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This continent is uniquely positioned for Blockchain, argues ICE Africa panelist Harmen Brenninkmeijer


With Blockchain recently being the focus of global giants Boeing, BlackRock and IBM, the whole world is primed to find out what all the fuss is about and where its future lies in the coming years. Ahead of his seat on the ‘Blockchain in Africa: a pipe dream or dream come true?’ panel at the inaugural ICE Africa (24-25 October, Sandton Convention Centre, South Africa), Harmen Brenninkmeijer, Managing Partner for Dynamic Partners International Ltd, discusses gaming’s vanguard position in the world of technology, why trust is key to development and why Africa is primed for the crypto revolution.
Is ICE Africa the best place to discuss Blockchain?
There are a few good places to discuss the Blockchain phenomenon as it’s developing across the world.  Obviously, you would first highlight the countries that have established the Blockchain technology and have the infrastructure, the know-how and financing to develop it. Secondly, there are a number of countries that are always interested in the innovative powers of technology and seek first-mover advantage and, thirdly, there are the emerging markets which have their own challenges and the Crypto and Blockchain developers can see how to jump-start inherent problems such as land rights, currency controls and many other applications that could be a solution.
As I see it, the unique characteristic of ICE Africa is that the host nation, South Africa, fulfills all of these conditions: it has an established infrastructure, it has always been quick to embrace new innovations and it needs the solutions that Blockchain technology can deliver. ICE London represents an outstanding opportunity to understand the global challenges and to experience what’s new, but how this applies to the individual continents and helps local businesses is, in my opinion, a completely different matter. Having ICE Africa provides a localised approach to global challenges, but in a local setting. 
Emerging technologies such as Blockchain, will have a major impact on the industry – how do you manage this responsibly? 
As is mostly the case, the gaming industry leads in innovations, as we saw with the start of the internet. Gaming will help to fund a number of the new developments and find its way into applications which could help the industry. However, responsible behavior is not everyone’s first concern and this technology should be used appropriately.  How we can control that is up for debate.
What other countries in the world would you look to as a benchmark for Blockchain legalization and policy?
At this stage, Switzerland for non-gaming applications, the Isle of Man and the latest developments in Malta and Ceza in the Philippines are off to a good start. They are well ahead of almost everyone else. It looks like Cyprus will follow soon and many others are debating the extent to which they can, and are willing to, regulate. 
What hurdles need to be overcome to progress Blockchain, specifically in Africa?
Key issues are creating the right development area, making financing available, looking at how projects can be funded and the knowledge that can be attracted. It then needs to establish a route for new products to be put into operation and find ways to lead by example. In the ICE Africa panel, I will endeavor to explore where South Africa is with regards to its infrastructure, which solutions are being developed specifically for the region and where the authorities stand on helping to move the industry forward.
Is there a trust issue to overcome?
Trust is key, not just trust in the values of the various currencies which use this technology but also in the technology itself. It’s key that a base will be established which can prove the value of the applications and the friendliness of the use. I acknowledge that we are some time away from simplifying it all to make it happen smoothly. 
Who is/are the main commercial beneficiaries of Blockchain in the region?
As is almost always the case with ground breaking technology, once a value chain is established, speculators jump in and jump in fast. They corner the market and speculate ahead of new market entrants. However, as we’re getting out of this first phase, we can see positive developments taking place with applications which are unique to the region and via knowledge created by a number of early movers.
For more information on the first ICE Africa and to register, visit the ICE Africa websitewww.iceafrica.za.com

image: Harmen Brenninkmeijer, Managing Partner for Dynamic Partners International Ltd