Since 2018, the Africa Blockchain Conference has attracted leaders, policymakers, entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, and academics across the blockchain and cryptocurrency space to explore, collaborate and debate the future of the technology in Africa.
As ever, the 2019 edition of the Africa Blockchain Conference, brought together founders and experts in blockchain, as well as companies and leaders in finance, education, agriculture, and technology.
Here are the main takeaways from the event, which came to a close yesterday in Kampala.
Sierra Leone President backs Industry 4.0
The main theme at this year’s Africa Blockchain Conference was the concept of using the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) technologies to drive Africa’s growth. Sierra Leone President Julius Maada, who was the chief guest, urged African nations to take the leading role in the adoption of new technologies.
In his keynote address, Maada said:
“Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Blockchain, Quantum Computing, Biotechnology, Bioinformatics, and 3D Printing are some of the technologies changing the global economy, global governance, and even global security. Coupled with rapid automation, these technologies are significantly modifying our existing traditional notions of governance and development. ”
He further urged governments to prepare for 4IR adoption by setting up institutions that could provide leadership for industry 4.0 initiatives. Maada also stressed that the governments should engage in a meaningful dialogue with the youth to ensure positive development in the technology sector.
“Governments should be able to provide an enabling environment to the young people as they are more conversant with the technology and have great minds,” he said adding that investing in human capital is key to driving growth in science , technology and innovation.
Africa is still behind when it comes to adopting emerging technologies mainly because the continent’s leaders are less certain how they could take action to benefit from industry 4.0.
Speaking at the event, head of Africa World Economic Forum, Dr. Elsie Kanza, said, “In Africa, countries like Ghana, Kenya, and Rwanda are some of the few that are doing well when it comes to industrial technologies but still Africa as a continent is still lagging behind.”
Blockchain Association of Uganda Chairman, Kwame Rugunda noted, “Africa now has the greatest opportunity to leverage emerging technologies to facilitate the African Continental Free Trade Area, the largest free trade area in the world.”
Meanwhile, the UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, HE Omar Sultan Al Olama, spoke about the state of artificial intelligence, saying, “It used to take 6 minutes to diagnose TB in the UAE. Now with AI, it takes seconds.” He further added that mutual collaboration can help bring the benefits of emerging technologies to Africa.
Blockchain Association of Kenya, Lawyers Hub Kenya sign MOU
Another positive development that came from the event was the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Blockchain Association of Kenya and Lawyers Hub Kenya to support policy and regulations on blockchain and emerging technologies. On the basis of the MOU, which was witnessed by the Blockchain Association of Uganda, the two organizations will exchange technology-related information and expertise to promote the adoption of emerging technologies in the East African region.
Three blockchain startups win $10,000
Running alongside the Africa Blockchain Conference was the blockchain pitch competition which focused on early-stage startups which use emerging technologies such as blockchain, big data, AI, robotics and drones to solve critical challenges within the community. Four blockchain startups had an opportunity to present their innovations in front of a jury panel. Innovex (1st), PesaBase (2nd) and Jaguza (3rd) emerged as the overall winners and will each share the $10,000 grant.
Jaguza, for example, is a blockchain data management platform that uses a digital certificate to validate and secure data associated with livestock farming. This enhanced visibility enables farmers to spot inefficiencies in the system, eliminate middlemen, and exert greater control over every facet of their farming operations.
Sophia the humanoid
Another interesting highlight of the Africa Blockchain Conference 2019 was the Sophia humanoid robot. The human-shaped robot delivered a speech and interacted with the audience via a teleconference.
Asked about the potential threat robots pose to humans, Sophia said, “Human characteristics like creativity and compassion will never be replaced by machines. Everyone wins when humans and robots use their unique skills to work together”.
Experts says robots are the future and that the goal of general purpose robots like Sophia is of course to make them broadly useful across tasks. Imagine having a robot that can clean the toilet, fold clothes, and then go make you breakfast.
Despite the promises of humanoid robots, there are several ethical and moral issues that come with their adoption. One issue entails the consequences of their actions which experts warn will be subtler. The more we interact with these machines, the less we related with each other and this could end up straining human relationships even further.