Worldwide, blockchain technology has gained prominence. However, in most parts of Africa, blockchain is still viewed with skepticism despite the potential it has to solve most of the pressing challenges in today’s society. It is even more needed in societies where basic infrastructure is lacking.
Nigeria’s Ayodeji Agboola wants to rely on blockchain to fix Africa’s broken certificate system, according to Tech Crunch. Academic certificates are often issued once and when they get missing, the issuing university most times doesn’t want to reissue them but would rather issue them as an affidavit.
As a result, Agboola founded Akowe, a Lagos-based startup that has developed a blockchain-based platform for issuing verifiable academic records. According to Agboola, he started his business due to the big demand for digital certificate verification systems in sub-Saharan Africa.
Agboola thought about digitizing certifications while working as a digital marketing professional running a digital agency in 2018. He was then training small business owners on how to use Facebook for their businesses.
“After the training, those business owners needed certificates, about 20,000 certificates to be precise, which we did not want to physically print,” he told Connecting Africa.
He and his team couldn’t find a very simple tool that would issue the new certificates. “So I just decided, you know what? Let’s build this thing,” he said to Tech Crunch. “So this was late 2020. We built it out in three weeks. We demoed it. We tested it for our own certificates. It worked fine. I said, yeah, we’re in business.”
Sharing how Akowe works, Agboola noted that organizations must first upload their certificate templates and a list of recipients’ names. Akowe then automatically generates digital copies of the academic records for each individual. The blockchain Akowe uses allows recruiting firms, agencies or visa officers to verify a person’s tertiary or college certificate, including the metadata like the URL of the certificate’s hosting location, the university names, student names, course, grades and year of graduation.
For now, Agboola runs Akowe as a one-man, bootstrapped shop with the support of contract developers. According to TechCrunch, he offers the platform to universities for free but takes a cut from the fees universities charge users.
It is currently finalizing pilots with two institutions and is in talks with 15 others, the founder told TechCrunch. Agboola noted that his major challenge so far has been with the public universities in Nigeria, as they usually have a negative connotation or understanding of blockchain. He also has to navigate the red tape there, he said, adding that there is a lot more understanding of the business process with the private universities because they are profit-oriented than the public funded universities.