Faith Obafemi is a lawyer in Lagos, Nigeria. She took her law practice virtual with a focus on emerging technologies, specifically block chain, virtual currencies and smart contracts. She spoke to Ugochukwu Kingsley Ani.
Having spent countless hours conducting personal research on block chain technology, I am convinced it is the inevitable future. It might not be in the current form as we know it but the principles of decentralization, transparency, encryption and several others underpinning the block chain technology are going to be the bedrock of whatever system wins tomorrow. As one passionate about future-proofing my career, it took little effort to decode the writing on the wall.
It seems few women are interested in block chain. Is this true?
I do not think this is the correct; rather there is not enough awareness and exposure for both genders. I say so because there are at least ten ladies with whom I have an informal mentoring arrangement as they develop their capacity and forge careers in block chain - the majority are lawyers. Block chain is a very technical subject that requires efforts to understand especially from people like us without a science/tech background. It’s a vicious cycle; there are also few women in tech.
Do you think block chain technology will be accepted by the legal profession?
It will take a while in this part of the world, but this is an inevitable revolution. As a technology, it could be resisted by the legal profession owing to existing gaps in policy, customer protection and principal differences - especially with regard to decentralisation (organisational and technical).
The existing legal model is highly centralised around the world, and especially so in Nigeria. In this regard, organisational decentralisation will be resisted - we don't expect High/ Appellate/Supreme courts to be disrupted any time soon. While there might be a delay, it would eventually be accepted, especially because of functionalities like smart contracts.
Lawyers will simply need to understand that our role will change with time, but there will be a place for our profession in a world where laws have been digitised and can be executed by smart contracts.
Do you think block chain tech is the way to go, especially for an economy like Nigeria?
Absolutely! The best way to gauge the good or bad impact of new technology is to check how it affects the economy. When one highlights block chain’s features like transparency and faster processing of cross-border transactions, it’s easy to see how block chain can help turn the nation’s economy around. With block chain, people can now see, in real time, what their taxes are being used for. The near crippling of the economy due to embezzlement, bribery and corruption will become stale news.
Where do you see the adoption of block chain in record keeping in the various public sectors in Nigeria?
Top most here would be land registry and then the capital markets/assets trading.
What industry or sector do you think will benefit the most from the adoption of block chain tech in Nigeria?
The public sector is the number one area block chain’s use will positively impact the nation, be it in voting, record keeping, identity management and so on. Incorporating block chain with GovTech in Nigeria’s public sector will drastically reduce corruption, the number one cause of bad governance, which has far-reaching consequences as seen in unemployment, poverty, deteriorating infrastructure, etc.
How far do you think block chain tech has penetrated Africa?
A few countries like Mauritius, Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa are blazing the trail in embracing block chain. The rest will definitely catch up. However, most African nations lack awareness and proper enlightenment. There is a need for continuous education for the masses about how to use some of these platforms.
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