Nigeria concluded its 2019 presidential elections on February 23, 2019 between two northern candidates, incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and opposition Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). With over 80 political parties running in the beginning, this race was an imperative and poignant time in Nigeria’s history. Elections were originally supposed to take place on February 16, 2019 but were postponed one week to February 23, 2019. Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the electoral body set up to oversee elections, declared the postponement was due to “logistical issues.” INEC announced the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, the winner of the 2019 presidential elections. After the elections were announced, opposition, Abubakar, is currently challenging the results in court on the basis of “irregularities,” saying he won by more than two million votes. Inauguration day is May 29, 2019 and the court ruling will conveniently take place after President Buhari has been inaugurated for his second term.

Nigerians travel in large trucks to their villages outside the city center to vote.

The past three presidential elections have been nothing short of bloody. In 2011, an estimated 800 people were killed in election related violence. Boko Haram also took advantage of the country’s unstable political situation in the 2011 presidential election by bombing polling stations, killing gubernatorial candidates in Borno State, and shooting employees in the headquarters of INEC. Boko Haram’s involvement in disrupting presidential elections didn’t change in 2019. On election morning, Maiduguri experienced seven RPG explosions as a scare tactic for voters. They were set off at 06:00, released within a 10-minute period. With polling stations opening two hours later, voters still showed up despite the unstable atmosphere.

Boko Haram has been the root of grief and suffering throughout Nigeria for the past 10 years. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), across the three main affected states, Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe 7.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance out of the population of 13.4 million. Of that, over 80% of the population in Borno State are internally displaced peoples (IDP) in 2019 alone.

A group protesting government corruption during elections.

Founded in 2002, Mohammed Yusuf started what is now known as Boko Haram in Maiduguri, Nigeria. His aim was to attract poor Muslim families across the country, with the political goal of creating an Islamic State. By denouncing police and state corruption, he groomed unemployed and vulnerable youth to join his group. By 2009, Boko Haram started its uprising and curated suicide bombs, kidnappings, and executions. The group’s main targets were and still are today, government officials and buildings, mosques, and police headquarters.

Originally being based on the outskirts of Maiduguri in a community named, Bulabulin Ngaranam, as Boko Haram grew in size, it relocated to a place now known as Sambisa Forest. This forest is an ambiguous place Nigerians rarely speak of, but is held heavy in their hearts. You can land in Maiduguri and ask the first person you see if they know someone affected by Boko Haram and the answer will be yes. Executions and kidnappings are almost normalized now because of how frequently they happen. Arriving in the city I had no idea the kinds of stories people would be willing to share with me. It was through a mutual friend that I had the opportunity to meet with three children who were held captive by Boko Haram for five years and risked their lives to escape just two months ago.

From left to right, Aisha (13), Lucas (12), and Muhammed (7) (names changed to protect identity) escaped from Boko Haram.

The three children have the same father. Their uncle is a Boko Haram member who took them to the Sambisa Forest to live there without telling their father. Aisha and her little brother, Muhammed, who were kept in a separate camp than Lucas, fled for their lives while ordered to collect food in the forest. A risky attempt that many children had tried and failed. Aisha and Muhammed were eventually found by soldiers and taken to a safe place in case their uncle went in search of them. Lucas had no idea if his brother and sister were alive. He also was brave enough to run away while collecting food just two weeks after his siblings. He made it to an abandoned gas station where he met 12 other kids who had escaped. Many malnourished, dehydrated, and sick. After leaving the gas station to continue his trek to safety, Lucas was the only kid alive that didn’t die from hunger or dehydration. Soldiers found him and took him to a hospital for treatment. Their father had been looking for his kids for five years by the time he was reunited.

The kids sit at their school where they have started intensive therapy and the integration process into a “normal” life. Though the trauma has impacted them so intensely, their lives can never be “normal.” Usually when taking portraits, I have to ask kids not to smile, this was not the case when taking their picture. They stared at me, eyes glazed over and crossing their arms to put on a strong face. When speaking about her experiences, Aisha couldn’t stop fidgeting with her skirt and her legs were shaking up and down, a clear sign of PTSD. She has barely opened up to her therapist about the traumas she endured, but was brave to share one story of her and her friends being used as human shields when the military attacked Boko Haram. The insurgency believed the military wouldn’t shoot at kids. Many children lost their lives and had severe injuries, receiving only paracetamol to treat wounds; simple infections became life threatening.

Security guards walk at the conference explaining the postponement of elections.

The sad truth of this story is that it isn’t the only one. There are many men, women, and children that share similar stories and traumas like this. When you talk to the locals, there are varying opinions about the government’s role in eradicating Boko Haram. Some believe the government is purposely not killing off the terrorist group in order to keep more money flowing within the military and the country. Others believe the Nigerian army just isn’t capable, and most importantly, they believe that the change they were promised by the president will happen. Although each candidate discussed the actions they planned to change in regards to Boko Haram, the conversation surrounding the issue just isn’t enough. And the people of Nigeria keep waiting for the change they are told will come every election. There is no greater burden than bearing an untold story within you, and all those affected by Boko Haram and the empty promises will continue being burdened until the government allows them to tell their stories.

But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?

Let’s start with gold.

Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.

In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.

It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.

And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.

It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.

We’ve already agreed, as a global community, to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality education. We’ve already agreed to empower all women and girls, to ensure pure and clean water access for all, to promote health at all stages of life, and to end hunger.

We’ve already agreed.

Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.

Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.

In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.

Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.

This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.

But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently.  Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.

Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?

We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.

What if education was a new gold standard?

And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?

Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.

By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?

Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.

Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.

These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.”  —George Washington
Emma Hall
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.