Post Image
  In Nigeria, academic qualifications and certificates play crucial roles towards career progression. For this reason, so many people engage in unethical practices to obtain certificates, including forgery. In the months leading up to the Nigerian 2023 elections, there were several cases of political candidates presenting forged certificates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). So, the menace of certificate forgery has far-reaching consequences. Employers, educational institutions, students, and citizens suffer due to the lack of a reliable system to verify academic credentials. Enter Akowe, a pioneering startup dedicated to the digital issuance and verification of academic records.
Read more about Tech
This feature article highlights the remarkable work of Akowe, the brainchild of Ayodeji Ademola Agboola, and its transformative impact on combating credential fraud in Nigeria.

The Birth of Akowe

Akowe, regarded as a pioneering solution for digital issuance and verification of academic records, was founded by Ayodeji Ademola Agboola. A visionary in the tech space, Agboola saw the urgent need for a robust verification system to address the rampant problem of certificate forgery. Akowe is a portfolio company of the popular Accelerator Program, Founder Institute, Lagos, leveraging advanced technology to create a trustworthy system for academic credential verification. In 2018, Agboola was running a digital marketing business and training small business owners to use Facebook. By 2019, the program had trained 30,000 individuals who needed proof of course completion. Frustrated by the lack of simple tools for issuing certificates, Agboola decided to build his solution. By late 2020, he and his team developed a tool in just three weeks, tested it with their certificates, and found it worked perfectly. Thus, Akowe was born.

Akowe’s Approach to Tackling Credential Fraud

Akowe employs cutting-edge blockchain technology to create a secure, tamper-proof system for issuing and verifying academic records. Here’s how it works:
  1. Digital Issuance: Tertiary institutions or any other educational institutions can partner with Akowe to issue digital certificates to their graduates. These certificates are stored securely on a blockchain, ensuring they are immune to forgery.
  2. Verification Platform: Employers, HR firms, embassies, and educational institutions can use Akowe’s platform to verify the authenticity of academic records. This reduces the time and resources spent on manual verification processes.
  3. Data Security: Akowe prioritizes privacy and security, ensuring that personal academic records are protected while allowing for comprehensive verification.
The blockchain aspect securely stores certificate templates and recipient information. Organizations upload their certificate templates along with recipient lists, and Akowe automatically generates digital copies. This allows recruiters or visa officers to verify metadata such as certificate URLs, university names, student names, courses, grades, and graduation years.

Recent Developments and Achievements

Akowe, which is part of TechCrunch Disrupt’s 2023 Startup Battlefield 200, has been hailed as an innovative solution by several bodies. It was one of the 30 startups recognized by the prestigious Yale Africa Startup Review as the top 30 startups in Africa for 2023. Also, in October 2023, Akowe was announced as one of the NODO wave 19 grant recipients. Ayodeji Agboola recently highlighted Akowe’s progress and the critical role it plays in fighting credential fraud. In a Facebook post published on May 10, 2024, he shared insights on the startup’s journey and its impact:
“About a week ago, the news broke that Tinuade Sanda, the former MD of EKO Disco, was sacked after it was revealed that her educational degrees from Edinburgh and Harvard Universities were fake. Credential fraud is a huge problem in Nigeria and many developing countries. It is one of the reasons qualified people do not get jobs. The absence of smart verification systems also causes people to miss job and study abroad opportunities.”

Sign up for the Connect Nigeria daily newsletter
To address these issues, Akowe has taken several steps:
  • Extensive Data Analysis: Akowe reviewed over 300,000 public academic records from various tertiary institutions. These records included details such as names, gender, faculty, departments, courses, degrees, grades, and graduation years. The analysis revealed numerous errors, underscoring the need for a more accurate and secure verification system.
  • Privacy-Oriented Platform Development: Understanding the sensitivity of academic records, Akowe is building a system that ensures privacy while providing comprehensive verification services. This platform aims to aggregate data from multiple sources, improving the accuracy of academic record verification.
  • Collaborations and Partnerships: Akowe collaborates with several tertiary institutions to ensure the integrity and reliability of the verification process. These partnerships are crucial for the startup’s credibility and success.

Challenges and Strategic Approaches

In an interview granted to TechCrunch in 2023, Agboola revealed that one significant challenge Akowe faces is user acquisition, particularly in navigating the complexities of public universities, which are often mired in bureaucracy. According to him, private universities are generally more open to new business processes due to their profit-oriented nature. In contrast, public universities, despite being the most prestigious and housing the majority of students, present more red tape.
“In the beginning, we were always very open to say, hey, blockchain, blockchain. But we then found that [the universities] had a negative connotation or understanding of the concept because they had seen what happened with crypto, and as long as they are concerned, they are all one and the same. So we stopped putting blockchain ahead in the conversation,”
Agboola noted. In his post, Agboola also called for public participation to guide the development of Akowe’s platform:
“We want to have a clear understanding from you, what type of information you will feel comfortable sharing on a credential verification platform like Akowe Verify. Your responses will guide our development process and help us create a platform that respects your privacy while providing valuable verification services to you and other stakeholders.”
To this end, Akowe has launched a survey to gather feedback from potential users. This survey aims to understand user preferences and concerns regarding sharing personal academic information on the verification platform. Participation in this survey is crucial for Akowe to develop a system that meets the needs of its users while maintaining high standards of privacy and security.
Register to attend the CN Business Mixer

The Vision Ahead

Ayodeji Agboola envisions a future where academic credentials in Nigeria are universally trusted and easily verifiable. He believes that a private sector company like Akowe, in collaboration with tertiary institutions, can build an effective credential verification system. This system will significantly reduce credential fraud, ensuring only qualified individuals get the opportunities they deserve.
Got a suggestion? Contact us:

You might also like:
This article was first published on 14th June 2024


Ifegwu-Mbonu Victor is a Personal Growth and Leadership Trainer who provides training and coaching to individuals and organizations.

Comments (1)

One thought on “Certificate Forgery: What Nigerian Startup, Akowe, is Doing”

  • In Nigeria, awareness is rapidly spread among the people, their politicians know about IT and they start small programs and offer IT courses.

    Click here Best Landscape Services in Fresno CA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *