Will Blockchain Make Africa A Better Place?

Dominik Olech
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American rapper founding a cryptocurrency city in Africa? It seems like fantasy – but the crypto industry has already proved that nothing is impossible.

The announcement of “Akon City” in Africa is such a kind of news that draws the attention of media from outside the cryptocurrency world. However, the revelations coming from a somewhat forgotten rapper might be easily thrown into the basket of celebrities’ fancy fantasies and whims. Does “akoin” really have a chance to achieve success, and, more importantly, make a difference for Africa?

City of dreams

What’s the whole story about? Senegalese-American rapper Aliaune Damala Bouga Time Puru Nacka Lu Lu Lu Badara Akon Thiam, better known under the much shorter nickname Akon (yet his full name is still impressive though), has finalized the agreement with Senegal government for creating a city dedicated to cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology development. According to Akon, the construction works have already begun, and the city will be open for visitors by 2025. 

The city will be built on a 2,000-acre parcel received as a gift from the local government. Although the exact location is still not known, some rumors point to it being located near the new international airport in the capital city of Dakar. It appears to be a justified prediction since the city is likely to become a new center of tourism – both domestic and foreign. It is also going to be the first city in Africa to be certified with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – a certification for the most environmentally responsible cities.

According to the website of the project, the city is going to have the “Akoin Ecosystem,” with the cryptocurrency of the same name, designated to be a boost for the development of Africa. Alongside with the blockchain innovations, the Acon City will also offer a proper infrastructure, more traditional financial services, and job offers. The project is to be especially interesting for young entrepreneurs looking for a place where they could develop their ideas.

Rapper, philanthropist, crypto entrepreneur

Although the world noticed the new Akon’s project only after the official announcement of an agreement between the musician and the Senegal government, the idea of creating a “crypto city” concept by him was known for quite some time. He frequently shared some thoughts about the work on the crypto city, but none of them attracted such attention as the recent reveal.

But what makes American rapper become a crypto developer? It appears that the main reason for his involvement in the crypto project is his devotion to the goal of making Africa a better place. During the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in 2019, he talked about the opportunity which decentralized assets bring to the continent. But it doesn’t make him a blockchain specialist, as he said: “I come with the concepts and let the geeks figure it out.”

It isn’t the first time Akon is helping Africa, though. His previous initiative is named “Lighting Africa,” dedicated to providing scaled solar power solutions in African countries. The project was successful, with 32.3 million people supplied with off-grid solar products. 

Make Africa great again – with blockchain

Both Lighting Africa and announced crypto city put Akon among many entrepreneurs, celebrities, and other influential people who put effort into the development of Africa. Some of them do it through charity initiatives, while others prefer political actions. The tendency for helping this continent appeared in the second half of the 20th century and thankfully is continuing to grow.

The blockchain industry has also contributed to the development of African land. It appears that the new technology is well suitable for dealing with some problems there. For instance, it might be used to supervise the process of mining resources and avoid potential abuses. Such a solution is being used in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and it’s likely to be implemented widely in the mining industry since a large part of valuable worldwide resources is placed here.

The other example is interPort – a joint effort of Interpol and payment services provider VoguePay to create a crime control platform in Nigeria. The main goal is to develop a reliable base of information about criminal activity in the country, highly focused on citizens’ involvement. Blockchain used in this way aims to not only improve security but also engage common people to help in achieving it.

Pros and cons

Besides the application of blockchain technology, there is also a matter of cryptocurrency usage in African countries. Unfortunately, the idea of digital assets has both advantages and disadvantages here. On the one hand, the cryptocurrency industry is a chance for many young entrepreneurs to provide themselves with a secure job.

But on the other, the rising popularity of cryptocurrencies is also a field for many potential cases of abuse, like pyramid schemes. Many crypto-related frauds come from Africa, and because of the lack of proper education, people are likely to get involved in the projects that promise quick and easy payment. For instance, we recently wrote about one such scheme in Uganda in our Weekly Update.

There is also a matter of practical cryptocurrency usage. Many countries in Africa suffer from economic crises. When inflation is high, people are likely to use alternatives for fiat currencies – and Bitcoin clearly provides it. Such a situation happened in Zimbabwe, where last year, the price for one BTC reached $100,000 on some local exchanges.

Crypto city – a feasible idea?

As you can see, cryptocurrencies may bring both positive and negative outcomes, especially in rather an unstable region. Will Akon manage to overcome potential difficulties and provide Africa with a suitable solution? It is still hard to say now. I don’t doubt in his intentions – yet the lack of practical knowledge in the blockchain field leaves the project in the hands of “geeks,” who he mentioned in one interview. 

It’s also worth noticing that Akon City isn’t a pioneer in the field of “crypto cities” in Africa. The Russian businessman and politician Anton Bakov, who is dreaming of recreating the Russian Empire under the Romanov dynasty, has thrilled the world with the news of acquiring the parcel to build a city in the Gambia. The main currency of the state would be a Bitcoin. But after all, it all appears to be just another hoax, with the Gambia government denying Bakov’s words.

But Akon’s promises were confirmed by a real political agreement with the Senegalese government. The Senegalese-American musician also has experience in conducting projects in Africa. And, what is probably the most important, he has resources. Will he succeed? A rapper founding crypto city in Africa may sound like a fantasy, yet if it brings a positive change for the continent, then I wish all the best for his project.

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