Nigerian startup launches blockchain-based academic records

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Nigerian startup launches blockchain-based academic records

While the crypto sector has faced criticism for its disconnect with the real world, there are players who seek to point to the underlying blockchain tech's ability to address some of our most pressing challenges in today's society, particularly in regions where basic infrastructure is insufficient.

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. Akowe's founder, Ayodeji Agboola, said in an interview that there's a big demand for digital certificate verification systems in sub-Saharan Africa, partly because of the difficulty of reissuing academic records and universities' possessiveness of them.

t want a reissue; what they would give you is an affidavit. That unique nature of universities makes them very protective of certificates, he said.

In 2018, the founder, who started a digital marketing firm, began training a cohort of small business owners to use Facebook. The program had already trained 30,000 individuals by 2019, and needed to prove people's accomplishment.

Agboola, who remained unidentified, said: The damage was done to the economy, she said.

Storage is a key part of blockchain, where it plays a crucial role. To begin, organizations upload their certificate templates and a list of recipients' names, upon which Akowe automatically generates digital copies of the academic records for each individual. Say 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.

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

Akowe is still run by Agboola as a one-man, bootstrapped shop with help from contract developers, which means 'clerk' in Yoruba. It provides its platform to universities for free, but takes a cut from the fees universities charge users. It's currently 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 lies not in the technological part but rather in user acquisition. but public universities dominate the majority of the population, making them a significant source of employment. In Nigeria, these are the most prestigious universities. 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.