For well over a decade now, blockchain technology and cryptocurrency have been on the rise all over the world. Together, these innovations have brought about a new age of digital transfers of information and wealth. As blockchain tech and cryptocurrency have taken hold, many countries around Africa have been relatively slow to participate. In just the past few years, however, adoption has escalated significantly; last year, it was reported that blockchain funding had increased by some 429% around the country. This occurred with blockchain-related ventures raising USD $474 million throughout the year, and though this still represented a minor share of blockchain-related funding around the world, it represented a significant step forward for Africa.
With this explosion of funding for blockchain innovation, it has become reasonable to wonder whether Africa’s aviation sector will become directly involved. To this point, there has been relatively little overlap between this particular industry and these technologies. Instead, the technologies have primarily been associated with key growth areas: crypto use and startup creation.
The first thing most people think of when considering blockchain and crypto innovations is cryptocurrency as a store of wealth. Essentially the first major blockchain application, cryptocurrency functions as decentralized, entirely digital money that can be stored and transferred through lines of code on apps and online. That said, opportunities to use this alternative money in day-to-day life have been slow to emerge in Africa and, indeed, much of the world. As of now, consumers typically only use cryptocurrency in peer-to-peer transfers, in social media transactions, to fund payment cards, and in assorted direct purchases.
Perhaps more notable than direct crypto use at this stage is investment in digital currencies. Digital brokerage apps now give consumers the opportunity to trade crypto in a variety of ways. Some will choose to buy and sell cryptocurrencies the same way they might exchange commodities or stock shares; others will partake in a diverse market of crypto derivatives, trading on cryptos’ values without having to own or store assets. In either case, however, there is potential for profit. This, indeed, is one of the most significant results to have stemmed from the expansion of blockchain technology in Africa.
Cryptocurrency itself remains arguably the single most impactful blockchain-related innovation, not only in Africa but around the world. In addition to introducing digital assets that people can spend, exchange, and trade in, however, blockchain tech has provided fertile ground for a range of fascinating functions. These functions, in turn, have proven to be the foundation for a whole new ecosystem of blockchain-related startups.
These startups cover a vast range of purposes and capabilities. A quick look at how some of the fastest-growing startups in Africa use blockchain, however, provides a sense of the technology’s utility –– and ultimately why the aviation industry may ultimately prove to be a logical partner as well.
H2O Securities –– This South African startup offers a solution that “combines finance, infrastructure and expertise” in order to ensure that every citizen can access clean and reliable water outlets. Blockchain tech is meant to “automate and increase the efficiency” of water plant deployment and operation with the ultimate potential to bring about a more abundant and sustainable supply.
Jambo –– Based in Congo, Jambo is a different sort of blockchain innovation that is designed, in part, to foster further blockchain innovation. On its surface, however, Jambo functions as a multi-purpose app through which users can learn, play games, and earn digital currency for their achievements.
Scorefam –– Scorefam was designed in Nigeria by blockchain developers with a love and appreciation for sport. It is a “sports gaming platform” at heart, meant to “create a community of users who are well-versed in blockchain technology.” It also allows those users to “stake a preset football game” and earn specific amounts of digital currency based on outcomes.
Why Not Aviation?
Of the innovations discussed, none have any overlap with the aviation industry. Rather, the most prominent blockchain-related developments on the continent concern crypto usage and investment and the introduction of a diverse range of new startups. What those startups, in particular, demonstrate, however, is that blockchain tech can be used for just about any purpose. Accordingly, one can reasonably ask: If leading blockchain businesses are addressing everything from water supplies to education and gaming to staked sports competition, what’s to stop aviation from getting in on the action?
So far, the closest thing we have to an example of the aviation industry overlapping with blockchain innovation is Zimbabwe’s Kuva Air launching as the world’s first blockchain-powered airline. This overlap, however, mostly concerns a company that has already profited from its digital wallet and crypto exchange platform launching an airline. It’s certainly an interesting step, though it doesn’t address how actual blockchain tech can factor into the aviation business. The following innovations would represent more meaningful overlap and potentially bring about a future in which blockchain tech impacts aviation:
Manufacturing Tracking –– Blockchain technology has become essential in manufacturing. It can be used to maintain warehouse efficiency, track parts, and even monitor in-use components for repair needs. Altogether, these functions stand to improve processes of building and maintaining aircraft.
Supply Chain Sustainability –– On a closely related note to that of manufacturing tracking, blockchain technology can also reduce delays, redundancies, and loss in airline supply chains. This is not something consumers will see, but it will help airlines produce less waste, meet goals of carbon neutrality, and potentially even reduce costs.
Recycling –– Another effort toward sustainability is the recycling of out-of-use aircraft components. This is something Japan Airlines is known to be implementing already, with the blockchain being employed to recognize, verify, and track aircraft parts from when they are taken out of commission to when they are recycled.
Spending –– On a more consumer-facing note, it is also still possible that more airlines will begin to explore the idea of accepting cryptocurrency. While it has long been possible to pay for air travel tickets in roundabout ways, there is always the chance that a company like Kuva Air will become welcoming to passengers who wish to buy tickets, goods, and services with crypto.
Right now, it is fair to say that while cryptocurrency and blockchain technology have sparked numerous innovations around Africa, the airline industry is minimally involved. At the same time, however, the diverse nature of blockchain adoption suggests that more overlap is all but inevitable –– and there are clear ways in which blockchain tech can improve the future of airline businesses.