Africa is known to be the fastest growing mobile telephony market with 80% (1 bn plus) of the continent’s population owning one or more mobile device(s). Cumulatively over the last couple of years, mobile phone usage in Africa has increased by approximately 65% with South Africa (S.A) leading the market followed by Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, Kenya and Ghana in that order. This has been despite the known infrastructural challenges faced by the continent which has caused a relatively lower access to electricity (particularly in the Central African regions) and higher service charges by way of voice calls and internet data usage.
Not only have there been improved penetration of mobile phones and other digital devices, access to internet has drastically improved over the last decade. Kenya has the continent’s highest internet penetration with 85% of its population being hooked and an annual penetration rate of 25% – this is followed by Mali at 65% and Mauritius at 63%.
The most notable thing about the African tech space, particularly Kenya are the remarkable and inspiring but yet little-publicized things they are doing. Especially with the advent of Blockchain Technology, many Kenyan techies and tech entrepreneurs have been churning out remarkable project and holding informative cryptocurrency and blockchain meet-ups.
Over the last two years in Nairobi, hardly will a single week go by without a blockchain event or project launch. There are indigenous and localized projects across various industry divides that aim to introduce the goodness of Blockchain into the day-to-day lives of ordinary Kenyans so as to create a more transparent and cheaper system which ultimately leads to improved standards of living irrespective of social standing.
A Blockchain Event in Nairobi
The likes of Chamapesa are pioneering a platform that aims to encourage micro-savings using blockchain for folks in both rural and urban areas. Mpedigree makes use of blockchain in tracking the agro-manufacturing value chain such that their system helps to authenticate and validate seeds, agrochemicals and fertilizers produced in Kenya. Hubs such as Metta Nairobi host weekly events that focus on Blockchain and tech in general and this helps to catalyze growth in the space.
Chamapesa Event in Nairobi
The good thing is that Kenyan techies are not left to fly alone solo but are to an extent backed by authorities due to the aurthority’s inclination towards futuristic policies. The Capital Markets Authority of Kenya (CMA, Kenya) is currently examining a Fintech Sandbox policy with an interesting focus on Blockchain Technology. This they believe would help with the drafting and formulation of appropriate policies that will both streamline and encourage innovation within the space. This follows a similar move by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) which has created a sandbox for some Blockchain projects to help it in drafting and enacting appropriate policies that will inure to the benefit of the South African people.
Paul Mathaura, CEO for CMA, Kenya says he believes that regulation in tech should not precede innovation as that would be tantamount to placing the cart before the horse. “Before we start doing regulation, we need to fundamentally understand the nature of the product as well as the specifics risks that are involved with those products so that our regulations are responsive to those as opposed to being very generic” he says.
The vivacity of the Kenyan tech space is very palpable and its inclination towards Blockchain can be seen with how resourceful the local entrepreneurs are with trying to ensure that their enterprises plug-in with crypto-payment gateways for their service deliveries and deliverables.
A number of the tech companies in Nairobi are however facing some challenges by way of lack of adequate education on how Blockchain can be made to work in order for them to realize the full benefits. In spite of this, Kenyan entrepreneurs are forging on in making sure that they deliver innovation and learn to improve on their products as the country’s traditional financial system has been able to a larger extent perfect through mobile-money operability by the engagement of services such as Mpesa where even little educated folks in rural Kenya are able to engage in the formal economy by more or less owning accounts on their mobile phones and operating same with little or no assistance due to the enabled USSD function.
It is this inherent potential within the Kenyan tech space that has driven major Blockchain companies such as Bancor and EOS to give special attention to the tech industry in Nairobi. Africa is ripe for Blockchain exploration and Kenya with its vibrant ecosystem is leading the way.