Blockchain propels African finance, trade and government initiatives

AfricaCom provided an opportunity to look at the burgeoning blockchain scene through the lens of ecosystem players on the continent.

Chains of binary data.
MF3D / Getty Images

Blockchain burst into public consciousness a decade ago as the transaction ledger for bitcoin, and has since evolved to become the foundation for a range of business-model disrupting applications. AfricaCom in Cape Town earlier this month served as a showcase for how enterprises and public administrations on the continent have deployed blockchain in a variety of areas including finance, trade, and secure records storage and management.

Blockchain distributed ledger technology comprises a growing list of records, timestamped and linked using cryptography, allowing value to be transferred securely and about as speedily as the internet transfers data. There are now a range of private and public blockchain platforms used to securely store data and host applications including smart contracts -- automatically executing transaction applications.

During AfricaCom, news broke that the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (TDB) had closed its first live, trade-finance transaction, using smart contracts in a US$22 million sugar deal.

"With this transaction, we have the potential to revolutionise how we finance cross-border trade at the bank," said Michael Awori, chief operating officer at TDB, the financial arm of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). "Not only will it impact our bottom line, but it will enable us to reduce processing time, be more responsive to our clients, and de-risk transactions," he added.

Smart contracts ease trade

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