Bill Gates, the second richest man in the world, agrees with Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem on one thing: Africa needs digital currency. Bitcoin is widely recognized for it's potential to provide e-commerce capabilities to the under-banked, in large part due to its ultra-low fees, independence from government, and lack of charge-backs. Combine these qualities with the fact that Africa is already flooded with internet-accessible cell phones, and you have the makings of a banking revolution.
Today in a live-streamed hangout with Jeff Tucker, Charlie Shrem discussed his views on how bitcoin can revolutionize financial transactions around the world, with a few comments on how big it can be in Africa particularly. Shrem said in the discussion:
Traditionally this how far you can send cash without fear of a middle-man, (holding out arm) [...] imagine that ability where you have the cash, and it starts flying, and it can go anywhere in the world. [...] Forget about trade between America and Europe and Africa, think about trade between Africa and Africa. There are so many corrupt countries and governments, and the remittance market is crazy. Opening up trade in Africa is really important, and technology will change that."
Almost at the same time, Bill Gates was conducting an AMA on Reddit. When asked, "What are your thoughts about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin?" Gates replied;
The foundation is involved in digital money but unlike Bitcoin it would not be anonymous digital money. In Kenya M-pesa is being used for almost half of all transactions. Digital money has low transaction costs which is great for the poor because they need to do financial transactions with small amounts of money. Over the next 5 years I think digital money will catch on in India and parts of Africa and help the poorest a lot. (https://www.impatientoptimists.org/posts/2011/01/mobile-phones-savings-a-powerful-pair)
Gates notably makes a distinction between "anonymous digital money" and the digital currency his foundation is involved with, but his statement on the benefits to the poor of digital money in general still applies to Bitcoin. If visionaries old and young alike can agree on these benefits, why are there so few initiatives to expand this market?