ENUGU, NIGERIA: Gabriel Ohanete, a 200-level student of Combined Biological Sciences at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), developed a love for technology-related skills even before he began his academic pursuit at the university.
Even though he wanted to master at least one tech skill, he could not afford the money to learn any because he had no source of income. He eventually had the chance to start his tech career in March 2022 when he participated in a free blockchain technology conference held at his school by a group of tech experts.
At the physical conference, he was introduced to the basics of blockchain technology. Ohanete and a few other participants who demonstrated they had paid attention and comprehended the lessons received free laptops to kick-start their tech careers.
At the end of the event, Ohanete and other participants were added to a Telegram group. The group functioned as an online community where participants learn weekly from experts about the impact, processes, and benefits of blockchain technology.
“The learning sessions on Telegram guided me towards choosing my path in the blockchain space and landed me where I am now,” Ohanete, who is now a blockchain developer, told The Solutionspaper.
23-year-old Anthony Nduka also faced financial problems growing up and could barely afford clothes that would fit his body size hence he was always seen wearing oversized clothes. To elevate his financial status, he ventured into the tech space In 2019.
He started by researching major technologies such as artificial intelligence, auto computing, WiFi, mobile devices, and finally, blockchain technology. But of all the technologies, blockchain technology appealed to him more.
“Blockchain got my attention because if you follow the evolution of money from trade by barter to cryptocurrency, you will discover that as a young person, it’s only a matter of time before the world completely shifts to cryptocurrency,” Nduka said.
According to Nduka, another reason he was attracted to blockchain technology is because of all the existing technologies he researched, blockchain appeared to be the easiest and required basic tools such as mobile phones, laptops, and internet connection.
Why Blockchain Technology ?
Blockchain is a decentralised and distributed ledger technology that enables the secure and transparent recording of transactions across multiple participants. It consists of a chain of blocks with each block containing a set of transactions and a reference to the previous block, creating an immutable and chronological sequence of data.
Blockchain technology is often associated exclusively with the trading of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, USDT, Ethereum, etc, and digital assets including NFTs—but it has many other potential uses beyond that.
It can be used to verify the authenticity of digital assets and create transparent cum secure systems for various things such as supply chain management in the medical sector, banking sector, and voting systems, as has been piloted in Sierra Leone.
A report by Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA) estimates that the contribution of blockchain technology to the Nigerian economy is expected to grow at a cumulative annual rate of 40% each year and poised to bring $29 billion into the economy by 2030.
The Nigerian government also unveiled a national blockchain policy this year to fast-track the development of the digital economy in the country while the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has issued the first government-sanctioned cryptocurrency in Africa known as the eNaira.
Given the dire state of affairs of the Nigerian economy, it is not a surprise that the youths and the government are eager to take full advantage of the business value and economic opportunities of blockchain technology.
According to the Nigeria Poverty Assessment 2022 report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in collaboration with the World Bank, as many as 4 in 10 Nigerians live below the national poverty line. Recent NBS data also show that 133 million people are multidimensionally poor in Nigeria with youth unemployment at 42%.
Some students in UNN who have to sponsor themselves through school are involved in doing menial jobs to boost earnings. However, even menial jobs are not easy to come by. The consequence is that some of these students who cannot survive the struggle although intelligent, end up dropping out of school.
Obinna Iwuno, President of the Stakeholders in Blockchain Technology Association of Nigeria (SiBAN) told The SolutionsPaper that blockchain technology is a tool for wealth creation, financial inclusion, and a conduit for massive employment opportunities especially for the youths.
“Youth are the ones that have the greatest opportunity with Blockchain technology”, Iwuno said. “95% of the ecosystem in Nigeria for crypto and blockchain is made up of youth, a few of them teenagers, the majority of them in their twenties and some in their thirties and forties.”
This explains why Nduka founded Blockchain UNN in 2021, as a way to bridge the existing blockchain knowledge gap in UNN so that students like Ohanete and himself, who are from average homes can leverage the economic solutions in blockchain technology
What Does Blockchain UNN Do ?
Blockchain UNN identifies as a student organisation and campus tech community committed to developing the next generation of blockchain leaders in Nigeria campuses through hands-on projects and education.
Using a combination of physical training and online tutoring through Telegram, the group teaches students in UNN on blockchain development, crypto trading and financial market analysis, computer programming/coding, UI/UX designing, and web development for free.
For students who have a fair knowledge of tech, the team builds on that knowledge to teach them blockchain technology and for those with no prior knowledge who are passionate about learning, the team teaches them from scratch.
A physical conference is held annually to introduce participants to blockchain technology and then direct them on the next step to take if they want to build tech skills in blockchain.
At these annual conferences, laptops are given out to students based on their participation level and ability to answer questions asked at the end of the conference. After the conference, further classes, training, and tutoring for participants are carried out online via a telegram group.
Since its establishment in 2021, the organisation has given out over 10 laptops and trained over 3000 students across UNN.
Like Ohanete, Mmerichukwu Anosike, a 300-level Civil Engineering student at UNN got to understand the bigger picture of the blockchain space after attending the training by Blockchain UNN. Before the training, Anosike thought blockchain was only about crypto trading.
With the training and information he got from the weekly lessons on Telegram, Anosike was able to land himself a job as a secret agent for Secret Network (SCRT) – an international blockchain privacy organisation.
“It was at the event in UNN that I first heard of Secret Network and met the Nigerian representative. I became interested in working with them and I had to put in the effort and learn more from Blockchain UNN. In the end, I got the job,” Anosike said.
What Could Be Better ?
Mobilising young people to join the Telegram group is usually an easy task, but retaining their interest until they can stand on their own, is a challenge. Nduka said this is because most of them believe the technology is a quick way to make money and do not have the patience to learn.
To rectify this, Blockchain UNN is planning to pay stipends to students who are learning blockchain technology in the future.
Nduka said some speakers who are invited to teach students on the telegram platform and during physical conferences always insist on payment. Also, the team needs to buy laptops for its students. To do all of these, the 3 co-founders have to raise the money amongst themselves and this poses a financial challenge to the team.
“They [Blockchain UNN] should look for sponsorship, seek grants and donations. They could do crowd-funding and also talk about the program they are doing [on social media], people would be interested and they will donate towards it,” Iwuno added.
Despite the CBN prohibiting all financial institutions from facilitating cryptocurrency trading and the Nigerian government introducing a 10% tax on profits on digital assets, Ohanete said his career is progressing in leaps and bounds and his cryptocurrency trading is still lucrative.
“Since the ban and even before the ban, we made use of P2P (peer-to-peer) trading. What that means is that Nigerian banks have no regulation powers over the crypto market and by extension the blockchain tech,” Ohanete said.