Joseph Muchuru, Kenya’s Information minister has expressed his interest in the use of blockchain to solve the countries problematic information verification system. Particularly with the verification of land ownership. Kenya finds itself in an interesting situation. The country which is seen as one of Africa’s most tech-savvy nations has trouble verifying title deed. Thanks to fraudulent characters, having a piece of paper(title deed) doesn’t necessarily mean the land is irrefutably yours.
In Kenya, land ownership related fraud is a big thing. As recently as 2015, pupils of a public primary school in the country’s capital, Nairobi, were tear-gassed as they protested a land-grabbing attempt on their school playground by a top hotel. A truly sad day in Kenya’s recent history. According to reports, the land grab attempt that led to a confrontation between school kids and police was a result of the school not having a “valid” title deed.
The sad encounter led to the formation of a pressure group called Shule Yangu Alliance. The group claims that it aims to have ten thousand schools around the country issued title deeds for the land they’re built on and to have fences put up around five thousand schools. In response to the land grabbing crisis, Kenya’s government has set up a special team that answers to Mr. Muchuru. The team believes in the idea of a shared database blockchain being integrated into or replacing their current system.
According to him and possibly many others who’ve heard of the technology, an implementation of blockchain technology would provide security, transparency, and efficiency to the current system. One Caine Wanjau, a technology official at Twiga Foods(food distribution company), seems to agree.
“In a relationship where two parties don’t trust each other, then blockchain makes sense.”
As with most instances where change occurs, there will be some doubters. One noteworthy cause of concern is the recent scandal involving a British company, Cambridge Atalantica. The company is accused of using peoples’ personal information, taken off Facebook without consent and using it in a micro-targeting election campaign.
With Kenya’s government yet to pass the law that gives unambiguous protection of one’s privacy. Mr. Muchuru, a man who joined the government after leaving Google, believes that the absence of laws (in cryptocurrency )creates a great opportunity for innovation. Mr. Muchuru has also been very open about his support for trading in Bitcoin, this even after it was described as a giant Ponzi scheme by the countries, central bank governor and others across the globe.
The state official and his team believe that it be disadvantageous for the country that is nicknamed the “Silicon Savannah” not to invest in new technologies now.
“We already have people who are writing software for autonomous drones and experimenting with Artificial Intelligence and that number will only grow,” he says.
“We want to be the freelancing headquarters of the world,”
Chairman of the special team, Bitange Ndemo, told the BBC,
“We missed the internet wave, caught up with mobile technology… blockchain is the next wave – and we must be part of it,”
The overall idea brought forward by Mr. Muchuru and his team is a good one. Blockchain has been hyped as a solution to a lot of problems throughout Africa, though a working example, on the other hand, is yet to be seen. It is clear that Muchuru and some other Kenyans believe that blockchain technology could be one of the tools for them to become Africa’s technology hub. Now isn’t that something?