The South African Presidential Commision on the Fourth Industrial Revolution believes that blockchain technology and Artificial Intelligence could help reduce unemployment in the country.
Commissioner Mpho Dagada told the Blockchain Africa Conference in Johannesburg this week that blockchain could bring important economic benefits.
“We face two significant challenges in the country: reducing unemployment and increasing our Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” he said. “[The] Fourth Industrial Revolution policy creation can create economic growth in the country.”
Dagada said that South Africa’s mining sector in particular could benefit from forward thinking solutions utilizing blockchain technology, in partnership with AI:
“The South African economy has natural resources, a mature financial services sector and is an economic and political powerhouse. If the strength of Africa is in minerals, the world is looking at better ways of tracking data in that space.”
Blockchain to provide insights, solve corruption
Speaking to Cointelegraph after the presentation, Dagada expanded on the idea that blockchain could help provide more transparent, data-focused insights in the mining sector:
“When we look at where the world is going, it’s important to leverage our strengths and align with that. If the world is moving towards more blockchain systems that are transparent and people want that, we know there is strength in Africa’s minerals and why not plug that in on top of the sector? We might find that we’ll solve the problems we have, like corruption or bringing access to markets. These problems could be solved by us bringing in these solutions and allowing them to plug and play.”
However Dagada added that one major hurdle is holding onto local talent in the Fintech sector, as they tend to leave the country for greener pastures. He made mention of figures like Civic founder Vinny Lingham, who left South Africa before making waves in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space.
Dagoda said the South African government has a positive attitude towards the use of cryptocurrencies, as long as users abide by rules and regulations.
“The outlook from the country is that cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology are a good thing and are more than welcome. What is frowned upon is people misusing them, for example someone evading tax, leaving the country and taking all their Bitcoin with them. But the use, creation and interaction within the confines of the law is more than welcomed by the government.”
Blockchain can drive ICT development
Backing up the positive sentiments of the South African Presidency, the Office of Digital Advantage is actively looking to support blockchain projects in the country.
The office falls under the jurisdiction of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which is driving the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector in the country. A prime example is the Square Kilometre Array, the world’s largest radio telescope project between South Africa and Australia.
Akhona Damane, who heads up the Office of Digital Advantage, said that South Africa spent 10 percent of its GDP on ICT goods and services, most of which are imported.
“We need to increase investment in the ICT space and we need a framework to guide the development of technology in the country. A particular challenge in the ICT space is getting new patents registered in the country.”
In terms of blockchain technology, the CSIR has introduced a mandate to look into new areas and run programmes that will attract investment from the private sector and government. Damane said the local blockchain sector needs the help of investors and policy makers:
“We realised we can go into the blockchain space and drive development that goes a lot further than cryptocurrencies. While there are limited tech skills in the country, the local blockchain ecosystem is growing, driven by startups. The space now wants government involvement.”
Damane also revealed that the South African National Blockchain Alliance will be launched in April 2020 to develop opportunities in the blockchain industry and to enable collaboration with other sectors.
Potential projects using blockchain could include digital identity, eVoting, food tracing and safety, health care and eTenders. Damane added that the government intends to introduce tax breaks for companies investing in Research and Development.