US-based consulting firm Frost and Sullivan, in its study released in September, titled Mega Trends in Africa, stated that the continent will have great market potential for firms operating in the digital currency space, and by the end of 2015, there will be one million bitcoin wallets in Africa. The report added that nearly one-third of Kenyans will be using a Bitcoin wallet. Although concerns by regulators about the proliferation of a currency they cannot fiddle with is sure to slow the growth of bitcoin in Africa, the technology behind it has boundless potential for growth.
The blockchain technology upon which bitcoin is built has caught the attention of major players in the financial services sector and are increasingly investing resources into research on the technology. SWIFT, a global provider of secure financial messaging services and interface software is one of such companies.
“As a technology company, SWIFT sees the significant potential in blockchain and distributed ledger technologies. The outlook for these technologies is encouraging and we believe they will influence the future of the financial services industry,” says Wim Raymaekers, Head of Banking & Treasury Markets, SWIFT in a statement in November.
Blockchain is a digital technology for recording and verifying transactions. The distributed ledger is a permanent, secure tool that makes it easier to create cost-efficient business networks without requiring a centralized point of control. With distributed ledgers, virtually anything of value can be tracked and traded. The application of this emerging technology is showing great promise in the enterprise.
However, for the adoption of the blockchain to come anytime soon, there is a need for industry-wide collaboration, which The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, is now facilitating.
The project (Hyperledger) by The Linux Foundation will develop an enterprise grade, open source distributed ledger framework and free developers to focus on building robust, industry-specific applications, platforms and hardware systems to support business transactions.
Already, SWIFT, Accenture, ANZ Bank, Cisco, CLS, Credits, Deutsche Börse, Digital Asset Holdings, DTCC, Fujitsu Limited, IC3, IBM, Intel, J.P. Morgan, London Stock Exchange Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), R3, State Street, VMware and Wells Fargo have all committed to the project.
“Distributed ledgers are poised to transform a wide range of industries from banking and shipping to the Internet of Things, among others,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation. “As with any early-stage, highly-complex technology that demonstrates the ability to change the way we live our lives and conduct business, blockchain demands a cross-industry, open source collaboration to advance the technology for all.”
The collaboration is expected to help identify and address important features and currently missing requirements for a cross-industry open standard for distributed ledgers that can transform the way business transactions are conducted around the world.
“SWIFT is delighted to support this industry-wide effort to advance distributed ledger technology,” said Craig Young, SWIFT’s Chief Technology Officer. “Cooperation and collaboration – hallmarks of the SWIFT cooperative – will be key to ensuring the scalability and adoption of this technology.”