How can blockchain improve the planet? 

How can blockchain improve the planet? 

With discussions of blockchain technology and decentralised finance largely focused on opportunities for investors and art collectors, I spoke to three crypto experts who are highlighting its transformative potential in other sectors.

Levelling up emerging economies

Nigerian entrepreneur Tayo Oviosu has ambitions to build the Paypal of Africa. For him, decentralised finance is a way of providing universal access to financial services that will transform the lives of consumers. His mobile payments company, Paga, enables users to deposit cash, send and receive payments, and also pay utility bills, goods and services with just a phone. “61 percent of the Nigerian population is unbanked,” he explains. This kind of technology gives people a way of putting their money in a secure place, which they can then use to potentially lift themselves out of poverty.” For young entrepreneurs especially, this is a game changer. Mobile payments enable them to accrue credit and secure loans, while helping to reduce the risk of theft.

Tayo also highlights the power of the diaspora. Nigeria received around $64bn in remittances between 2018 and 2020, and Tayo uses Paga to connect Nigerian bank account holders to remittance senders from around the world. Remittance flows are vital financial lifelines for millions of people struggling to access basic necessities, providing capital investment and funding access to healthcare and education. Yet conventional means of money transfer are often prohibitively expensive, with many turning to high-risk informal channels. In contrast, peer-to-peer crypto networks enable cross border transactions that are seamless, secure and inexpensive.

Fighting criminal counterfeits

For Hans Schwab, CEO of consulting platform OrginAll, counterfeiting is an economic cancer” – a US$ 4 trillion problem that has a devastating social and economic impact.” Counterfeit goods directly finance criminal and terrorist activities and are a key export from rogue states such as North Korea. Beyond this, they pose a frightening risk to global public health. The WHO estimates that currently one in ten medical products in low-and-middle-income countries are substandard or falsified. In Western Africa, 70 percent of all pharmaceutical products are counterfeit and more than 120,000 people a year die in Africa from fake malaria medicine alone.

So, how do we begin to fight back? The answer, Hans tells me, is blockchain technology. By utilizing distributed ledger technology and tokenization, goods can receive a unique identifier that proves their origin, traces ownership and provides authentication. The information in this ledger can be accessed from anywhere in the world, and by anyone; safeguarding individuals and empowering law enforcement. On a day-to-day basis, blockchain technology could also revolutionize healthcare, in particular the patient experience.

Improving global health systems

Wall Street legend and CEO of Galaxy Digital, Mike Novogratz, is adamant that the utility of NFTs (Non Fungible Tokens) will extend far beyond CryptoPunks and Bored Apes. With 100 percent certainty, I promise each and every one of you that in 10 years, your health records will be NFTs,” he stated during a recent panel I hosted on digital infrastructure. The idea is that you will be able to use your phone as a digital wallet and have instant access to years of health records that can be shared easily with a healthcare provider. 2022 will be the year that these technologies will be implemented into our everyday lives on a massive scale. As Mike noted, the world finally noticed there is a use case [for blockchain], and there are lots of them. NFTs was really the wake-up call.”