The adoption of blockchain technology and the use of cryptocurrencies by people in Africa surged to unprecedented levels in 2020. While many have attributed this to Covid-19, blockchain advocates believe their work is partly the reason many are turning to digital currencies.
Importance of Education
Starting in the first quarter of 2020, the adoption of blockchain-anchored digital currencies such as bitcoin accelerated in regions like Africa where the number of financially excluded adults is still very high. Indeed, the blockchain and cryptocurrencies have proved to be tailor-made for the “new normal” that has subsisted since the pandemic began.
While blockchain and crypto advocates might view the increased use of crypto as a direct result of their efforts, some have argued that it was a pandemic that forced many Africans to consider using blockchain-related solutions. But as Roselyne Wanjiru, a Kenya-based blockchain advocate and educator told Bitcoin.com News, the work that she does is still necessary.
In written responses to questions sent to her via Whatsapp, Wanjiru also shared her experiences as one of the few women involved in blockchain advocacy work. Below are Wanjiru’s answers.
Bitcoin.com News (BCN): Can you start by telling our readers what made you want to be involved in blockchain and crypto advocacy or education work?
Roselyne Wanjiru (RW): I was drawn to the novelty and potential of blockchain technology as a solution within the array of tools in cybersecurity. I sought out initially a master’s in data science, but realizing the gaps in blockchain education, I opted to venture into research, advocacy, and awareness in the ecosystem.
BCN: How long have you been doing this work and can you say this has been helpful?
RW: Since 2018; it’s been an incredible and challenging journey. The levels of receptivity are increasing across the continent as services and users experience improvements, even as general awareness gets to more people.
BCN: You are one of the few women in Africa that are actively involved in educating fellow Africans about the potential of this technology. What do you think are some of the challenges or barriers that cause this gender gap?
RW: The gender gap unfortunately is preempted by rates of participation and inclusion of women and girls in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math]. An increase in social appreciation, incentives, and role modeling by existing women in STEM is changing this narrative over time.
BCN: What do you think needs to be done to help increase the number of women that are involved in this education work?
RW: An increase in the personal initiative, private-public partnerships; funding, and apprenticeship programs to absorb nurtured talent into companies coming into this industry.
BCN: Prior to the pandemic, many had been predicting the mass adoption of digital currencies in Africa but this never really happened. It took the lockdowns and other forms of movement restriction for the blockchain and crypto to get some kind of recognition. In your view, does this mean that educators were not doing enough before the pandemic?
RW: Educators did their part to disseminate information; however, the financial pressure that provoked many into considering alternatives gave an unprecedented push toward the adoption of these tools. Such an incentive was distant, to say the least, with many comfortable with their income and financial means before the pandemic hit.
BCN: What do you think is the best use case for digital currencies in Africa?
RW: Presently, remittances, alternative investments, and speculation on these digital currencies. Increased trends in usage will afford valuable insight to governments on the viability of using central bank digital currencies.
BCN: We know that bitcoin accounts for the largest portion of the continent’s traded crypto volumes. However, stablecoin volumes seem to be growing as the data from Chainalysis shows. What do you think are the reasons for this rise in stablecoin volumes?
RW: Two reasons: for investors looking to avoid the volatility in cryptocurrencies, stablecoins give the needed solution; and when markets show indications of price drops or bearish signals, stablecoins provide an alternative to retain one’s value so that it isn’t lost in the downward cycles.
BCN: In recent years, a few countries in Africa have indicated they are studying or exploring the possibility of issuing a central bank digital currency (CBDC). Still, many such countries are unwilling to recognize private digital currencies — or have imposed measures that restrict the use of such currencies. Do you foresee a scenario where CBDC and privately issued digital currencies co-exist?
RW: They can co-exist, and will; for as long as government-led processes follow the due course in rolling out CBDCs, which could take years, citizens will be accustomed to transacting using private digital wallets. What remains to be considered is how well the transition will be in terms of service integrations and ease of use so that citizens are incentivized to use CBDCs.
BCN: What would be your advice to governments or central banks that are trying to stop their people from using privately issued digital currencies?
RW: They do well to invite and invest in forums for education, capacity building, and collaboration with private sector players such as Virtual Asset Service Providers, considering that these tools will be in increased use across governments in the next decade. They do well to assess the potential savings on payments, cash transfer programs and the benefits of financial transparency inherent to these technologies. It’s better to interrogate and take risks early rather than have history show what could have been done with opportunities past.
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