How Cryptocurrency Can Enable Africa's Entrepreneurs

Nosa Omusi, Monday December 18th 2017

On the 6th of December, the MEST Incubator Lagos held the maiden edition of the MEST Tech Conversations. MEST Tech Conversions are a deep dive into rising trends and relevant topics within the local and global tech ecosystem, narrowing in on their applications for Africa's entrepreneurs and businesses. It is characterised by a few moderators and a lively audience interacting while relaxing and enjoying refreshments.

The topic of the day was How Cryptocurrency Can Enable Africa’s Entrepreneurs. Moderators included Sam Uduma, founding partner of Amore; Timi Ajiboye, founder of Bitkoin Africa; and Lexi Novitske, Principal Investment Officer of Singularity.

Amongst the attendees of the event were Christian Keller, President of African Founders; Osarumen Osamuyi, a renowned tech journalist; and Markus Koenig, a former VP at Credit Suisse.

[caption id="attachment_6066" align="aligncenter" width="665"] Moderators at MEST Tech Conversations[/caption]

Timi Ajiboye, Bitkoin Africa

Timi Ajiboye started by addressing why there is so much excitement about cryptocurrency. He explained that previously all means of sending money were controlled by centralised entities such as governments and central banks.

“Cryptocurrency represents the decentralization of wealth and allows a level of accessibility and speed of transaction that was previously unimaginable,” Ajiboye said.

This means that Cryptocurrency provides Entrepreneurs with more control over their financial transactions thereby improving the efficiency with which Africa’s entrepreneurs do business.

He also discussed how blockchain technology had led to the emergence of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. A significant advantage of cryptocurrency being based on blockchain technology is also its traceability as the blockchain contains a record of all transactions made with the cryptocurrency.

Ajiboye itemized three uses of cryptocurrency for entrepreneurs:

  • You can buy and hold;

  • You can buy and sell;

  • And you can use it to make speedy transactions especially international trade.

Sam Uduma, Amore

Sam Uduma equated the value of cryptocurrency to that of rare gems. Their value is a reflection of how difficult they are to mine, their limited availability, and the sheer energy and ingenuity it takes to get access to them in sizeable amounts.

He mentioned that the skepticism to adopt cryptocurrency revolved around black markets and security. He was quick to add that these issues are not unique to cryptocurrency but affect all commodities which store value. “Money is sometimes exchanged on the black market and even your wallet can be stolen if you leave it where another person can take it,” Uduma said.

Just as mobile technology allowed the emergence of new forms of payment across the continent, Uduma predicts cryptocurrency can have a similar impact by enabling businesses to cut down the lead time on transactions, to raise capital independent of traditional means and to break some of the current barriers to international trade.

Lexi Novitske, Singularity

Lexi Novitske focused on the application of blockchain technology. She explained that its many applications allow Africa’s entrepreneurs to create truly innovative and viable products.

She said many startups on the continent were already taking advantage of the traceability of blockchain and using it in the areas of data management, product authentication, digital identities, and tokenization.

Novitske also delved into the topic of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and how they can be used by companies to raise funding in a similar manner as traditional IPOs. She cautioned that startups who were looking to do this had to take time to do proper due diligence as cryptocurrency is still largely unregulated.

[caption id="attachment_6064" align="aligncenter" width="665"] Some attendees at MEST Tech Conversations[/caption]

A lot of insight and knowledge was definitely shared by the end of the event. Attendees were better able to understand cryptocurrency, its characteristics and applications. It is a technology which, while still in its early days, has the potential to revolutionize business in Africa.

MEST Incubator Lagos organizes regular conversations and events aimed at growing the knowledge and sharing experiences of entrepreneurs navigating the startup landscape. On the 20th of December, we will be having a fitness event aimed at tech and business professionals in the Lagos ecosystem. Click here to find out more and sign up for the event. We hope to see you there!