The very first virtual version of Blockchain Africa brought an optimistic view of the cryptocurrency and blockchain space on the continent as the world settles in the new normal dictated by COVID-19.
The conference was attended by a number of well-known commentators from the field, participants and leaders from around the world, who addressed a completely virtual audience. The event attracted around 4,000 participants online, according to organizer Sonya Kuhnel, even though it was virtual in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The main culmination of the conference was a dedicated keynote address by Cardano founder Charles Hoskinson on Africa’s evolving position as a focus for the adoption and development of cryptocurrency and blockchain. Hoskinson outlined his belief that the continent would drive innovation in space, highlighting Cardano’s ongoing investments and work in various African countries.
Well-known podcast host Peter McCormack moderated a provocative chat by the fireplace focused on the arrival of institutional investments in the cryptocurrency space. This included Dan Held of Krakow, Bybit co-founder and CEO Ben Zhou, MineBest senior vice president Peter Tylczynski and Crypto.com UK general manager Teanu Baker-Taylor, who all considered the changing cryptocurrency environment from a global perspective. Stani Kulechov, founder of the popular decentralized financial platform Aave, gave an overview of the growing role of the DeFi protocol in a larger ecosystem.
Some prominent individuals from the African cryptocurrency and blockchain space have addressed the progress of industry on the continent in various presentations and panel discussions. Regulation and adoption were the main point of discussion, which will be further elaborated in this summary.
Hoskinson’s address in Blockchain Africa portrayed the bright future of the continent and likened Africa’s position as an emerging economy to that of China in the 1980s. Over the course of three decades, China has become a world power, and Hoskinson has promoted his belief that Africa can follow in its footsteps and even surpass Asian power.
The key to this accelerated development is Africa’s position as a marketplace for entirely new systems, such as blockchain technology, which will bring efficiency and lower costs, leading to what Hoskinson described as a huge competitive advantage for the nations to embrace them first:
“The first countries to hold national elections online that are credible, free, fair and controllable are likely to be African nations.” The first countries to have an end-to-end digital identity and economy have great potential to be African nations – not Germany, neither France, nor England, nor the United States, nor China, nor Japan. This is a buffet of progress and new systems that you can eat. “
Cardano has actively invested in and built digital infrastructure in Ethiopia and other African countries, which are used to provide large-scale government business. The reason, according to Hoskinson, is the fact that citizens in these countries will start using this new technology and its tools.
We hope that Africans will benefit from the Cardano Catalyst funding system, which has more than $ 250 million in grants to individuals and businesses to build infrastructure, applications, services and products in the Cardano ecosystem. Cardano will also seek to establish more headquarters across Africa, and Hoskinson hopes the company’s employees in Africa will grow to hundreds and even thousands. He also stressed the need to develop the right tools and systems that will affect:
“It would be a parody if these systems allowed this wealth to be aggregated in only one place.” In my opinion, it is incredibly important that we remember the first principle: that we are truly equal and that there is no centralized power. “
Problems with blockchain and cryptocurrency in Africa
While Hoskinson has painted a clear picture of Africa’s potential to drive innovation in the cryptocurrency and blockchain ecosystem, the continent still has some initial challenges that need to be addressed as it begins to embrace this new technology.
A panel of speakers with confidential experience working in the context of the African blockchain and cryptocurrency discussed the most important issues currently facing countries and businesses that are making their way into space.
This included Marius Reitz, general manager for Africa at the Luno Cryptocurrency Exchange; Marvin Coleby, co-founder of the African Digital Assets Foundation; Roselyne Wanjiru, Director of Pesabase Digital Wallet; Brenton Naicker, Business Development Manager for South Africa and Kenya at Binance; Buchi Okoro, CEO and co-founder of the Nigerian Cryptocurrency Exchange Quidax; and moderator Farzam Ehsani, co-founder and CEO of Valr.
Luno has become a popular choice for South African, Nigerian, Ugandan and Zambian cryptocurrency users. Because Reitz operates in these African countries, he focused on some of the pain points for cryptocurrency users on the continent and emphasized the simple fact that obtaining cryptocurrency safely remains a major hurdle: Stock markets often think that most people know about cryptocurrency and know how to buy and sell it safely – but it really isn’t. “
He added: “One of the main challenges for us still is that we do not have enough secure access points for people to use their local currency to buy cryptocurrencies and vice versa across Africa.” He concluded: “Infrastructure is still a challenge for us Africans. “
Wanjiru reiterated the fact that so many people around the world have no information at all about cryptocurrencies and that trust will be another stumbling block for acceptance in Africa: “You cannot bypass trust. From the technological point of view of the cryptocurrency, we could argue how advanced it is, how ideal it is, what the yield is, but on the part of the people we have to build trust. “
Regulation or non-regulation is another challenge for cryptocurrency exchanges and service providers in Africa. Reitz emphasized that banks must play a regulatory role in this nascent phase of cryptocurrency use in Africa:
“We see very few regulatory guidelines in Africa, and the result is that banks are becoming de facto regulators, and that’s a big risk for cryptocurrency businesses because customers can’t use your products effectively.”
On the other hand, the coin can cumbersome regulation completely suppress acceptance, as has been seen in Nigeria in recent months. Central bank of the country effectively prohibited local banks serving cryptocurrency exchanges in recent weeks. Okid, Quidax, based in Nigeria, said the move deprived citizens of the benefits of the ongoing cryptocurrency market rally:
“Nigerians have been excluded from economic prosperity.” When it all happened, the bitcoin was sitting around $ 38,000 and people were saying, “hey, I want to get into the bitcoin.” Now the bitcoin is sitting around $ 60,000, and all the prosperity someone could get when he got into BTC, she was lost. “
Binance’s Naicker has identified a number of significant cases of the use of cryptocurrencies in the African context. Compared to First World countries, where the demand for cryptocurrencies is motivated by investment purposes, Naicker has experienced problems such as currency devaluation and strict capital controls, which offer new cases of cryptocurrency use across the continent:
“We see such aggressive use in Africa because, in addition to the cryptocurrency investment case, it also addresses some of our painful points – inefficient payment systems, expensive and long transfers, the ability to make and receive micropayments.” We see many of these things occurring in the African market. “