In Rwanda, many young children are being given the opportunity to mould their dreams and create a future for themselves through a crypto-powered access to education. In a country where education is still a luxury to many, the impact of creating access to education is indeed highly transformative.
“Seeing my daughter going to school makes me so happy,” said Immaculate Zihinjishi, a Rwandan mother whose three older children did not have the privilege of obtaining a formal childhood education at an early stage. Her young daughter, Lucky, is one of the many Rwandan children who are enjoying access to free quality education, sponsored by Paxful’s #builtwithbitcoin initiative.
The #builtwithbitcoin initiative, however, is not limited to Rwanda alone, it is a mission that is focused on reshaping the African community with cryptocurrency, especially through education. “Education is essential in the sustenance of a community. We see our #BuiltWithBitcoin campaign as a way of giving back to the communities that need it the most to showcase how the power of a peer-to-peer currency like Bitcoin can reach people that need financial assistance,” says Ray Youssef, CEO and co-founder of Paxful.
Paxful’s #builtwithbitcoin campaign commenced in 2017 in partnership with Zam Zam Water, an organization focused on creating sustainable water and access to quality education for communities around the world. The goal of the #builtwithbitcoin project is to build 100 schools, for up to 15,000 Africans, that are fully funded by cryptocurrency. The initiative strengthens the notion that cryptocurrency is indeed a tool for transformative change. “The #builtwithbitcoin initiative is a testament to the power of cryptocurrency. We firmly believe that it can improve lives and make the world a better place,” says Ray.
The initiative began its race to the construction of 100 schools with Rwanda. The East African country was deliberately chosen to be the first location of the #builtwithbitcoin project. Speaking on why the choice was made, Ray says, “The people of Rwanda have shown us how we can forgive, heal and build a better world no matter how horrific the past is. People that had their entire families killed by their own neighbors now live side by side again in peace. The western media only shows us an Africa of poverty and disease, Rwanda has shown us the exact opposite. This is why we chose the first Paxful school to be built there.”
The first school was built in Kasebigege Village, Bugesera District, Rwanda. The school is a nursery school, designed to cater for children between three to six years of age. It contains three classrooms, 4 restrooms with a portable irrigation system, and a 15,000-litre water tank and water-catchment system. To ensure sustainability, community gardens were built for sustainable agriculture, and dozens of goats and chickens were provided for grazing, milk, meat and poultry.
In 2018, another school was completed in Kigali, Rwanda. The second school is a primary school for children between ages six to fifteen years. It contains six classrooms, a cafeteria, solar panels, a 35,000-litre water system, and other educational resources. The school can cater for up to 300 primary school students. The capacity of the school is about twice the size of the first school.
Advancing the course of the initiative, the construction of a third school was launched in Machakos county, Kenya, earlier this year. The project kicked off with a $30,000 donation from Paxful. The school is set to open in January, for children between 3 to 6 years of age.
A fourth school is also set to open in January. The school, which is currently undergoing construction, is located in Ankara Nandi, Kaduna State, Nigeria. The school will serve as an early education center for 120 students between 3 to 6 years of age. According to a blog post by Paxful, the school will contain “3 classrooms, 8 bathrooms, a water well, a reservoir, a conference room, and plenty of space for storage.”
The two completed schools in Kenya have also been equipped with full defense kits against the Covid-19 pandemic, to ensure the safety of the students and teachers as the schools continue operations.
Beyond education, Paxful is also extending its impact mission to other areas of life. This year, the #builtwithbitcoin initiative sponsored the construction of a water well and water filtration distribution center with a 250,000-litre capacity that can serve over a million people.
Via a Twitter post in January, this year, Paxful’s CEO, Ray, also announced that a Clinic was being built in the first Paxful School in Rwanda. The clinic would cater for about 1100 students and the nearby towns, to give them access to health care that is fully funded by bitcoin.
So far, the project has been amazing and impactful. “One of the most beautiful aspects of Built With Bitcoin is being welcomed into the lives of these people and their communities. To be able to create positive change into their lives is very gratifying. There are parents who know that their childrens’ books and uniforms were paid for by Paxful using Bitcoin. It’s an amazing story and I think we’re going to hear hundreds more just like it,”says Yusuf Nessary, founder of Zam Zam Water.
The rise of CBDC in African economies
Many nations have taken cues from the world of crypto and its resounding successes over the last decade. In order to avoid getting left behind, governments worldwide are increasingly turning their attention towards implementing some form of digital currency, a CBDC which in full is Central Bank Digital Currency. Although inspired by cryptocurrencies, CBDC’s are quite different from traditional crypto platforms. The main differences are that CBDC’s are unlikely to be decentralized, the supply of this currency regulated by the host’s country’s central bank as the CBDC is designed to operate as a sovereign legal tender, the digitized form of the host country’s fiat currency. Thus, a central bank may issue digitized tokens of its currency of which their value is pegged to the fiat currency of the nation in question, making CBDC’s stablecoins.
Africa has seen a rise in the use of cryptocurrencies and it’s still pushing frontiers in this sector. Although the use of crypto in many African nations is becoming more and more pervasive by the day, the tone of governments in many of these countries toward the sector is cautious at best and threatening at worst. However, a few nations have voiced interests in creating digitized versions of their legal tender to function as a CBDC. Amongst these are Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, Kenya and Tunisia.
Many of these projects are still in the research phase or developmental phase however. A good example is Ghana’s proposed CBDC, the E-cedi being developed in partnership with German company, Giesecke + Devrient. Nigeria’s CBDC project, the eNaira has been announced and according to Nigeria’s central bank, this CBDC will be launched sometime in 2021. To that end, the CBN has partnered with fintech company, Bitt Inc. to serve as the technical partner in the eNaira’s development. Reportedly, the CBN had made the decision to digitize the Nigerian Naira in 2017.
While the pursuance of digital currencies in African nations is a welcome development, implementation of these schemes isn’t without challenges. Chief among the issues countries in Africa face would be the already existing financial service inequality and poor penetration of internet access in the continent. These challenges must be tackled in order to allow for mainstream adoption of CBDCs and the subsequent provision of financial inclusion. The benefits largely depend on the peculiarities of the nation deploying them. For instance, a digital currency is thought to help Nigeria increase foreign remittances, it’s second largest source of forex after oil. Whatever the outcome of these projects, it is becoming apparent that CBDC’s have come to stay.
Why the Nigerian Government is Panicking About Bitcoin
Fear, social media clamour, open outrage amongst citizens and vivid apprehension of the outcome of what the ban on crypto means for traders and investors as well as fintech companies. To some, it was a welcome development aimed at driving the ship of the country towards a better shore. To others, it was another rule by the Nigerian government to clamp down on technology. On February 5, 2021, the Central Bank of Nigeria issued a circular directing all commercial banks to close the accounts that are connected to cryptocurrency platforms. This was later given further clarification in a 5-paged article stating a plethora of reasons why it is not advisable to trade cryptocurrency. The article explained that the ban does not mean that Nigerians can no longer trade cryptocurrency. However, it is a measure to dissociate commercial banks from all forms of crypto trading which are considered wrong.
CBN’s reasons for banning cryptocurrency
The 5-paged article was released 2 days after the crypto ban. It explains why it is inadvisable to trade cryptocurrency and the justification behind the orders of the CBN. Rather than give a fair definition of cryptocurrency, CBN focused on the partial lapses of the currency in explaining its meaning. In the explanatory article, cryptocurrency was defined as “digital or virtual currencies issued by largely anonymous entities and secured by cryptography. Cryptography is a method of encrypting and hiding codes that prevent oversight, accountability, and regulation.”
While explaining the rationale behind the ban, the circular reiterates that Nigeria is not the first country to place restrictions on cryptocurrency. Countries like China, Canada, Taiwan, Indonesia, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Bolivia, Kyrgyzstan, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, Bangladesh, Nepal and Cambodia have placed certain restrictions on the trading of cryptocurrency. Quoting various instances where cryptocurrencies have been derided by various persons and institutions without reference to cases where Bitcoin has been praised by reputable investors and institutions. In the latter instance, Bitcoin was referred to as the new gold.
One of the reasons behind the ban is that the cryptocurrencies are issued by unregulated or unlicensed persons which contravenes the CBN Act of 2007. Also, its anonymity and decentralization quality show that “its patrons and users value anonymity, obscurity, and concealment”. The CBN explained that there would be no need for such concealment if the activities of users were legal. Nevertheless, the CBN forgot that apart from using crypto for transactions, it can also be used as a store of value.
Lack of centralization and the accompanying issues of anonymity are the predominant reasons stated by the CBN before its ban on cryptocurrency.
You may wonder why the CBN waited till 2021 to place a ban on crypto despite its popularity since 2010. This reason is not far-fetched as it explains the true reason behind February directives on cryptocurrency.
Hidden reasons behind the ban on cryptocurrency
Few months after the directives were issued to commercial banks in Nigeria, Chainalysis, a blockchain research firm, issued a report that the volume of a dollar received from crypto users in Nigeria has grown between 2020-2021. In May, Nigeria received $2.4 billion worth of crypto compared to $684 million received in December 2020. The increase occurred after the clampdown on crypto by the central bank. This shows that CBN orders have little or no effect on cryptocurrency trading.
Last October marked an important turning point in the history of Nigeria. It marked a month of consciousness amongst the youths, protest rocks every state in Nigeria against police brutality and an end to the Sars police unit under the hashtag #Endsars. The protest was the first of its kind after more than a decade. During the EndSars protest, various groups sprang up to receive donations for demonstrators to provide them with first aid, food and security. The accounts of these groups were suspended which led one of such groups, Feminist Coalition to start receiving Bitcoin for donations due to its decentralization. About $150,000 worth of Bitcoin was received which was used to support EndSars protesters.
Jack Dorsey, Founder/CEO of Twitter reshared the FemCo Bitcoin donation page with the caption “donate via bitcoin to help EndSars”. His actions might have explained the ban on Twitter by the Nigerian government. The use of cryptocurrency to fuel such protests is the main unstated reason behind the recent ban.
In conclusion, the Nigerian government may pretend that the clampdown on cryptocurrency is a result of its lapses usually quoted by various countries as reasons behind restrictions. However, the activities of the Nigerian government is the fear of the inability to control the currency. It is gradually becoming the action of the current government to restrict whatever it can not control.
How Demographic Trends are Pushing Cryptocurrencies Adoption in Africa
The African crypto market has seen a tremendous boom in the last few years. Driving this growth are a myriad of factors among which are economic inequality, volatile fiat currencies, low financial inclusion as well as high unemployment rates. These drivers of market growth are also greatly intertwined with Africa’s unique demographics which entail the distribution and categorization of the population.
The goal or aim of many cryptocurrency projects and the movement of the community in general is to get to a point where they’re widely used and accepted by individuals, corporations and governments. This implies mainstream adoption, much like the pervasive nature of mobile banking today. Africa presents unique opportunities owing not just to the socioeconomic clime but it’s demographics as well.
For cryptocurrencies to achieve mainstream adoption, they would have to in a sense become the norm and be widely accepted and recognized by virtually all corners of society, much like Facebook is in the social media world. In Africa, despite the size of the crypto market, cryptocurrencies are still a good distance away from what one would describe as popular acceptance. The sector is growing no doubt, however, that growth is reflective of Africa’s unique demographics and population scene.
It is without question that the African continent is the youngest, in terms of median age at 19.7 years. There are about 600 million people aged between 15 and 45 in Africa, representing nearly half of Africa’s population. Many nations, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa are in stage 2 of the demographic transition (high birth rates and high death rates – relatively low life expectancy) which is representative of the economic climes of these nations. A report found that around 13 million young Africans enter the labour market each year against 3.7 million jobs, most created by the informal sector. Therefore many African youth are laden with economic difficulties at that important time in their lives.
However, Africa’s young population, generally speaking, has a greater proclivity for being more open minded to technology adoption. Education and literacy has played a role in this with Africa’s literacy rate at around 70%. While not comparable to that of other continents, this rate is driven greatly by the large young population Africa boasts of. In any case, seeing the economic conditions of many African countries, and a tendency for young people to adopt and/or trust new technologies better and faster than other age groups gives some explanation to how quickly the crypto market is growing on the continent. As the years go by, the level of adoption would inevitably continue to increase as the current youth population expands till it gets to the point where blockchain becomes so pervasive that it achieves the necessary trust and acceptance to become mainstream.
Right now, in some African nations, that line is being crossed already with central digital currencies in development.
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