Africa is considered one of the world’s last great growth regions. In the coming years the population across the continent will double to over 2 billion, but the GDP will go 10-20x.
Since many African nations are still considered developing economies, there is a serious lack of financial infrastructure in the continent, leaving two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africans without so much as a bank account, while access to crucial healthcare and electricity is often limited.
Despite this, Africa is easily one of the fastest-growing economies in many industries, and the combined GDP of West Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, and Southern Africa is predicted to more than tenfold by 2050, reaching around $29 trillion in the next three decades. As such, the continent is ripe for the innovations in the financial services, healthcare and other industries that are possible with blockchain technology.
With a young, growing population and an explosion in Africa's technology sectors, the continent is quickly becoming a hotspot for blockchain efforts, as companies look to leverage arguably the world’s largest resource of untapped talent.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at five of the projects doing the most to lay the foundations of Africa’s blossoming blockchain ecosystem.
Commonly regarded as one of the simplest ways to exchange Bitcoin, Paxful is a secure online that platform that allows customers to buy and sell Bitcoin with a huge variety of payment methods, many of which are unavailable elsewhere.
Since its launch in 2015, Paxful has risen to become one of the most popular cryptocurrency market places, particularly in developing countries. As it stands, the platform has well over two million users, owed in part to its relaxed KYC verification practices and wide availability.
As one of the simplest on-ramps from fiat to Bitcoin, Paxful has risen to prominence as one of the leading peer-to-peer Bitcoin marketplaces in Africa, with huge demand from Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, and Kenya in particular. At present, almost half of Paxful’s users are from Africa, with African order volumes up more than 57% in 2019 alone.
“Africa has tremendous potential and partnerships are essential in this pivotal time within the cryptocurrency industry. We are actively looking to join forces with African-born crypto players who share our passion and vision for the global crypto-economy,” said Ray Youssef, CEO and co-founder of Paxful.
To this end, Paxful launched a Bitcoin education drive in East and Southern Africa, helping to educate the next generation of Bitcoin and blockchain enthusiasts, while the company aims to build 100 schools to help support grassroots education on the continent.
If that wasn’t enough, Paxful is also set to build a Nigerian Blockchain Incubator Hub in Lagos, helping to establish Nigeria as a frontrunner in the blockchain race.
Currently the twelfth largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, Cardano was developed by a research and development company known as IOHK with the goal of enabling fast, irreversible transfers and powerful smart contracts secured by cryptography.
In brief, Cardano consists of a two-part blockchain system, with a settlement layer designed to settle ADA cryptocurrency transfers, and a computation layer that is still being developed, which will be used for running smart contracts. Together, these two layers will enable interoperability between Cardano and other blockchains, allowing for a truly next-generation smart contract and payment settlement platform.
As part of its sizeable ambitions, Cardano’s chief development firm IOHK has also been laying down the groundwork for Cardano adoption in Africa.
Back in January 2019, IOHK launched a three-month-long Haskell course in co-operation with the Ethiopian Ministry of Innovation and Technology and the Ugandan government, teaching a class of 22 young Ethiopian and Ugandan women. As one of the first cryptocurrencies to be developed in Haskell, it appears IOHK is looking to leverage Africa’s booming developer pool as part of its long-term plans.
Beyond this, the Cardano Foundation, a non-profit organization that supervises the development of Cardano recently announced plans to work with African nations to help develop blockchain governance, helping to “future proof the region’s sustainable growth and development.” As such, by helping to shape the legislation that will promote blockchain adoption in Africa, the Cardano Foundation might be making moves to position Cardano at the heart of Africa’s booming digital economy.
Widely considered to be the largest cryptocurrency exchange by daily trade volume, and one of the few platforms responsible for moving the entire blockchain industry forward, Binance is without question a force for good in the industry.
Since its launch in 2017, Binance has been at the forefront of blockchain innovation, becoming one of the first cryptocurrency exchanges to add staking rewards and margin trading, while launching several forward-thinking initiatives in its relatively short existence.
Binance became one of the few major cryptocurrency exchanges to support Nigerian customers after partnering with Flutterwave to launch a fiat-to-crypto gateway for Africa back in October 2019. Beyond this, Binance's educational platform, Binance Academy has helped tens of thousands of users worldwide get to grips with both the blockchain and cryptocurrency industries—making them more accessible than ever.
Although growing the industry as a whole is already an impressive feat, what Binance is doing in Africa really highlights the humanitarian ethos of the company. Through its charity, Binance has launched several initiatives in the eastern continent, including one which distributes reusable sanitary pads to young women in Uganda to combat period poverty and another that post-disaster support to those affected by Uganda’s recent landslide disaster.
Binance recent moves in Africa go far beyond just charity. Just last month, Binance became the chief sponsor of the Blockchain Africa 2020 conference, where the Malta-based exchange platform looks poised to announce its further expansion into Africa.
2. Akon City
Although celebrity-backed cryptocurrency projects have become commonplace nowadays, few are as ambitious as Senegalese-American, singer-songwriter, and entrepreneur Akon's crypto city initiative.
First announced in 2018, Akon plans to revamp the Senegal landscape by building a cryptocurrency-powered city known simply as “Akon City.” According to Akon, the city will be a "first of its kind 100 per cent crypto-based city with AKoin at the center of transactional life." AKoin being a utility token built on the Stellar network that will be used as the sole currency in Akon City.
In total, the city will stretch across a 2,000-acre region in Senegal that was gifted to Akon by Senegalese President Macky Sall. The plot of land is just a short drive from the Senegal capital of Dakar and five minutes away from Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport—placing it in an ideal location for tourists.
Akon, whose real name is Alioune Badara Thiam, currently plans for the city to be powered by 100% renewable energy, with an emphasis on solar energy provided Akon Lighting Africa—another of Akon’s growing list of green initiatives.
Although an entire cryptocurrency city is hard to top in terms of scale, Akon’s plans are largely speculative at the moment, and most of the hard work and finer details are yet to be elucidated. However, back in January, Akon announced that he had finalized an agreement with the government of Senegal for the city, which means tangible developments should begin shortly.
If there is one project that deserves recognition for its efforts in Africa, then Kamari stands heads and shoulders above the rest.
At its core, Kamari is a blockchain infrastructure ecosystem that aims to bolster Africa's growing economy by launching a borderless payment platform, which enables them to create a host of consumer gaming and financial applications - starting with the first Pan-African lottery.
The key that will make Kamari a success is mass adoption. The company currently holds SEVEN national lottery licenses in countries across Africa, which represents almost 50M people. This will give them exclusive rights to operate a national lottery in these countries and also create a multi-country lottery in Africa. National lotteries have a huge market penetration rate - meaning almost everyone knows what the national lottery is.
This idea is huge and it makes Kamari into a wallet, essentially, that competes with Facebook’s Libra, but the method for user onboarding is genius. It’s a wallet that people put on their mobile phones and use because they are looking to participate in the state lotteries. The company can then implement lending and yield services and so much more... on a continent with little banking infrastructure but heavy mobile phone usage.
Beyond this, just two months ago Kamari entered into an agreement with ZeU Crypto—an innovative Canadian technology company that builds next-generation blockchain systems. The joint venture will see ZeU Crypto build the lottery and gaming applications which will be integrated with the Kamari ecosystem.
Likewise, last month, Kamari announced its plans to revamp Africa's medical record system by using ZeU’s Software as a Service (SaaS) infrastructure, producing a more reliable, more accurate medical records system that will advance Africa’s healthcare industry while enabling individuals to own their own medical data—thereby tackling one of the continents most pressing issues—poor access to patient information and treatment plans.