Renowned Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, once described the popular term in Africa “Ubuntu” as the “essence of being human”.
“Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness.”
The ancient Zulu word “Ubuntu” loosely translates to humanity and the wider Ubuntu philosophy can be interpreted as a way of living that strives to promote all of humanity by being good towards the people around you.
There is a beautiful symmetry in how Blockchain, at its core, a network of members that work to achieve the greater good of the community as a whole, supports an ancient African philosophy like Ubuntu, which envisages similar aspirations, on a continent where the technology perhaps has the biggest potential to produce change in the lives of everyday people.
CoinJanitor, a project looking to clean up the crypto economy to the benefit of the wider cryptocurrency industry as a whole, is perhaps the best example of what such a Blockchain-based community project would look like in practice.
“The thing that drives crypto is network effect. And that’s what we are doing, we are building a big community of people who share a common goal,” said Marc Kenigsberg, CoinJanitor CEO and Founder
Why is Africa the ideal Blockchain development ground?
The majority of African nations are still considered to be developing countries, where many communities do not have access to the everyday services developed nations might take for granted. As such the potential for Blockchain to provide access to life-enhancing services and bring about real change is big.
Communities are more open to accepting non-conventional wisdom if it means an improvement to their everyday lives.
For this very reason, many people believe Blockchain’s potential impact in developing countries is much bigger than in that of developed nations.
Kenigsberg agrees, “There’s such a disparity of wealth in the world and access to services and information is heavily weighted towards the developed world. Blockchain can be a great equalizer. The unbanked is a big problem in places like Africa. This is the technology that will potentially change everything, to level the playing field.”
How is Blockchain promoting lives across the African continent?
Access to financial products
As little as 24% of sub-Saharan Africa has access to formal financial services. In North Africa, this drops down to 18%. Saying this, international money transfers in Africa have grown substantially over the last few years and expected to hit close to $40 billion in 2018.
Blockchain technology can remove many of the complicated layers associated with traditional transfers, giving people easier access through mobile applications, reducing the high costs associated with transfers and making the whole process more secure.
Accurate land registries and title deeds
It is estimated that as much as 90% of land in Africa is undocumented or unregistered.
Blockchain can provide an immutable record of data that can be accessed from anywhere.
A single ledger solution which provides indisputable proof of ownership will eliminate multiple title claims for the same piece of land. With ownership proof, individuals can further leverage Blockchain technology to get access to additional financial services such as loans.
According to The World Bank, there are 1 billion people across the globe that cannot prove their own identity. 81% of those individuals live in Africa and South Asia.
Identification systems are a foundational building block of modern societies, enabling governments to enter into contracts with its citizens and provide them with essential services.
Not having an official proof of ID can severely affect a person’s ability to access these services, such as taking part in higher education, healthcare, finance products, even getting a job.
Blockchain technology (together with advancements in biometric technologies) can provide an immutable database, where, once people are registered, information can never be lost or destroyed, making it easier to prove an individual’s identity and issue related documents.
Robust voting systems
Voting is often shrouded in controversy, drawing criticism for not being transparent or lacking credibility where it is evident that voters are being manipulated.
A Blockchain based voting system will make elections more transparent to reduce citizen scepticism.
It can also increase voter turnout by making remote voting possible and incorruptible.
Corruptible voting machines will become a thing of the past and results could be produced almost instantaneously as counting is effectively done in real-time.
New economic opportunities
Finally, Blockchain can provide new economic opportunities in failing job markets. Cryptocurrency mining is a potential source of income that simply would not have existed otherwise.
There are numerous PoW cryptocurrencies on the market, other than Bitcoin, that do not require expensive or specialized equipment to mine tokens. Users can rent out excess computing power from their desktop or laptop and receive compensation in crypto.
In counties that face hyperinflation against a devaluing national currency, this is a potential lifeline.
Blockchain investment is essential
Paolo Tasca and Geoffrey Goodell of University College London’s Centre for Blockchain Technologies said Blockchain’s impact in Africa could have wide-reaching benefits.
“Reducing centralised control and surveillance would empower local cooperatives and businesses to develop trust relationships on their own terms, which in turn may have significant positive ramifications for local economies and for human rights.”
To achieve this, investment is essential for continual Blockchain innovation and development in Africa and beyond. The more Blockchain-based projects provide innovative solutions, the more communities will prosper in emerging markets.
Projects, like CoinJanitor, further promote the cause by helping to clean the crypto industry of functionally dead coins, and in doing so, release trapped value back into the crypto economy.
This released value can then be used to back existing Blockchain projects or support up-and-coming projects with the promise of making a difference.
CEO and Founder of CoinJanitor, Marc Kenigsberg, is a native South African and understands how Blockchain can promote this Ubuntu philosophy of enriching lives through an uplifting community.
According to Kenigsberg, digital money can provide a supporting system with the potential to change the world through communities that are smart, and above all, kind.
“I’ve never met a community that’s as welcoming or as giving or as honest.” (Bloomberg)