4 min read
03 Mar

This year’s conference aimed to establish the imperative for digitizing Africa’s economy and investing in blockchain technology and other digital assets. TechGulf keenly wants to present insights on how Blockchain and other digital assets can accelerate Africa’s economic growth.

Technology has proven to be an effective equalizer all across Africa. For example, the introduction of mobile telephone communications removed the barriers that prevented many Africans from gaining access to telecommunications services and the introduction of mobile money in many African countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, and Nigeria helped rope a huge chunk of the unbanked population into the formal financial system. For a continent that desperately needs inclusive economic growth, a focus on digitizing its economic development models will be a credible way to realize its quest for growth. Digital technologies make it possible for longstanding challenges to be addressed. They allow governments and innovative businesses to address massive unmet demands.

On this basis, TechGulf  envisioned this conference to explore the digital economy ecosystem in Africa. As a company that is committed to developing digital infrastructure to accelerate Africa’s digital economy, TechGulf sought to use the platform of this conference to lead conversations, unearth projects, attract investments, propose policies, and project start-ups that are making strides in Africa’s digital space. Three-panel discussions were held over the course of two days. Each panel discussion focused on a unique area of digital assets. The first panel discussed the value of blockchain technology,  the second panel discussions focused on opportunities available to facilitate the development of Africa’s digital economy while the third panel  deliberated on  the infrastructure and investment required to actualize the potential of Blockchain in the sub-region.

The two-day conference, which started on the 20th of April, 2022, at 15:00 GMT, had a global participant turnout, very vibrant and diverse with representatives from countries such as the US, UK, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Haiti, and Kenya participating.

The first panel  on “The Value of Blockchain Technology and Digital Assets”, had seasoned expert panelists,such as  Kendall Jennings (Blockchain Practice Lead at Accenture Federal Services), Ruby Donyina (Senior Technology Analyst at Accenture Federal Services), Foster Akugri (Founder/ President, Hacklab Foundation), Nii Osae Osae Dade (Co-founder and Director of Software Engineering at CYST) and moderated by Derrydean Dadzie (Co-Founder DreamOval Limited). Having such a knowledgeable and engaging panel, discussions on the Blockchain and its inherent value in the digital transformation of the African continent was thoroughly elaborated. Blockchain increases trust, security, transparency, and the traceability of data shared across a business network and delivers cost savings with new efficiencies. Excellent contributions from the panellists addressed the nuances that  Blockchain and its digital economy have brought forth as well as the enormous economic prospect it brings to the African continent. Foster Akugri, in expounding on Blockchain Technology, stated that “Technology remains a black box with a double-edge” hence, we thrive on the positive benefits and avoid the negative aspects. In asserting the Blockchain ecosystem’s transparency, Nii Osae stated that, “Every blockchain can be traced from its source to its final beneficiary”.

The second panel for that day dubbed, “A Tidal Wave of Disruption: Connecting Existing Technologies and Blockchain Technology”, was represented by Eric Kyere (Co-Founder of Blocture), Justin Pauly (President VXPASS), John Stevens (Senior Technical Program Manager with Amazon Web Services), Ganesh Annan (Product Manager and Senior Software Engineer at Digital Bazaar) and moderated by Eric Kelly (Chairman and CEO of Overland Tandberg). According to Eric Kyere, “Blockchain is an easy way to improve one’s taxes, but it all begins with education, policy framework and an enabling environment to harness its value.” For government and corporate organizations to comprehend disruptive technologies and the blockchain concepts, these emerging technologies’ infrastructure, governance, and credibility must be well proven to lift up the business confidence of investors in the digital economy. Ganesh Annan added that, “Once you put technology out there, it’s out there for about 50 to 100 years. Hence it is essential to take things slowly and make sure it is adopted well.” 

The Panellists commended Ghana for its feat  in leading Africa’s digital economic transformation. According to Ghana’s 2021 Digital report, there are over 41.69 million mobile connections in Ghana, some 15.70 million internet users and some 8.20 million social media users. Government rolled out digital policies and programs that have rapidly developed the economy making it a leading digital front in Africa.  The Panellists reiterated the future prospect that Blockchain technology has to offer the Ghanaian economy; especially the Government in the areas of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (ACFTA) and its Pan-African Payments and Settlement System [PAPSS], Fin-Tech Companies, Industries, Automation, Commerce, Education, Health and Infrastructure. Blockchain delivers even more business benefits, including cost savings from increased speed, efficiency, and automation. By greatly reducing paperwork and errors, Blockchain significantly reduces transaction costs and eliminates the need for third parties or intermediaries to verify transactions.

The final round of discussions and panel sessions for the conference was held on the 21st of April 2022, at 15:00 GMT. The event kicked off with a welcome address by the CEO of TechGulf, Mr. Franklin Asare, who summarized the activities of the previous day and introduced the agenda for the final day. His address was followed by an opening remark by Dean Matlack, Commercial Counsellor, from the US Embassy to Ghana. He stated that Africa is uniquely positioned to support the large-scale adoption of digital assets. He also made mention that the commercial section at the US Embassy aims to support growth of the enterprise blockchain in the application of agriculture product tracing, CO2 Carbon tracking, Healthcare, just to name a few of such applications which sit in a broad category called “TradeTech”.

Dean Matlack also stated that blockchain could  simplify business processes by tracking goods and supply chain, add value and promote Ghana’s’ exports such as artisan bars and roasted coffee. Another exciting area that the US Embassy is keenly monitoring is the potential for blockchain to be used for the settlement of international trade transactions. He concluded by stating, ‘We look forward to working with all of you to identify uses for blockchain digital assets and enterprise blockchain for your businesses, or agencies here in Ghana. We also look forward to helping you to connect to US companies that can provide world class blockchain solutions.”

The third panel for the conference debating on the topic, “Thinking Outside the Box: Exciting Utilities of Blockchain Technology for Africa”, was represented by Adepegba Oduntun (CEO & Managing Partner SME Capital)Brian Velez (Founder & Chief Investment Officer Netizen Capital)David Antwi Ofori (Operations Manager at Accra Digital Centre), Lily Edinam Bostyoe (Executive Director, The Hacklab Foundation), and moderated by Dr Evita Grant (CEO and Founder of TecHustle. Inc). According to Ms Bostyoe, “Close to 80% of adults on the African continent remain unbanked. She believes that it's about mobilising the power of the common people through advocacy and trust. Therefore technology without policy just reinforces what is offline”. Adepegba also stated that blockchain is just a tool; we use the right tool and then find the right process for it to work. An example stated by Ade was that the use of blockchain in monitoring taxes helps create an immutable record where you know exactly what is coming in and what is going out.

Brian Velez brought his expertise in explaining that the ultimate problem is trust and centralised institutions when it comes to Blockchain operations. According to him, when we think of economic, social and political issues, a lot of the negative reactions stem from distrust, therefore when one is unable to trust these institutions with their money, society can’t function adequately. He concluded by saying “Decentralisation is important, and anything otherwise will create a trust-less blockchain. If you have a central bank digital currency that's still a centralised entity, it can be abused, so it's about decentralisation” The event was wrapped up by the current Board Chairman of TechGulf Ghana, Mr. Kofi Bonner. In his closing remarks, Mr Bonner emphasised that TechGulf was set up to address the gulf between the Silicon Valley and Africa in terms of ICT infrastructure. From the outcome of the conference, he stated that TechGulf will support the maintenance of the infrastructure Africa will build by creating a pipeline of skills and resources to build new business, new tech entrepreneurs and grow the wealth within  the African continent. He concluded by stating that as digital leaders, TechGulf looks forward to partnerships and would be working hard to realise the dream that can be; “Africa is indeed the centre of the digital revolution”.

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