After multiple delays and speculation, it could finally be coming in April: the long-awaited “Africa Special”. As Charles Hoskinson, the inventor of Cardano, revealed in an AMA yesterday, the world’s largest deployment of blockchain in Ethiopia could soon become a reality.
In early February, John O’Connor, Director of African Operations at Hoskinson’s company Input Output Global (IOG), announced that they are in the final stages of a government contract in Ethiopia to bring several million users onto the Cardano blockchain. Originally, a major, official announcement was to be made on this back in March. However, unforeseen, bureaucratic developments had slowed down the launch.
In yesterday’s AMA, Hoskinson now stated that with any luck, the “Africa Special” will happen in April.
Things are looking very positive now. We’re chugging away, moving along. I just signed the decision memo to start hiring in Ethiopia. We had a small scale office and turning it into a much larger office.
A little later in the AMA, Hoskinson added in response to a community member’s question that the biggest problem was that the decision wasn’t tendered properly through a special committee. But that committee has now finally signed off on the resolution on Thursday, March 25.
So now, it straight goes to the minister to sign. […] That’s the last mile. We got to a point where we are very confident because everyone wanted the deal to go through and there is no one else involved in it. So we said, setting bureaucracy aside, let’s start scaling and building and […] but all that is bundled together with the Africa special.
In addition, Hoskinson also commented on further strategy for Africa. IOG will now also start looking at Ethiopian universities to see which one we will set up a lab at. In addition, he said, the focus is not just on Ethiopia, but on the entire continent:
But not to be undone, it’s a Pan-African company and not just an Ethiopian company, and we are looking at other African nations, particularly Ghana is the next sight of our class. However, the class will be Pan-African. So people from all Africa can apply and join and learn.
IOG is aiming to teach at least 2 or 3 classes a year across Africa to train developers. As Hoskinson stated, they “won’t hire all these developers, but other people will. My guess is that Catalyst will saturate that pipeline with a lot of great talent.” Furthermore, he said, the focus now will also be on closing commercial deals:
Now on the Africa side in particular, we finally got to a point where we can do more than just push through government relations. As we start closing these foundational government deals, we really start doing a pull model where we build consumer products.
To accomplish this, IOG wants to use a partner-driven process. Overall, Hoskinson, as CEO of IOG, will power “in $10 to $20 million per year for strategic investments in infrastructure, training, project development, commercial development in a Pan-African sense”, making it the second highest in IOG’s budget in 2022. IceAddis, Ethiopia’s first innovation hub and tech incubator, is also expected to play a central role:
So we have our relationship with IceAddis, and we are going to deepen that relationship, and keep strengthening and keep putting more money in because they have tentacles into 25 countries in Africa.
On top of that, Hoskinson is going to do another Africa tour, but it’s going to be delayed until the second half of 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic:
I’ll go on a great tour. It will be a little harder. It has to be the second half of this year, and that’s okay. But we’ll make these foundational investments, and be strategic and careful about them. I just wanted to make sure that we have regional credibility and a lot of operators who exist in these jurisdictions.
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