Cointelegraph’s Elisha Owusu Akyaw shares how cryptocurrency is changing the financial landscape in Africa — and the opportunities and challenges that come with it.
The cryptocurrency space has no shortage of skeptics. While many people criticize the environmental impact of proof-of-work blockchains or the proliferation of scams, one particular argument against crypto often stands out: Blockchain has no real use cases.
Every two weeks, Cointelegraph’s The Agenda podcast breaks down this critique and explores the various ways blockchain and crypto can help everyday people.
On this week’s episode of The Agenda, hosts Jonathan DeYoung and Ray Salmond chat with Elisha Owusu Akyaw, Cointelegraph’s own social media specialist and host of the Hashing It Out podcast, to break down how Africans are using crypto to strengthen financial inclusivity and potentially turn countries into hubs of technological innovation.
How crypto is helping everyday Africans
According to Akyaw, crypto offers a more convenient, affordable way to send money both regionally and around the world. “Western Union, MoneyGram and all of these money transaction firms or rails have made millions from Africa for so long” by charging high fees, said Akyaw, whereas the cost required to send money via crypto is significantly lower.
Bitcoin also offers a better store of value for most Africans than local fiat currencies, Akyaw argued. Speaking on his own experience of living in Ghana, he said that “you can buy Bitcoin and keep it for the next one year or six months. It’s a better hedge against inflation than keeping the Ghanaian cedi.”
Finally, the crypto industry is opening up new opportunities on the continent. “At every point of development, Africa has been left behind,” said Akyaw. But the global nature of the industry and the fact that it’s still in its early development present a unique opportunity to participate and benefit from its growth.
“This is one of the first times where there is a big shift happening and Africans are able to contribute. Africans are able to benefit directly from the shift that is happening without it having to pass through an intermediary, which is usually the state. And I think it’s an amazing thing.”
The next Silicon Valley?
When asked about what it would take for countries in Africa to become “magnets for crypto builders or a new kind of Silicon Valley,” Akyaw pointed to two factors that need to be improved for developers, startups and fintech companies to want to make the continent their home: regulation and infrastructure.
The majority of African countries lack proper regulation, according to Akyaw, while also condemning the use of crypto. This means companies are often unable to obtain licenses to set up shop and residents are dissuaded from interacting with Web3 protocols and firms:
“You can’t get a license. You can’t work with a bank in the country. You can’t do a lot of things. So, it makes no sense for you to come in.”
The other thing that needs to change, said Akyaw, is that electric grids need to be more stable and internet needs to be more reliable. “If you want a lot of Big Tech companies to come in, they must have great, 24/7 electricity. Internet must be awesome because a lot of what we do in the crypto space is virtual.”