This is the opinion of Josef Tětek, SatoshiLabs’ Trezor brand ambassador.
The inaugural Africa Bitcoin Conference (ABC) took place earlier this month in Accra, Ghana. Some events in your life are so impactful that you find it difficult to return to everyday reality after going through them. My visit to this event was one such experience.
Pre-Conference Orange Pilling On The Beach
For some time now, I’ve been an avid fan of Alex Gladstein and his vision of Bitcoin as a tool to empower the disenfranchised, the exploited, and the oppressed. This spring I devoured his new book, Check Your Financial Privilege, and a few weeks later I was lucky enough to visit his organization’s Oslo Freedom Forum. But even though I understood rationally that bitcoin is a necessity for billions around the world, i never really experienced adoption from this point of view, and never met the people for whom Bitcoin could be a lifesaver. That changed for me a few weeks ago in Ghana.
Interestingly, the hardest part for me in terms of local adoption of Bitcoin was the conference itself, but rather the interactions with ordinary Ghanaians in Accra, most of whom were learning about Bitcoin for the first time. to us, the conference participants.
A few other Bitcoiners and I, including Herman Vivier (organizer of the South African circular economy project Bitcoin Ekasi) visited a local beach the day before the conference started and spent the afternoon discussing Bitcoin with the locals. What we found was that Bitcoin becomes a very real thing when locals are shown that they can receive value instantly, without any registration, and spend it instantly on airtime via Bitrefill. Whoever we spoke to—fishermen, souvenir traders, taxi drivers, artists—we witnessed the same cognitive process, from indifference and suspicion to excitement within minutes. All that was required was to show a direct real-life use of Bitcoin and it all clicked.
Now this may seem trivial to some readers, but the fact is that in many places there is no easy way to make digital payments. Bitcoiners in the West are mostly used to treating Bitcoin as a long-term store of value, which is certainly a valuable use case around the world, but in many countries Bitcoin also serves as an incredible medium of exchange. And often the only thing missing is knowledge of the Bitcoin ecosystem.
Bitcoin: Pan-African hope
One of the themes echoed throughout the three-day conference was the idea that Bitcoin could serve as a tool for liberation from post-colonial control systems in the form of the IMF, the World Bank, the CFA franc system, and similar restrictions.
In his keynote speech, Gladstein explained the exact nature of the debt slavery most African countries find themselves in, with the IMF and the World Bank happily handing out billions of dollars to dictators, while the citizens are later forced to repay those debts, even. although the loans only served to fill the personal coffers of the kleptocratic dictators. Gladstein’s talk was based on his recent essay for Bitcoin Magazine in which he outlines the frustrating details of the IMF/WB exploitation scheme.
Africa may very well be the continent most affected by fiat money. Fourteen countries still have their currency managed by the French government (CFA franc regime), two countries currently experience inflation close to or above 100% (Zimbabwe and Sudan), almost half of African countries face above 10% inflation, and cross-inflation. – marginal payments are often expensive or impossible. Many speakers pointed out that Bitcoin is the only viable option and the only practical option to unify the continent.
The pan-African nature of Bitcoin was often touched upon; in many conversations, panel discussions and off-stage networking; Bitcoin was generally perceived as a pan-African phenomenon.
On the other hand, the lessons learned from the adoption of Bitcoin on the African continent are invaluable for Bitcoin itself and its potential for hyperbitcoinization; Bitcoin is being tested to its limits in Africa. many countries are openly hostile to Bitcoin, all kinds of infrastructure. often unreliable, people are often lured into Bitcoin scams; yet adoption follows an exponential curve.
Fedi’s Obi Nwosu summed up the view of many attendees in his keynote speech when he declared, “Africa is winning with Bitcoin. And Bitcoin wins with Africa.”
A strong theme throughout the conference was the need for African Bitcoins to build tools for Africa, the reason being that developers in the Western world often have an understandable blind spot for the needs and circumstances of Africans.
A prime example is this year’s introduction of Machankura, a service that allows Lightning Network payments to be made available on feature phones. Machankura is being developed by Kgotatso Ngako, a developer from South Africa, where feature phones are still popular (as they are in other African countries). It’s hard to imagine Machankura being developed and adopted in Europe or the US, as residents of these regions simply don’t need to use Lightning on feature phones; but in Africa it is a game changer for millions of people.
Network of Bitcoin Tool Makers Expands to Africa Over the past few years, educational and grant programs such as Btrust and Qala have emerged, and more and more developers on the African continent can work on Bitcoin full-time, either through grants or m finding work in many of the African Bitcoin startups. .
Obstacles to Africa’s Hyperbitcoinization
The exploding adoption of bitcoin in Africa has also had its share of problems.
First, the infrastructure. As one of the speakers aptly expressed. “Every Ghanaian knows when it rains, the internet goes down.” The good news is that Africans are actively working to alleviate these problems. One of the interesting projects presented at the conference was Gridless, a Bitcoin mining company that uses gridded energy, such as local hydroelectric plants that are not connected to the national grid. A new $2 million investment in Gridless was announced during the conference, helping the project expand beyond its home country of Kenya.
A second obstacle is that fraud and exploitative schemes are common. A prime example is Worldcoin. Some time ago, the global Bitcoin community was outraged by this project, which attracts new users by airdropping tokens in exchange for retina scans. After the initial wave of discontent, things died down and the general impression was that Worldcoin was abandoned. To my surprise, I found out that the project is very much alive and the eye scanning spheres are being deployed on the African continent. Bitcoin workers around the world have a duty to shine a light on such nefarious data harvesting attempts and ensure that Africans are well informed about the difference between Bitcoin and everything else.
Third, corporate conquest. It will not benefit the African continent to get rid of neo-colonial monetary schemes like the CFA system, only to replace it with their corporate equivalents. From several discussions, I understand that Binance and other major exchanges are muddying the waters about what it actually means to hold Bitcoin, discouraging newcomers from self-custody and instead promoting exchange accounts as the only option. Another alarming area of corporate conquest is the widespread reliance on WhatsApp. as one Twitter commenter recently announced, WhatsApp is “Africa’s email”. This should be a reminder that education efforts should focus not only on Vitcoin and self-security, but also on Signal, encrypted email, password managers, VPNs, and other similar digital empowerment tools.
All eyes on Africa!
The Africa Bitcoin Conference was one of the most inspiring events I have been to. Everyone I met—entrepreneurs, human rights activists, circular community builders, developers—was full of orange pill energy on the African continent. But their enthusiasm was not naïve and did not stem from any ideology or heterodox economic school; on the contrary, their approach was a very practical one. Africa has its share of problems and Bitcoin can help solve them if we do things right.
During the conference, many speakers reminded us of an important component of the Bitcoin revolution: the people. If ordinary people cannot understand and easily use the technology to alleviate their daily problems, Bitcoin will not go very far. Bitcoin needs taxi drivers and street food vendors, not politicians and central bankers. Fortunately, many grassroots communities are emerging across the continent to spearhead the adoption of the orange coin from the bottom up. To name just a few, there are Bitcoin Ekasi:, Bitcoin Mountain, Bitcoin Cowries:, Bitcoin Village:Exonumia and: DigiOats:. And many more are coming.
Personally, I can’t wait for another opportunity to visit a Bitcoin conference on the African continent, the optimism for a better future is simply unmatched. The next upcoming conference appears to be the Nigerian Bitcoin Conference in March. With Nigeria having one of the largest pill orange populations in the world, I’m sure it will also be a wild, unforgettable experience.
Note: Live streams of the second and third day of the Africa Bitcoin Conference are available here conference YouTube channel.
This is a guest post by Josef Tětek. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.