Today, the commercial trading value of the birr has weakened. Some would say that this is inevitable and due to international markets. However, the reasons are far more complex but share the same economic roots.
Social governance is an ambition that Ethiopia strives to achieve. There’s no doubt that there’s been a growth boom in Ethiopia, which has propped up social governance for the better however I am concerned that the government may have made a dreadful mistake. Perhaps a common mistake but since I am familiar with this field, which is relatively new: Blockchain technology. If nationwide implementation is continued then it poses a security risk. Without due diligence this technology can turn into a back channel of Ethiopia’s social governance stratagem.
I am sure that many readers are familiar with cryptocurrency and what it can provide to society. Some of the most important discussions today are the trials of CBDC’s (Central bank digital Currencies) which a lot of countries are making progress in. Another enticing feature is the alternative currency aspect against traditional fiat such as the USD. Bitcoin, for example, is seen as a security/asset which derived from its protocol and understandably its crypto dominance. The potential benefit is rarely denied but Bitcoin is not concerning investment made by the Ethiopian government. What I am writing about today, which is hardly spoken about now, is the partnership between Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education and blockchain research company, Input Output Global (IOG) formally known as IOHK.
On the 27th of April 2021 the partnership was established[i]. Since then, there hasn’t been much announced by the company or the Ethiopian government. It was expressed that the implementation of this project would be released before the end of 2022, within the realm of education as a robust ‘tamper-proof’ blockchain identification tool for humanity. It has also been stated in an interview on the subject by then minister of education that “It’s very practical to think of the blockchain technology [as a way] to improve the quality of education.”[ii] Question is, how could it achieve the ambitions he has (had since he is no longer the minister of education)? If it does, why does it have to be outsourced?
So, now in 2023 what has happened with this partnership? Are we to wait another two years for ‘Digital Ethiopia agenda 2025’ to complete? After which, how many more Ethiopian citizens’ data will become ‘bankable’? Where will this data be held, solely? Will it be part-representative of a stock in the new Ethiopian stock market? These are certainly curious waters in which the country is traveling.
It is also worthy to note that if this investment/partnership is seen positively then a great deal of African countries may look favorably towards it. Unfortunately, this blockchain can not offer anything other than surveillance. If this is something that Ethiopia wants to proceed with, the Ethiopians must acknowledge the transaction and the threats it may pose to individual sovereign capital. The sooner Ethiopians realise how potentially detrimental this model of digital progression is the better. There is no consensus showing support for this partnership in Ethiopia and if there is then it should be noted who they are. Right now, the only people who have spoken favourably of this partnership are related immediately.
So, what’s the problem if it’s not clear already?
1. Proprietary ownership of data and it’s interpretations.[iii]
2. Financial supplementation to a network that is currently overvalued as it barely supports its activities.
3. Back entry passes to Ethiopia’s educational institutions.
4. Potential to undermine Ethiopian telecommunications grid.
5. If included into a legal bond, it may be difficult to walk away from and/or could receive government subsidy. Which would then mean they need not make contributions in tax to the Ethiopian state.
The question we should be asking ourselves, after the question of what can be done to stop the violence within Ethiopia; is how we can promote private sector investment and still maintain fair regulatory standards, which promote Ethiopia’s diversity? Regarding the perennial poverty dilemma, most of Africa has not been introduced to the ‘common concept of wealth’. This can be frustrating to some but if you hold any conservative values then you would understand that there are ecosystems already in place that have stood the test of time and should be respected. If Africans are to decide their future it should be Africans to make it themselves. The more compliant African nations become with foreign interests, even though it is important to honour certain global obligations, the more the loss of identity occurs.
Now, there may be obvious concerns in the audits that are presented on the ministry of education website, if looked at carefully, but it should be noted that a bigger problem may arise if this kind of work gets outsourced. Ambitions written in manifesto’s, such as AU’s Agenda 2063[iv] will not be achieved. We may have started the walk into a new era of neo-colonialism but as an optimist I believe it’s never too late to set things straight. I don’t write this to scare people but only to encourage skepticism. I believe most people would agree that key decisions made outside of the purview of nation-states however insignificant it may seem will only grow out of proportion as a domino-effect.
In conclusion, if there is a willingness to stop this partnership from growing further from its initial social experiment and targeting other African countries, then the lobby must begin NOW. We must take two steps back, to take one step forward. Otherwise, if we are to continue with this partnership then at the very least lobbying for steadfast data privacy agreements needs to start NOW. This should not be able to continue without government intervention.
Notes : https://twitter.com/IOHKMedia/status/1387051830442553351?s=20  Ethiopian Education Minister Confirms Cardano Blockchain Partnership – CoinDesk  Atala PRISM
 Our Aspirations for the Africa We Want | African Union (au.int)
(Cardano project announcements)
(Statistical reports of education in Ethiopia)
(Supported by the Bill and Melinda gates foundation as well as the Tony Blair institute)
(A research hub which will most likely be the hub in which all cumulative data will be stored)
#Ethiopia #Cardano #concerns