Charles Hoskinson, the Ethereum co-founder, current CEO of IOHK, and creator of the decentralized blockchain startup Cardano, signed a memorandum of understanding in May with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Science and Technology to explore possibilities for agricultural technology on blockchain. The agreement states that Cardano will study ways to use blockchain’s immutable ledger for agri-tech purposes, most relating to Ethiopia’s world-renowned coffee industry – tracking coffee throughout the supply chain, for example, or registering land to deter fraudulent activity. Cardano is a fully open source, public blockchain and cryptocurrency project that seeks to develop advanced smart contract features via a “scientific philosophy and a research-first driven approach” – it claims to be the first project of its kind. Cardano aims to balance the needs of both users and regulators, ultimately providing fair, open access to financial services for all.
The arrangement may bear fruit in concrete use cases, but its most immediate benefits will come in the form of education. Hoskinson will be teaching an inaugural class of 30 female developers how to use Cardano’s technology, sharing his own ideas along the way. IOHK has promised to hire top engineers from the initial course, as well as to build blockchain-based apps to aid the 80 million Ethiopians working in agriculture.
Ethiopia is the first of what IOHK and the Cardano Foundation hope will be a series of initiatives in developing countries in Africa and abroad. These countries offer myriad use cases for blockchain technology – for example, landowners in countries like Kenya, Ghana, and Rwanda can be easily removed from their land, victims of inadequate record keeping. Blockchain’s public ledger would leave no doubt as to ownership, and its adaptation for this purpose has already paid dividends as government officials begin to understand how it helps them bridge the development gap.
Hoskinson hopes that this is just the latest chapter in his quest to use cryptocurrency to change lives. During a lecture in London in early 2018, he explained that an initial impetus for entering the cryptocurrency space was to “explore what capabilities are required…to give this tool to people across the world so they can solve their own problems.”
Success in Ethiopia would mean tangible lessons to apply abroad while making a significant impact in a country with immense untapped potential. New use cases for blockchain are constantly being introduced – ag-tech and Ethiopia’s coffee industry stand to be the latest beneficiaries.