Musa Kalenga.
JOHANNESBURG - I dreamed of an advanced “UltraAfrica” powered by technology. 

In my dream I imagined entire, fully functional cities underground, buried in the vast plains of the Sahara. I imagined advanced civilisations of Africans using biomimicry, data, artificial intelligence (AI) and new and natural human-technology interfaces. At the time, this dream felt quite far-fetched - until the recent release of the Black Panther movie.

This Marvel film articulates these and many other elements of Afrofuturism, which is a cultural aesthetic or philosophy of science and history that combines elements of science fiction, fictional fiction, fantasy, Afrocentrism and magic realism.

The emergence of Afrofuturism not only challenges historical perceptions of what African-ness is all about, it sets a clear tone about the future of this great continent.

In the movie, there is a place called Wakanda Now before you try and book a ticket to Wakanda (like I almost did), it is a fictional East African nation. Wakanda is the most prominent of several fictional native African nations in the Marvel Universe and home to the superhero Black Panther.

Lately, many people have asked me about Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. As a result, I spend a lot of time explaining that while cryptocurrency is here to stay, it is but one application of blockchain technology, which I believe is the more exciting discussion to have.

For those who appreciate a simpler explanation - blockchain is a distributed ledger technology. It is essentially a network of computers with the capability to perform complex algorithms and then store and transfer data. Blockchain technology provides a way to record and transfer data that is transparent, safe, auditable, and never goes “offline”.

In a place like Wakanda, the applications of blockchain technology would be endless. For example, Dubai and IBM are introducing a blockchain platform to enable a paperless digital layer for all city transactions and in Wakanda, applying for any documentation to verify native origin or land claims could happen through a distributed ledger that keeps record of past and present native land ownership.

The monarchy of Wakanda as a government can significantly reduce bureaucracy and increase security, efficiency, and transparency of government operations. Hospitals in Wakanda would make use of natural healing remedies (stored and categorised on blockchain) and offered as a secure platform to store and share this data.

Blockchain technology can allow hospitals to safely store data like medical records and share it with authorised professionals or patients. Patient data can be compared across generations and tribes. Patterns in genetic disease can be identified by deep machine learning and the level of sickness and chronic disease can be reduced. Blockchain can easily can improve data security and can even help with accuracy and speed of diagnosis.

Powered

The preservation of human life can be plugged into a mainframe powered by blockchain that continually and dynamically assesses the wellness of the residents of Wakanda - picking up stress, happiness, anxiety and all the lifestyle-related diseases that currently plague Africa.

While Wakanda is a fictitious place, and by all standards, an ultra-advanced African country, the impact of blockchain is evident. In emerging markets and countries with rapidly growing populations and dynamic economic growth they are increasingly considering the use of blockchain because of the shared, transparent, tamper-resistant and fast record-keeping technology which solves the problem of institutional inefficiency.

In Haiti, for example, blockchain was used to rebuild a nation where property ownership information was lost after a catastrophic earthquake in 2010. Georgia used it to move land registry records from state institutions to blockchain ledgers and

This is the first time a national government is using the blockchain to safeguard and authenticate state operations. There are also increasing examples of ongoing experimentation in many vulnerable countries where blockchain technology is being used to better track the flow of humanitarian aid and finance.

So, given that there are multiple applications, but immense value to be derived from blockchain, what is the hesitation in adoption? First - the technology adoption curve would apply to blockchain as a technology. The forward thinking early adopters will still be the prominent use cases until about approximately 2020/2. Second, there are still huge concerns and low levels of knowledge about data security that inform the technology narrative for the continent.

So for anyone considering blockchain as a solution, here are some clear benefits and examples of early adopters that are experimenting in this space:

Although the blockchain ledger is public, the data is verified and encrypted using advanced cryptography. This way, the data is less prone to being hacked or changed without authorisation, which would disrupt the cybersecurity industry.

The South African Financial Blockchain Consortiums’ experiment is called Springblock and its members include Absa, FirstRand, Standard Bank, Nedbank, and Capitec - as well as the alternative stock exchange ZAR X. Blockchains promise lower costs and higher efficiency and security in the finance sector, and average South Africans should expect financial services to become better, cheaper, and more inclusive of larger parts of the population.

Looking into supply chain management with blockchain technology, transactions can be documented in a permanent decentralised record, and monitored securely and transparently. This can greatly reduce time delays and human mistakes. It can also be used to monitor costs, labour, and even waste and emissions at every point of the supply chain.

Blockchain can be used to create "smart contracts" that execute the terms of any agreement when specified conditions are met. Essentially, a smart contract is a piece of computer code that predefines a set of rules under which the parties to that smart contract agree to interact with each other. The code facilitates, verifies, and enforces the negotiation or performance of a contract.

The distributed ledger can also be used to verify the authenticity or fair-trade status of products by tracking them from their origin. A good example would diamonds. De Beers, the world's biggest diamond producer by the value of its gems, has led industry efforts to verify the authenticity of diamonds and ensure they are not from conflict zones where gems could be used to finance violence

Musa Kalenga is the chief executive and founder of Bridge Labs.

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Independent Group

- BUSINESS REPORT