Interswitch, Microsoft, Pioneer Blockchain Technology for SMEs in Nigeria

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By Modupe Gbadeyanka

An opportunity for Nigerians to enjoy the full benefits of blockchain technology has opened courtesy the partnership between Interswitch Group and Microsoft.

At media parley last week, both parties unveiled an innovative blockchain-based supply chain financing service in the country.

This novel initiative brings together entrepreneurs, major financial institutions and corporates organizations, all on a single platform to provide end-to-end visibility that will ensure fast and seamless trade financing in supply chain operations.

The Interswitch Blockchain Service (Supply Chain Finance Module), built and hosted using the Microsoft Azure Blockchain technology, provides a proven security, compliance and scalable cloud platform that accelerates and supports the next generation of blockchain applications.

According to the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer at Interswitch, Mr Mitchell Elegbe, “In our 15 years of operation, we have experienced the bottlenecks associated with the existing corporate-based financing infrastructure in Nigeria.

“This is why we are happy to partner with Microsoft, by leveraging the advanced technology of the Microsoft Azure Blockchain, to prove the possibility of building a distributed ledger that is practical, viable and has the propensity to solve some of Nigeria’s most difficult financial and logistic problems.”

With the launch of the Interswitch Blockchain Service (Supply Chain Finance Module), small to middle-sized businesses can access more funding in a shorter time (up to three weeks) from participating banks such as United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA), Guaranty Trust Bank Plc (GTB) and Zenith Bank Plc and enjoy increased sales cycles from participating corporations such as the Dangote Group.

While the application of blockchain is usually associated with cryptocurrency, the Interswitch Blockchain service does not deploy the use of cryptocurrency in its application. Transaction enquiries and verifications will be handled by authorized officials from participating entities, without the incentives of a cryptocurrency.

Michael Glaros, Principal Program Manager, Microsoft Azure Blockchain at Microsoft Corporation, said: “We are excited about this partnership with Interswitch. This will be the first enterprise-grade blockchain service in Nigeria, and one of only a handful of production blockchain applications in use by banks and corporates globally. The blockchain technology is still in its infancy in Nigeria and we are happy to pioneer its deployment in partnership with Interswitch, an innovative and forward-thinking company which has evolved its business around financial technology”

The Interswitch Blockchain Service, armed with a single version of the truth across the supply chain, allows Nigerian lenders and suppliers to identify and build relationships with high performing entrepreneurs. This will help empower people to create more jobs, more wealth, and a more prosperous Africa.

“Interswitch, in collaboration with Microsoft, has built a platform that will allow anyone to build blockchain-based solutions easily and more cost effectively. It is truly blockchain for everyone with lower costs and shorter time,” Mr Mitchell concluded.

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