Digital payment systems are already the norm in many African countries. 43% of Kenya’s GDP is cycled through M-Pesa, a “mobile phone based money transfer and micro-financing service.” And nearly 80% of mobile phone owners in Kenya use this service to pay and carry out banking, making Kenya the world leader in mobile payments.
In Ghana, where only 17% of the population have access to the internet, there are more mobile phone contracts than there are people. The prevalence of mobile phone payment systems is, therefore, unsurprising. But these systems still leave a lot to be desired: they are in the hands of banks and telecom companies, money transfers are only permitted between customers within the country, and there are limits on the total amount of money that can be stored in mobile wallets. These centrally imposed limitations can only stifle entrepreneurship on the continent of Africa.
Mr. Agyei Asare sees Bitcoin as a way to circumvent these limitations. The Dream Bitcoin Foundation hopes to encourage the use of Bitcoin amongst Africans so as to create “interconnected hubs of prosperity” throughout the continent of Africa and beyond. He notes that Bitcoin is digital and therefore “building a payment platform on top of it should be relatively easy.” Furthermore, Bitcoin transactions have the advantage of being quicker than existing mobile payment services (seconds vs. days) and they are also much cheaper. Beam is one such Bitcoin-based Ghanaian company that has sought to undercut the rates charged by companies like MoneyGram and Western Union on remittances (which can be as high as 20%).
Cryptocurrencies already have a foothold in Africa. People in Botswana, Uganda, South Africa, and Sierra Leone are already using Bitcoin as a medium of exchange. In countries where hyperinflation is rife, such as Zimbabwe which as of 2014 still has no national currency, the prospects for Bitcoin uptake and entrepreneurship are especially intriguing. The government-induced hyperinflation that so drastically reduces the value of national fiat currencies, makes Bitcoin, in theory, a very attractive store of value and medium of exchange; in short, a very attractive alternative to fiat currencies (even taking into account its own volatility). It remains to be seen whether this theory will hold true in practice.
Mr. Agyei Asare says that ultimately, “blockchain technology will help in bringing wealth to a land plagued by poverty.” And his hope is that the Foundation will help Cheetahs (“young African entrepreneurs”) to seize the opportunity that Bitcoin represents. The Dream Bitcoin Foundation will be hosting, along with “Conscious Entrepreneurship Foundation,” “BeamRemit” and “Bitcoin Botswana,” their first Regional Bitcoin Seminar at the Kumasi Polytechnic from 5 December – 7 December. This will be a “weekend of inspiring lectures, insightful knowledge, and networking.” The aim being “to create awareness and also educate university and college students to consider Bitcoin exchange for an entrepreneurship opportunity.”
Bitcoin address for the Dream Bitcoin Foundation.
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