Non-profit media organization PRCPTION Travel, Inc. just sent adventure sleuth Jordan Urbanovich to Cote d’Ivoire to check out Bitcoin use in the nation. Now, Bitsonline has secured an exclusive interview with Urbanovich to explore his observations from Africa.
Bitcoin in West Africa? Urbanovich Goes to See for Himself
Bitcoin and the developing world aren’t a synonymous combination yet. While bitcoin trading volume surges in nations like South Korea and the United States, emerging markets are wild cards when it comes to crypto adoption.
To this end, a few weeks ago Jordan Urbanovich had the opportunity to travel to Cote d’Ivoire — a nation with an emerging economy that is certainly not known for its bitcoin use.
That’s why Urbanovich spent a few days in the West African nation conducting a video investigation. Is Bitcoin even used in Cote d’Ivoire yet? Is cryptocurrency a feasible payment outlet in that particular emerging market?
Urbanovich found that personal banking tech was already dominant in the region in the form of regional payments app “Orange Money.” To his great surprise, then, he was able to find a vendor who was willing to transact in bitcoins instead of Orange Money.
To get a fuller picture of Urbanovich’s insightful experiences in West Africa, check out the video and interview below.
WP: You were in Cote d’Ivoire right before the August 1st Bitcoin hard fork when congestion on the network started getting bad. The space saw BTC’s congestion flare up again in mid-November and now once more in early December.
Do you think this dynamic will prevent Bitcoin from seriously catching on in emerging markets until scalability can be tackled effectively? Or will investors continue regardless due to the “Bitcoin boom” excitement?
Jay: I think investors will continue to invest due to this excitement. I think it’s pretty clear with the current pump, which some believe will never end. I think the Bitcoin Core community believes they’re figuring it all out with Lightning/RSK solutions and I really hope they’re right and that Bitcoin really can transform a paradigm.
Otherwise, I think it’s scary that many people are simply buying into a hype that can easily be manipulated by a handful of groups (i.e. whales, developers, miners, etc)… it’s important to remember that the market cap of crypto hasn’t been that much in the grand scheme of the world economy, and may not yet be out of the woods yet… I guess we’ll see what happens.
WP: From having had your eyes on the ground, as it were, what do you see now as the main advantage or advantages cryptocurrencies can provide in a place like West Africa? Or is the local Orange Money payments provider just too easy to switch over from for now?
Jay: It’s so easy and so fast and so ubiquitous, I have no idea how the crypto revolution would happen there any time soon for money transfers. Not to mention, mobile phones & telecomms are a big industry there (and everywhere). They often hold (and exert) a lot of political influence which could also bar progress.
Also, not many people have TVs or devices to “get in the loop” outside of the main cities — what you see is what you get around there. Meaning, how would the masses even find out about Bitcoin or crypto as an alternative?
WP: In your latest PRCPTION Travel video, you mentioned Litecoin and DASH as possible payment alternatives to Bitcoin in Cote d’Ivoire. Do you recall if Bitcoin was the only crypto that Abidjan payment kiosk accepted?
Jay: Bitcoin was all they accepted; in fact, the woman working there had to call the guy to text over the BTC wallet address. I doubt she even knew what she was doing. I’m sure if I asked, there may have been an alternative to use ETH or LTC or DASH or another coin; but otherwise I think Bitcoin’s name brand is what it’s got going for it on the global scale… interesting how that’s managed to happen.
WP: Was your West African video more of a side project thing, or can the community expect more crypto-related content from you in the future?
Jay: You can indeed expect more crypto-related content from me and PRCPTION Travel in the future. I’ve actually been slowly documenting the development of our own crypto-related endeavor which is an initiative to create a global networking database and social media platform that shares basic videos of on-ground experiences.
I plan on documenting everything we do everywhere we go to start bringing crypto to the real world. When the time comes, I’d also like to start consulting for these DApp startups intended to positively impact daily life: why don’t we see how the ‘real world’ responds to your application and UX?
WP: For context, could you speak a little bit to your own experience with the crypto space? When you got in, what you personally think is cool?
Jay: I’ve been into crypto since some time in early 2014 … I’d been a penniless traveler for years (all my funds went to just getting by) so I could never truly invest in anything substantial (even ~$200 BTC). I had a lot of fun getting to know a lot of the alt/scam coins in the pre-institutional times, and as a content creator, I really liked the idea of Reddcoin–a social media tipping platform. I bought maybe $50 worth just to start trading and started learning more in the Cryptsy trollbox.
Like watching Dogecoin from the sidelines, it was fun being a part of a little community who really wanted to see the success of their project/investment … and then I remember my beloved RDD was pumped and dumped and more or less killed. The community started disappearing along with the developers.
I went traveling through Asia for almost a year at that point so I kind of drifted from the scene, keeping up briefly with Antonopoulous’ podcasts on JRE. Upon getting back into the loop in spring 2016, I swiftly caught up and learned about Ethereum. I think it completely shifted my perception on the technology itself and re-inspired me to be apart of it. Instead of it being an investment, or a tool for simple social media tipping, I saw how a blockchain can be a community-building endeavor.
In light of the DAO hack a few weeks later (which I had Shapeshifted my old Reddcoin for, ha ha), I made my first VLOG regarding crypto and community which I think got some good feedback.
I truly think crypto is the key to a lot of the world’s issues; however it’s a lot easier to see that from the perspective of a fairly-typical Westerner with all our modern comforts and bandwidth and devices … getting out into the world I see that it’s a true dose of grounding to witness how much further we have to go. This paradigm shift requires much more than a simple technology; it requires implementation. It requires education and awareness of new ways of living.
There is so much to be done and I don’t know if the crypto space as a whole is moving fast enough with on-ground endeavors to make it happen–in fact, aside from a few projects I’ve seen (that hardly raised enough capital with their ICOs, like Ananas), I’m actually concerned by certain aspects of the crypto space’s obsession with finance.
This is what PRCPTION Travel’s crypto initiative, PRCPTR0N2020 is addressing: let’s humanize the communities our world so we can actually get some straightforward idea of what this technology will actually be used for.
Did you check out Jordan’s video above? What did you think? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about Bitcoin’s possibilities in emerging markets? Sound off in the comments below!
Images via jayurbzz.com, PRCPTION Travel