As part of their 2016–2017 budget, the Republic of Mauritius, which is an island nation off the southeastern coast of Africa, included regulatory sandbox legislation that can be used by blockchain technology companies to develop and commercialize their applications in the country with access to the African and Indian markets.
In an effort to learn more about the opportunities for blockchain startups in Mauritius, Bitcoin Magazine reached out to James Duchenne, who is the co-founder of Volt Markets and an honorary representative of the Republic of Mauritius’s Board of Investment, the national investment promotion agency.
Current Stage of Blockchain Development in Mauritius
According to Duchenne, Mauritius is in the early stages of engaging the blockchain community and wants to design a roadmap for making the country a hub of global blockchain innovation.
“It is expected that the recent Regulatory Sandbox Licensing scheme implemented in Mauritius [will] be used to address some of the roadblocks faced by ventures in launching and commercializing disruptive applications,” said Duchenne.
Although Duchenne is keeping Mauritius’s current dealings with the blockchain industry under wraps, he did say that representatives from Mauritius have been in regular contact with those who are developing applications on top of Ethereum, Bitcoin and other blockchain-inspired systems.
“It is, however, important to state that we would like to hear from a broad spectrum of people in the field so that we can prepare synergistic solutions whereby new technology complements the regulatory framework,” Duchenne added.
In addition to the new regulatory structure, Duchenne also pointed out that the political stability found in Mauritius makes it an attractive base for startups that want access to the African and Indian markets. Duchenne added that Mauritius will have free Wi-Fi available across most of the country by the end of the year.
“[Mauritius] proposes to leverage the aspects of a tropical lifestyle, modern living, innovation and incentives to attract an innovative and practical blockchain culture,” said Duchenne. “The vision is to focus all aspects of blockchain innovation and commercial applications in a geographical area, then expand the same to other areas of Mauritius and Africa.”
How Blockchain Technology Can Help in Africa and Asia
Like many others who are excited by blockchain-based platforms, Duchenne believes that this new technology will impact virtually every industry. “In the long-term this means that useful applications are not restricted to geographic locations,” he added.
According to Duchenne, there is a chance that some of the lesser-known regions around the world will be able to leapfrog traditional centers of innovation due to the level playing field created by this new technology.
“Short-term, however, applications that unlock and advertise the productive potential of the unbanked on global financial markets with adequate protections, [such as identity and Know Your Customer], with little friction or intermediaries are ideal,” said Duchenne in terms of the types of applications that could become popular in Africa and Asia. “Others are crowdfunding renewable energy projects and microcredit. To achieve this, it is important that local stakeholders acquire an appreciation of the disruptive potential we’re dealing with and how to take advantage of it.”
Permissioned Ledgers vs. Public Blockchains
In terms of whether specific types of blockchains will be preferred over others in the future, Duchenne claimed that permissioned ledgers may have some usefulness, but he added, “While we don’t know the future, my guess is that ultimately, public blockchains, much like the internet, will be more valuable than a consortium-type intranet (permissioned ledgers), but that both will coexist.”
Duchenne claimed that bridges will inevitably be built between the permissioned ledger and public blockchain ecosystems.
According to Duchenne, there are also reasons to remain skeptical at times when it comes to companies touting their use of blockchain technology. “It is important to separate hype from reality,” he said. “For example, I heard of a company winning a contract because it mentioned the word ‘blockchain,’ without understanding, truly understanding, [what] that meant!”
Duchenne is also of the opinion that Ethereum will be the main platform for blockchain-related innovation in the future.
“Ethereum is where I believe most of the growth and explosion of practical innovation will be,” said Duchenne. “The mindshare and traction that it has (example, ConsenSys) is phenomenal. For this reason, I think that you must have a very good reason to not choose Ethereum as the blockchain for commercial applications today.”
Although Duchenne is bullish on Ethereum, he also referred to Bitcoin as “the mother of all blockchains” with “a network effect that’s hard to dislodge.”