CommPRO Editorial Staff
The Cape Town edition of the Blockchain Africa Conference 2019 saw an exploration of how blockchain technology has and can be used to help achieve the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. Speakers explored the ways in which this emerging technology is combating issues of security and safety. There is a shift moving from private and centralised systems to more public, anonymous, decentralised networks in a bid to maintain safety and security over financial assets and data, and in order to keep up we need to look to technology to make important changes.
The Conference was a resounding success, as amplified by James Preston, Project Lead at SA Crypto: “Almost one month before the conference, and in true South African style, Bitcoin Events made an announcement that came from left field. Premier Helen Zille would be a keynote speaker, along with the Western Cape’s Minister of Economic Opportunities Beverley Schäfer. For the first time in South Africa, a significant member of government and key policy influencer would be directly involved in a prominent blockchain event. Blockchain Africa Cape Town 2019 could very well go down as a pivotal moment in South Africa’s adoption of the technology. ”
The presence of provincial government executives was enthusiastically welcomed by an audience made up of tech geeks and “blockheads” as Premier Zille so affectionately labeled us. The elegant and unequivocally eloquent Didi Sehume was the master of ceremonies and addressed the audience with the welcomes and the formalities.
Minister Beverley Schäfer opened the Cape Town conference with a thoroughly well-researched and educated address outlining what is truly possible for our economies in the likes of real estate, medicine, and of course finance, with the introduction of blockchain. Her keynote was presented with passion and a sincere desire to see economies impacted for the better through innovative solutions such as blockchain technology which included a statement: “We would likely find a way that blockchain can reduce costs, or increase speed transparency and traceability.” SA Crypto’s podcast interview with Minister Schäfer highlights the need for innovative tech like blockchain, and the need to support technology-centred entrepreneurship in the Western Cape.
Minister Schäfer’s address was followed by the headline act, Premier Helen Zille who presented her address using handwritten notes based on her very own research. Premier Zille’s passion for blockchain’s possibilities was obvious in her address: “We haven’t even got our feet wet yet. 10 years from now, blockchain will be mainstream. How do we prepare for that?” Zille was not only captivated by blockchain, but she was also captivating in that she had the attention of her audience through her heartfelt call to the industry: “This is truly a disruptive innovation that opens entirely new possibilities for governance.” SA Crypto had an interesting podcast interview with Premier Zille about how she first came to hear about blockchain, and how the Western Cape provincial government could potentially see it implemented into their administration. Winslyn TV featured both Premier Zille and Minister on what the Mother City planning with blockchain technology.
The keynote addresses continued with thought leader in the crypto and blockchain space, Simon Dingle. Known for his radio show and book “In Math We Trust”, Simon introduced his talk with interactive video ideas and visual brain teasers, all designed to make us see that blockchain was an entirely new paradigm not yet fully understood. Simon’s passion for the Bitcoin project is convincingly clear and refreshingly provocative: “If you haven’t read Satoshi Nakamoto’s white paper, I suggest you go back to it. It’s a hot knife through butter for people on Twitter. Satoshi was not out to change the world with decentralized databases, he had a specific economic purpose. Bitcoin is the only one!”
The great South African tech success, Marcus Swanepoel reminding us just how hard he worked to get BitX, now Luno, off the ground and explained that this is a new global economy that we are in the midst of transitioning into. Marcus: “This new financial system will be created from the bottom up, not from the top down. It’s trustless and more importantly, cryptocurrencies are very versatile.”
Riccardo Spagni highlighted the importance of user’s rights to privacy, and how such rights can be achieved with blockchain technology: “Fact is, there’s a huge amount of metadata out there about our lives, and we have no control over that. Privacy allows you to take back control of your own information in a way that no laws, governments or protocols ever will.”
The conference continued with talks by the incredibly articulate Jean Paul Fabri about Malta’s preparation for this new wave of innovation, and its resounding success in drafting progressive regulation that attracts innovative startups. Learn more from Jean Paul, with his podcast interview by Grey Jabesi, on How Malta became the Blockchain Island.
While Llew Claasen engaged the audience with his anecdotes of early days with Vinnie Lingham, although it’s their latest set of innovative interactions developing Civic Key that one can see what Llew meant with: “Decentralised business models are the future of economic coordination, where the incentives of different actors are aligned towards shared objectives that grow the value of the network for the benefit of all participants.”
Panels with blockchain and economic expert Farzam Ehsani and Centbee’s Lorien Gamaroff made for locked-in attention as it addressed cryptocurrency adoption in Africa. Monica Singer’s story of leaving the elite of corporate South Africa for blockchain powerhouse ConsenSys is an inspiring one, while Matthew Arnett’s panel contribution to Economic Inclusion in Africa utilising blockchain innovation highlighted what is happening right here on the African continent. Grey interviewed Matthew Arnett on P08’s work in Marine Archaeology on Blockchain with STO.
Caroline Dama, director and co-founder of Grassroots Economics, intrigued the audience with her topic: A Grassroots Financial Innovation Which is Responding to the Unsustainability of a Global Monetary System with “community currencies are bottom-up solutions and social innovations which come from civil society.”
The conversations and introductions made between key government officials and leading technologists, engineers and entrepreneurs in the space were ones that will be invaluable to South Africa’s adoption of blockchain, crypto and distributed ledger systems.