Years before the bitcoin idea was conceived by Satoshi, certain social vices and financial crimes were happening all over the world, crimes such as money laundering, drug trading, arms trafficking, the use of counterfeit money were all in existence. None of these social vices came about as a result of the advent of bitcoin. Such crimes have existed for decades if not centuries.
Therefore as someone who is interested in the development of bitcoin and how it can be used as a tool for financial and economic integration especially on the continent of Africa, the association of bitcoin to a lot of these social vices and anti-social behaviours come across as uncanny. Traditional media reports about the development of bitcoin always reminds consumers of how bitcoin can be used for ‘evil’. Hardly a day passes by without one reading an online article with seeks to demonise the use of bitcoin. In the event where a positive story is culled from bitcoin news and information sites such as Newsbtc, traditional media will try and put a negative spin on their reportage of the said news.
One of the major scandals which perpetuated this stereotype was the whole ‘Silk Road Saga’ where an individual known as Ross Ulbricht created an online market place called Silk Road, a site where illegal drugs were traded. Per various reports and accounts by media that covered the incident, all the transactions on the site was carried out via bitcoin. The association of bitcoin with Silk Road led to a bitcoin witch-hunt. One of the profound effects of this demonization of bitcoin can be detected by simply performing a google search of ‘silk road’. Amongst the related searches that pop up at the bottom notes is bitcoin. Bitcoin vilification have been intensified ever since. It is not uncommon to see news reports spewing doom about how those who have invested in bitcoin and other alternate currencies are flushing cash down the drain. While this happens, perceived authorities in various countries and regions from Central bank chiefs to Nobel Laureates also add their voices to how the bitcoin cryptocurrency is a joke and a tool that has no major value.
The major culprits of the bitcoin demonization train are the traditional conservative media who do not see why bitcoin as a financial tool should disrupt their perfect world built around heavy cash use and traditional banking. They are comfortable in sitting in the limitations that the flawed banking systems shove down our throats. As a result what we end up being saddled with is financial exclusion, higher and higher taxes and commissions as well as a perpetuation of inefficiencies which do not help anyone. After raking in monies from charging commissions and fees on a plethora of products and services, some banks manage to run into financial crisis and are then bailed out by the government with tax payers monies.
Instead of the consistent vilification of bitcoin, people should rather see it as a catalyst for safe, easy and low-cost way to transfer cash. These characteristics of bitcoin will be particularly helpful to lower and middle income economies since the high cost of banking transactions as well as the cost of transferring capital sometimes leads to a reduction in business growth and development. It cannot be stressed enough that businesses need capital and customers to grow. Bitcoin allow people all over the world who have an interest in investing in a specific business venture or startups to make those commitments. It is unlikely that an individual who has a couple hundreds of dollars to invest in a small startup will go through the pain of going to an International Money Transfer (IMT) agent to send cash for investment. Considering the charges and commissions, time of commuting and recipients cost in order to access the money, it will require a huge commitment on the investors part to go ahead and invest. In a lower to middle income country, a $1,000 US can be a decent capital injection for a startup struggling to stand on its feet. Startups provide employment and well-paying employment generates a good standard of living and an even distribution of wealth for workers whiles governments also gets her benefits in the form of taxes. Bitcoin can play a major role in investments and capital injections for lower and middle income countries, it will also allow capital to be moved at a cheaper and faster rate. The market share prospects for startups and businesses who dabble in bitcoin and cryptocurrencies is also a huge opportunity for global trade and business.
The fact that bitcoin is not anti-government cannot be stressed enough. Some of the major principles that underline bitcoin is the ability to move money at a fast, cheap and hustle-free way. Bitcoin enthusiast are interested in fairness, togetherness, honesty and equal opportunities. Principles such as fairness and equal opportunities is what the continent of Africa needs right now to catapult the continent to the next stage of development. Bitcoin is the ideal combination of a currency, commodity and technology that can accompany Africa on such a journey. When Satoshi and his legion of developers were working on bitcoin, guns and ammunition, drugs together with terrorism were not the main drivers of this ground breaking currency. Bitcoin is here to move our concept of currency and technological advancements forward. Doomsday sayers and conspiracy theorist should make it stay that way.
KwakuAbedi is a freelance writer/editor based in Accra-Ghana. He has an interest in bitcoin and writes on bitcoin integration in Africa.