By Chris Cleverly
Technology shapes our everyday lives and is changing the world for good. It is of utmost importance that we harness it as best we can to solve some of our greatest challenges such as food insecurity. I firmly believe that blockchain and cryptocurrency have a great role to play in navigating key global issues such as food security and that the technology should be disseminated extensively in the new, emerging frontier that is Africa.
The very nature of the blockchain enables secure record-keeping of transactions in real-time, resulting in true verification of a sale process by both parties involved. This secure technology is constantly evolving and is one that will enable smallholder farmers to be at the centre of the financial ecosystem surrounding their produce.
Blockchain technology is enabling farmers to know where, for what price, and how much of their products are ultimately sold. With food insecurity an ever-present concern not only in Africa, but indeed across the world as populations grow, this technology can reduce food waste by enhancing the supply chain through the direct empowerment of farmers.
I believe it is impossible for African governments to ignore the potential of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency in directly solving key challenges they face. In 2021 alone, Africa’s Bitcoin and cryptocurrency market grew by over 1,200 percent, the fastest growing geography on the planet.
Catalysed by a tech-savvy youthful population (around 200 million aged between 15 and 24 on the continent with this number forecast to double by 2045), the potential for technology-driven solutions to Africa’s inherent problems cannot be ignored any longer. The technology to drive real change is already here and, as such, I have committed to embracing it directly.
Many countries are benefitting from the tech already, so why not Africa?
As CEO of KamPay, a company dedicated to democratising access to blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, I am incredibly excited to see millions of Africans benefit from the current technological revolution. It is important to embrace and not be afraid of technological innovation. From the steam train to mobile phones, tech has always enabled global advancement.
At KamPay, we are working on enabling anyone with a mobile phone (regardless of internet connection) to interact with the blockchain directly via SMS commands, opening up a market of 400m users in Africa who currently have a mobile phone, but no internet connection. Currently in BETA testing, this is something we hope to launch within the next year.
I believe this will be game-changing for Africans, especially smallholder farmers who will be able to rely on sophisticated and proven technology to sell their goods, communicate with buyers and assess live market conditions. KamPay and African Grain & Seed (AGS) already have an ongoing partnership, providing microlending to 50,000 farmers in rural Zimbabwe, and ensuring fund allocation by setting up wallets with assignments that can only be used on pre-approved catalogues selected by AGS.
With over 50 percent of Africa’s population having a mobile phone currently, and with this number growing exponentially, the market for this sort of product is vast. We have already partnered with Tingo Mobile for instance who have over 10 million customers currently and plan on similar expansion methods in the future.
Cryptocurrency wallets will help to facilitate pan-African transactions in a secure manner utilising blockchain technology despite traditional banking issues remaining across the continent. Crypto thus enables transactions to manifest far more simply than traditional payment systems and in an instantaneous manner without needless delay.
With simple, free and secure smartphone applications (which are seeing a greater rollout in Africa), millions more Africans are able to interact directly with the technology and in turn are reaping the benefits of instant, secure and cross-border transactions. This opens new markets and avenues of finance for them.
For smallholder farmers directly, the blockchain is simultaneously enabling market and payment access in a continent where an estimated 57 percent of people lack a traditional bank account.
A recent report by the Brookings Institute has illustrated that blockchain technology will ‘transform financing’ in an increasingly digital and urbanised Africa. Moreover, the report highlighted that decentralised finance’s proof of concept has in fact already been proven on the continent. The report highlights that over $562 million of remittance payments alone for instance have been made already with cryptocurrency in Africa.
As more and more people turn to crypto across the planet as a hedge against hyperinflation or to ‘help eliminate the procedural bottlenecks that plague traditional banking and financial services’ as highlighted in a United Nations article in 2018, it is essential that we continue to embrace the technology and let it flourish.
Indeed, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have stated that blockchain is a significant development for agribusiness and can help to reduce food fraud which costs the global economy around $40bn annually.
Embracing technology is a must especially when it can make a real, lasting difference for millions. Food insecurity is one of the greatest issues of our generation and any form of technology that has the potential to increase food security for people should be welcomed.
Blockchain is the answer to many of our inherent finance issues. The technology provides instant, secure access to cross-border markets, avenues of funding and communication channels for supplier and vendor. Trust can therefore be built between farmer and vendor, enhancing the supply chain essential for everyday life.