Monday, 2nd October 2023

Africa Can Enhance Governance Structures With Blockchain, Says Jassy Kabanihiza Ebwanyu

By Frisco d’Anconia
10 June 2023   |   7:00 am
More than 60 years of independence and ruinous governance is still a millstone on the neck of Africa that goes deep into the physique of the continent and its well-being. Graft, counterproductive policies, deception, lack of accountability, and transparency are among the instances of poor governance.  Cut-rate governance drives the prevailing failed states, abysmal economic…


More than 60 years of independence and ruinous governance is still a millstone on the neck of Africa that goes deep into the physique of the continent and its well-being. Graft, counterproductive policies, deception, lack of accountability, and transparency are among the instances of poor governance. 

Cut-rate governance drives the prevailing failed states, abysmal economic growth, chronic corruption rate, insecurity, conflicts, capital, and human resource flight. Our continent’s ineptitude in confounding this plight is a stain. 


However, Jassy Kabanihiza Ebwanyu is confident Africa has the potential to overcome governance issues and drastically improve the living conditions of its people. In an interview with MoveMint, the CEO of CryptoSavannah, unveiled how the continent is on the verge of utilizing cutting-edge technologies like Blockchain to unleash economic freedom and administrative efficiency. 


Blockchain’s Potential in Governance


Ebwanyu, a graduate of the prestigious Makerere University Business School (MUBS), submits Blockchain can revolutionize governance systems in Africa, considering its elevated decks of clarity and safety. She asserts:


“Blockchain can be used to enhance governance structures in Africa, given its high levels of transparency and security. For example, a Blockchain-based voting system is very transparent and secure. There would be fewer apprehensions of the rigging of votes and corruption.”


However, she acknowledges that the challenge lies not in the technology itself but in the cultural shift required for its implementation. While transparent voting is already gaining popularity in the private sector through Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) in Africa, its adoption in government systems requires a willingness to embrace transparency at a broader level.


DAOs are what run Web 3.0. Moving this to the government is a cultural but not necessarily, a technological problem. “Are we willing to embrace that level of transparency as a continent?” she asked.

Maximizing Benefits through Public Policy


When asked to provide direction with rallying public policy to gain the utmost benefits of Blockchain, Ebwanyu maintains it is not advisable to regulate technology, as it keeps changing too frequently. It then requires the government to keep revising the policy. 


However, it is the applications of technology that require regulation. Hence, the focus should be on the application, not the technology.


“The application of the technology can imply so many things example, Crypto affects the way payments happen, and this is where the governments can come in with the policies.” She communicated. “Governments can set up policies that encourage the use of Blockchain.”


Drawing on her experience with her country’s approach, she urged African governments to use Blockchain technology like the Ugandan government. They can also teach  Blockchain in schools, like how Uganda authorities have added it to the ICT curriculum to promote the use of the technology. 


Digital Identity for Inclusive Participation


Ebwanyu, who has worked in technology her entire career and is leading CryptoSavannah’s effort to build a Digital Identity System for Africa on the Blockchain, emphasizes the importance of digital identity in enabling Africans to participate fully in the digital economy. The goal is to see billion Africans gainfully engaged in the digital economy to access appropriate digital identity that allows for fair and equitable access. 


She had this succinct narration to support her opinion: 


“Case in point, the population of Africa is 1.4b people. The GDP of Africa is $3.14T, and the Market Cap of the top two tech companies (Microsoft and Google) is greater than the GDP of Africa, yet the number of employees of these companies isn’t more than 500,000. The ratio of the number of people vs. the value created isn’t equitable. The digital economy has immense value, with Africa barely participating. Of Africa’s GDP, a small portion is from the digital economy.”


She contends that one of the reasons Africans are not participating in the digital economy is that we barely have sovereign digital identities, and access is limited. Africans are currently consumers and not creators of these IDs. 


The forms of identities we can access are not on our terms and are designed by the time of consumption. Thus, the initiative exists to bridge that gap with self-sovereign identities, which allows Africans to access the digital economy equitably and gainfully. 


When MoveMint inquired why building it on the Blockchain, the former employee of Orange Uganda pointed out the technology’s intrinsic command. “Blockchain is the technology that can sustainably and equitably give access to digital identities as these are built on distributed ledgers,” she said.

Blockchain Adoption and Future Prospects


Though more Africans are building Blockchain projects these days compared to fives years ago, Blockchain adoption in Africa is primarily around Crypto as a use case. Taking a long-term view of Africa embracing the technology in terms of other applications, Ebwanyu acknowledged Blockchain as a fundamental technology that works in the background. 


“This means the more popular it is, the more silent it becomes. An example of this is the internet. It is so pivotal in our daily lives that when we get to appreciate this is when we go to places without internet coverage,” she articulated.


She predicts that over the next ten years, Blockchain will become pivotal to critical sectors such as identity and finance in Africa, where information needs to be shared by trusted parties with the certainty of data. As digitization continues expanding, the demand for trusted information and data certainty will drive Blockchain’s infiltration into various industries.


Addressing Gender Disparities 


The CryptoSavannah CEO began engaging in Blockchain in 2018 as part of the team that organized the Blockchain Africa Conference. Afterward, she started to manage different Blockchain projects, many of which have evolved into distinct companies under the Savannah group. 


But similar to other technology-related fields, the Blockchain industry is predominantly male-dominated. But Ebwanyu isn’t the type to feel a sense of not belonging since she has been groomed and taught into this role, and it is a challenge, given there are very few women in this space. 


“Africa has so many women but their involvement in the tech space is significantly low. Yet this is the industry driving the most value globally, and without participating, we are chaining ourselves,” she denotes. 


Stimulatingly, she revealed that, at Savannah Group, where CryptoSavannah belongs, they deliberately foster women leaders in the tech space. Nonetheless, Ebwanyu underscores the need for more initiatives to encourage women’s participation in the Blockchain and Web 3.0 industry, recognizing the immense value they can contribute to this rapidly evolving field.


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