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Only the courageous enterprises are implementing blockchain in MENA

It has almost been a year (June 2018) since SAP announced their cloud platform to assist corporations in developing their blockchain applications. In parallel SAP has also been a strong contributor for Hyperledger Fabric and has developed a co-innovation program now working with 80 companies to trial blockchain applications in various industries including supply chain, manufacturing, transportation, food and pharmaceuticals. In addition SAP formed a blockchain consortium which include firms such as HP enterprise, Intel, UPS, A3, Airbus SE to help develop a global supply chain platform.

All this has yet to materialize into a full blown implementation of Blockchain solutions in MENA as well as globally. UNLOCK met with Pedro S. Pereira, Head of Digital Innovation, SAP MENA during the Future Blockchain Summit in Dubai UAE. Pereira was presenting SAP vision on how blockchain will become a key player in digitization efforts once it can add value to the ecosystem and play in tune with other technologies.

On a global scale, though SAP was a latecomer in announcing their blockchain solutions, it already has built consortiums and is well into POC (proof of concepts) and some productions in both the pharmaceutical industry as well as food supply chain industry. Pereira says, “ today we have more than 80 companies enrolled in the Pharma use case as part of our co-innovation program, and we pride ourselves in our industry expertise instead of focusing on the noisy hype of Blockchain as a technology alone.”

According to Pereira it is not easy to pull companies into trust environment, and while nobody owns the blockchain everyone needs to collaborate to make it successful. He explains, “The cost of trust is huge for our customers, so when we pull them into a blockchain project we are creating a network of shared information which will reduce risks, costs, and enhance business which is a perfect solution for them.”

The biggest industries involved today in Blockchain are the heavily regulated ones where there is much segregation. Pereira states, “ Finance, Food, health are the industries today that can most benefit from blockchain, and in the MENA region for example one the first problems SAP tackled was in the real-estate sector.” SAP in MENA worked on a proof of Concept project with one of the leading real-estate developers and car dealership owners. SAP worked with them on two POCs one for the end of lease when it comes to real-estate property and the other for fire risk assessment. According to Pereira, “We witnessed many big fires in the region over the years, and given that facility managers sub contract companies to handle fire risk assessment and due diligence, blockchain was a good solution to ensuring that information was shared and processes carried out properly and transparently.”

Yet despite the number of POCs, most organizations have yet to take a leap of faith and implement. Pereira believes “At a higher level in corporations the power of blockchain is still not understood fully coupled with the need for courage to change how they do business and combine the strengths of Blockchain, IOT, and AI together.” He adds, “We will win the trust once one or two major players implement and start showing results. Today it is a use case driven story and out of that a more vibrant ecosystem will develop.”

SAP for example implemented blockchain in cooperation with Ripple for ReiseBank in Germany with their counterpart in Canada. The technology prototype connects SAP HANA Cloud Platform, the open platform as a service from SAP, and the SAP Payment Engine application, which centralizes payment processing in one solution, with Ripple’s network. In addition SAP has piloted its SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain with 16 farm-to-consumer produce suppliers such as Maple Leaf Foods, Johnsonville, Naturipe Farms, Tate & Lyle and Natura. SAP’s blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) provides an abstraction layer that supports open standards, offers built-in integration with SAP applications.

More recently Bumble Bee Foods, North America’s largest branded shelf-stable seafood company, announced it was using the SAP® Cloud Platform Blockchain service to trace the journey of yellowfin tuna from the Indonesian ocean to the dinner table.

Perreira states, “SAP is also working on Blockchain for notarization where we utilize both the public blockchain and private blockchain. Qurum blockchain a private version of Ethereum and we integrate that with the public version using Hana connectors which pulls data from blockchain utilizing its memory capability. We are trying to focus on use cases where the blockchain can derive value.”

Finally if there is anything hindering the proliferation of Blockchain it is not SAP says Pereira but rather the fact “that while organizations are seriously trying to explore blockchain, there is a gap between intention and execution of a technology that is only 10 years old and has not reached a level of maturity. In short there is a gap between the hungriness of the market and the readiness of the technology.”

Lara Abdul Malak

Lara has been a journalist and writer in the technology field since her graduation from AUB majoring in political science. She has had career in corporation communications in the telecom sector and was part of the launch of first 3G network in the GCC and MENA region. Since her return to journalism she has been focused with passion on blockchain, tokenization, crypto focusing on the GCC and MENA region.

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