Nigerian startup using blockchain to verify academic records

Nigerian startup using blockchain to verify academic records

The crypto industry has faced criticism for its disconnection with the real world, but there are players who are trying to show that blockchain technology can address some of our most pressing challenges in today's society, particularly in regions that lack basic infrastructure.

Akowe, a Lagos-based startup that participates in TechCrunch Disrupt's 2023 Startup Battlefield 200, has developed a blockchain-based platform for issuing verifiable academic records. Ayodeji Agboola, Akowe's founder, said: There's a big demand for digital certificate verification systems in sub-Saharan Africa, partly due to the difficulty of reissuing academic records and universities' possessiveness of them.

if they want to reissue, what they would give you is an affidavit. That singular nature of universities makes them very protective of certificates, he said.

In 2018, the founder, who ran a digital marketing firm, began educating a cohort of small business owners to use Facebook. By 2019, the initiative had trained 30,000 individuals and needed to prove people's completion of the course.

Agboola added that he was confident he would be able to make the decision in the end.

storage is a crucial aspect of blockchain, where it has a significant impact on the world's economy. With the help of Akowe, organizations upload their certificate templates and a list of recipients' names, upon which Akowe instantly generates digital copies of the academic records for each individual. As a recruiter or a visa officer needs to verify a person's college certificate, they can then check all that metadata on the blockchain that Akowe uses - including the URL of the certificate's hosting location, university names, student names, courses, grades and graduation year - on the blockchain that Akowe uses.

However, Akowe has used Hyperledger, a permissioned blockchain, in the past but is now using a new ledger database solution released by Amazon, QLDB, that allows organizations to create centrally managed records.

Akowe, meaning 'Clerk' in Yoruba, is still run by Agboola as a one-man, bootstrapped shop to this day with help from contract developers. The platform offers free access to universities for free, but takes a cut from fees charged by universities. It is in the final stages of setting up pilots with two institutions and is in talks with 15 others, he said.

The challenge of the startup is not in the technological aspects but rather in user acquisition. But public universities are where the majority of students go. These are the most prestigious universities in Nigeria. And there's a lot of red tape there that you need to navigate, he said, adding that he's been cautious with framing his business pitches because of the negative image of blockchain.