In Africa, The Concept Of Blockchain Has Always Existed: Congo’s Queen Diambi At Blockchain Week

Written by Lauren DeLisa Coleman
Queen Diambi
Queen Diambi on stage at the Ethereal Summit. Photo courtesy of ConsenSys

Blockchain Week NYC was a veritable hotbed of activity with events, speakers, private dinners and parties. However, a particular addition to the stage, though unexpected, points to a much larger trend to watch throughout the year.

Now in its third year, The Ethereal Summit, produced by ConsenSys, was held in Brooklyn, New York and offered a two-day look at the next level of blockchain, examining everything from smart contracts to blockchain art.  But it was the talk given by Queen Diambi Kabatusuila of Kasai Kingdom of the Democratic Republic of Congo that offered a provocative perspective.

Entitled “Sankofa & Blockchain,” the Queen’s presentation essentially addressed not only the impending impact that Africa will have on the blockchain industry but also the importance to partner with the continent in some manner in the space in order to maintain relevance.

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Queen Diambi, in an affable manner befitting more talk-show host than the stereotypical detached and formal behavior, commanded the stage and set the tone immediately. She first explained the importance of understanding the context of Africa beyond its historical narrative of victim to human trafficking. Instead, she took the audience back to a time when Africa was flourishing and making advances in mathematics, science and philosophy.  “It is important to go back to that which we’ve forgotten. It is important to have a conversation with the future, technology, about the past, Africa,” she said.

It is, for this reason, she entitled her talk “Sankofa”, meaning returning to what was lost — blockchain.

Queen Diambi on tech inclusion

She noted that too often the future is being decided without the inclusion of Africa and such an approach will lead to an overall imbalance on the global stage because technology is an area in which Africa wants to and is capable of contributing greatly.

Queen Diambi, a former programmer, explained that in Africa the concept of blockchain has always existed, albeit without technology. She gave the fascinating example of the typical naming ceremony where everyone in the village had to validate not only the name of a new child but also his ancestry, and just like blockchain, such data could not be changed or tampered with once it was established. “This comes naturally from our communal values,” the Queen explained. “Integrity and validity are key. Everyone has to agree. The principle is simple and the same as blockchain so blockchain is not new for us in Africa.”

She also gave other cultural examples about how fractal mathematics, much of which is believed to be the future basis of tech advancements, is also organic to African culture as well.  “I went through the same propaganda machine before, too,” said Queen Diambi, “But you will have to concern yourself with Africa more and more. It is important to understand that Africa will be next when it comes to tech advancements.  We are trying to recover, not develop.”  She made a special point to predict that the same phenomenon we’ve seen happen with mobile phone use in Africa and a leap-frogging of its applications into to such platforms as M-Pesa and more in advance of other continents will happen with blockchain.

It is important to note that Queen Diambi’s appearance in America during blockchain week is indicative of a slow turning of the spotlight toward Africa as the next area of the world from which innovation will spark and investments flourish.  From Goldman Sachs in the U.S. to Orange telecommunications in France, corporations are beginning to view portfolio expansion to potentially include this region.  Only time will tell if the efforts are fruitful. However, if Queen Diambi has her way as an evangelist, even greater attention will be generated.

“Do not discount Africa,” Queen Diambi cautioned at the Summit. “Africa is an old lady, she is a wise lady, and she is a loving and caring lady. So please, don’t let that resource escape so that we can make a future for all of us that is better than that which we have accomplished so far.”