South African National Blockchain Alliance Holds Online Launch

The South African National Blockchain Alliance has been launched to drive technology development by bringing public and private enterprises together.
The South African National Blockchain Alliance carried out an online livestream launch while the country is in the midst of a 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The organization was due to be launched at the beginning of April in Johannesburg but had to be taken online as South Africa and the world tackles a global health crisis.The launch happened during a livestream on YouTube on April 3, which included a panel of speakers elaborating on how SANBA will help nurture blockchain-focused startups and companies that are developing capabilities using the technology.Bringing parties togetherSANBA has been set up by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and its subsidiary, the Office for Digital Advantage. These bodies fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Science and Innovation.Akhona Damane heads up the project and said that SANBA intends to be the central cog in a network of partnerships between South Africa’s government, industry-leading companies, startups and civil society. An important consideration for SANBA is the development of blockchain-based systems and solutions coming from inside South Africa, as Damane told Cointelegraph:“There is a lot of venture capital out there, we need to provide support to startups in the country. There are new job opportunities and a chance for new economic participation. Satoshi’s paper was looking at democratizing economies. In South Africa, that has worked, there are even people in deep rural areas that buy and trade cryptocurrency using smartphones.”Another major focus will be driving the development of skills needed to explore and create blockchain solutions. An integral part of this will be educating civil society on the various use cases and further potential of the technology to improve a wide variety of industries.The importance of supporting academiaEducation and developing skills will form a major part of SANBA’s focus over the next few years. The launch event highlighted the work being done by the University of Cape Town to help incubate talent in the space. Co-Pierre Georg, an associate professor at UCT’s School of Economics, said that the university is the first in Africa to offer a master’s degree program in fintech, which has been modeled on the programs of universities in the United States, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkley.Georg said that a major hurdle in South Africa is having the capacity to develop talent in the space. The professor also said there had been 400 applicants for the 15 spots available for the program:“We need to create people who can code. Quite simply, they need to know some finance and organizational skills, but the core skill lacking is coding ability. There is not a deep enough skill set in the country.”Another problem is the allure of opportunities offshore, as Georg noted that as soon as the program educates students with those highly sought-after skill sets, they begin

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