Kenya has not always taken a positive approach to blockchain and cryptocurrencies. In fact, back in 2015, the Central Bank of Kenya issued a public notice titled “Caution to the Public on Virtual Currencies such as bitcoin.”. The notice stated that virtual currencies do not constitute legal tender and remain unregulated in Kenya. It outlined the risks associated with the use, holding of, and/or trading of virtual currencies and concluded that the public should “desist from transacting in Bitcoin and similar products.” However, the Kenyan government’s stance has softened in recent years. Asa recognised global leader when it comes to mobile money services, the East African state is well placed to harness the power of blockchain in further enhancing secure digital transfers.
Distributed Ledgers and Artificial Intelligence Task Force
In order to best assess the benefits and challenges associated with new technologies, the government set up a Distributed Ledgers and Artificial Intelligence Task Force in March 2018. The Task Force has been mandated to evaluate applications of distributed ledger and AI in the public sector. The team was established by ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru and consists of member from both private and public sectors, with in-depth knowledge about blockchain and the cryptocurrency industries. In September 2018, the Task Force chairman, Dr. Bitange Ndemo, advised the Kenyan government to tokenise its economy in order to deal with the increasing issues of corruption and uncertainty. During an Information and Communication Technology Ministry (ICT) stakeholders meeting with the private sector, he outlined the necessity of issuing a digital currency equivalent to a fiat currency. The Kenyan government is currently assessing policy initiatives in light of the Task Force’s recommendations.
Other public institutions, beyond the Task Force, are looking to use blockchain technology for greater transparency and efficiency. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission of Kenya (IEBC) announced in August 2018 its plans to use blockchain to offer real-time polling results and thus improve vote integrity and trust in the voting process. The IEBC argues that the adoption of blockchain technology/distributed ledgers could enable presidential candidates to securely access results real-time, enhancing transparency and alleviating suspicion/perceptions of opacity.
The Kenyan government also announced in October 2018 plans to deploy blockchain technology to manage a government housing project of 500,000 units. The technology will create an efficient allocation of the houses to those who need it. The government hopes that the new technology will re-establish public trust in the government’s housing initiatives.