• Sunday, May 19, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Why Tokenization Initiatives Hold the Key to Africa’s Economic Sovereignty

Why Tokenization Initiatives Hold the Key to Africa’s Economic Sovereignty

By Bradley Allgood and John Kamara

For many African nations, the 21st century has marked a period of dramatic development across infrastructure, technology, and financial markets – one that has yielded an exciting foray into the global geopolitical arena.

Nonetheless, the century has not come without helping hands nor lingering dependencies. Even for Africa’s most developed rising nations, the very monetary dependence that once acted as a source of support has now begun to hinder progress, erode stability, and impede healthy market activity.

Already, January issued the world its first humbling reminder of 2024 about the monetary challenges faced by African nations when the Nigerian Naira precipitously declined by 30 per cent against the U.S. dollar.

Not unlike other African nations, the cardinal monetary dilemma faced by Nigeria lies in its reliance on foreign currencies – especially the U.S. dollar. For international trade and commerce, the dollar plays an integral role as a settlement currency, and its downstream effects have been more or less perceived as a necessary cost to gain access to global finance.

However, there is one solution on the horizon that holds great promise for both the monetary stability and broader sovereignty of African nations: the emerging current of real-world asset (RWA) tokenization initiatives rapidly taking form in the digital asset space.

If African nations can position themselves as early adopters in the global tokenization revolution, there is no telling how bright the future of their people would be.

The Dilemma of Settlement

African countries have long grappled with the challenges posed by the U.S. dollar’s role in international trade and finance. The dollar’s role as a global reserve currency has led it to serve as a default settlement asset. In order to finance international trade, national central banks across the world hold substantial dollar-denominated reserves for the exclusive purposes of settlement.

It is this foreign currency exposure that has rendered African economies overexposed to the monetary policies of the United States Federal Reserve. Previously a source of foundational support, as the 21st century marches on and African countries develop thriving economies and unique demographics of their own, misalignments in monetary policy between African central banks and the Federal Reserve continue to produce harsh economic conditions for African nations. But until recently, the notion of developing a better method to facilitate international commerce was simply infeasible.

Real-World Asset (RWA) Tokenization: Unlocking Economic Potential

Already a major trend of 2024, tokenization is the process of converting RWAs into digital tokens on public blockchain ledgers. The benefits of tokenization are immense and far-reaching, as they allow assets to flow seamlessly through the low-friction, borderless, and highly versatile on-chain world. With tokenization, nations can unlock massive economic potential by connecting otherwise-dormant liquidity with public market demand, fractionalising bonds,
Tokenization offers a path towards economic and monetary sovereignty by streamlining cross-border transfers and opening new opportunities for new investor demographics and yield.

Tokenization Opportunities for Africa

The steep devaluation of the Nigerian Naira highlights the vulnerability of African currencies in the face of external pressures.

The Naira’s depreciation against the dollar has had significant implications for the Nigerian economy, affecting trade, investment, and overall economic stability. To mitigate these challenges, African countries must seek alternative solutions that promote economic sovereignty and reduce their dependence on foreign currencies.

Tokenization offers a transformative solution for Nigeria and other African countries looking to bootstrap their economies and empower their people. By tokenizing RWAs in the form of bonds denominated in local currency, African nations can create a borderless system for international trade. For the first time, African nations will be able to streamline foreign direct investment and bypass the inefficiencies that necessitate a default settlement asset and related reserves.

Tokenized bonds denominated in local currency will open up a breadth of new possibilities for African economies. As central banks and their trade partners develop confidence in tokenized international trade, they will be able to liquidate capital previously reserved for settlement purposes and allocate proceeds to tokenized bonds, thereby facilitating a seamless and efficient flow of capital. Such a borderless on-chain solution not only reduces transaction costs, but also mitigates the risks associated with currency devaluation and inflation in foreign currencies.

Even further, tokenized bonds attract foreign investment, which drives economic growth and development. Foreign investors can easily access and invest in tokenized bonds, eliminating barriers such as complex regulatory processes and limited liquidity. Influxes of foreign investment are notorious for stimulating job creation, infrastructure development, and technological advancements that can propel African economies forward.

Deposit Tokens: Taking Tokenization Further

In addition to the benefits of bond tokenization, the tokenization of bank deposits can vastly accelerate financial inclusivity in African nations. Deposit tokens allow individuals to access and transact with digital representations of their deposits, providing a secure and efficient medium of payment to complement tokenized investment vehicles. Deposit tokens empower unbanked and underbanked populations that often face significant barriers to traditional banking services.

Overcoming Challenges and Embracing Tokenization

While a number of rising African nations hold great potential to take the reins on tokenization initiatives, implementation must be managed vigilantly. Regulatory clarity, investor protections, and broad directives always play key roles in facilitating economic transformation. Should African nations successfully align governments, central banks, financial institutions, and technology providers in the tokenization vertical, they may very well launch a new era not only of economic prosperity, but true sovereignty as empowered nations charting their own course in the global financial arena.