BIT-Frastructure: Establishing conditions for a robust bitcoin infrastructure and catalyzing inclusive growth in Africa.




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Africa as a continent has always struggled with availability of technological infrastructure and networks which would take the continent to the next level of development. Time is not static therefore, as time passes by, better and improved infrastructure and technology are being built in various parts of the world. Technological advancements and novelties coming out of Africa has been quite minimal. A lot of reasons can be assigned to why this has been the case for so many years, some of the top reasons include, political instabilities, mismanagement on the part of successive African governments and people in public offices also an apathy for learning, research and exploration has been cited for some of the reasons African technology is minimal and almost non-existent.

The inadequate nature of infrastructure and systems for new technology to be developed on usually causes most Africans to adopt technology that has been used in developed economies for decades. This is what brings about the late-adopter concept constantly making us play catch-up with the rest of the world. Global tech companies might not find it prudent to go into business in Africa because a lot of their products and services exist on already established infrastructure such as an effective mapping system, accuracy of information and census data, an effective electricity supply system and a cohesive business ecosystem.

New technology has to be built on infrastructure, which probably might have taken years to develop and maintain. For example lifestyle taxi services app such as Uber has caused a great level of disruption in the public transportation systems in countries such as the United States and France. Uber as a service has been built on infrastructure and networks that has been in existence for many years in these countries. Before the taxi service must properly function G.P.S systems must be developed, the application also takes advantage of map services such as Google Maps. Maps would probably be inaccurate if street names, zip codes and lane numbers were not in order. The inadequacy of a networked system and infrastructure has caused Africa to miss out on a lot of advancements that has been happening globally.

Tech companies find doing business on the continent quite a challenge. In the banking and finance sector, it wasn’t until recently that a lot more consumers were allowed to have access to Visa and MasterCard in order to transact business online. A few years prior, such cards were the preserve of the rich and influential in society. The situation has been improving for the better. Although more people have access to cards and are able to bank online, the process is still very much one-dimensional. For example, customers are not allowed to send across banks and across countries. Most online banking transactions are restricted to paying bills and purchasing stuff online.

Africa has been left out of a lot of technological improvement due to the lack of infrastructure and systems. Access to technology is a great challenge and in cases where the technology is available, it cost quite substantial amounts to buy and implement them. The lack of finance is almost an irony if one considers the fact that the continent of Africa is the richest when it comes to natural resource endowments. There are several people who believe in the school of thought that, Africa has been kept poor on purpose in order for developed super powers to continue taking advantages of her resources hence the term neo-colonialism although every country on the continent is a sovereign state.

Bitcoin as a cryptocurrency and a pioneering technology in the financial tech space has been able to pull off something truly remarkable for the people of Africa. Since its inception, anyone regardless of which part of the world they are based had access to the system. This is a great feat given that a lot more Africans have been excluded from accessing global technological advancements that has been improving and simplifying the lives of people in more advanced countries. Personally, i have lost count on the number of times i have read or heard about a new piece of technology and have been denied when trying to log on and partake in that technology. As an open source platform, developers all over the world work assiduously to make the block chain and bitcoin better every day. For the first time in history, bitcoin is providing a level playing field for people on the continent especially the young ones who want to take their financial future and careers into their own hands to make a difference. Developers and bitcoin enthusiasts continue to work assiduously to make bitcoin accessible to every Tom, Dick and Harry based in every nook and cranny of the world. It is exciting to note that, certain bitcoin wallet sites allow users to carry out transactions via simple and easy to use text messages.

The rapid development of bitcoin and block chain has spawned a whole new conversation about how currencies, commodity and technology can merge to create a worldwide phenomenon especially in the world of trade and finance. Bitcoin has also showed that a lot more can positive results and financial inclusion can be achieved with very minimal infrastructure. Therefore, the people of every country and continent has equal opportunities to pursue their goals especially in the field of start-ups and entrepreneurship. The infrastructure gap on the African continent is continues to pose a challenge, but the increasing popularity and usage of bitcoin on the African continents goes a long way to show that, Africa when equipped with minimal network and infrastructure can also rise up and further deepen technological advancement and be part of a global conversation.

Kwaku Abedi

Kwaku Abedi is a freelance writer/editor based in Accra-Ghana. He has an interest in bitcoin and writes on bitcoin integration in Africa.

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