On the 31st of March 2018, I had the privilege of having an eye-opening discussion with some Atlas Corps fellows on blockchain technology and its implications on development. Blockchain technology is a form of disruptive innovation that was initially coined in the 1990s but was reinvigorated by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008/9. Simply put, a blockchain is an open, decentralized or distributed ledger that records transactions between two parties in a permanent way without needing third-party authentication. This form of technology has disrupted the status quo in many industries ranging from pharmaceuticals, financial services, real estate, retail, to manufacturing. This then sparked an interest in me to embark on an exploratory journey of how this technological development may be used to solve some of the challenges that the NGO sector is currently facing. From 2008 to 2018, there has been a shrinkage in donor funding , not only in Africa, but the world as a whole. For instance, Kellog Foundation which bankrolled projects in Southern Africa amounting to US$350 million since 1986, withheld funding in 2008 after unearthing financial irregularities on some of its projects.  Common complaints cited by both the humanitarian and non-humanitarian funds providers is that donated money does not reach those it is targeted to benefit. Corruption, inappropriate expenditures, improper accounting, flawed audit processes are also some of the reasons cited for the shrinkage of the donor basket over the years, especially in the NGO sector. Donors are no longer interested in simply ‘trusting’ funding recipients but would need evidence that the resources are being used efficiently and effectively, and that the targeted beneficiaries are actually enjoying the fruits of the interventions. On the other hand, some people are of the view that most donor funding models are ‘flawed’, ‘opaque’ and open to corruption. There is therefore need for accounting or grant management system that are transparent and clear as daylight from the perspectives of all the parties involved.  In my next article I will look at how trust and transparency can be rebirthed between those who donate and those to whom donations are made using blockchain technology key features such as; openness, decentralisation, and non-manipulability.

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