The case for decentralisation of African history

decentralisation Africa history

It’s not exactly a secret that Africa has a rich and complex history. But lack of knowledge on the history of Africa has made it quite difficult to get accurate information about African heritage and culture.

Because a lot of African history is written by Western historians, who would prefer to deny their African origins, it is almost impossible to get a comprehensive, accurate and chronological account of our own history.

Many countries in Africa have tried to re-write their own history, and of course, Unesco has played a significant part in this process. However, the majority of the different volumes available out there are not compiled as accurately as possible due to manipulation from the government, individuals, and corporations.

For example, the General History of Africa, is an eight-volume book written by African scholars about Africa with the help of Unesco. Yes, the book was written by African scholars, but the fact that they, by and large, were taught according to a Western curriculum, it is possible they would have looked at their own history from the Western perspective.

The bottom line is the African history we read on books today is riddled with holes and inaccuracies. To avoid these intricate problems associated with doing history, blockchain technology is being proposed as the perfect solution.

The case for decentralisation

One of the most talked-about aspects of blockchain technology is its decentralised nature. What this means is that blockchain doesn’t rely on a central point of control. Rather, it hands that control back to users through consensus protocols distributed across a network of nodes. 

In African history, decentralisation brings not only administrative value, but it also increases the opportunities for Africans to take interest in public affairs. The internet, for example, has made it possible for everyone to act as their own publisher and there is little censorship in the sharing of ideas.

One major challenge of compiling African history today is locating sources. Many historical records have never been published, and they may only be available in archives. The trouble is that archives continue to grow bigger and bigger, which means that retrieving historical records is becoming even more difficult. 

Besides, some materials like letters, were not published at the time of creation, but have been subsequently published in a book, or digitized and made available online. In the subsequent publishing of these materials, some essential information might be omitted, exaggerated or lost. This makes it difficult to find original and accurate information about our past.

Tapping into blockchain immutability

That being said, distributed ledger technology (DLT) provides a reliable solution for history record-keeping and archiving. Thanks to the consensus protocol, blockchain ensures that once the information is stored on the ledger, it would require the consensus of all the network for that information to be changed. This provides immutability, security, and transparency in a trustless system.

Decentralisation for African history means transferring authority and control from Westerners and editors to ordinary citizens walking down the street. It also implies sharing user-generated content for a more efficient economy.  

At its best, blockchain facilitates peer-to-peer sharing of information beyond just books, helping members of the network to authenticate and validate the accuracy of information. In addition, a blockchain-based database could serve to validate the credentials of historical information published on any website—similar to what fact-checking websites do for news headlines.

How it would work

For decentralisation of African history to work, a strong community must be built around the project. Users submit proposals about a particular event that they wish to include in the blockchain. The submitted record then goes through a review and evaluation by a diverse pool of voters spread across Africa. If the majority of users come to a consensus after evaluating the proposed entry and determining that it is accurate, then the record is accepted and permanently added on the blockchain.

Not only does this enhance the way we document African history, but it also ensures that information is recorded in an immutable manner to help prevent possible censorship, editing or doctoring.

Lastly, recording current and future events on the blockchain makes it easier to locate any piece of information as a list of all these collections are stored and maintained on the platform. This will also promote collaboration with organizations such as museums, universities, and libraries.

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About the author

Vincent Olago

Vincent Olago

Vincent Olago is the Managing Editor of Ledger Africa and has been active in the blockchain space for three years now. He's passionate about entrepreneurship and the potential of disruptive blockchain technologies to reshape our world. He supports startups to tackle blockchain challenges, address strategic problems and optimize growth.