Nzinghaa Lab was organizing a blockchain event in Doula, Cameroon and reached out to us to come and speak on our experiences developing decentralized applications in general and on our work with Tezos specifically. As we discussed the content, the project evolved into a full-day conference that included local speakers, a half-day technical session, and support from Tezos Commons and 10000 Codeurs — an organization with the goal of training African youth to participate in global technology innovation at the highest levels. From the local community there was significant interest in the event resulting in attendance beyond optimistic estimates. Attendees arrive not just from the immediate Douala metro area, widely considered to be the technological capital of Cameroon, but also as far away as Yaounde, the actual capital of the country.
We had a dual interest in this event. For one, we were eager to see useful applications of blockchain technology in developing markets that bring tangible benefits to common people. Also, this was an opportunity to bring more developers to Tezos using our tools to build the aforementioned applications.
Three use-cases were presented. A business application for logistics tracking, a government initiative to build a blockchain-based land registry and a project to create a registry of indigenous plants. Nytral Cosmetics sources the raw materials for their products from a wide range of small farmers across the West Africa region. A formal and verifiable system to track the raw material from the source to final product delivery to the customer has numerous benefits. It makes it possible to develop business with producers of higher-quality inputs. The customers can see how they are directly benefiting the farmers growing the plants that end up in the package. Whole sections of the supply chain can be evaluated for efficiency, reliability and value. In case of product recalls, identifying the affected set would be easily done. This is a large project that would engage the local technology providers from web hosting, to mobile app development, to smart contract composition.
Another application that was presented was a land registry. Lacking central, trusted database tracking land ownership and transfer a project was kicked off to create such a platform using blockchain technology. This is a collaboration between government entities, technologists, reaching as far MIT in Boston, and local tribal leadership. An ambitious endeavor, headed by Julius Akinyemi, not only looking to create a verifiable ledger of ground coordinates to family owners, but one that would eventually enable economic development of the land via tokenization.
The last item is akin to an intellectual property tracking system. Africa has a long history of healing with medicinal plants. There have also been many examples of companies “discovering” and patenting these properties thereby locking access to them. A formal registry of plants on a blockchain would create prior art that could then be used to fight egregious patent rights claims.
These are exciting developments that demonstrate the applicability of blockchain technology far outside of traditional finance run by multi-national conglomerates showing exactly how democratization and disintermediation benefits people.
We would be remiss not to discuss an exciting new development we have the pleasure to take part in — SmartPy. Developed by Smart Chain Arena, SmartPy is a python-style syntax for composing smart contracts for Tezos. We are thrilled to provide the deployment layer allowing the on-line IDE to not only allow users a friendly language to write and test their contracts in, but also to deploy them, trustlessly, from the same interface. A beta is live now and this is a project in active development.
I cannot close this post without noting the personal warmth, generosity and hospitality I received from the event organizers. I’d like to thank Nelly, Raphaël and Abdel for taking the time to work, talk, and dine together with me.