• Michael Dynes

Electricity generation, democracy in Africa will be early beneficiaries of Blockchain: Aziza CEO

The Aziza Project has taken on the huge challenge of lighting up the ‘dark continent’ by bringing electricity to the 630 million Africans who have no access to the grid, Robert Pyke, CEO, told the London blockchain and cryptocurrency conference hosted by DMFX Financials in June.

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Robert Pyke: bringing power and light to the 630 million Africans that live without it

Bringing power and light into the homes of the 630 million Africans who live without it, along with the transformation of how elections are conducted across the continent, will be among some of the most far-reaching developments arising out of the application of blockchain technology in the African continent, Pyke predicted.

Harnessing the power of Blockchain

Speaking to a standing room-only audience, Pyke told the City of London conference that the Aziza Project had “set out to harness the power of the blockchain in its crowd-funding initiative aimed at raising $60 million at an initial coin offering (ICO) to finance a ten-well drilling programme on a 22,000 square kilometre concession in Namibia.”

The concession is owned by Africa New Energies (ANE) – a hydrocarbons exploration

company in which the Aziza Project has a 20% stake. ANE has also “developed an innovative

hydrocarbons exploration methodology able to triple the chances of finding onshore oil and gas compared with traditional exploration techniques – but at a tenth of the cost,” Pyke added.

ANE, which is the first start-up supported by the Aziza Project, has already raised £8 million ($11 million) since its incorporation in 2012, which has been used to carry out early development work on its Namibian concession, and on developing its unique exploration methodology which draws on multiple levels of data – from satellite remote sensing to geo-chemical sampling – in order to pin-point the most likely location of hydrocarbons on its vast Namibian concession, Pyke said.

ANE has also developed a solar strategy for Namibia in which the discovery of natural gas will allow it to generate electricity for the national grid, and provide a new revenue stream to help bring off-grid solar power to the 60% of Namibians who do not have access to electricity.

Once ANE has developed its proof of concept, it plans to take its gas-to-solar initiative to other sub-Saharan African countries that have suffered from energy poverty for decades.

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Aziza CEO: there will be challenges and hurdles but Africa has huge macro-economic potential

One coin to light up Africa

Unveiling the Aziza Coin, a cryptocurrency token being issued by the Aziza Project Foundation – the Aziza Project’s independent holding company – Pyke said that Aziza’s “one coin to light up Africa’ initiative would not only bring the benefits of development to Africa, but would also reward those investors prepared to invest in the ANE start-up, and the other fledgling African businesses that the Aziza Project Foundation is seeking to support.

Highlighting the importance of pre-conceived ideas, Pyke told the story of the Victorian shoe company representatives who were dispatched to Africa at the end of the nineteenth century to assess whether the continent held any potential as a market for their wares, all of whom came back saying: “Everybody is barefoot – we can’t sell shoes here. All that is save for the Bata rep. He came back saying: Everybody is barefoot – this is fantastic, we’re going to need more stock.”

“It’s all about perceptions,” Pyke added, and this holds true today as to how people regard Africa. There are certainly challenges and hurdles, but at the same time Africa provides a massive business opportunity. Africa contains huge macro-economic potential.”

He added: “People often compare Blockchain to the internet in terms of the potential transformational impact it can have. In the case of Africa, I think mobile phones provide an interesting history lesson. Go back 20 years, making a phone call in Africa was just about impossible – there was virtually no fixed-line infrastructure.”

“Then we had the mobile phone explosion, where Africa was able to leapfrog the need for fixed-line infrastructure,” adding: “There are now more than 400 million mobile subscribers, and with this has come some fantastic developments.”

“The best example of the impact of mobile phones in Africa is the advent of mobile money, the ability to hold cash on a phone, and transfer it as easily as typing a text. And this has enabled countries like Kenya and Tanzania to become world leaders in managing finances via mobile phones – and providing a means for the unbacked to manage their finances.”

Blockchain impacts from elections to land registers

Pyke forecast that the Blockchain would have transformative impacts in everything from how elections were conducted and monitored to creating a digital register of land rights, and from establishing the provenance of diamonds and other minerals to cross-border payments.

But it was the Blockchain’s ability to harness crowdfunding to help resolve Africa’s electricity challenges which had the greatest potential to transform the continent’s fortunes. “A challenge for any young business is fund raising,” Pyke said. “Traditional methods of raising money involve parasitic intermediaries – bankers, lawyers – intermediaries taking their percentage either on the way in or the way out.”

He added: “What Blockchain allows us to do is to tokenise an asset, and raise funds from the underlying value of that asset. This is what the Aziza Project is doing. Why is this important for Africa? The Aziza Project wants to tackle one of the biggest problems that is stunting the potential for economic growth – access to electricity.”

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