Nick von Christierson, Head of Africa for Diginex. PHOTO: African News Agency (ANA)
Nick von Christierson, Head of Africa for Diginex. PHOTO: African News Agency (ANA)

DAVOS - South Africa - and indeed the rest of the continent - is perfectly poised to lead the charge around technologies such as blockchain.

Global blockchain financial services and advisory company Diginex is in the process of setting up a hub in Cape Town with a view to expanding into Africa as it looks to build infrastructure around the new technology.

Speaking from the Team South Africa base in Davos, Switzerland at the annual World Economic Forum summit, Diginex head of Africa Nick von Christierson said the company saw "huge opportunity" in Africa.

There was a definite receptiveness and appetite to digital technologies on the continent, he told the African News Agency in an interview.

"There is real opportunity with the developing world and Africa because there are no real legacy systems in place. You are building from the ground up. This is a unique advantage compared to the developed world where you have a lot of intermediaries in place, in some cases centuries old, that are still benefiting by being just another cog in the wheel," von Christierson said.

"So in Africa there is a huge amount of opportunity, and I think, from a regulatory point of view, countries like South Africa are leading the charge. The South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) last week released their policy paper on cryptocurrencies, and I think that out of all the G20 countries, South Africa is definitely the most forward looking and are going to hopefully pave the way for other countres, especially in the developed world, to follow suit."

Earlier this week, South Africa staked its place in the investment queue, citing better policy coherence, its sophisticated emerging market economy, highly developed infrastructure, technological advancement, world-class banking system and ICT infrastructure among its strengths.

"The country's internet infrastructure is the best on the continent, with upload and download speeds much higher than those of other regional economies," a statement from the SA delegation at the WEF said. 

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Nick von Christierson, Head of Africa for Diginex. VIDEO: ANA

"This helps to make South Africa an ideal location for investment in software and information technology, data centres, creative industries and other activities involving high internet usage."

The Sarb last week published its views on regulating cryptocurrency as part of a consultation process with industry players, outlining the perceived risks and benefits associated with crypto-assets.

"From a cryptocurrency point of view, South Africa has a world renowned banking system," von Christierson said. "I think it is one of the most stable in the world, I think top three is where it was last ranked, so it's a great place to start, and also given the fact you have the Reserve Bank which is taking an active view  on all of this."

He identified Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kigali and Lagos as Diginex's primary targets for establishing blockchain hubs. 

A blockchain consists of an ever expanding list of records which keep an accurate and incorruptable track of all digital transactions and is perfectly suited as a system for managing cryptocurrencies. 

"Cape Town and Johannesburg are both technological and financial hubs of Africa and there is also a huge pool of talent in SA, so it is a great place to start, and then other countires like Rwanda and Nigeria also have to be taken into consideration when starting hubs for implementing blockchain," he said.

"Cape Town specifically for the technological talent that is there, Johannesburg as the largest financial centre in Africa, Kigali because President (Paul) Kagame has definitely taken one of the more forward looking approaches to Africa and its digital endeavours, and Lagos as the hub of West Africa."

Diginex sees itself as playing a key role in getting decision-makers to drive the blockchain movement forward on the continent. 

"Diginex is uniquely positioned in Africa to advise not only corporates and governments, but start-ups on how to implement blockchain at a macro level, whether that be about implementing blockchain solutions, developing the infrastructure, not only for investments on a local scale but also international investment into the continent," said von Christierson.

The company partners with governments, inter-governmental organisations and NGOs globally to help design and implement complex public sector blockchain projects across a wide range of applications, including projects combating slavery, child labour and unfair working practices.

The core principles that are inherent to blockchain technology such as transparency and decentralisation could be successfully applied in a broad range of instances from elections to international remittances, von Christierson said.

- African News Agency (ANA)