From Josef Tetek
Curiously, the most eye-opening thing for me in terms of local Bitcoin adoption wasn’t the conference as such, but rather, it was interactions with ordinary Ghanaians in the city of Accra, most of whom learned about Bitcoin for the first time from us, the conference goers.
Several other Bitcoiners and I, including Hermann Vivier (the organizer behind the south-African circular economy project Bitcoin Ekasi) visited the local beach a day before the conference began, and spent the whole afternoon discussing Bitcoin with locals. What we found out was that Bitcoin becomes a very real thing once the locals are shown that they can receive value instantly, without any registration, and immediately spend it on airtime via Bitrefill. Whoever we talked to — fishermen, souvenir merchants, taxi drivers, artists — we witnessed the same cognitive process: from disregard and suspicion to excitement, within minutes. All that was required was to showcase a real-life immediate use for Bitcoin, and it all clicked.
Now, this might sound trivial to some readers, but the fact is that in many places, there is no easy way to conduct digital payments. Western Bitcoiners are mostly used to viewing bitcoin as a long-term store of value — which is, of course, a valuable use case everywhere around the globe — but in many countries, bitcoin serves as an incredible medium of exchange as well. And often, the only thing that is missing is knowledge about the Bitcoin ecosystem.
One theme that resounded throughout the three-day conference was the notion that Bitcoin can serve as a tool of liberation from the post-colonial systems of control in the form of the IMF, World Bank, the CFA franc system and similar constraints.
Gladstein explained in his keynote the precise nature of the debt slavery that most of the African nations find themselves in, with the IMF and World Bank happily lending billions of dollars to dictators, while it’s the citizens who are later forced to repay these debts, even though the loans only served to fill up the personal coffers of the kleptocratic dictators. Gladstein’s talk was based on his latest essay for Bitcoin Magazine, where he outlines the frustrating details of the IMF/WB exploitation scheme.
Africa may very well be the continent most damaged by fiat money. Fourteen countries still have their currency managed by the French government (the CFA franc regime), two countries are currently experiencing inflation near or over 100% (Zimbabwe and Sudan), almost half of the African countries face inflation higher than 10%, and cross-border payments are often expensive or impossible. Many speakers pointed out that Bitcoin is the only viable way out, and the only practical chance for uniting the continent.
Many speakers throughout the conference reminded us of the crucial ingredient of the Bitcoin revolution: the people. If ordinary people can’t understand and easily use the technology to alleviate their day-to-day problems, Bitcoin won’t get too far. Bitcoin doesn’t need to onboard politicians and central bankers, but rather taxi drivers and street food vendors. Thankfully, there are many grassroots communities emerging on the continent, spearheading the bottom-up adoption of the orange coin. To name just a few, there are Bitcoin Ekasi, Bitcoin Mountain, Bitcoin Cowries, Bitcoin Village, Exonumia and DigiOats. And many more are emerging.
Personally, I can’t wait for another chance to visit a Bitcoin conference on the African continent, the optimism for a better future is simply unmatched. The next upcoming conference seems to be the Nigeria Bitcoin Conference, happening in March. Since Nigeria has one of the most orange-pilled populations worldwide, I’m sure it will also be a wild, unforgettable experience.