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Blockchain technology to debut in Ethiopia
IOHK’s Charles Hoskinson and MoST minister Getahun Mekuria signing MOU

Blockchain technology to debut in Ethiopia

Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Input Output Hong Kong, a company based in Hong Kong, China, on Thursday for the utilization of a blockchain application platform called Cardano, a type of blockchain record management platform used in Ada cryptocurrency, in Ethiopia.     

The memorandum was signed between Getahun Mekuria (Eng.), Minister of Science and Technology, and CEO of IOHK, Charles Hoskinson, in the first blockchain forum which was held at the MoST on May 3, 2018 and it was said that the agreement will be a good opportunity to explore the potential of blockchain applications in Ethiopia.

Blockchain is essentially a decentralized, distributed and public digital ledger able to record transactions across many computers, making it difficult for data to be altered without changes in the all the blocks. The lack of centralized data storage makes blockchains secure and difficult to exploit. The blockchain network is managed autonomously using a peer-to-peer network, allowing authentication through mass collaboration. The technology was first used to underpin the cryptocurrency bitcoin as a public transaction ledger, allowing the cryptocurrency to function without a trusted authority or centralized server.

Getahun expressed his delight about bringing blockchain to Ethiopia and his believes that the ‘beautiful technology’ will put Ethiopia on blockchain geospatial map. Hoskinson, former co-founder of blockchain-based cryptocurrency platforms like Etherum and BitShares, said on his part that equal opportunities provided by the internet and open source technology allow countries like Ethiopia to set new standards, adding that blockchain is a ‘great reset’ in restructuring the global economy.

Eleni Gabre-Madhin (PhD), founder and CEO of BlueMoon and founding CEO to Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX), stated that blockchain has large implications across all sectors like health, agritech, land management and the economy.

In this instance, blockchain technology will be used to trace Ethiopian Coffee along the value chain, implementing genetic sampling to identify species, origin, pesticide and exposure to any chemicals to authenticate the coffee. The technology allows management of the supply chain, distributed shares, simultaneous looking and improved security, especially in checking for adulteration or mislabeling of consumption goods.

Furthermore, blockchain will be utilized to create an interspecies payment token capable of moving sums of money between humans and wild animals. This payment token, called Linnaeus and spearheaded by Jonathan Ledgard, will tackle the loss of biodiversity and species extinction in the equatorial belt, including Ethiopia. A trial of this project will run in protected areas of southern and western Ethiopia later this year.

The agreement also included a training program for Ethiopian university graduates in Haskell programming language. The minister also called to all female graduates from computer sciences and information technology departments to join the training. Cardano has had similar trainings in Barbados and Greece.

John O’Connor, Director of African Operations at IOHK, expressed his eagerness to harness Ethiopia’s greatest attributes and discover solutions using technology of lower cost, more efficiency and functionality, leapfrogging the traditional usage of technology. He said he was excited to meet enthusiastic and forward thinking public officials at MoST and hopes to establish Ethiopia as the tech leader in the continent.

Cardano hopes to set a base in Ethiopia for African operations. O’Connor says the first courses will begin this year and Ethiopian developers will start to contribute to Cardano code by the end of 2018.