains the most popular description of the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry. For a lot of simple-minded individuals across the continent, all they know about Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency is for the purpose of investments into pyramid schemes. As far as the industry is concerned, this is an achilles heel that should be dealt with.
Some key players in the African blockchain industry are more focused on engaging stakeholders in the mainstream towards proper blockchain awareness and possible adoption. This is the most silent category of all, but at the same time, the category that is digging deep towards blockchain adoption on an institutional level. Most of the operators at this level are hardly known by other players in the industry. They are usually involved in training, capacity building, consultancy, advisory and solutions development to government agencies and major players in the corporate world.
The “Engagers”, as we chose to call them, are primarily involved in making key contacts at top institutional and government levels. These ones target the policy makers, working towards mainstream adoption of the emerging technology at the top level. Perhaps, success at this level will make for easy adoption and an exponential increase in awareness across the continent.
All Hands on Deck
The importance of each of the above mentioned categories cannot be overemphasized, as long as blockchain development in Africa is concerned. Each category has a crucial role to play, even though there are still some inherent challenges across all of them. For instance, there have been cases of exit scams even among builders. A number of startups, especially exchanges have disappeared into thin air, leaving investors stranded.
While blockchain influencers are playing important roles in improving the awareness level of the technology, the growing number of ponzi schemes around the industry is indeed something to worry about. Some of them even show up with very ridiculous and non-scientific philosophies, yet they get unprecedented amounts of followership. This simply reveals the prevailing psychology of the public concerning the industry at the moment. Something that must change for the benefit of blockchain and cryptocurrency to be fully explored in the region.
The engagements will surely continue, and the blockchain ecosystem will keep growing. A worrisome development however is the low patronage of indigeneous solutions by the community. One would wonder if these builders would not get tired and abandon their projects someday. Well, Africa is a region that is known for resilient pursuit of purpose. Perhaps, there will be enough to sustain the ones that are working really hard, until the rest of the population return to their senses.
One key element that must be considered by the stakeholders in the industry is the need to replace the existing competition with effective collaboration. Rather than operating in small cells with minimal impact, similar projects can pull resources together and launch in unison with accumulated momentum. Maybe then, the real projects can arrive in such a big way to match and possibly overcome the wrong narrative that is already enveloping the industry in this part of the world.
Iyke Aru is a seasoned author and educator in the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry. He has been in the business of crypto content writing for many years with thousands of his articles across several platforms on the internet. Iyke is based in Nigeria where he stands out as one of the most informed and credible figures in the cryptocurrency industry. Outside blockchain and crypto, you will most likely catch Iyke playing or discussing football with friends and family.