South Africa’s central bank announced Tuesday that it is collaborating with the Brooklyn-based Ethereum startup ConsenSys on a pilot program using JP Morgan’s open source blockchain platform Quorum.

“The objective of the POC [proof of concept] is to replicate interbank clearing and settlement on a DLT [distributed ledger technology],” the South African Reserve Bank’s statement said, “which will allow the SARB and industry to jointly assess the potential benefits and risks of DLTs.”

South Africa Johannesburg 2010 Johannesburg skyline. Photo: Reuters

CoinDesk reported several leading South African banks, including SARB, are slowly developing large-scale blockchain infrastructures. Adding Quorum to the mix opens up new possibilities. It offers different types of permissioned channels for interbank clearing and settlements. Quorum is increasingly popular with curious banks around the world, thanks in part to its support from the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance. Last February, Microsoft added Quorum to Azure’s blockchain developer toolbox. Since then, collaborations with cryptocurrency startups such as Zcash added new  privacy-centric smart contract capabilities.

Now South Africa is taking a leading role in the region’s growing blockchain scene. Microsoft’s Johannesburg office will host the Blockchain Africa Conference 2018 in March. And corporations aren’t the only ones exploring blockchain technology in South Africa. Last year, Ice3X bitcoin exchange founder Gareth Grobler told Business Live roughly 100,000 South Africans were actively trading bitcoin. According to Earn.com, there are roughly 38 bitcoin nodes operating in South Africa. The number of local blockchain startups is also on the rise.

The research and development firm nChain recently acquired equity in the Johannesburg-based startup Centbee, which offers cryptocurrency wallets and bitcoin cash payment services. "Centbee is the next generation of where banking is going to be. A lot of we do replaces what banks do, but with next generation models,” Centbee co-CEO Angus Brown told CoinGeek about blockchain’s potential to increase accessibility by decreasing economic friction. “This is a real important human problem to be solved, especially here in South Africa, where there is a real need.”