Will Ghana be the first African country to adopt blockchain technology?

Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia has said the government intends to adopt Blockchain technology to ensure tamper-proof, transparent government transactions and access to data.

Dr. Bawumia said when it is implemented, it would make Ghana the first Blockchain-powered government in Africa.

The Vice President disclosed this in his keynote address at the 14th Commonwealth Regional Conference and Annual General Meeting of Heads of Anti-corruption Agencies in Africa.

“We are going to adopt blockchain technology for government to ensure that all data and transactions in the government space are transparent and tamper-proof.  No one can change them. And so, ours could well become the first blockchain-powered government in Africa,” he said.

“Our goal is to make Ghana the first blockchain-powered government in Africa and one of the few in the world because there are just a few countries that are applying blockchain technology across government in the world,” he added.

While addressing the clergy, on May 17, 2024, in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region as part of his regional campaign tour, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) flagbearer repeated the promise, emphasising that no government in Africa had implemented Blockchain technology.

“The whole of Africa there is no government that has implemented Blockchain technology. It is just a technology that makes sure that all of transactions… we are going to apply it to government, we are going to apply it to the land registry and all of that. You cannot change, everybody will see the track of transactions. There is transparency in the whole thing and I want Ghana to be the first country in Africa to be powered by Blockchain technology,” he reiterated.

 The claim has become a subject of debate in Ghana over the past few days with some challenging Dr Bawumia’s claim that no government has implemented Blockchain technology in Africa. 

A video of a broadcast news item which reported Nigeria’s launch of a Blockchain policy in May 2023 has been shared alongside the video of Dr Bawumia to counter his claim that no government has implemented Blockchain technology.

In this report, Fact-check Ghana has looked into the claim and presents the following facts.

What is Blockchain technology?

According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), Blockchain is a decentralized ledger of all transactions across a peer-to-peer network. Participants in Blockchain technology can confirm transactions without the need for a central clearing authority.

Blockchain technology enhances transparency, accurate tracking, permanent ledger, cost reduction, among others. Some developed countries like Estonia, the UAE, Georgia, Singapore, Sweden and Australia have already successfully implemented blockchain technology, and are starting to see its benefits in various aspects of their government. 

Has any government in Africa implemented Blockchain technology?

Despite the technological infrastructure challenges that confront African countries in their bid to adopt this technology, some have made headway in implementing blockchain technology to reduce corruption, particularly in procurement.

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) also stated that some African nations have demonstrated interest in adopting blockchain technology, particularly in integrating it into their procurement processes.

Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa are leading the adoption of Blockchain technology in Africa. According to the State of Web 3.0 in Africa: Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa report authored by Emurgo Africa in partnership with PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), the three countries accounted for 70 per cent of Blockchain funding in 2021 on the continent.

Blockchain funding across Africa increased by 1,668 per cent from USD5.165 in Quarter `1 of 2021 to USD 91 million in Quarter 1 of 2022.

In Nigeria, the government is exploring blockchain technology to improve its operations, particularly in procurement to prevent fraud by recording transactions on an immutable blockchain that ensures transparency and fairness.

On May 3, 2023, the Nigerian government launched a National Blockchain Policy to pave the way for the implementation of the technology.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Ali Pantami said “With the approval of the National Blockchain Policy, we can safely say that blockchain technology with all its components and types has been institutionalised in the country.”

The Federal Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy said after the launch that the vision of the policy was to create a Blockchain-powered Economy that supports secure transactions, data sharing and value exchange between people, businesses and government thereby enhancing trust, innovation, growth and prosperity for all.

It said the policy was in line with the 7th Pillar of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), which focuses on Digital Society and Emerging Technologies

Fact-Check Ghana’s search on the internet to confirm the implementation of the policy in Nigeria did not yield much results. A number of Business and Fintech journalists the team spoke with expressed doubt about the commencement of the implementation of blockchain technology in the country, despite its launch. 

Saheed Obasanjo Oriolowo, a prominent Engineer in Nigeria further confirmed to the team that the policy has not been implemented yet due to the sophisticated technology requirements for a successful implementation and the various uncompromising standards put in place by the international regulatory bodies to reduce risks associated with its implementation to the barest minimum. 

“And the fact that the implementation of the Blockchain technology cuts across all areas of day-to-day life activities i.e. financial institution, telecom connectivity, manufacturing and mining industries, Agriculture, transportation, etc, it’s been proven that for a perfect and hitch-free synchronization of the Blockchain technology within all sectors of the economy: a standard and fully integrated 5G internet connectivity (technology) is of number one priority, not to even talk about other associating resources needed for its successful implementation,” Engineer Saheed Obasanjo Oriolowo said.

He added, “So it’s not even about if Nigeria has commenced the implementation but about the fact that the required technological advancement for its implementation is zero in presently in the Nigeria environment.”

The Emurgo report reveals an escalating adoption of blockchain technology in South Africa that is revolutionising industries through secure and transparent data management. 

The Gauteng Provincial Government in South Africa has implemented blockchain technology in its Open Tender Process to improve transparency and fairness in procurement, resulting in reduced fraud and increased efficiency.

Similarly, Rwanda’s “Irembo” platform, built on blockchain technology, has digitised various public services, including procurement. Its transparent and immutable nature contributes to improved efficiency and reduced corruption risks. 

In Ethiopia, the government engaged an organization called Cardano to develop a Blockchain system to verify students’ credentials across the country.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has noted that while countries like Kenya and Nigeria have government policy documents that prioritise the use and impact of blockchain in the public sector, other countries like Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritius and South Africa have featured blockchain goals and/or actions within their national digital economy or industrial policy strategies. 

Apart from governments, individual organisations in many African countries have implemented blockchain technology. The Emurgo report and the Africa Blockchain report produced by Standard Bank also outline the following organisations and their adoption of Blockchain technology.

In Nigeria, HouseAfrica is the continent’s first Blockchain-based land and property registry. In Kenya, Fingo Africa utilises blockchain to provide digital banking services to build a Pan-African digital bank. In South Africa, Sinan Energy developed a blockchain platform used to tokenize, record and verify carbon credits generated from its renewable energy plants.

Based on the above, the claim by Dr Bawumia that Ghana will be the first country to adopt blockchain technology in governance is false because publications have shown that despite some setbacks, other African countries have already taken steps to adopt blockchain in various parts of their governance system

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