2022: A Year Of Grassroots Adoption Of Bitcoin For Africa

This opinion editorial is by Anita Posch. She is the founder of Bitcoin For Fairness and was the first to visit Zimbabwe in early 2020. It confirmed my belief that Bitcoin is most needed in the Global South. I discovered a nation in financial distress due to a kleptocratic ruling class that had been defrauding their people and inflating their national currency for decades. These leaders remained at the top for more than 40 years thanks to corruption and military support. But what about understanding Bitcoin? While I did find a few true believers and HODLers in the early days of Bitcoin, I couldn’t find a single Bitcoin-only community or event. There were many scams and cryptocurrency trading groups on WhatsApp, Facebook, and Facebook. The first question people asked about Bitcoin was “How do I join Bitcoin?” (which is the language scammers use to lure their victims) and “How do I trade it?” (which is the language of short-term preference). In 2021, I had the idea of bringing Bitcoin knowledge to the Global South. My focus was on building communities and connecting them with the Bitcoin network infrastructure-wise and people wise. Elizabeth Stark from Lightning Labs encouraged my application for a donation to the Human Rights Foundation. This foundation became the first donor to support “Bitcoin For Fairness.” I was guided by Sharon Dow and Jacob Strumwasser from Lightning Labs to draft a grant proposal. This resulted in sponsorships by Paxful, Okcoin and Paxful as well as Trezor, Paxful, Coinfinity and Coinfinity. I created a crowdfunding campaign on Geyser that received over 500 donations by Bitcoiners around the world. Brad Mills, Peter McCormack, and f418_me each donated significant amounts. I’m sure that I’m forgetting some other donors — I’m sorry and thank you all for your support! Our ImpactThrough Bitcoin for Fairness, I traveled to four African countries this year to spread Bitcoin education. I spent the most time in Zimbabwe and Zambia, where I visited twice each. After Bitcoin 2022 in Miami in April, I left Vienna to start my nomadic life. It took me to South Africa in May where I worked for Bitcoin Ekasi. In June, I attended the Oslo Freedom Forum to meet with human rights activists and freedom fighters such as Farida Nabourema, Meron Estefanos, and Leopoldo Lozano. COVID-19 stopped my travels for a few weeks, and I returned to Zimbabwe and Zambia after the Baltic Honeybadger conference. In 2022, my last travel took me to Ghana for the first pan-African Bitcoin conference. In March, I spoke to 50 students at University of Zambia. We hosted a Lightning Network workshop, gave interviews on radio and newspapers, and started a WhatsApp education group. It now has 65 members. Ndesa, Emmanuel, and Japhet were three crypto-interested people who had never met each other before. They set up the first Bitcoin For Fairness meetup in Lusaka in May. I visited the second one in October. I spoke at the Forum on Internet Freedom In Africa 2022, (FIFA22), to approximately 30 students. We installed wallets and sent Sats. We organized a BFF meeting and donated a RaspiBlitz full Node to one of the local Bitcoiners. We conducted a one-day Bitcoin workshop together with the BFF team. In December, the fifth BFF meeting took place and the Lightning and Bitcoin nodes were up and running. The BFF goal of establishing a local group to meet up regularly and bring Bitcoin infrastructure into Zambia has been fulfilled. The local BFF group has set up their own ZambiaBitcoinMeetups.com website, it meets at Scallywags a (restaurant accepting bitcoin) and one of the members started a Bitcoin podcast in the local Bemba language on our recently-launched BTC Podcasting platform.ZimbabweWe kicked the Zimbabwe trip off with a Bitcoin talk in early March which was attended by 60 participants in the capital of Harare. Alexandria was one of the participants. He traveled six hours by bus from Bulawayo to get there because he didn’t know any other bitcoiners. I encouraged Alexandria to create a Bitcoin-only WhatsApp Group and invite his guests to join. The group now has 300 members and is also on Twitter. Alexandria and his Bitcoin Reach group are now completely independent of BFF. This is also a goal of mine: self-sovereignty and self-organization of the communities. BFF sponsored the meetups in Bulawayo and Gweru. BFF also hosted “Run with Bitcoin” Paco, who was our guest. We gave away Trezor devices, and I led a workshop to help people setup the devices. A Zimbabwean farmer who owns a solar power station came together with someone from international community to donate six ASIC miners. Since June 2022, the machines have been mining Bitcoin from solar power. My wallet setup video was included in the episode. I then boarded Trevor to Lightning and Bitcoin. He was a trailblazer and invited me to prepare his podcast “Value4Value”, which will be a standard for bitcoin. His podcast is now the first Zimbabwean podcast to receive bitcoin payments via Alby. South AfricaIn May, I traveled to South Africa to work for Bitcoin Ekasi. This is a circular Bitcoin economy based in Mossel Bay. First, I spent time in Cape Town, where I met Bitcoin builders such as Carel van Wyk. He was working on a solution for Pick n Pay’s acceptance Lightning payments. Since November, you can now pay for groceries at one the largest supermarket chains in South Africa. This is a major step towards the success of the local circular Bitcoin economy. People can now earn and spend bitcoin without having to exchange the South African rand. We also brought a RaspiBlitz device and Trezor devices to Bitcoin Ekasi. Luthando, the senior coach at the organization, learned how to manage the node. I also did a workshop on hardware wallets with him and the junior coaches. The township’s shop owners can now save their bitcoins offline. A German television network was interested in a documentary about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency and sent a team to follow BFF and Ekasi in the township. You can view the documentary in German here. Last but not least, I was the matchmaker between Bitcoin Ekasi’s new teacher, Ms. Nomsa and a BFF volunteer who helped her learn about Bitcoin. I also connected Paxful to the community, which resulted in a Paxful/Bricked With Bitcoin education center being established on site.GhanaI knew that I wanted to be part of the first Pan-African Bitcoin conference as soon as I heard it. Farida Nabourema, a Togolese human rights activist and Bitcoin enthusiast, organized it. It was the best Bitcoin conference I’ve been to. Farida Bemba Nabourema, a Togolese human rights activist and Bitcoin enthusiast, organized the conference. I was able to connect with Marcel Lorraine from Kenya, who founded Bitcoin Dada. We also published the BFF Bitcoin flyer with the C4 Cryptocurrency certification Consortium. This flyer is a simple and inexpensive way to distribute a Bitcoin FAQ at meetups and conferences. The flyer was translated to twelve languages with the help of volunteers. These included Swahili and Luganda, as well as Akan Twi, Eritrean, and soon, Akan Twi. We encourage volunteers to translate this open-sourced folder into their native languages. BTC PodcastingWith Michael Bumann from Alby I created a new podcasting platform called BTC podcasting. This allows Bitcoiners to host their podcasts free of charge and earn bitcoin from their listeners. They don’t need to have their own Lightning nodes. BFF hopes to encourage communities to start podcasts. We discovered that internet bandwidth is expensive and that video streaming is not possible in many African countries. This led us to discover that audio is a better medium to reach people. Documentary: How Bitcoin enforces Human Rights. The humanitarian and social aspects of Bitcoin were the main reasons I started working with it. It was exciting to be able to take power from the authorities and give it back to the people. Since I began my journey in the Bitcoin space six years ago, it has become clear to me that only Bitcoin provides fair access for everyone to take economic action. It is also essential for the enforcement of human rights. This is why I named my NPO initiative “Bitcoin For Fairness” as well as why I wrote an essay about “How Bitcoin Enforces Human Rights” for Bitcoin Magazine. I also produced a podcast about it and a video documentary, so people can easily share their thoughts with their peers. It is important to not underestimate the importance of Bitcoin. It is our only chance to regain digital privacy and have an alternative system to the fiat-based, short-sighted, consumption-driven and debt-based fiat economy. If we mess up, there will be no similar freedom project in the near future.LearningsBlockchain technology and crypto are big in African countries. The differences between Bitcoin and other altcoins are not well understood. Altcoins and the marketing departments that represent them have done a wonderful job convincing people that they are better Bitcoins. They also tell them that the original is slow and cannot be scaled. Even people who organize events and share crypto knowledge haven’t heard of the Lightning Network and sidechains like Rootstock and Liquid. In most countries, crypto is king. According to Ray Youssef (CEO of Paxful), only in Nigeria is Bitcoin usage greater than altcoins. A trader in Zimbabwe who traded $6 million worth of bitcoins in 2021 informed me that most people use USDT and that only a few Bitcoiners are HODLing. There are hundreds of tutorials, videos, and guides about Bitcoin. Five out of fifty people who attended my talk in Lusaka expressed an interest in Bitcoin only. They are far from the developers and experienced users, and are therefore isolated. It is difficult to catch up. They are unable to afford to travel to Lightning hackdays and other Bitcoin-focused conferences that are mostly in Europe or the U.S. It is costly and cumbersome to travel to other African countries. There is a need to have more people on the ground to exchange knowledge and tools. None of the people I met were using a hardware wallet. These devices are expensive and difficult to obtain. Two years ago, I gifted a BitBox02 in Zimbabwe to a friend. He said that it was too expensive and difficult to get. Machankura, a custodial Lightning vault that allows you to send and get bitcoin from a feature phone with no internet connection, is a great example of an African solution. It uses the same technology as mobile money providers in Africa for years, called USSD. It was used in Zambia. Going ForwardBuilding in bear markets was difficult, but thanks to the BFF volunteers, donors, and others, it was possible. Our 2023 goal is to put more emphasis on education about privacy and self custody. We learned that trust is crucial after all the crypto scammers have been attacking the African continent. It’s not enough. There must be a way to stay connected and provide additional knowledge to the communities, and particularly to those who are driving these groups. I am launching a community site that will offer education and courses online on non-KYC Bitcoin, privacy tools, and self custody in 2023. BFF’s goal at the same time is to find more volunteer translators for the Bitcoin Flyer and to assist Bitcoiners in developing their community podcasts, and earning bitcoin. This is Anita Posch’s guest post. BTC Inc and Bitcoin Magazine do not necessarily endorse the opinions expressed.

 

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