What is Blockchain?
Blockchain is technically a block of chains, but in a digital sense, when we talk about block and chain, we mean, record-keeping technology behind the bitcoin. It is digital information (“block”), which is stored in a database (“chain”). When a transaction is recorded on a blockchain, the transaction becomes permanent.
Pieces of digital information that make up a blockchain
Block chains store three types of information;
- They store information about the transaction like, date, time, and the amount that you have purchased from Jumia (NOTE: This Jumia example is an illustrative purchase; Jumia does not work on blockchain fundamentals).
- They store information about the person participating in the transaction. A block for your fridge purchase from Jumia would record your name along with Jumia.com. The stored information doesn’t bear your real name. It uses a digital signature, such as a username.
- They store information that differentiates them from other blocks. Just like everyone has a different name, each block has a code that distinguishes it from other blocks. If you ordered one product twice, the details of the products are identical, but the blocks will bear different hash codes.
Blockchains don’t store a single transaction. Each Blockchain can save up to 1 MB of data. Therefore, one block can handle thousands of transactions at a time.
How Blockchain works
A block is added to a blockchain once a new transaction occurs. As mentioned earlier, a blockchain comprises of a lot of blocks that are connected. It takes four steps to add a new block.
A transaction has to take place. For example, if you’re using an eCommerce store, the transaction involves buying a product.
The verification process- After making the purchase, the transaction has to b verified. Usually, in the traditional method, people are involved in the verification process. However, in Blockchain, the verification is made by a set of computers. Verification includes checking the amount paid, the item purchased, time, and participants.
The transaction then enters the Blockchain. The information recorded includes; the amount paid, your digital signature, and the site’s digital signature.
The block then gets an identification code, called the hash.
After this process, the information is available for viewing by everyone, including you.
Five use cases of Blockchain in Africa
Bitpesa is a money transfer and bitcoin exchange service started by Elizabeth Rossiello. They have their headquarters in Nairobi. This company enables the transfer of money between different countries through a peer-to-peer verification system. This system has reduced the cost of money transfer, as well as made the transactions safer. They have attracted a lot of funding from investors across all sectors. This shows that Africans, and the world at large, appreciate such a system. They have rolled out to other countries like Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Italy, and Ghana. They were also in the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Technology Pioneers Cohort.
The Sun Exchange
This is a peer-to-peer based model where people can invest in solar panel projects. Unlike other models, anyone all over the world can invest in this business using bitcoin. They have raised millions of dollars over the years. In 2018, they also won the French Development Agencies Energy Blockchain Challenge. They continue to facilitate funding for solar panel projects through the micro-leasing project. One of the most notable projects is the rolling out of solar electricity in rural Kenya, in partnership with Powerhive. The use of Blockchain in this business is more convenient and cheaper than traditional methods.
This is a startup in South Africa that seeks to change how people pay for utility bills. They acknowledge that it’s challenging to pay for these bills. That’s why they came up with a Blockchain-based system for paying bills. They collaborated with the law enforcement departments, and other stakeholders, to ensure they reduce theft and maximize revenue collection. This system is also eradicates intermediaries. They received a lot of positive response from South Africa, and all over the world. More investors are investing in this business every day. Currently, they are operating in South Africa, but they plan to open up in Nigeria, among other Africa countries.
This is a startup based in Ghana. It makes the survey land and assets available to citizens through a Blockchain-based system. This has helped eradicate corruption in the land registry, as improved the record-keeping processes in land offices.
Monitoring the cobalt mining industry in DRC Congo – Blockchain tech hasn’t just been used in financial applications. In DRC Congo, companies are under pressure to show that Cobalt mining doesn’t involve child abuse. Blockchain helps in monitoring the supply chain in these mining processes. The UN food program uses Blockchain to supply relief food. This system eradicates fraud and ensures everyone receives the donated food.