Cryptocurrency adoption is growing massively in the African continent. This is quite evident through the rate of increase in crypto asset ownership, crypto trading and crypto education in the continent. Arcane Research and Luno published a report that revealed that Uganda, Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, and Kenya are frequently among the top 10 countries by Google searches for the word “Bitcoin.” The drive for crypto adoption in Africa has been championed by many crypto enthusiasts and evangelists. In this article, we would be looking at the top ten women that have contributed immensely to positioning the African continent on the vanguard of cryptocurrency adoption.
Caveat: The arrangement of the list does not suggest a hierarchical categorisation of the level of impact made by the women on the list.
Monica Singer (South Africa)
Sick and tired of corruption in various arms of government, Monica Singer, a Chartered Accountant and Auditor was determined to end or reduce corruption in government. This explains her quest for a better method to change the status quo. In 2015, she heard about bitcoin and blockchain in a conference, and after going through the Satoshi bitcoin white paper, she concluded that blockchain was the solution she had been seeking. She was the first CEO of South Africa’s Central Securities Depository (CSD), Strate (Pty) Ltd, but resigned in August 2017 so she could concentrate on bringing blockchain technology to all relevant South African industries. In October 2017, Monica was appointed as the South African Lead for Consensys, the biggest blockchain company in the world. In June 2018, Monica was appointed board member of the Global Legal Identifier Foundation (GLEIF) based in Switzerland. In May 2019, Monica was appointed to represent Consensys on the Accounting Blockchain Coalition (ABC) board. Monica Singer has used her influence in the financial sector to push for blockchain adoption in Africa.
Alakanani Itireleng (Botswana)
Alakanani Itireleng is a bitcoin enthusiast, evangelist and educator in Botswana, Africa. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Humanities and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education. With 10 years of experience in the Education field, Alakanani turned her vast experience in the field of Education into a goldmine. She became the first bitcoin evangelist in Botswana, starting in October 2013 with a successful first bitcoin meetup. She discovered it whilst researching online for opportunities to generate new income. Alakanani Itireleng is the founder of a blockchain hub in Botswana called ‘Satoshicentre’. Through her hub— Satoshicentre, she works with developers in order to create an avenue to increase the understanding of bitcoin and blockchain technology, and to get developers in Botswana to use this technology to bring solutions to the problems that are faced by Africans. One of the major missions of Satoshicentre is to build an African blockchain hub that would incubate blockchain-based startups and would function as an online marketplace to connect Blockchain startups to investors. Her invaluable efforts in seeing that bitcoin and blockchain become a household name in Botswana and other parts of Africa, have earned her a spot on this list.
Imen Ayari (Tunisia)
Imen Ayari is an Engineer and Executive MBA graduate from the Mediterranean School of Business. She possesses vast experience in the Fintech sector, and has worked in reputable companies such as Ubitrade, Gltrade, Fis and Sunagrd. She is the Chief Blockchain Officer and Head of Innovation at the Talan Innovation Factory, a company that represents the research and development department of Talan, Tunisia. It explores and provides expertise on disruptive technologies mainly Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things(IoT) and data science. As a strong believer in the synergy and the open collaboration between professionals, academicians and students, Imen Ayari has been active in challenging frontiers inside the local and global blockchain community by catalyzing knowledge sharing and mentoring, and by identifying and evaluating business opportunities. The contributions of Imen Ayari to the drive for cryptocurrency and blockchain adoption in Africa, have been undisputed. Hence, the need to include her on this list.
Roselyn Gicira Mwangi (Kenya)
Roselyn Gicira Mwangi is the Chairperson of the Blockchain Association of Kenya and also the Head of the Kenyan Women in Blockchain. The Blockchain Association of Kenya serves as one of the major foundations and catalysts for the blockchain awareness that currently exists in Kenya and East Africa. Under the leadership of Roselyn Gicira Mwangi, the Blockchain Association of Kenya has been a pace-setter for other blockchain communities and networks in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda. This association establishes strategic partnerships with organisations in order to roll out educational programs for the public. The programs range from the simple understanding and application of blockchain technology, to actual courses for developers. Through her efforts in bringing blockchain technology and cryptocurrency to Kenya, many Kenyan women have embraced blockchain technology. These women now trade and invest in cryptocurrencies.
Olayinka Odeniran (Nigeria)
Olayinka Odeniran is the Co-founder, Black Women Blockchain Council (BWBC). As a highly respected financial services risk management expert and renowned international attorney who specializes in blockchain, cryptocurrency and emerging technologies, Olayinka has been a major evangelist of blockchain and cryptocurrency adoption in Africa. She utilises her qualification, an M.Sc in Cybersecurity Management, Policy and Blockchain Technology, in order to provide consultancy services for financial institutions. In her role as Co-founder of Black Women Blockchain Council, Olayinka strives to increase the number of young girls and black women in blockchain, fintech and other emerging technologies. She is also a digital content writer and has produced several informative and engaging articles for major online global magazines. Olayinka Odeniran is another Nigerian woman whose efforts in driving cryptocurrency and blockchain adoption in Africa, are highly commendable.
Naomi Snyman (South Africa)
Naomi Snyman is the Blockchain Lead at Standard Bank Group and the Chair for the South African Financial Blockchain Consortium. Her impact in driving blockchain adoption has not only been felt within Africa, but far beyond the shores of the continent. This is because she currently works as the representative of Standard Bank at the International R3 Consortium, which creates and drives Blockchain projects across member banks around the world. Naomi is an ardent blockchain enthusiast and evangelist who sees the technology as revolutionary. According to her, “If we think about how the Internet started, we didn’t understand why we needed it or how it even worked; but it has completely revolutionized our lives. The same counts for Blockchain.” Naomi Snyman is another leading figure who is passionately driving blockchain adoption in Africa.
Michelle Chivunga Nsunsumuco (Zambia)
Michelle Chivunga Nsunsumuco is the Founder, CEO, and Investor at Global Policy House and also the Senior Advisor to the Government of Bermuda, a Global Fintech Advisory Board. She is a digital transformation/ blockchain professional and investor, with major access to an extensive network of global stakeholders in the digital economy and financing space. Michelle is one of the early birds that embraced cryptocurrency and blockchain technology as far back as 2009 and has since then, been leading in evaluating the growth of the digital economy and potentials of emerging technologies such as Blockchain/DLT, AI, Quantum computing, Big Data and others. Michelle previously worked for the British Bankers Association of the UK (now UK Finance), where she managed a range of corporate financing projects and worked with several global stakeholders. Michelle currently works across borders to evaluate the impact of emerging technologies on different segments of the society; including women, businesses and governments.
Sonya Kuhnel (South Africa)
Sonya Kuhnel is the COO and co- founder of Bitsure. She is the current co-owner of Bitcoin Events (Pty) Ltd, Co-owner of Blockchain Academy (Pty) Ltd. Her Blockchain academy provides training for financial institutions, corporates, developers, entrepreneurs, startups, schools and government. The academy also trains attendees on blockchain and cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and how to use this technology to innovate and better prepare for the future. Bitsure is another avenue Sonya Kuhnel uses to drive bitcoin and blockchain adoption in Africa. Bitsure provides an innovative payment solution by utilizing the blockchain technology to link customer profiles to fiat-backed cryptocurrency transactions in order for financial institutions to create a secure and instantaneous, low-cost payment process to its customers. Through her various blockchain and cryptocurrency platforms, Sonya Kuhnel has played important role in giving Africans the opportunity to explore the innovative blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.
Doris Ojuederie (Nigeria)
Doris Ojuederie is the Founder of Blockchain Ladies Africa. Ladies Africa is an all-female group that focuses on bringing blockchain education to African Women, with the aim of fostering financial empowerment and inclusion. It is an Organization of women that spans across Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Cameroon, Egypt and many others. This cryptocurrency Icon intends to build stronger ladies who will bring about great innovations from blockchain technology. Through her organization, she encourages and promotes blockchain startups by African women. The regular meet-ups, workshops, conferences, mentorship programmes and Telegram forums organized by her organization are open to all African women; including corporate managers, women investors and career ladies. Doris Ojuederie is a Nigerian blockchain expert certified by the Blockchain Council, who derives satisfaction in educating African ladies on how to utilize blockchain technology to attain financial empowerment. Her role in cryptocurrency adoption in Africa, cannot be overemphasised.
Yaliwe Soko (South Africa)
Yaliwe Soko is one of the few young South African women to be fully involved in blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Her interest in blockchain started in 2016 and she has since, functioned in the capacity of a freelance Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Consultant for an online investment firm. She is a seasoned YouTuber who has harnessed her qualification as a training facilitator and assessor, in order to create a number of YouTube tutorials. She is the chairwoman at United African Blockchain Association, an organization which has the vision to educate one million people across the African continent about the impact of blockchain technology over the coming years through its events and training programs. Yaliwe Soko is another industrious and visionary blockchain evangelist whose enormous efforts toward cryptocurrency and blockchain technology adoption in Africa, have included her on the list.
Without a doubt, many women across Africa have done remarkably well in driving the adoption of blockchain technology on the continent. However, these ten women have been quite extraordinary in this quest.
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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