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African Women In Blockchain Level Up: Popularity of DLT Grows by 600%

20 September 2018 17:40, UTC
Denis Goncharenko

What are the perspective of a young girl in Zambia? Not much by now. But I know one, who moved to South Africa, following her dreams to change the world and to create a greater future. Well, this idea might sound as a cliche, but it is full of truth. The truthful ideas lead to success eventually.

I’ve met Yaliwe Soko for the first time at World Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Summit in Moscow, where she presented her ideas of blockchain development, the ideas of decentralization in Africa — which, indeed, lead the world to greater future. So, the dream comes true? Yes, if you have one and believe in it. I’ve been inspired by the passion of Yaliwe to educate, to promote, to turn the tides, to struggle for African economical and technical development. She also presented herself as the founder of the ‘Johannesburg Women in Blockchain’ project and a great blockchain enthusiast.

Some time after, Bitnewstoday.com paid closer attention to the FinTech situation in Africa, following the report of Policy Department of the European Parliament. This story included several comments by Yaliwe, which also shed some lights on the current problems and other issues of FinTech development on the continent. Her ideas of overcoming the barriers were full of optimism, belief and eagerness. Overcoming barriers was something Yaliwe was an expert in: she didn’t graduate from the university, because she couldn't afford to study in one. Instead, she found her own way through getting acquainted with new technologies and the opportunities they offered. “Firstly, it was the transactional power of bitcoin. It was amazing to know that I could get paid with the hassle of the bank. As I studied it more I was inspired by the change it could bring to Africa and it's inclusive nature, — Ms Soko told us about her experience with blockchain technology, which appeared to become the essential part in her success story.

Recently, Yaliwe Soko got the new position: the Chairwoman of Blockchain Association of Africa, and while sending her my congratulations, I came to a conclusion about the great shift which takes place in Africa at this very moment. The emancipation and equal rights is no longer a marker of the developed countries only. Right now, step by step, it’s becoming a common thing worldwide, no matter what the country is. Now this is a kind of globalization I like, and things only get started from here. But what does blockchain have to do with all this? Let us take a closer look, and realize how ‘Johannesburg Women In Blockchain’ idea can change lives in Africa. Literally.

A Casual Meet-up With An Enormous Potential

As the story went on, Ms Soko became one of the very few African women under 30 to be fully involved in the blockchain and cryptocurrencies. She took up interest in blockchain technology since 2016 and has been able to create a number of YouTube tutorials, a blockchain and cryptocurrency learner guides for the beginners. The idea of ‘Women in the blockchain’ was of nothing special at that time: “Just a casual meet-up. In a cafe. It was about sharing the knowledge, learning, discussing technical aspects, mining, etc. It was some kind of a social setup, eventually turned into an educational platform,” —  Yaliwe describes her experience with passion again. “But this was just a start. We realized that this might be the place where women can get involved into the industry space. Or even come up with the ideas that are beyond blockchain.”

Do you feel that too? The power of strong initiative? Well, yes, because there’s a huge potential for this project to make more steps forward to see the real results. I’m a man myself, and this was a man’s world up to now, especially in Africa. But FinTech is a phenomenon which twists the reality, creating quantum leaps of progress. Nowadays, we see a dedicated woman as a leader of Blockchain Association. This is a signal for other women in Africa, that they can be heard and considered as a power. That’s the magic which blockchain can do: if a girl understands and promotes one of the most complicated and progressive technologies in the world, then what about the other industries? Try and find out.

Take Women in Africa Seriously — They Are The Power Indeed

“Africa is coming to the table and women rights and empowerment has taken centre stage. I think the problem is still with the women themselves, unfortunately,” — Yaliwe’s words are sad but true. “We still have a slave mentality and any woman who claims to be a feminist is shunned upon by society. You are told not to be too ambitious because you won’t get married. Women are told to be ambitious but with caution, we have to do everything in moderation, giving men the power to undermine us.”

With this being said, a lot of women are taking up leadership roles in Africa and they deserve a round of applause for that and encouragement to bring more women to the party. Women are nurturers and there is so much they can do with what is placed in their hands. Kofi Annan once said: “when you empower a woman you empower a nation”. Being inspired, African women can do a lot to develop the continent.

And it’s not just a slogan thrown out there, it’s reality which happens here and now. As I’m writing these words, my colleague-in-media Dean KIRKLAND, also known as ‘Crypto the Wonderdog’, uploads a great interview with Nakia J. WHITE, a dedicated woman who moved from New Jersey to Kenya almost five years ago to bring up the real estate in Africa to new levels. The opportunities are humongous. Nakia presents the stats with eagerness: there are almost 1,5 bln people living on the continent, with the lack of 200 mln houses. And she’s keen on blockchain to help in the development of real estate industry in Africa. Well, this story definitely has the point to be told separately — by now, you can learn more from ‘Crypto the Wonderdog’ outlets.

New Techs As An Opportunity For Ideas, Passion and Development

Still feeling skeptical? Well, how about statistics instead of thousand words? The following picture represents information of several months ago

The popularity of Bitcoin in SAR is hard to overestimate, as cryptocurrency is seeing increasing popularity where it is viewed as a haven from political and economic turmoil. According to Mati GREENSPAN, an analyst at online trading platform eToro,“In South Africa, the number of new users trading bitcoin through eToro rose by 671% from January to the end of November last year over the same period in 2016, more than the 574% overall growth.” At this point you can realize that the idea behind the dedication of a girl living in South Africa is not a coincidence or a stand-alone story.

Despite the great ideas and minds, FinTech in Africa is still in the cradle: the picture is taken from UN Economic Commission for Africa draft report as of November 2017, and it represents the spread of FinTech companies across the continent by that time.

Not much of a result, one can say — but this field is a great opportunity to discover, and it is already being conducted over past years. Consider the fact: “the registration of 17 million users in Kenya for Safaricom and Vodacom's M-Pesa scheme, which operates as an encrypted monetary exchange platform within a mobile phone, shows the eagerness of the civilians to switch to more secure banking practices,” — writes International Business Times.

Another statistics, brought up earlier by McKinsey, confirm the outstanding performance of mobile money already in 2016. As 2018 is almost in its final phase, imagine the growth for these two years to be calculated yet.   

But what about the role of women in these fundamental shifts? The feature of blockchain is inclusivity, there is room for everyone in this space, and that is what women need to know. As Yaliwe Soko says, many women in Africa are interested but they don’t know how to get in, simply because they don’t understand what it is all about. That’s why the meetups like ‘Johannesburg Women in Blockchain’ are so important. Eventually, the project shifts to ‘African Women in Blockchain’ because the Blockchain Association of Africa is planning on adopting the JWB and make it more mainstream and scalable.

“The gap between the rich and poor is too wide and I saw blockchain bridging that. Africa is plagued with lots of corruption. I see a more transparent Africa. I look back at how blockchain included me — I had to work extra hard to be in a boardroom, and the only time I was there to take notes or bring tea. I had so much to offer but I was excluded because I didn't have that formal paper called a degree or diploma. Blockchain changed all this. That's why I have a saying ‘I couldn't afford what they offered to teach me, so I built my own curriculum and taught myself what I needed to learn’ — blockchain is what I needed,” — These powerful words by Ms Soko make me believe in miracles which are achieved by strong dedication and focus.

"Johannesburg Women In Blockchain’ is now in the process of doing more extensive awareness campaigns, information and training sessions exclusively for women. The project is still a social setup which is in the process of getting into more strategic partnerships to make this even a bigger success story. And believe that this will eventually be the one, as such passionate and strong personalities as Yaliwe Soko drive it over the limits.