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Blockchain Education: Misconceptions and Challenges

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There is a lot of misconception about blockchain in most parts of the world, and not just Africa. In the minds of most people, there is a lot of uncertainty wrapped around the concept of blockchain. Speaking at the ongoing African Blockchain Developers Call series, Amando Boncales, CEO of AltHash Blockchain, says the first thing people think when they hear the word: “blockchain” is bitcoin and cryptocurrency. 

Blockchain is not bitcoin

Perhaps, the most popular misconception about blockchain is that blockchain is bitcoin or its only application is in cryptocurrency. Explaining what blockchain is, FT Technology reporter, Sally Davies, explains it as “Blockchain is to Bitcoin, what the internet is to email. A big electronic system, on top of which you can build applications. Currency is just one”. With simple explanations like this, one could say that the misconception stems from the fact that cryptocurrency is one area where the system is mostly applied. As such, making the usage of blockchain popularised in other sectors like Healthcare, for example, could clear the misconception.

There are more misconceptions about the blockchain system that signifies the level of global ignorance about the technology. The belief that blockchain is some kind of magical database or smart contracts are contracts written and signed by AI, shows how far away the technology is from becoming widely adopted. 

Blockchain is more than financial technology. Amando Boncales believes limiting the technology to finance, alone is a great injustice to its potential. 

READ ALSO: Why Africa Needs Active Blockchain Education

The misconception is quite understandable, as Blockchain was released into the mainstream because of bitcoin, and the two are basically inseparable in the minds of many. To increase interest in blockchain, it needs to be separated from bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. When people’s interest in blockchain is tied to cryptocurrency, then their interest in the technology will be as volatile as cryptocurrencies.  

The key to nullifying the “blockchain equals digital assets” equation, is to apply the technology to other things or like the blockchain evangelist, Amando, will put it, “to further professionalize the blockchain space, we have to venture into other applications of blockchain”, giving examples such as supply chain and governance. 

The need for blockchain professionals.

The internet is one revolutionary technology that has transformed almost every aspect of human life for over forty years. From how we work to how we interact, the internet is one piece of technology that has become ubiquitous in this current dispensation. Blockchain technology has been compared by some to the internet. John Zanni, president of the Acronis foundation, says, “we believe that blockchain will be transformative in the tech and IT sector in the coming years, similar to what the internet did for the world back in the ’90s and early 2000s.”  Though surrounded by a lot of doubts and misconceptions, the disruptive technology continues to gain momentum. Analyst firm, Gartner, predicts that the technology will be worth $10 billion by 2022, and by 2030 the business value would have grown by $3.1 trillion.

With such numbers, blockchain technology will require a lot of workforce, and Africans need to be ready. 

 Institutions such as the Africa Blockchain Institute and AltHash Education are already educating students, developers, programmers and enthusiasts, towards becoming professionals in different blockchain fields. However, to cope with this fast changing environment, a lot needs to be done. 

Integrating blockchain studies into the educational system

Infusing blockchain studies into the educational  system could lead to a rapid mainstream adoption of the technology. There could also be an unprecedented influx of blockchain professionals into the blockchain space. 

However, the process of integrating blockchain studies into the educational system will take a very long time. According to Amando Boncales, adoption of innovation in any educational system of the world takes a very long time. Aliyu Musa, a panelist during the  blockchain in education session of the ABDC boot camp, says it could happen, but proper infrastructure and awareness are factors which are still not in place. Asides a sluggish bureaucratic system of reforming policies especially in some African countries, lack of facilities is a real challenge to infusing blockchain into the curriculum. 

The obstacles that stand against integrating blockchain into our educational system can be conquered, but it will take a long time. Institutions and platforms created by blockchain enthusiasts, educators and professionals, seem to be the only sustainable means of educating people on blockchain technology. These institutions, however, equally have their own challenges. PesaBase Director of growth and user acquisitions, Roselyne Wanjiru, mentions some of these challenges at the ABDC series, during the blockchain in education panel session. The challenges range from getting students to actually sign up, training staff, to getting and utilizing funds.

The challenges faced by these institutions, though acute, have not stopped these institutions from making gradual progress in educating students about the technology of the future.  Managing partner at the Africa blockchain institute and convener of the ABDC series, Adedayo Adebajo, shares some of the success stories of the institute during the ABDC call series. Starting out by delivering workshops in universities across universities in Nigeria, the institute has gone beyond the shores of Nigeria, spreading the blockchain gospel and creating Blockchain professionals and enthusiasts. 

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Bolu Abiodun is a recent graduate of Theatre and Media Arts, Federal University Oye-Ekiti. A journalist with over a year's experience on the job. A former editor at American Media company Project Forward, he is a skilled content creator, social media manager and digital marketer.

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Crypto Assets

Crypto prices drop as global market fear increases

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Top cryptocurrency prices have fallen amidst a drop in stocks and fears over China’s Evergrande debt crisis. In the last 24hour, Bitcoin dropped from $47,772 to $42,630 shedding about 8.58%. this is the lowest in price since another bull run began on Sept 5 after the April crash.

El- Salvador’s President, Nayib Bukele sees the fall as an opportunity to invest more. Recall that the country adopted Bitcoin as a legal tender on September 7. Despite the adoption, the price of Bitcoin has fallen by almost 14% since then.

Other coins have experienced dramatic crashes within the last 24hours. Solana, a coin that has experienced 355% growth within the last 3 months fell from $162 to $130 shedding about 11.39% within the last 24hours. Solana’s fall may be categorized by the 17-hour outage which the founder, Anatoly Yakovenko said was caused by bots “flooding the networks”

Ethereum fell by 9.37% while Dogecoin and Axie Infinity fell by 11.22% and 14.14% respectively within the last 24hrs hours. While crypto experiences dark Monday, El-Salvador keeps investing more money in Bitcoin.

A look at the global market

The global market is experiencing fear due to the Evergrande debt crisis. A report published by the University of Michigan shows that consumer’s sentiment is beginning to decline. This trend alone may impact the crypto market as well.

On the other hand, the global market downturn must have been spurred by the Evergrande debt crisis. The company grew to be one of China’s biggest companies by borrowing more than $300bn. Last year, Beijing made rules to control the debt owed by big real estate developers. This led Evergrande to offer its properties at major discounts to raise more money to keep the business afloat. Right now, the company is struggling to meet the interest on payment of debts.

Why would it matter if Evergrande fails?

The collapse of the multi-million dollars company would affect the global market; including the crypto market. Many people bought properties from Evergrande and they expect to make gains. If Evergrande falls, crypto investors will be forced to withdraw more money to keep their business running without the means to invest more. When one business fails, the other gets affected indirectly. This also applies to other firms that do businesses with Evergrande.

The potential impact on China’s financial system is another effect of Evergrande’s fall. In his statement to BBC, Mattie Berkink, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), said that “the financial fallout would be far-reaching. Evergrande reportedly owes money to around 171 domestic banks 121 other financial firms” if the company fails, other lenders or businesses may be forced to lend less. Thereby leading to a credit crunch- a situation where companies struggle to borrow money.

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Bitcoin in Africa

The rise of CBDC in African economies

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Many nations have taken cues from the world of crypto and its resounding successes over the last decade. In order to avoid getting left behind, governments worldwide are increasingly turning their attention towards implementing some form of digital currency, a CBDC which in full is Central Bank Digital Currency. Although inspired by cryptocurrencies, CBDC’s are quite different from traditional crypto platforms. The main differences are that CBDC’s are unlikely to be decentralized, the supply of this currency regulated by the host’s country’s central bank as the CBDC is designed to operate as a sovereign legal tender, the digitized form of the host country’s fiat currency. Thus, a central bank may issue digitized tokens of its currency of which their value is pegged to the fiat currency of the nation in question, making CBDC’s stablecoins.

Africa has seen a rise in the use of cryptocurrencies and it’s still pushing frontiers in this sector. Although the use of crypto in many African nations is becoming more and more pervasive by the day, the tone of governments in many of these countries toward the sector is cautious at best and threatening at worst. However, a few nations have voiced interests in creating digitized versions of their legal tender to function as a CBDC. Amongst these are Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, Kenya and Tunisia.

Many of these projects are still in the research phase or developmental phase however. A good example is Ghana’s proposed CBDC, the E-cedi being developed in partnership with German company, Giesecke + Devrient. Nigeria’s CBDC project, the eNaira has been announced and according to Nigeria’s central bank, this CBDC will be launched sometime in 2021. To that end, the CBN has partnered with fintech company, Bitt Inc. to serve as the technical partner in the eNaira’s development. Reportedly, the CBN had made the decision to digitize the Nigerian Naira in 2017.

While the pursuance of digital currencies in African nations is a welcome development, implementation of these schemes isn’t without challenges. Chief among the issues countries in Africa face would be the already existing financial service inequality and poor penetration of internet access in the continent. These challenges must be tackled in order to allow for mainstream adoption of CBDCs and the subsequent provision of financial inclusion. The benefits largely depend on the peculiarities of the nation deploying them. For instance, a digital currency is thought to help Nigeria increase foreign remittances, it’s second largest source of forex after oil. Whatever the outcome of these projects, it is becoming apparent that CBDC’s have come to stay.

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Bitcoin trades above $51k ahead of El Salvador’s adoption

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Bitcoin growth

Bitcoin price has rallied above $51,000 ahead of El Salvador’s adoption. The immediate surge in price may be due to the social media campaign that everyone should buy sats of Bitcoin to support El Salvador’s plan to make the coin a legal tender or it may be due to the news of El Salvador’s adoption of the coin as a legal tender on September 7. Users of social media platforms like Twitter and Reddit are discussing how they will buy Bitcoin of $30 each to mark the new El Salvador Bitcoin law.

The surge in Bitcoin’s price began in the last 24hrs with the price rallying around $51,955 with a 3.37% increase. This is an all-time high after the April crash that brought the price of Bitcoin from $64k down to $28k. The move by El Salvador to be the first country that accepts Bitcoin as a legal tender and the social media campaign that leads to a surge in price ahead September 7 are a repetition of events that occurred late last year and early this year with regards to institutional investors and how the price of Bitcoin skyrocketed.

El Salvador, a country in Central America, has been preparing heavily to adopt Bitcoin by installing ATMs to allow citizens to convert the token into US dollars. Last week, the country’s Legislative Assembly passed a law to allow for the creation of a $150m Trust to support the conversion of Bitcoins to US dollars.

To promote the use of Bitcoin, the government states that it will give the adult population of El Salvador $30 in Bitcoin once they download “Chivo” the wallet issued by the government. This was confirmed by the Finance Minister, Alejandro Zelaya.

What this means for Bitcoin investors

Apart from the adoption by Salvadorians, on-chain analytics show that Bitcoin is in high demand. The fourth halving that occurred will make Bitcoin become a scarce token in the nearest future. Thereby increasing the price sporadically.

With El Salvador’s interest in Bitcoin, other countries are likely to follow suit- Panama is considering following El Salvador’s lead. History will repeat itself as this development will serve as another crypto rout that occurred early this year when Tesla and MicroStrategy announced their support for Bitcoin.

El Salvador’s new law allows the use of Bitcoin as a legal tender it can be used to buy goods, pay for taxes and bank loans. This means more demand for Bitcoin, with the fourth halving that occurred, it means less supply. A common rule of economics for demand and supply will apply. Prices are projected to keep rising. At the time of writing this report, Bitcoin is trading at $51,839 with a projection of $52k before the end of today and higher tomorrow when Salvadorians begin to use the token.

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