We got to sit down with the legendary John Kamara at the 2023 Blockchain Africa Conference. John Kamara is an innovator and is on a mission to inspire other innovators through his projects. From open-source healthcare data to building up blockchain developers, John continues on his mission to empower Africa through Blockchain technology.
Filled with passion, knowledge, and a drive to change the continent, we had the privilege to interview this extraordinary and humble man about his thoughts surrounding web3 and Africa.
This is what John Kamara had to say:
When did you first hear about crypto and get involved?
“I heard about crypto in 2012, back then we were always looking for different forms of payment in Europe. One of the things you heard about was Bitcoin, and you thought “Oh, this could be interesting”, but not a lot of people accepted it. There were guys who had quite a bit of
Bitcoin and they were giving it away for free. Back in the day, in Europe, I worked in
different industries, I worked in gaming and you came across alternative forms of
payment all the time.”
How would you explain Blockchain technology to a beginner?
“I think the best way to break down blockchain is a way for us to create trust where we create a service. Simple, I trust you but not only do I trust you, another person trusts you, and another person trusts you so between us we believe you are trusted. It is just a global network of trust. Based on that, I can then transact with you because everyone else verifies you are trustworthy.
For example, in Nigeria the Igbo tribe for years has done this network where they take an apprentice, and that apprentice trusts that that master is actually going to make him a master
two or three years later. And everybody else trusts that that will happen so they tell him to go.
He works off trust. The difference is now with Blockchain, you have this thing called a smart contract that guarantees our trust.”
What excites you most about web3 technology?
Metaverses, dapps, NFTs?
“I think what excites me most is the ability for web3 to transition web2 into a smart economy and I also think the ability for Africa to build its own infrastructure in technology. You know we missed out on the web2 infrastructure, we missed out on building platforms like Google, but now we
have the opportunity to build our own. We have the opportunity to build our own decentralized asset value. If you think about the fact that Africa uses a lot of stable tokens, why? Because of inflation in our currencies constantly, so we want a place to store value, but who gets that value?
It’s not us, so how about we build that to create inter-Africa trade. Just the use of the technology across multiple different sectors. So we can track what our farmers do so we can pay them.
Let’s verify that a student really got their degree. There are great use cases in a continent
that needs to leapfrog, this is a great technology that allows us to make that jump.”
With 20 years experience in the tech industry, are you seeing a trend in technologies, where do you see
the most potential within web3?
“I think the tech trend is already happening, again if you think about societies that are emerging into new global powers. I will use India as an example, they embrace technology, someone was telling me earlier about HTML India, almost 20 years of investment in human capacity.
These things don’t just happen overnight, there is no magic wand, you can’t just wake up tomorrow and say “Hooray”. If you have not invested in the infrastructure which is the human capital, and that human capital as it grows begins to change things, otherwise nothing will happen and you will continue parroting all these great slogans and you are still where you were. “Imali”, nobody
knows what you’re talking about, so there is no inclusive technology in Africa anyway so
the disparity is happening anyway.
For me, what excites me is that we can get there if we start being in a state of emersion in our minds, and if you look at technologies like blockchain, the amount of financial value it
possesses for our young people. Imagine if you build a hundred blockchain
developers in every African country.
Those hundred people, imagine how much money they could earn, and how they could change the lives of others. But nobody is investing in those things. You are building a DApp, what is that going to do? For who? We live in a place where we can’t verify anything in health care, we can’t hold anyone responsible for anything because there is no way.
If you think about technologies like machine learning, these technologies are driving change and we need to be at the center of it. It excites me that we have so many young people that can do these things, we just need to empower them.”
Do you believe Africa can leverage these trending technologies to lead the race, and how?
“We have the population for it, we have the smart young kids, but they need support. Our corporate organizations, our government, and every African who is over forty who has been lucky enough to have a life-changing moment in their lives, you owe the continent a debt, how about possibly supporting 2, 3, or 4 young kids in whatever way you can? Don’t wait for the government, you owe a debt. If you are over forty, we always blamed our parents, well now it is time to blame ourselves. We can’t wait.”
What African country do you feel is making the most web3 strides and what lessons can we learn from them?
“The traditional ones, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, maybe Ghana and Egypt because they have also made other strides in other forms of technology. So what can we learn? There is not a lot we can learn until we create an inclusive society, but until then the only lesson learned is that we do not have an inclusive society for most of what we do. The beautiful thing is that our young people are connected so past a generation of divisive Africa, this is a unified continent with individual identity. So the lesson we should learn is that we should create an inclusive society where we decentralize technology, especially for the smaller countries in this continent, or else you will
have a forward of people migrating to South Africa.”
We learned that the African Blockchain Center partnered with Cardano, how do you feel this benefited your blockchain development program?
“I think because we didn’t have the expertise, it’s a great technology so taking in the expertise. Again, that knowledge, give me the knowledge to train these people, they will work for you, and they’ll be even cheaper, but in being cheaper they make more money. So for me, the value was from taking the knowledge and being able to train, and now we can train developers who can
train other people. That is the value.”
How can young innovators tap into your developer
network for the African Blockchain Center?
“Go to the website, find us, theafricablockchaincenter.com but more importantly be hungry. It’s not only Africa Blockchain Center, there are so many other people doing amazing stuff, be hungry. Or create something yourself, in the absence of anybody being able to create for you, be hungry, and create for yourself.”
Do you think AI will massively improve business
practices in Africa and globally?
“Massively, in two years you will see the changes machine learning offers will turn around this continent. I even think faster than blockchain. Machine learning will be one of the driving
forces for instrumental change.”
What advice would you give new projects and innovators entering the space?
“I think the one thing is to connect with your local problems, I would love to see other innovators who look further than what token can be built or what payment structures can be built, and rather look at what other projects can we do. There are a lot of great impactful projects you can do to change the lives of people, and there are a lot of sectors, so I would love to see other projects in other sectors that are not just about payments and money transfers.”
Where do you foresee Africa in the blockchain race in 5 years?
“I think India set an example for us, so if we can get close to India in terms of what they are doing, and how they have internalized. They consume, they adopt, they create, and they consume, and now they are selling. That is where I would like to see Africa. Create, adopt, consume, and then sell.”
What inspired you to empower developers and
innovators in Africa?
“I had no choice, this is my first love, I love this place. I moved back from Europe because I love this continent, I have seen other continents, but this is my home. It’s all I can do. There are great people who have come ahead of me, like Thomas Sankara, who dedicated their lives to things. I can’t be that, but in the space that I can then this is what I am going to do just to see another young person’s life change. I don’t need anybody to recognize me for it, I just want to see other
people’s lives change to be better than me. To live through society and leave a better
continent for my daughter so she can come back from Europe because she doesn’t
want to come back to Africa. That’s what inspires me, I am on a mission to say
“How can we transform this continent piece by piece?”.”
Where can our readers learn more about and from you?
“There is nothing to learn, I am just a regular guy. I am just a regular guy who is
trying to make a change. That’s all.”