IS CRYPTOCURRENCY THE GATEWAY TO AFRICA’S PROSPERITY?
By Hunter Moon
Bitcoin experts have agreed that the future of Africa’s growing youth population will partly depend on the growth of cryptocurrency in the continent.
Tax consultant Thomas Lobban and cryptocurrency entrepreneur Richard Abusinachi Ezeala constituted a high-level panel that successfully demystified cryptocurrency and the meaningful role it plays in “traditional” economies.
The conversation was held on June 18, as part of the Africa Virtual Town Hall Meetings under global organization, Transdisciplinary Agora for Future Discussions (TAFFDs).
“Is it true that African millennials can’t seem to get enough of Bitcoin? Is there a link between high unemployment and the drive in Bitcoin among African youths?” asked TAFFDs host, Chogwu Abdul, opening up the theme of the day, “Is Bitcoin the Gateway to Africa’s Prosperity?“
Lobban, who has written extensively on Bitcoin and taxation within South Africa, offered his professional view on the matter.
“Unemployment is rife… Young people would take to cryptocurrency as they have been burned by currency instability. Young people would have been isolated by the banking sector, but now they understand that you can transact outside your country without worrying about the stiff traditional bank remittance policies and rules that are generally in place,” Lobban said.
Lobban explained that Bitcoin was attractive because it is among blockchain currencies that function as a “distributed ledger” operating on a decentralized online system.
“Young people have a grasp of technology and find this as an exciting way to deal with finances. These blockchain currencies ensure that transactions are validated by more than one central body or more than one user and this is done simultaneously before a transaction is approved,” he said.
Ezeala cited Nigeria as an example of how these “stiff traditional bank remittance policies” were standing in the way of prosperity among African youths.
“Cryptocurrency has created boundless opportunities for African youths. In Nigeria you are not allowed to externally transact more than USD100 per month. This hurts freelancers, who would otherwise remain poor unless they turn to cryptocurrency,” Ezeala said.
He added that cryptocurrency was therefore a welcome boon amongst young people who are not embraced by banking laws.
“Since they cannot thrive without cryptocurrency they have embraced the technology and use it as a business creation platform,” he said.
The two-hour long discussion was not one-sided.
The host and the panelists also ventured into “cautionary tales” around crypto.
It was accepted that some measure of regulation was needed in order to curb cyber crimes and scams that leave unwitting victims poorer.
The role of government also came under the spotlight, with the panelists agreeing that political policies stood in the way of cryptocurrency while also preventing it from going out of control.
“What should governments do? Is cryptocurrency and blockchain the future of currency? Can we say it is the future of African currency?” asked Abdul.
“It will take generations for governments to adopt a universal decentralized non-governmental form of value transfer. At the moment, blockchain is better understood, but let’s see how it evolves,” Lobban said.
Ezeala said Africans should start looking at blockchain technology beyond currency because political policies affect how currencies work.
“People want to elect someone they trust but others often hijack an election and rig the outcomes, which results in young people no longer voting. If blockchain technology can be used to conduct elections it would create transparency in the electoral system,” said Ezeala.
TAFFDs Fact Sheet: Africa has a population of 226 million young people living between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the United Nations Youth Population Trends and Sustainable Development.
TAFFDs Simplicity Footnote: Young people in Africa translate to 19% percent of the global youth population, which means the continent needs urgent interventions that involve youth participation in developmental issues.
TAFFDs Geographical Comparison: Young people in Africa amount to two thirds of all people living in the United States of America. ~ TAFFDs News