Can blockchain change african “democracies”?

by Lumai Mubanga

Blockchain has potential to change African “democracies”!

Unlike most advanced economies and systems, Africa lurks far behind in many areas. Democracy and democratic systems are talked about, but mainly in name only. Few countries really appreciate and trust democratic systems in African countries. This article will discuss the unique challenges faced by many African states and how blockchain may finally overcome some of these challenges.

Unique democratic challenges

Many African countries experience similar challenges in their democratic systems. It starts with the issuing of national registration cards. When national elections approach, there is a massive NRC registration, which is followed by Voters card issuance. These two activities are prone to misuse and dishonesty practices especially by the ruling parties who register dead people. Double issuance of both cards to maximize their votes is also common.

The second challenge is that votes especially from opposition strongholds are tempered with. As a result, many votes are not counted.  Some votes are purportedly destroyed by rains especially if voting takes place during rainy seasons. Other votes simply get “lost” along the way to counting or totalling centres.

The third and most serious challenges are the compromised electoral bodies, which act as proxies for ruling parties. They discount the votes from opposition strongholds, manipulate the results and engage in flimsy tactics all in an effort to disenfranchise as many opposition voters as possible.

These practices have resulted in corrupt governments perpetrating their stay in power, under development and general disdain among the citizenry. Voter apathy is rampant too.

How blockchain can overturn the above challenges.

The basic characteristics of blockchain are its ability to keep track of information, which is immutable while removing a central controlling figure in the whole process. Can blockchain meet these challenges? Here is how it could be done.

National Registration and Voters card Issuance

At birth, every citizen will be issued with a unique digital ID. Each citizen will be issued with one valid national registration card only upon attaining the rightful age. This will be done in conjunction with the Birth record ID obtained at birth synched to the digital ID. This information will be kept immutably on blockchain and accessible to all government agencies responsible for maintaining such records.  Using smart contracts, the citizen will be issued with only one voter’s card at the right age automatically. This card will be synchronized to the digital ID kept on the block. In all these cases, the system will ensure that no duplication exists and no one person will hold more than two birth records, national registration and voters’ cards.

Voting Exercise and Results

During the voting process, the e-voting portal will allow voters to login with their digital ID previously obtained. This digital ID will be used to generate unique Voters digital keys (VDK) specifically for the voting exercise. Voters will then use this VDK to access the voting portal and vote. This will eliminate double voting and voter disenfranchisement. These e-voting systems on the blockchain will make voting instantaneous.

The totalling and announcing of the winners will all be done automatically by the systems, which will eliminate compromised electoral bodies. Additionally, the immutable, transparent, and auditable data can be verified publicly. The absence of a compromised electoral body controlling the results will allow millions to renew their trust in democratic systems.

Looking forward with all honesty, blockchain will be a game-changer in digitizing African democracies for the better. It remains to be seen how governments can adopt a system that threatens their hold on to power.

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