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America Is Not A Leader Anymore. Kenya Is Ahead

Denis Goncharenko

Bitnewstoday.com keeps on discovering Africa, and especially women in blockchain over there. We have already covered the story of Yaliwe SOKO, who has recently become the Chairwoman in Blockchain Association of Africa. This time it’s Dean KIRKLAND, also known as ‘Crypto the Wonderdog’, who made an interesting interview with Nakia J. WHITE. This wonderful woman was living and working in New Jersey, but eventually moved to Kenya for more amazing opportunities. She unveils exciting facts from her making business with blockchain and educating the youngsters in Africa. Here are the excerpts from the story, the full interview can be found here.

Dean: When you think of technology, the first thing that does pop into your mind usually isn’t Kenya. Am I just so behind the times or so old-fashioned that I don’t think that there’s much technology over there?

Nakia: I was just reading a senior report about the perception gap — about what reality is like and the perception about Africa, and there’s such a disparity between the two. Kenya has jumped leaps and bounds over the world in fact, in terms of mobile banking. So, while the rest of the world is lagging behind, in Kenya they picked up the baton in terms of technology and number of startups.

Dean: So you’ve been there for a while, right? And where did you come from?

Nakia: I’ve been in Kenya since January 2014. I used to work in New Jersey for a couple of years. There are a lot of Americans that are kind of jumping over the Atlantic Ocean to come to Africa, because it’s such a great opportunity. One of the misnomers is that Americans or Europeans come here and they can have little or no experience and they’re able to do something. Kenyans are not taking it, they’re smart and hardworking. You come to the continent, you need to have some type of skill set and hustle in hard work. I was an elected official in New Jersey. Then decided that I would go to grad school and what was next for me is living abroad and finding opportunities that would suit where I wanted to go with my career. I did some time at grad school in China, and friends from China then moved to Africa, Kenya, to work, they invited me over and I’ve been here ever since.

Dean: What you’re currently working on over there? What are you doing in Kenya?

Nakia: There are three things that I’m working on. The first one is about ‘House Africa’. There are about 1.3 bln people on the continent. And there is a deficit of 200 million housing, the continent is planning to grow in the next 15 years — we’re talking about half of the population will be of working age by 2030, and with ‘House Africa’ we’re looking to solve the problems. One of them is this perception gap. People don’t know the truth about Africa, it is a really kind of scary continent for many. The interesting thing is that The Economist described Africa as the hopeless continent in 2000. Now, in 2011, they reported it as the continent on the rise in productivity after colonization for many of the countries has grown by 2.7% while the rest of the world is going into recession. All throughout Africa continues to grow. Now, let’s not minimize that there is political and economic instability in some countries: in Namibia, in parts of the continent, but most of the continent is growing in leaps and bounds.

Dean: Are they bringing developers from other countries?

Nakia: All of our developers, for our blockchain, for our platform, for our MVP, they’re all African. And that’s really hard to find because of the lack of education around technology and the slow adaptation to education. The other set of developers are in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa that we’re partnering with to help build housing. We’re also talking about international players interested in a continent, like China, Brazil, Turkey. We hope to give access not only to people on the continent, but to people around the world.

The second project we’re working with is the university, it’s called RAF University, in the process of changing their name to International University of Kenya, they’re working on building blockchain school. We hope to have that up and running by January of 2019. The problem is that we have so many ICO’s that come to the continent, particularly Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana, and what they always say that they can’t find talent. So they have to go to places like Malaysia and Taiwan to find developers. We want to change that. One – I don’t believe that, because I know a bunch of talented developers in Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. We want to increase those numbers, and we know that blockchain will be changing the landscape around technology over the next 10 or 15 years. Partnering with the school is making sure that Africans have access to the educational technology that I think will help to change their own communities and the continent.

The third project, it’s called Bitpaya, we’re looking to launch that in Kenya next year, probably the mid of next year. So those are the three projects right now, and I’m really excited about it.

Dean: So, are they teaching how to work in the blockchain?

Nakia: There are a couple of hubs that are doing that, and Kenya is really unique. One of the things about Kenya is that they are one of the first countries that’s working on a regulation sandbox. They have blockchain and AI task force, and so they’re working on the blockchain and making sure that cryptocurrency space is protected. Uganda just accepted Binance as one of their cryptocurrency partners, they had a huge blockchain summit a couple of months ago. The president spoke, he was talking about the full adoption of blockchain. It was incredible. So now Binance is there.

Dean: Wow. To have the president of the country talk about blockchain.

Nakia: What I really liked about it is that it wasn’t an artificial conversation about blockchain and the adoption of blockchain and technology because someone was paying him. He was actually able to put blockchain in context and say, “Here’s what we gonna be using it for”. For a land registry, for our banking — here’s what it looks like, an application. So that was really unique. A really good experience to hear — a president of Uganda talks about this in a way that just makes so much sense, I’ve never heard any official of that level speak about.

Dean: The technology is giving people that would never have a chance to be financially secure. Now it sounds like this country is really adapting to it and embracing it, there is going to be more people in Africa that will have a real future.

Nakia: Going back to the institute they were working on, it is not only training developers, but also training people that are able to sell blockchain or manage projects. You’ll have one stream of people and then you’ll be overflooded, but you need a whole kind of the ecosystem of people that understand blockchain. There is opportunity for young Africans to gain access to housing and to partner with other investors around the world and maybe buying housing, or lands, or apartment buildings for themselves. I think the blockchain is really a gateway for a lot of people to live comfortably.

Dean: There is a lack of talent. Give the education to the kids out there, they will become part of this gigantic task force that is going to change the world landscape.

Nakia: We’re going to need some of those developers, so we better train them now. I think Africa in general is becoming more sophisticated and when countries move away from colonialism, they will become stronger economically. I think we’ll see a difference in the next twenty years.

Dean: What else do you have fingers in at this moment?

Nakia: This is taking like 70 percent of my time, the House Africa. In terms of the blockchain institute for the university, we’re looking to have that up and going in Nairobi and have our first cohort go through the entire program including the incubator and the workspace. It should take anywhere between 12 to 18 months, we’re still working out the curriculum piece. Bitpaya - it’s already up and working in Nigeria, but we hope to have that working in places like Kenya, South Africa and perhaps Zimbabwe in the next six months. That’s where we are. I just wish that people would look at Africa for the growth. I think the World Bank reported that Africa will be the richest continent by 2050, and then Ernst & Young reported that Africa will have 40% of the world’s population. So, you gotta hedge your bets. Make some smart moves and make them soon enough. Africa is not a scary place, it’s quite amazing, from the savannas to its hubs of technology. It is dynamic, full of energy and spirit.

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