It’s no doubt that Sierra Leone election makes blockchain history. I wrote about my visit to Liberia and Liberia’s efforts to move past the civil wars and the Ebola crisis. Of course, Sierra Leone also suffered a devastating civil war (1991-2002) and was also a victim of the Ebola crisis. And because they are both English-speaking neighbours, friends, and roughly the same size in area and population we often speak about them together. So it is great in a short space of time to be be able to point to positive developments in both countries.

In Sierra Leone’s case, the positive news is about the election this week. While the pre-election did have some violence in the run-up, it is widely expected to be considered free and fair. But this isn’t news. After all, Africa governance has really moved on and peaceful transitions are becoming pretty common. Liberia has had several successful elections and a transition in power, as has Ghana … Kenya’s democracy is strengthening. Of course, Nigeria managed the peaceful transition trick in 2015. And South Africa and Zimbabwe have shown recently the President-for-life concept is on the way out in Africa.

What is news is this election is the first in the world to be blockchain-enabled. We have all heard of blockchain because of bitcoin. But the underlying technology applies to much more than cryptocurrencies. Blockchain is valuable because it is a method of creating a single version on the truth (with a complete history) with which all relevant parties can agree. So it has a multitude of applications in Africa that will make a big difference to us, inclduing land registry, university transcripts and degrees awarded, international trade … indeed, anything where accurate information that is agreed to by all parties is valuable.

So in the case of the land registry, for example, blockchain will mean everyone can agree who owns the land, if there is a mortgage and how much, when it was taken out, have taxes been paid, what is the land zoned for, etc. So truly valuable for developing the real estate sector (but not so welcome if you bought your building with corrupt funds).

And elections. With elections, blockchain ensures that there is no tampering with votes after they have been cast, and the public, the parties, and the international community can be assured of the veracity of the results.

So a fantastic accomplishment for Sierra Leone to be first … and proof once again that Africa’s future lies in leapfrogging old technologies from the west (anyone remember the hanging chad from the 2000 US Presidential election, for example).

Here is a more detailed article about Sierre Leone’s election on Coindesk.

 

 

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