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Africa Bitcoin Conference – Highlights and a Recap
Table Of Contents
The African Bitcoin Conference 2022 (ABC 22) took place from December 5 – December 7 in Ghana, West Africa. It is a first-of-its-kind Bitcoin conference hosted on the continent. The conference includes keynote addresses, fireside chats, panel discussions, presentations, crash courses, and learning workshops all focused solely on Bitcoin. Over 60 speakers are in attendance including Jack Dorsey, former CEO of Twitter and chairperson of Block, Inc., Ray Youssef, CEO of global peer-to-peer (P2P) crypto exchange Paxful, and Jack Mallers, founder of Bitcoin payment provider Strike. The conference has attracted bitcoiners, entrepreneurs, educators, investors, and industry leaders.
The conference features a hackathon in which participants could choose to develop a project based on a specific “track.”
Three Days of Bitcoin in Africa
Day one of the conference commenced with an opening ceremony and welcome remarks by the organizers of ABC 22. Ray Youssef, CEO of Paxful, spoke in a fireside chat moderated by Farida Nabourema, a Togolese human rights activist and Bitcoiner. Four panels of discussion were held throughout the day in which topics such as Bitcoin is Money, The Road to a Career in Bitcoin, and Advancing Social Justice with Bitcoin, among others, were discussed in-depth.
On day two of the conference, the first keynote address was given by Professor Nii Quaynor, a Ghanaian professor whom Farida Nabourema introduced as a powerhouse and probably one of the greatest scientists on the African continent; a man who has contributed immensely to the growth of technology and the Internet in Africa and is credited with building the first Bitcoin ATM in Ghana.
In his keynote address, Prof. Quaynor talked about the efforts to regulate Bitcoin in Ghana and the initial roadblocks that were encountered. Prof. Quaynor mentioned a 2015 incident in which 120 Antminers were procured for mining Bitcoin. He said immediately after the mining commenced, the Financial Intelligence Center (FIC) of Ghana expressed concerns that the output of the mining activities could be used to finance terrorism; the FIC called for the intervention of other regulatory bodies and financial authorities in the country. The professor said he and his team responded by demonstrating and explaining the process of Bitcoin mining to the regulators and authorities; through the demonstration, the fears and concerns of the authorities were addressed at the time.
Quoting statistics that hint at an increased interest in blockchain technology that the financial authorities in Ghana have shown over the years, Prof. Quaynor mentioned that between 2016 and 2020, he and his team held several crypto-focused workshop sessions; the majority of participants in these workshop session were from the Bank of Ghana, the country’s central bank. The professor urged the attendees of ABC 22 to reach out to regulators and policymakers in their various jurisdictions, so the crypto community will be able to find out what issues or misgivings the regulators might have.
Jack Mallers, founder of Strike, gave the second keynote address of the day. In his address, he explained the concept of payment rails, and highlighted the challenges faced in cross-border payments as a result of differences in currency and payment systems; he called cross-border payments an “unsolved problem.” Jack Mallers stated that the impact of this disparity in currency and payments is huge in emerging markets like Africa. He cited the current cross-border payment hassle in Africa; the continent has 54 currencies and 41 central banks, which results in over 80% of cross-border payment transactions being routed offshore for clearing and settlement. This further leads to delays in transaction finality and a high cost of transaction processing. Some payment processing companies have been forced to cease operations in many countries of the continent, while businesses, like airline companies, have funds trapped on the continent because of a dollar shortage, necessary for international clearing and settlement.
Jack Dorsey sat with Farida Nabourema in the first fireside chat event of the day. Giving a brief history of how he got interested in distributed ledger technology, the ex-Twitter CEO thanked the open-source community for the goodwill to put out work for free and make software development open. Bitcoin is built on the open-source principle. Jack, whose company Block Inc. focuses on building payment applications and services including apps and services that make it easier to access Bitcoin and other blockchain technologies, says the goal is to help the Internet realize a native currency – an open money protocol that everyone can see, trust, free of government or corporation control. Block Inc. recently contributed to a funding round for an African Bitcoin mining company called Gridless.
Day two of the conference went on with more keynote addresses, fireside chats, and panel discussions. Topics of discussion include The Power of the Lightning Network, Bitcoin-Powered vs Traditional Payment Systems, and Bitcoin Mining in the Face of Climate Change, among others.
Day three, the final day, of the Africa Bitcoin Conference is underway. The conference opened this morning with welcome remarks and announcements. Just like the previous days of the conference, there are keynote addresses and fireside talks. The first panel of the day discussed the topic: Is Bitcoin a Threat to Central Banks?
A second panel took on the topic: Tackling Gender Inequality in the Ecosystem. There are a total of five discussion panels for the day. The last event would be the Hackathon Award Ceremony, followed by the closing remarks.
The Future of Bitcoin and Blockchain Technology in Africa
The crypto market and crypto adoption rate in Africa are growing very rapidly. Despite the lack of regulatory clarity in many countries on the continent and some governments warning banks against processing funds linked to crypto-related transactions, the people (especially, the younger population) of the continent have continued to explore and embrace digital assets. The continent has a high remittance inflow; cryptocurrencies have created a faster, cheaper, and more reliable means of cross-border settlement, making it perfect for receiving foreign remittances.
Despite policies by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that have made the purchase and sale of cryptocurrencies difficult in the country, citizens and residents of Nigeria have turned to peer-to-peer (p2p) trading platforms en masse, keeping the flame of cryptocurrencies alive and making Nigeria one of the countries with the highest p2p trade volume.
A recent Bank for International Settlements (BIS) survey revealed that most central banks on the continent are exploring the use of distributed ledger technology to create payment systems.
The confidence in crypto remains largely unshaken both in developed, developing, and underdeveloped countries and regions.
To learn more about Bitcoin, visit our Investing in Bitcoin guide.
Mandela has been a cryptocurrency enthusiast since 2017. He loves coding and writing about emerging technologies. He has an in-depth understanding of distributed ledger technology and the Web3 technology stack. He enjoys researching new cryptocurrency projects.