Did You Know Bitcoin could solve land disputes in Africa?

Did You Know Bitcoin could solve land disputes in Africa?

Have you ever tried to buy land in Africa? It can be a tiresome experience, with so many channels to pass through, and often very expensive. Land has long been a sensitive issue across the country. In many communities there are land disputes that have been raging on for years. Land often belongs to traditional communities, or chieftaincies, rendering it very difficult at time to know who actually has a right to the land, and if it has actually been purchased correctly. In many instances, disputes about the borders of towns and villages, can also effect the ownership of land. In both Kenya and Ghana I saw walled off areas of land with “NOT FOR SALE” painted on the gates. A symptom of distrust in the land ownership system, with some trying to fraudulently sell land of others.

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How do you organise ownership of Africa’s vast land

What happens to the new “owner” if one community sells land, that belongs to another community? In Ghana I have seen first hand the damage of land disputes, which can end up escalating to other issues. In one example, one community bailed a dangerous “fake pastor” who was charged with attempted murder of an alleged witch. (A lovely old lady from the community) The fake pastor subsequently skipped bail and was never brought to justice.

Long queues at offices, unnecessary bureaucracy,  often put people off following correct procedures, going down fraudulent paths to secure land. The system can be confusing, and with so many people involved it is possible to for them to be tricked into paying a higher price for the procedure.

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So, how can innovation and technology help Africa streamline this process and make it far more transparent. The continent has made a habit about ingeniously taking innovations, joining them together, and creating solutions for local problems. This is another case in which such a process could take place. With the development of blockchain technology in recent years, there is a way to record the ownership and change of ownership of land without complication and confusion.

Blockchain technology is a digital database, which is distributed across a network of computers. Records are encrypted, and because they are on many machines, it is free from human error, editing or removal. It is the same system that cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, are built on. But in the case of ownership of land, which requires a huge database, it will not be as volatile as Bitcoin.

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There would be clear documentation of land ownership, and transfer history, making it very difficult for fraud to exist. In 2017, Kenya started to run pilot projects and for both land ownership and educational records, which can also find themselves manipulated by corrupt officials, or sneaky fingered students.

One such case, Bitland, are doing exactly this in Ghana, and they are hoping to expand into Nigeria and Kenya. One issue with this system is agreeing who the land belongs to in the first place. Bitland try to combat this by going into the communities to work out exactly who owns the land, before inputting the data. They use a combination of GPS, Openmap, and other APIs to allow users to utilise their mobile device to enter a land survey.

With records distributed to all parties, and not just held in local land offices, and everyone able to see who owns, sells and divides land, the system will become far more transparent. Multiple land ownership deeds for the same plot would be a thing of the past. The technology has the potential to also be rolled out to other elements of property ownership. Gaining planning permission can also be a long drawn out process, open to corruption or who you know in the office. If blockchain technology can also be used within this process, so that everyone knows exactly what part of the process has been reached, it will make the process easier, faster, and make sure that less structures are built without permission. (Of which there are many!)

With trust in land ownership certificates crumbling, this technology could stop many disputes between communities, and therefore put a halt to many social disputes across the continent between individuals and local communities. Governments across Africa should look into creating their own land ownership blockchain systems in order clean up the system and stop disputes.

If you know of any innovations in Africa, an innovation that is changing lives, or you also want to be a guest blogger, get in contact with us on Twitter @inventiveAfrica or via email. Please share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook.

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Did You Know the SDGs can be budgeted using an innovative tool?

Did You Know the SDGs can be budgeted using an innovative tool?

At the Co-Willing conference in Ukunda, Kenya, there were a plethora of interesting people with different skills and areas of knowledge. On the first night of the conference I sat down to dinner with a member of the team from the Millennium Institute. Over our lovely meal, and after introductions, he began to tell us what he was doing. I must admit, when he began to talk about data modelling, I was already out of my depth and maybe because of my tiredness from a day’s travelling, I struggled to follow the conversation. However, the next day changed everything!

Across the world, governments and citizens argue about what policies to implement and how national budgets should be divided. Is the health service more important than education, should we put more money into security and the military, or social services. Do we cut money from the emergency services in order to pay our teachers more. There are so many different variations and through the noise of discussions and arguments, and political parties taking a standpoint because historically ideology, it is impossible to gain clarity on what is the right way.

By changing the expenditure in one area, it will effect other areas. For those of you that have played the sims, and have had to fiddle about with the budget to keep the people happy, but also have enough tax to pay the fire department for all of those natural disasters that seem to occur, you will realise that even on game level it is a difficult juggling act. (My cities always died horrible deaths)

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See how budgetary interventions effect each SDG in your country!

And that where data modelling comes in, and more specifically the Millennium Institute’s iSDG Integrated Simulation Tool. And this isn’t a game, it is real life! The tool enables governments, or even citizens to input percentage of budget to put into different Continue reading “Did You Know the SDGs can be budgeted using an innovative tool?”

Did You Know you are now protected against online fraud in South Africa?

Did You Know you are now protected against online fraud in South Africa?

Money! We all need it, and it never seems to be enough to meet our expenditure demands. (At least that is how I feel!) We work, we earn, we receive the money to our banks, we spend it, either wish cash or card. Well that has been the way for a long time, but innovation in the financial sector is beginning to make things look very difficult. The working, and earning hasn’t changed, but for some of us, especially in Africa the way we receive and spend money has changed drastically.

Innovation in the African financial sector is changing entire cultural norms. People are paid to their phones, rather than a bank account, which many across the continent don’t have, and they use their phones to purchase anything from food, to transportation across the city. In many cases there is no more need for cash, and with cryptocurrencies now trying to find their way turbulently there is more change on the way.

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I paid for this delicious meal digitally!

All this has meant that there are more ways for people to use their money with online purchasing gaining traction across the continent. But, this also means there are more ways for people to find crooked ways of stealing from others. Whilst there is more freedom of purchasing, there is also a perception of risk, with regular stories of people losing money in online transactions. In my short time in Kenya I heard of a couple of stories or people losing money through M-Pesa. In one case, a gardener allegedly lost his entire Christmas bonus to M-Pesa fraud, although his claim was not proved before I left the country. Continue reading “Did You Know you are now protected against online fraud in South Africa?”

Did You Know Kenya has an innovative personality?

Did You Know Kenya has an innovative personality?

Inventive Africa is back from Kenya and completely enthused! The blog has gone a little quite for the last two weeks, apart from a fascinating interview with Dr Tonny Omwansa, the Chairman of the Nairobi Innovation Week. (If you haven’t seen it out check it out here!) Kenya is a really fascinating country, which really highlights why we can not treat the African continent as one. Too often we talk about the continent in general (I am sure we have fallen into this trap once or twice also) instead of understanding the differences between the different regions, countries, and even ethnic groups (Whose different cultural traits can come together to strengthen a country).

Apart from the first few days at the inspirational Co-willing conference in Ukunda, in which I was mainly based in a nice hotel and it was impossible to learn about Kenyan culture or personality, I was based in Nairobi, where I spent the time to try and get to know and feel the cultural differences. And also try and understand why it seems that Kenya is embracing innovation even more than many other countries across the continent. My main experience in Africa is in West Africa, and I found immediately that my West African style interactions with people around town did not fit very well. From the taxi drivers to the security guards, the style of interaction is very different.

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Big brother is watching! Security at Malls in Nairobi is high!

I can’t begin to say I am an expert on Kenya after spending a couple of weeks there and I am only talking of first impressions. This may be a little harsh to Ghana, where I have spent most my time, but I believe I also saw a different work ethic in Kenya, with people from all sectors of society taking particular pride in their work and valuing their positions. Security is taken very seriously in Kenya, with sniffer dogs used at the SGR train stations, for the trip between Nairobi and Mombasa and back, and home security very strict about sticking to the rules. The cleanliness of the Nairobi was also impressive. Ok, it was not as spotless as a Swiss city, but there was a certain neatness, with grass cut and litter not strewn everywhere and clogging the gutters. (Or course in some parts of the city it was different)

“But what has this got to do with innovation?” I hear you ask. Well, I feel that these attributes have led Kenyans to be more open to adopt new technologies. M-Pesa (Kenya’s mobile money), which of course has been one of the major themes on Inventive Africa, is being utilised far more than I even thoughts. Taxis, shops, small roadside kiosks, paying staff, and even the informal sector receive payments via M-pesa. It is very handy, When short on cash, I used it to pay two trusting taxi drivers after they had driven off. And when I fancied eating local food (which is delicious) it was easier to pay with M-pesa and than cash, as often people don’t have the correct change. The willingness of people to use this technology from all walks off life is amazing. From the politicians and high earning expats, to farmers and informal workers, everyone has embraced and utilised M-pesa.

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Wonderful food, paid for by M-Pesa

One other major innovative breakthrough across the continent is the use of Uber and other apps in the taxi business, and drivers are really embracing it. Not all of them are happy with the amount of commission they have to give to these applications, but they realise that without them they can’t compete, and through them they can find long term customers. Most of the drivers use Uber, Taxify and now Mondo at the same time, not just sticking to one of the apps.

I see more changes coming in the transport sector in Kenya. With the frustrations regarding commission and also occasionally drivers that struggled to find their way around, there is still room in the market for another taxi app, and also the private bus system can also be made more efficient. There were already  attempts to change payment methods on the buses by bringing in an oyster card style system, but the system was not ready for it. (Oyster cards are used on London transport to touch in and out of transport and automatically charge your bank account) Tuk Tuks, Boda Bodas and the train system will also benefit from innovation.

iHub is another high roller in the Kenyan innovation sphere, with a visit from Mark Zuckerberg and amazing startups such as BrCK coming out of the hub. I had the pleasure of passing by their new office in the middle on Nairobi, where I met Vincent Matinde a technology journalist, who uses iHub as his office, with many others. If you want to check out his many interesting articles on the Kenyan and African innovation sector see here. iHub seem to have a slightly different set up to the past, being a place for people to work rather than purely promote innovation and technology. It may be a necessary change in the business model that makes so many technology hubs currently unsustainable and reliant on donors.

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Beautiful tea farm just outside of Nairobi

With its tea and coffee exports (Kenya is the biggest tea exporter in the world) natural tourism, and many others, Kenya has a good foundation to build on. Their focus on technology and innovation is also giving them a chance to lead the way in Africa. Already many schools are benefitting from free tablets, and the youth are taking it upon themselves to learn how to code. But the country and can not sit back now and relax. There are still problems to solve, and it may need even more innovation to do so. Politically, Kenya still has some tension, especially with a second President swearing himself in last week in Nairobi. For the country to continue to attract foreign investors, from inside and outside Africa, and move forward, it needs to create a more stable outlook.

Kenya has massive potential, and a willingness to try new technologies and new approaches. If you are in Kenya, and have an idea or innovation, why not get in contact and becomes a guest blogger for Inventive Africa. You can contact us on Twitter @InventiveAfrica or via email, or on our Facebook page!