Since 2008 when Satoshi began the blockchain revolution, great leaps and strides have been made. Staying true to its principle of giving back power to its users, by creating a peer to peer payment system in which no financial intermediary was required; blockchain has proven itself to be one of the most disruptive forces in the financial industry.
9 Years after satoshis work, Vitalik asked both tough; yet, extremely vital questions: “How many unbanked people have we banked?”, “How much actual usage of micropayment channels is there actually in reality?”, “How much censorship-resistant commerce for the common people have we enabled?”
To which he answered: “Not enough”.
Although thousands of companies are focusing on creating a better world through financial inclusion, there are still over 1.4 billion people still without bank accounts, the majority of them women and again the majority within Africa. It is obvious as to why the companies and investments are flooding into the African blockchain sphere, but the brutal question that really needs to be asked is:
Can blockchain solve this, and why hasn’t it been done yet after all these years when the technology was present and millions of dollars were spent?
The answer however is simple: it’s not that blockchain can’t solve this; it’s because the blockchain can’t reach them. When 7 out of every 10 Africans don’t have access to the internet and more than half don’t own smartphones how would we expect them to interact with blockchain.
The obvious solution would be increasing internet penetration and making smartphones cheaper. The sheer cost and time required however renders this almost impossible and again kicks the can further down the road.
The silver lining is that from necessity comes invention: A little heard off African led startup has been building the solution in stealth for the past two years. Savannah Labs, has taken this problem to heart and has built the foundations for the next 1 Billion users on blockchain.
One of their pioneering solutions is named the “Dhow” a name true to the founders roots: “The Dhow, a traditional sailing boat that connected East Africa to the world, has found its new voyage in the digital ocean. In the same way that it brought connection to East Africa, Savannahs’ Dhow is a bridge that allows non-internet, GSM phone users the ability to interact with the blockchain.”
The solution in essence will allow blockchain to penetrate 77% of the population in Africa who have a GSM connection. With two thirds of the population unbanked, this may well be the next greatest invention in blockchain since ethereum’s virtual machine.
The next Billion users on blockchain may very well be from Africa.