Silicon Valley-based startup Polygon is joining Africa’s blockchain revolution, targeting to support the continent in the next phase of blockchain advancement after millions of dollars were injected into the tech sub-sector last year.
Polygon, a Web3 blockchain network used by Meta, Adidas, Mercedes-Benz, Stripe, and Reddit plans to train at least 2,000 professionals in ethereum blockchain development in Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, and Rwanda. Ethereum is a decentralized blockchain network powered by the Ether token that allows users to trade crypto, earn interest on their investments through staking, utilize and store non fungible tokens (NFTs), and play online games.
This will add into efforts made by other startups in equipping Africans with blockchain skills such as the Africa Blockchain Institute, Blockchain Academy, African Blockchain Center, Knowledge Academy, United Africa Blockchain Association, and Blockchain Research Institute Africa.
In July, at least 10,000 startups across Africa competed for $1 million to build innovative businesses around blockchain technologies in a partnership between Humanity Node Protocol (HNP), Web3Africa and Adanian Labs. Last year, 41 African blockchain startups in eight countries raised $127 million.
A rising demand in blockchain talent
Demand for blockchain developers is rising in the continent, and startup founders believe the technology will anchor the continent’s efforts to solving some of its most pressing hurdles in fintech, agritech, healthtech, insurtech, and edtech. The immutable nature of blockchain tech creates new possibilities for transparent, decentralized and fraud-proof solutions.
“There are numerous financial complications in Africa. One of them is cross-country transfer of money. Through the right blockchain education, we believe most of these complications can be solved using blockchain technology,” Shodipo Ayomide, global head of developer advocacy at Polygon tells Quartz.
Blockchain also holds the potential to weed out claims of rigging from the continent’s electoral systems as happened in Sierra Leone in 2018, transform agriculture through tokenized farming support like the case of IBM and Twiga Foods in Kenya, and create verifiable digital identity just as the Cardano blockchain helped citizens in Zanzibar, Ethiopia and Burundi get digital IDs.
Blockchain’s potential after ‘the merge’
Blockchain developers are currently some of the highest paid software developers in the world, earning up to $172,000 per annum. The global blockchain market was valued at $4.67 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow from $7.18 billion in 2022 to $163.83 billion by 2029. In 2018, there were 14 job openings for every one blockchain developer in the US.
Polygon says it aims to help African developers know how to make the ethereum blockchain faster and cheaper and is holding an eight-week bootcamp, consisting of a six-week learning and a two-week hackathon phase where they will build decentralized projects after the merge and compete for mentorship prizes.
The merge means programmers can now type out a command and time-stamp it, while blockchain developers on the client side can download the code, and then the system effects the change by itself.
According to Ethereum CEO Vitalik Buterin, the switch from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake is a transition the blockchain community has been working on for eight years, and after the merge all kinds of blockchain projects are going to have more resources than before.
“And then there are these separate protocols that take that data as an ingredient and create kind of like mini-Ethereums inside of Ethereum, on top of that. These together would be able to process a much larger number of transactions. Instead of the roughly 20 transactions per second that Ethereum can process today, potentially between 5,000 and a 100,000 transactions,” Buterin told Wired.
Blockchain training in Africa
Polygon’s bootcamp will have two tracks: a beginners track and a mastery track. The beginners track is open for developers who are new in the web3 space with the best performing developer standing a chance to win $5,000 and prize money too for the top projects.
The mastery category will focus on those who have some experience in the Web3 space. The first, second and third project in the category will be awarded $10,000, $7,000, and $5,000 respectively.
“We see Web 3.0 as the only industry with the right technology to solve Africa’s numerous financial problems, and the only channel through which Africans can truly attain financial freedom,” Dalip Tyagi, developer relations team at Polygon lead tells Quartz.
The startup has also been hosting various conferences across Africa such as ETHSafari in Kenya, Africa Money & DeFi Summit in Ghana, and CryptoFest in South-Africa, to enlighten Africans about the various possibilities of blockchain technology.
However, blockchain startups will have to offer attractive perks to blockchain developers to keep them within the continent and work for African companies, otherwise they will be poached by Big Tech companies and add into the existing tech brain drain.
They will also need more funding to entrench Web3 technologies across the continent, but they will be banking on Africa’s comprehension of blockchain related innovations such as crypto, NFTs, decentralized finance and central bank digital currencies even as African governments struggle to regulate the ecosystem.
Africa is also warming up for other frontier technologies. Zindi is training the continent in AI and data science, BlackRhino is working alongside Meta to equip Africans in 16 countries with virtual/augmented reality skills, iLabAfrica is training youths on 3D printing techniques, while mobile network operators such as MTN, Vodacom, and Safaricom are training Africa in 5G.