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Author Topic: Bitcoin - A real chance for Africa?  (Read 2071 times)
Waldschrat
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June 13, 2011, 09:24:27 AM
 #1

Hey guys,
I recently wrote a blog post about the possibility of Bitcoin becoming a real chance for Africa. What are your opinions on this topic?
Do you think Bitcoin may become a real competitor to Western Union once enough exchanges are in place? Any suggestions how to speed up the process of establishing exchanges in developing countries?

Any other thoughts about this topic? I would love to read your suggestions as I think it's high time to replace the established companies with their high fees by a system, which really serves the people and not only its own interest.

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NielDLR
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June 13, 2011, 12:41:30 PM
 #2

South African speaking here.

I made a post the other day concerning something about this. South Africa has always lagged behind in proper digital payment methods. We could only withdraw from Paypal last year. We have strict controls on currency exchanges, nevermind the fees. Bitcoin is a godsend for me. I can finally pay and sell goods without ever using a credit card or opening up a bank account. Not only this, but it allows for young entrepreneurs and keen digital citizens to step away from "adult" control in a way. You don't need daddy's permission to open a merchant account or let him pay for your stuff online. I do have a credit card nowadays, but I wish Bitcoin was here earlier.

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Waldschrat
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June 13, 2011, 01:36:23 PM
 #3

Hi NielDLR,
Glad to see some people from Africa already using Bitcoin at the moment.

Actually, I think South Africa will be one of the first markets in Africa where Bitcoins really takes off. Smiley
Do you already have an exchange in your country?

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June 13, 2011, 01:39:36 PM
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Bitcoin currently requires direct access to the Internet, which hasn't penetrated very far into Africa yet. So that problem will have to be solved first.

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June 13, 2011, 01:44:06 PM
 #5

Well South Africa is a good start.

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Waldschrat
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June 13, 2011, 01:55:31 PM
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Bitcoin currently requires direct access to the Internet, which hasn't penetrated very far into Africa yet.
This statement is fortunately partially untrue. Smiley
Compared to industrialized countries the Internet penetration in sub-Saharan Africa really is very low but there has been a boom in the last years (or maybe just months) when it comes to mobile connections.
That is why I already mentioned in my blog post that the success of Bitcoin in Africa pretty much depends on some proper smartphone implementations (for IPhone, Android, etc...).

Desktop computers are rarely seen in these parts of Africa but mobile devices and even smartphones gained a lot of ground in the last couple of months.

Even if the person on the receiving end has no Internet access at all, Bitcoin can still be very useful: It's just the exchange, which needs to have a proper connection as the people working there would just hand out direct cash or initiate transactions.

Basiley
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June 13, 2011, 01:55:58 PM
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thats actually Global problem and need Global solution, IMO.
probably satellite/balloons-based.
Waldschrat
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June 13, 2011, 02:06:54 PM
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probably satellite/balloons-based.
Nowadays every country in Africa has at least one direct submarine link to the Internet. A Bitcoin exchange would probably first start in an urban environment, which would already have a good connection to the rest of the world.
Satellite based Internet is very expensive. I guess it would be way to expensive for an individual to download all blocks first with such a connection...

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June 13, 2011, 02:48:40 PM
 #9

Hi NielDLR,
Glad to see some people from Africa already using Bitcoin at the moment.

Actually, I think South Africa will be one of the first markets in Africa where Bitcoins really takes off. Smiley
Do you already have an exchange in your country?

Unfortunately, no exchange yet. I'm exploring options and trying to find out the legality of it. Amir Taaki (genjix) is in talks with a mobile operator from South Africa to allow for mobile payments.
http://mybroadband.co.za/news/columns/20402-sa-mobile-operator-to-integrate-bitcoin-cryptocurrency.html

Africa is leapfrogging in a sense, as mentioned in this thread, direct web via PC access is low, but the mobile market is big. If Bitcoin can be bootstrapped to a phone network, this would be massive for Africa.

I'm a bit out of my league to talk about Africa as I'm actually just a nerd sitting in a new media lab.

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June 13, 2011, 03:02:25 PM
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probably satellite/balloons-based.
Nowadays every country in Africa has at least one direct submarine link to the Internet. A Bitcoin exchange would probably first start in an urban environment, which would already have a good connection to the rest of the world.
Satellite based Internet is very expensive. I guess it would be way to expensive for an individual to download all blocks first with such a connection...
thats why i said "Global".
in truly meaning of "Global" in both cases.
why satcom is SO expensive ? narrow market AND [various]regulation/opression.
new independent player in that market can noticeably galvanize this market and eventually all-related sectors of economics[which is really ALL] Tongue
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June 13, 2011, 03:15:15 PM
 #11

I remember reading an article some months ago (can't find it anymore) about internet penetration in Africa. It predicted that in most African countries, mass internet access would most likely start mobile (instead of beginning with desktop computers and then develop to mobile).
EDIT: Since writing this I got the "2 replies have been posted, you may wish to review your post" and NielDLR has just confirmed this Smiley

I really do have a big hope for BTC in Africa. What the continent needs is free people trading as much as they can, without government imposed obstacles.

I have a particular fondness for Zimbabwe (specially because it music is so fucking beautiful), and the country is being sunk to hell by a fucktard. The music thing is important, I think there's a big export opportunity there for all of Africa.

So here's how I would imagine a small scale business:

1. Wait for the bitcoin economy to grow enough to have enough worldmusic-heads to make this profitable.
2. Wait for this to get done, pledge if you can.
3. Get good quality, tough field recording equipment.
4. Crowdfund a project.
5. Go out there to record some amazing Zulu singers or something, give half the money to them, keep half.
6. Release under a liberal license so the recording flows and works as promotion for the next recording project.

Loop 4 - 6

The copyleft, fund-before-release approach is essential because this music is for a very small niche. Most indy labels don't realize yet that file-sharing benefits them (as opposed to Lady Gaga).

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Waldschrat
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June 13, 2011, 03:42:46 PM
 #12

@NielDLR: Good luck to you guys! Just keep us up to date with new developments. I think the biggest obstacle to real world adoption at the moment might be the roller coaster charts of the Bitcoin value in the recent days.

@Basiley: right but maybe this project could help.

@alexbasasa: Awesome music. I love it! Smiley Your business idea is not exactly what I was talking about but may still work out just fine. Do have any plans to start this business yourself once all parameters fit?

want2learn
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June 13, 2011, 05:31:11 PM
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well I would say more than 80% of people over 18 in south africa have mobile phones. With kids as young as 10 having mobile phones.

Internet prices are about 50% what they were last year this time while speed has increased drastically.

ATM I have a 7MB/s mobile connection with a 5GB cap for about $30 per month. Last year this time I had a 3GB / 1MB/s ADSL for almost double the price.
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June 13, 2011, 06:40:32 PM
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@alexbasasa: Awesome music. I love it! Smiley Your business idea is not exactly what I was talking about but may still work out just fine. Do have any plans to start this business yourself once all parameters fit?

I've been thinking for a while about doing something like that here in Mexico, there's also some very good music around. I'll most likely be living in Germany by the time BTC becomes mainstream, but will come back yearly, so I might do the recordings during those trips. But for the moment it's just an idea, and I've got to much stuff to do right now to start.

Anyway, I do hope someone starts doing similar things. I really think that selling cultural goods can pull the third-world* out of poverty, and that bitcoin overcomes many of the obstacles for that.

* I've been convinced that this term is obsolete, but it still functions for communication Smiley

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Waldschrat
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June 13, 2011, 07:26:41 PM
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Hehe, sounds cool. I live in Germany as well so if you want to chit chat a bit about god, the world and Bitcoin just drop me a PM and we could meet somewhere. (I heard many foreigners pretty much like the German beer. Wink )

@want2learn: Good to read that. Is this due to the arrival of new submarine cables or why is there such a sudden drop in Internet prices?

//edit:
Quote
I really think that selling cultural goods can pull the third-world out of poverty
Well, so do transactions from industrialized countries. With this point Bitcoin may help one day, too. For me it's just a matter of time and availability of exchanges.

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June 13, 2011, 07:42:29 PM
 #16

I'm happy to see this being discussed. The 3rd. world poor who comprise most of the worlds population could stand to gain from BTC. As mentioned, a key is the smartphone.
A couple years ago I was treking through Panama's Darien Gap. One of the most remote places on the Earth.  I was shocked when I found one of the villages had put up a cell tower! They only had like 5 phones that they used to coordinate themselves while hunting monkeys. But, they could do data and kinda had the internet.

I bought some baskets and crafts they were making for a few bucks. The Embara/Wounan tribes make crafts that are sought after by museums and collectors everywhere. If they had BTC they could sell online and ship by canoe to a road, then mail service abroad. This would be huge for them. A nice basket costs about $30USD in the village. In a gallery it is more like $500USD.

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June 13, 2011, 10:43:03 PM
 #17

I wrote all of my views about exporting culture and stuff before actually reading your blog post. It's a very good post, and again, the situation in Mexico is similar. Lots of humble people are absolutely dependent on Western Union and get constantly ripped off, and again Bitcoin comes to save the day.

A factor to consider is how soon will bitcoin be illegalized. Bitcoin is clearly a threat to banks and money transfer services, so they will be lobbying hard against it. I'm sure it will be a different scenario if the exchanges start popping out now, while it's still legal, than if they do after BTC's illegalization. People might more easily switch to an illegal way to transfer money once they've felt the advantages of it, than try out for the first time an illegal thing (I'm sure there will also be fear mongering tactics by the media). So I'd say that anyone thinking about setting up an exchange, should be quick.

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Waldschrat
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June 14, 2011, 02:17:25 PM
 #18

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As mentioned, a key is the smartphone.
Yup, has anyone ever used a Bitcoin smartphone app so far? There seems to be at least one Android app, which I already mentioned in my blog post but I wasn't able to find more on the net.

Quote
[...] This would be huge for them.
I totally agree! Do you still have any connections to Panama? Maybe someone you know could help to set up an exchange there.

Quote
It's a very good post

Thanks. Smiley

Quote
and again, the situation in Mexico is similar. Lots of humble people are absolutely dependent on Western Union and get constantly ripped off, and again Bitcoin comes to save the day.
Well, with Western Union the receiving end is not really ripped off but the sender definitely is! They charge up to 20 % of the money, which is very close to pure theft in my opinion.
One could say: Well, if these fees are too high for you, just use another service but that would be too easy: There is no real alternative these days (except for Bitcoin).

Quote
So I'd say that anyone thinking about setting up an exchange, should be quick.
+1

I would do it myself but at the moment I'm not residing in any African country. The best point of the story is that you can help your fellow countrymen and make money at the same time by setting up an exchange now.
Doesn't that sound nice? Wink

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