Kumasi, Ghana
Thomas Imo—Getty Images


Protecting family land

In Narigamba Mwinsuubo’s native Ghana, the International Monetary Fund estimates that approximately 90% of land is unregistered, meaning that the people who “own” that land—many of whom have lived and worked on it for generations—have little legal recourse if it’s seized or stolen. That’s where his company, Bitland, comes in. The startup uses blockchain technology—which can create tamper-proof digital public records—to help people prove their land belongs to them. Once possession is verified by Bitland’s operatives on the ground in cooperation with authorities, that fact gets memorialized in a blockchain record, which documents ownership in a format that cannot be retroactively altered. Bitland, which eventually plans to take fees from governments and a slice of transactions made through its platform, now operates in seven African nations plus India; it also works with Native Americans in the U.S. “Land rights are the foundation of a country,” says company COO Elliot Hedman. “The biggest thing that’s holding back developing countries from jumping onto the world stage economically and socioeconomically is insecure land.” —Billy Perrigo

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