Blockchain technology on the rise in Rwanda

Executive Director of Africa Blockchain Institute, Kayode Babarinde (centre) poses with workmates. / Courtesy.

The Government Blockchain Association (GBA) has entered a 5-year partnership with Africa Blockchain Institute currently operating in Rwanda. The deal aims to roll up ground for the emerging technology behind the Bitcoin network.

GBA is a global community helping governments and organisations around the world to understand, implement, and benefit from blockchain technology.

 

Africa Blockchain Institute in January opened in Rwanda, becoming the first institution to offer professional courses on blockchain in the country.

 

Its Executive Director, Kayode Babarinde said the partnership will scale up blockchain infrastructure across Africa, starting from Rwanda.

 

“The infrastructure is already being set-up, with experts working around governance and understanding of Blockchain. Now the deal is to extend activities to Africa, being the major benefactor of Blockchain Technology, with focus on governance systems and operations,” Babarinde said.

Described as an open, distributed ledger, blockchain is a record-keeping technology which ensures more transparency and decentralization for transaction of value.

Striving to spearhead the penetration of digital technology on the African continent, Rwanda becomes the partnership’s centerpiece because it knows some corners of the house, said the blockchain expert.

Currently, a handful of projects are known to run through this technology in the country. They include mineral tracing and Spenn, a money transaction mobile app. This paper has learned that other projects are running in the pipeline under the ICT ministry, including a blockchain-based gorilla trekking mobile game.

Despite moderate developments, however, some countries have been criticized for being slow in unlocking the opportunities that blockchain has to offer.

Jean Bosco Ahorukomeye, a Rwandan lecturer at Zigurat Innovation and Technology Business School, University of Barcelona, Spain, points out the latency results from insufficient skill set among policy makers and implementers.

“You cannot leverage opportunities blockchain offers if you don’t know what it is capable of doing,” Ahorukomeye said in a phone interview.

Ahorukomeye further said the technology is so disruptive that it can erase all unnecessary costs one faces, for instance, while making money transactions between countries - exorbitant currency exchange rates, transaction fees, transport among others.

Meanwhile, Lilian Uwimana of Kipya Big2Big Ltd, a Uganda-based fintech company involved in trading of cryptocurrencies, says many people are excited about blockchain, but are blocked by a negative attitude towards the technology due to the little knowledge about it.

Yet, blockchain is peer-to-peer. It removes all the above middlemen - banks, forex bureaus, and central banks. As a blockchain expert, Ahorukomeye argues that governments are afraid to surrender the control.

On a bright side regarding money, he finds a take-or-leave alternative: central bank digital currencies. Like China, governments can digitize national currencies which will be stable, regulated and controlled by central banks, yet carrying blockchain pillars of transparency (open to everyone) and immutability (inability to be tampered with).

Besides the above cases, blockchain technology can be used to register anything of value, medical records and digital identities, which cut out many sorts of document forgery and related cyber frauds.

Very few countries in the world have established their stance on this technology. Tech analysts believe that a country that will lay out a regulatory framework before Libra, Facebook’s hyper-disruptive crypto, hits the road, will attract a pool of investments.

“Looking at the ICT map [of Rwanda], Blockchain is the 6th core technology needed in the country, however slow the government is, they can't escape Blockchain. It is our job to get them on the know,” Babarinde observed.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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