Bitcoin in Africa: The Success Story of a Tunisian Entrepreneur

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html5 webAs we constantly point out, Bitcoin is an excellent entry gate to financial services, crowd-funding and e-commerce for the citizens of this world who live in countries where the banking infrastructure is, at best, outdated. CryptoCoinsNews met a Tunisian entrepreneur who successfully launched a Bitcoin marketplace for website themes.

How Bitcoin Is Empowering People from Africa

Zied Hosni is 32 years old. Working in Tunisia as a web developer in a large French group, he has always been passionate about computers and the Internet:

I love what I do: the Web is truely my passion. With the Internet and now Bitcoin, it is once again proved that anything is possible in this area, provided you behave ethically and responsibly.

The young man used to contribute to sites selling themes for websites (also called templates) such as ThemeForest or WrapBootstrap. Then he decided to launch his platform, amazed by the impressive growth in this industry that came with the democratization of web development and web design. HTML5 Ninja, his marketplace, was born.

The principle is quite simple: a template seller registers on the marketplace, uploads a theme and indicates the selling price. Zied and his team review and publish it online while hosting the theme on their servers. A commission is then taken by the website each time the theme is sold.

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HTML5 Ninja

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But unfortunately, after trying to use existing solutions to handle payments, Zied encountered problems because of his location: Tunisia.

I started to look at standard payment processors: PayPal, Skrill, Payooner .. However, most of these systems have enhanced identity and solvency verification procedures (Requiring confirmation of an international debit card, passport, bank statement..)

In addition, the banking system here dates of the stone age (laughs). The transaction fees charged on each debit card payment are extremely prohibitive, as well as the so-called “monthly management fees”: $ 20 even though I had not sold any article!

Finally, the question of repayment for our sellers also arose: considering bank transfers for these vendors often located abroad was impossible due to the monetary policy of our country: the monetary protectionism is certainly beneficial for the local economy of this small country, but severely hinder eCommerce development and you must request authorizations from the central bank, the finance ministry and other authorities for a simple bank transfer to a foreign country!

Using PayPal was possible at first, albeit with severe conditions: I had to use a “foreign” account, because even confirmed Tunisian accounts can not accept payments. On top of that, to reduce costs that applied to each transaction, I was limiting such repayments to vendors for a payment per month. It was not very attractive for them… But this solution did not last long: PayPal, realizing that I live in Tunisia, probably due to my IP address, finally banned the account.

Zied began to look for other solutions that would allow him to move forward:

Launched in September 2012, the site enjoyed a good traffic and excellent feedback. Without any marketing budget nor seed funds, the website grew thanks to a simple, but efficient strategy: offer some free themes and scripts on the website that allowed me to generate a lot of traffic. It greatly encouraged me to continue until March 2013 when my PayPal account was banned.

So I googled “PayPal account Blocked” and found out a forum where users were talking about bitcoin, And then, what an enlightenment it was! No transaction fees, no outrageous identity verification, no third party service: my wallet is my very-own wallet! It is true that the system was somewhat complicated to grasp at first, especially on the development aspect / integration on the website. Then, after some research, I was able to update my website architecture using Blockchain.info API for sending and receiving payments … How happy I was!

Zied’s project has been successful so far. It has been selected among more than 500 applicants for the GIST contest designed to reward innovative projects in developing areas of the world such as Africa. HTML5 Ninja is a semi-finalist, and the only project related to Bitcoin.

The contest ends on October first, and Zied relies on your support in order to have a slight chance to win the ultimate prize: a year of coworking space, as well as $75,000 that would allow him to grow. You can hep him by voting here.

Is there a Bitcoin community in Tunisia? Everything remains to be done, according to Zied:

Well, at this time, the bitcoin community in Tunisia is… Zied ! (laughs). No,seriously, there has been two or three speeches about bitcoin during High Tech conferences like Android Dev Camp which was held in early 2014, but otherwise we didn’t saw anything really concrete like meetups, major international conferences, bitcoin mining communities that emerged in the western countries.

Regarding the latter point, the average monthly income is $346 per person, and therefore the purchase of expensive graphic cards or asics for mining, often costing twice that amount, is unthinkable.

However, Zied adds:

It is moving, and people working in the Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) field are beginning to look more closely at bitcoin!

Asked about the possibility to change Bitcoins in Tunisian dinars (TND) in a country-specific exchange, he says:

For now, It is useless to me to exchange bitcoins into fiat money: the customer who wishes to buy a theme pays in Bitcoin, and then we withdraw funds minus a little commission within 24h to the seller upon his request. It is not necessary, at any stage, to go through fiat money. On own earnings, I retain as much as possible, hoping a later price appreciation while converting a small part from time to time via VirWoX. Tunisian banks do not pose a problem when it comes to receiving foreign currency, unlike the reverse direction (laughs)

Finally, in view of his future victory in the GIST contest and/or an increase of activity on his website, Zied is not running out of ideas for the future:

I hope to make this site a full-time activity, of course. Create a company, provide the ability to sell and purchase more diversified content on the site and allow worldwide freelancers to offer their graphics / web development services using bitcoins?

And why not, one day, launch the first Tunisian Bitcoin exchange (laughs).

At this time, the central bank and the Tunisian government didn’t issue any opinion on Bitcoin. Let’s hope for Zed that it will last, and the Tunisian government will not attempt to interfere with the flourishing Bitcoin ecosystem, like we unfortunately have seen with Bangladesh.

Images by HTML5 Ninja and Shutterstock.

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