Post NEARCON: The Future is NEAR in Africa.

Kevin Imani
February 21, 2019

The Sankore 2.0 Guild, established in June 2021, has grown exponentially on the back of the Kenyan population’s hunger for DeFi and familiarity with mobile finance, which I wrote about last month in a Medium post. At NEAR|CON Lisbon we provided even more contextual and historical background to Sankore’s origin and our values. Sankore is the name the oldest educational institution in the continent of Africa, which was founded in Mali almost seven centuries ago* and is famous for its consistent and prestigious technological and scientific innovation. We aim to echo these values in Sankore 2.0 with Web3 and the Open Web Culture in Africa with the NEAR protocol.

Before we dive into what the future holds for NEAR in Africa, here is a quick recap of the incredible speakers I had a chance to host at the conference to discuss their innovative projects built on NEAR.

  • Matt Lockyer, Co-Founder and CTO at Satori. Satori is taking NFTs, where utility and experience are greater than scarcity, to mainstream audiences.
  • Leo Yvens Schwarzstein, core developer at Edge & Node working on The Graph, which enables developers to build applications on NEAR more efficiently through subgraphs (open APIs).
  • Oscar Spenser, core team lead for The Grain programming language. Oscar and his team have been working to bring a new programming language to NEAR, allowing even more developers onto the platform
  • Lastly, Nadim Kobeissi of Capluse Social is bringing Decentralized Discourse to Web3. Capsule Social enjoys the backing as seed investors of two renowned angel investors, Balaji Srinivasan and Naval Ravikant.

How Do We Make Blockchain Technology Relevant to Africa?

I sought to answer this question in my presentation to NEAR|CON Lisbon 2021. My answer involves both end-users from the continent and also African contributors, both existing and potential, to blockchain technology. My team and I believe that there are three undertakings, which we call pillars, necessary to build a large developer community and user base in Africa. These pillars are not per se exclusive to Africa, but in our opinion, these are the three most relevant programs in the African context. The first pillar is Sankore Education.

Through Sankore Education we aim to:

  1. Build a community of web developers to boost the local capacity to create NEAR Blockchain Protocol-based solutions
  2. Develop curricula targeted to suit African needs in education around blockchain, crypto, DeFi, NFT, and other related topics.

The second pillar is Sankore Climate.

In Sankore Climate we partner with the Open Forest Protocol for East Africa, a blockchain solution that empowers afforestation, reforestation and conservation projects, equipping forest managers to efficiently measure, report, and verify (MRV) environmental data from their projects and boosting the environmental and communal impact of their initiatives. Our tools allow anyone from around the world to start or manage a forestation project, credibly report its progress, seek funding from global funders or investors, and access carbon financing.

The final pillar is Sankore Solution.

In Sankore Solution, we’re focused on integrating the NEAR blockchain with technologies and solutions poised to develop in the coming decade. We have already had some very positive discussions with businesses and industry groups in East Africa, with a view to customising solutions that make contracting, verification, and payments both more flexible and less expensive.

My team and I are convinced that intentionally pursuing education, participating in climate-saving measures, and driving open-source community-based solutions will position blockchain technology as not only relevant to Africa in the future but relevant right now. Of course, we are designing a playbook to see how these fit together with an initial focus on East Africa, in order to successfully drive a hotspot of blockchain activities. This is our goal and the vision of implementing NEAR city nodes in Africa by integrating the NEAR blockchain into projects and solutions across the continent.

The Sleeping Giant

NEAR recently announced the biggest Layer-1 Ecosystem Developer Fund ever, an $800 million development initiative, of which $100 million was allocated to Regional Funds. This includes a $350 million DeFi Grant DAO, which aims to have 1 billion people using NEAR-based applications or components within the next five years. In light of these announcements, initiatives and its exponential ecosystem growth, NEAR is a sleeping giant waiting to expand. Africa, in particular, is ripe to grow its user base. Most Africans use mobile banking without ever visiting a branch or using a website login — they are familiar with digital currency and mobile wallets. NEAR blockchain solutions can offer more security and lower fees than existing mobile wallets and therefore have a truly enormous potential to disrupt and improve Africa’s banking sector.

What does this mean for Africa in one hashtag?

Sankore’s course remains the same: we must drive the adoption of NEAR in Africa. Through the countless conversations with developers, investors, community moderators, and graphic designers we have had at NEAR|Con in Lisbon this week, there wasn’t one person who was not excited to see the potential of NEAR in Africa.

We will soon begin the mass adoption work in Kenya. We plan to visit five cities and reach out to students, businesses and blockchain enthusiasts alike. Live in Kenya? Join in!

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