The recently concluded African ministerial conference on environment identified loss of biological diversity, climate change and poor health, as the key challenges facing the African continent. A joint study by the World Economic Forum and PricewaterhouseCoopers identified similar challenges affecting the environment globally.
While the challenges are dire, there are new innovative technologies that have the potential to address them. One of them is Blockchain technology. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change identified the potential of Blockchain as being transparent, cost-effective and efficient. This, in turn, may lead to greater stakeholder integration and enhanced creation of global public goods.
Blockchain– is a distributed database that is continuously updated and verified by its users. Each added block of data is “chained” and becomes part of a growing list of records, under the surveillance of network members.
Blockchain technology represents opportunities to unlock and monetize (tokenize) economic value that is currently embedded within the environmental natural systems. The Sun contract platform is being implemented in Slovenia and it empowers individuals, with an emphasis on homeowners, to freely buy, sell or trade electricity, making them completely energy self-sufficient. Currently, electricity prices have gone down by 40% while the use of environmentally friendly energy sources as solar and wind energy have risen.
One South African based startup uses Ethereum ERC20-based rewards currency, SUNEX, to create a Solar Project Insurance Fund (SPIF), to cover the cost of relocating PV power plants to new sites if the original electricity off-takers defaults on payments. Running SUNEX token transactions through Blockchain based smart contracts means The Sun Exchange would not have to worry about administration costs or computer hardware investments.
The ixo Foundation created an open-source protocol, using Blockchain technology, which allows any individual or organization to create an ‘impact claim’ (which could range from planting 100 trees, to administering 5000 vaccinations). The first collaboration between the ixo Foundation and the Seneca Park Zoo Society, which is based in upstate New York, will be used to record insect and animal life regeneration in Madagascar’s reforestation program.
This system still remains unexploited. While this technology has started being rolled out elsewhere, it has not been fully explored in Africa. There are already low hanging fruits on environmental problems that can be indicatively solved by using Blockchain technology.
The National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) in a report, stated that Kenya uses at least 50 million plastic bottles annually. This creates a monumental environmental challenge. Blockchain applications can be used to reward individuals or companies with cryptocurrency credits that represent value in return for sustainable actions. Social enterprises can issue financial rewards in form of cryptographic tokens in exchange for depositing plastic. The plastic bank is a project that is turning plastic into currency by setting up plastic collection centres in Haiti and now South Africa. This is where people can deposit used plastic in exchange for currency for services ranging from phone charging to items like cooking fuel. Through Blockchain, a hyper ledge is created providing a digital wallet to the unbanked.
Recently, Uganda launched a large-scale program to verify the identities of all refugees in the country by collecting their biometric data. The aim was to get the true number of refugees being hosted in the country and to offer each one of the personalized services. Blockchain technology could be employed to integrate the data following the example of how World Food Program piloted a Blockchain technology in Refugee camps in Jordan by integrating their biometric data for digital identity management, food distribution and authenticated cash transfers services.
The African carbon credit supplier, Aera Group, and the Russian Carbon Fund executed the first worldwide carbon credit transaction using Blockchain in 2017. The Verified Carbon Units acquired by Russian Carbon Fund were intended to offset the carbon footprint in Russia and internationally particularly by airline passengers.
Blockchain technology is still at its infancy with many hurdles to overcome. But the potential benefits to African countries needs to be harnessed to enable a system shift from shareholder to stakeholder value, and from a traditional financial capital to accounting for social, environmental and financial capital. It is time for African Governments and the private sector to invest time and resources in Blockchain technology in order to come up with other uses of the technology that would not consume a lot energy and ensure Africa’s green economy is at the center stage of the revolution.
Written by Sam Dindi.
Sam is a holder of diploma in Tourism and Wildlife management and works in the field of climate change, Tourism and Wildlife. He is also the founder of Mazingira Yetu magazine. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.