A well-documented wealth divide still exists across the globe — a barrier to many in their quest for economic freedom and personal sovereignty.
Ghana is one country that offers a unique look at this contradiction. This small West African nation of 25.9 million people is blessed with an abundance of natural resources like diamonds, manganese ore, bauxite and oil. It is best known, however, for it’s massive stash of gold deposits, giving Ghana the distinction of being Africa’s 2nd largest gold producer behind South Africa.
Ghana consistently ranks among the top ten countries in terms of gold production worldwide with its mining industry accounting for over 5 percent of the country’s GDP and nearly 50% of the country’s revenue.
Despite its distinction as a global hub for gold and mineral production, residents of Ghana continue to struggle. This is particularly true with respect to the massive numbers of young people in the country According to a recent World Bank report, nearly 50 percent of all Ghanaian youth age 15-24 are unemployed. This lack of inclusion has led to calls for expanded entrepreneurship opportunities and self-financing options that provide a boost to economic prospects for this struggling demographic.
Fostering dreams through bitcoin
As the founder of Dream Bitcoin Foundation, Philip Agyei-Asari is aggressively pursuing a bold initiative to address these ills by “empowering young entrepreneurs in Ghana though bitcoin.” Fueled by partnerships with Coinapult, Conscious Entrepreneurship Foundation, AUTONet, Sierra Leone Liberty Group, SatoshiCentre, and Nebraska Bitcoin Foundation, along with bitcoin supporters in Botswana, Uganda and Zimbabwe, the foundation, which was started in January 2014, is raising BTC for the purpose of funding projects that support this youth entrepreneurship empowerment aim, all without need for government assistance. The ultimate goal: to create a community of online, international businesses run by these entrepreneurs that utilize bitcoin for payment transactions.
These efforts were catalyzed by two events in Ghana that were designed to bring awareness to the DBF cause. The first, a two-day educational forum held at Kumasi Polytechnic Institute in December of 2014, was attended by around 250 people. Then there was a second event called CoinFest Ghana which took place in March of 2015. Here budding Ghanaian entrepreneurs with an overview of liberty based ideas around individual rights, private property, free markets, limited government and other related topics.
BTCMANAGER recently had an opportunity to talk with Philip Agyei-Asari about Dream Bitcoin Foundation efforts to support youth in Ghana in pursuing a brighter future:
On discovering bitcoin and its importance to Ghana’s future
I began reading about bitcoin during one of my usual forays on the web a few years ago. At that time it was still a developing technology and I was very impressed with the opportunities bitcoin presented to its users. I thought it would be a very brilliant tool for trade purposes, especially in Africa where our financial/monetary markets were not properly coordinated. And I could see bitcoin disrupting a lot of industries with its brilliant blockchain technology and I desperately wanted a piece of that action.
So ever since then I’ve been on a campaign to educate people on the benefits of bitcoin and how it can employed as a tool for development. I am particularly interested in the role that bitcoin can play in raise capital for investments in Ghanaian startups.
On establishing the Dream Bitcoin Foundation
My main purpose for starting Dream Bitcoin Foundation (DBF) was to publicize the importance of the blockchain and bitcoin to as many Africans as possible. So far that purpose is gradually being achieved as bitcoin knowledge grows in Ghana and Africa. I still believe there is more to be done to achieve the bitcoin knowledge saturation I’ve dream of. That is why DBF is fervently preparing for another Regional Bitcoin Seminar (RBS) in September 2016. These seminars aim to inform, educate and train as many people as possible in bitcoin and blockchain usage.
On the current economic and political situation in Ghana and the role of bitcoin and blockchain technologies in addressing major issues in the country.
The solutions bitcoin and blockchain technology offer are numerous. Whole books can be written about the benefits of bitcoin. Here in Ghana situation, unemployment is one of the major challenges facing the country. Yet there are brilliant software developers, entrepreneurs, engineer who are looking for opportunities. Encouraging freelancing and startups is one way to alleviate the unemployment challenges. Yet when queried as to why the unemployed are not selling their skills on freelance platforms, they complain about the payments system of some of the established sites. The development of platforms where talented Ghanaians can put their skills on the global market and get paid in bitcoin can help in alleviating this challenge and certainly allow us to make strides with the unemployment situation.
On the Ghanaian remittance economy
Ghana is a country that heavily relies on remittances as an important source of income and development. The processes one has to go through to receive remittances still leaves much to be desired as its very inefficient and chaotic. International Money Transfer (IMT) agencies make millions of dollars in profit every year but are not reinvesting in the customer experience. Bitcoin can be used to correct this customer service deficiency in the remittance industry along with the sky high charges
BTC Ghana is a remittance platform I set up that seeks to eliminate the customer service deficiencies that I just stated. This will allow remittances to be sent directly to recipient phones using a local mobile technology service called ‘mobile money.’ The fees BTC Ghana charges are relatively lower than that of International Money Transfer agencies.
Our biggest challenge with BTC Ghana is building trust amongst the Ghanaian public. The BTC Ghana concept is novel and quite ‘radical’ and in matters of finance people do prefer a rather established financial institution. The blowouts from Ponzi schemes offering enormous returns in Ghana has on the whole led to general negative suspicions of fintech startups. There are also regulatory challenges since the Bank of Ghana needs to issue licences before BTC Ghana’s operation can be commercialised on a large scale. BTC Ghana could also use more capital injection. In the next 12-18 months BTC Ghana would have built trust as a reputable source of money transfer for global remittances to Ghana and must have a targeted dedicated customer base.
Hope and vision
My hope and vision is to use these avenues [Dream Bitcoin Foundation and BTC Ghana] to create as much bitcoin awareness as possible, while in my own humble way helping to lift Ghana and Africa in general from lower income status to a status of prosperity and opportunities.