Zimbabwe and the Real Promise of Blockchain: Why a 19-hour flight for a 4-day visit was totally worth it

  • Solidus Labs
  • 04.06.18
The Zimbabwean economy broke world records of hyperinflation twice in the past decade

Blockchain is more often than not a realm of techy buzzwords, explosive futurisms and grandiose visions. While that’s natural for a groundbreaking technology, at Solidus we always remind ourselves, our clients and partners to try and think BBB: Blockchain Beyond the Buzz. Well, I’m writing because last week I had the opportunity to visit Harare, Zimbabwe. Or Zim, as the locals call it. A short four-day visit was the perfect first hand reminder of the real promise blockchain brings to the world and I wanted to share some thoughts.

As many know — it made the news frequently in the past year — Zimbabwe is going through dramatic developments. I’m by no means an expert on Zim politics, but the gist is this: Elections are scheduled for July and for the first time in 37 years Robert Mugabe, the recently deposed president and strongman, will not be on the ballot. Winds of change are blowing vigorously, and they transcend politics into economics. From the moment I stepped off the airplane, I was struck by the business opportunities in every corner, and moreover — by the locals’ bursting entrepreneurial spirit to cease the moment, innovate and tackle challenges..

I’m proud to say that having arrived in Zimbabwe to join our partners from KuvaCash, I felt Solidus is taking part of this special moment. Kuva is working on an innovative digital currency system based on the Dash blockchain and cryptocurrency, and we at Solidus are using our FinTech engineering experience to help out with tech elements of the architecture.

With James Saruchera, KuvaCash Managing Director in Zimbabwe

Blockchain-based payment and commerce solutions like the one KuvaCash is working on,are a key in the change Zimbabwe is going through. Zim broke global recrods of hyperinflation twice in the past decade alone, and the locals are looking for new forms of currency that they can trust. Decentralized cryptocurrencies are ideal for building that trust. And with at least one out of every four zimbabweans having very limited access to the financial services like banks (according to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe), digital and mobile-based payment systems are a natural prospective solution.

A Harare Market. Everything is there — the people, the goods, the foods, the desire to purchase and the funds — except for the ways to pay

It’s easy to get lost in economic analyses and complex reports when thinking about such vast macroeconomic challenges. But really to grasp their actual meaning all you need is one visit to a Harare market. It’s remarkable: The elements of commerce are there — foods, goods, you name it. The buyers and sellers are there, eager. What’s missing is the ability to make transactions. Cash is hard to get by in Zim currently, and existing mobile solutions are far from easy to use. The frustration is evident everywhere, but as I said — so is the passion to adapt and adopt new solutions. Everything is there for a vibrant local economy — all that’s needed is the right mean to pay. That’s one place where blockchain, with its ability to store and move around value without dependency on a third party, can take stage.

Clearly, as a self-described blockchain enthusiast, I am biased. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to meet with local entrepreneurs from the payment solutions industry, who affirmed my enthusiasm. They were weary of the term blockchain — as one should be in regards to any overused, heavily technical buzzword. A few minutes and a concrete explanation of what blockchain can do for their business later, however, their eyes opened with excitement, and had more and more questions. The rewards of a decentralized, secure, transparent and fast system became very clear to them, and as it did, the role blockchain can play, beyond the buzz, became more real to me.

Naturally — like many of our clients and particularly those managing money and payments, compliance quickly emerged as an acute concern. I left most meetings inspired by my counterparts, and even more confident of Solidus’ mission to streamline compliance for blockchain-based service providers and innovators.

Zimbabwe and its people — I had the pleasure of learning firsthand — are ready to push forward with change and innovation. They are thirsty for new approaches that can tackle local challenges. The blockchain revolution offers a fresh crop of possible solutions and products that can help local entrepreneurs take advantage of the country’s unrealized potential. We at Solidus Labs are incredibly proud to be a part of this effort. Long story short — my 19-hour flight each way for a short four-day visit was totally worth it.

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