The news that Grammy-nominated rapper Akon is set to build a city run on crypto has drawn praise and scorn in equal measure. The city, located on a prime site just 5-minute drive from Senegal‘s international airport, is run on 100% renewable energy and powered by the rap star’s own digital currency, Akoin. Akoin will act like currency, but the ecosystem will also provide a way to establish credit, borrow money, access government services, and more.
Whatever your views on the city and its potential for success, the move can only boost Africa’s increasingly prominent role as a continent of the future – one that’s ripe to reap the benefits from cryptocurrency. When Jack Dorsey visited Africa last year, he tweeted that Africa would “define the future” and particularly the Bitcoin one. Is he already being proved right?
We looked back over the years at what other experts have said about crypto in Africa to better understand its potential.
"I think that blockchain and crypto could be the saviour for Africa in many ways because it brings the power back to the people and brings the security back into the currency system and also allows the people to utilise it in ways where they can advance themselves and not allow government to do those things that are keeping them down."
Akon, award-winning rapper
“Fintech provides what the African economy has wanted all along – greater purchasing power and more money that isn’t taken up by fees or other nonsense. [...] Although fintech and blockchain are seen as highly developed technology that should only be workable in first-world countries, the reality is that they make the most impact in developing countries.”
George Gordon, Director of Africa Master Blockchain Company and board member of Africa Blockchain Association
“Cryptocurrencies will be life-changing for many millions of people in Africa. For the unbanked and those that lose out every time they deal with the existing financial services sector, there lies ahead a better way of moving, storing and exchanging value.”
Marcus Swanepoel, CEO of Luno
“Crypto will be adopted globally. In the western market it is not solving an active problem. In Africa, where ‘cash is king,’ crypto is this beacon of light for consumers. If designed correctly, consumers will adopt it aggressively.”
Andrew Torre, Regional President for Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, VISA
"One of the big challenges you see across Africa is governance. And wherever you have weak governance you have more transaction costs. We believe that cryptocurrencies and crypto networks will have a lot of applications across Africa."
Akin Sawyerr, founder of Feleman Limited, Africa-focused impact investment and advisory firm based in Washington, D.C.
“Countries that lack legacy systems and legacy infrastructures, are countries that stand to benefit the most from this new technology.”
John O’Connor, Director of African Operations at IOHK
“Africa is just getting started. It’s an interesting world. I think what’s going to happen in the future is going to be more exciting than what happened in the past.”
Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, CEO of Binance
“Africa was not part of the first, second, and the third industrial revolution and these group of lawmakers believe that the fourth industrial revolution, driven by digital transformation should not pass us by. Hence, the need to engage all stakeholders to initiate the process of blockchain and internet discussions at this time.”
Honourable Solomon Adaelu, member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives
“I see crypto taking up a strong position in the remittances space. It’s often cheaper, less stressful (in terms of documentation) and faster to send and receive crypto. Many younger folks in the diaspora are now leveraging crypto to send money back home. Some techies working remotely are also getting paid in crypto.”
Victor Alagbe, COO and Blockchain Strategist at OneWattSolar, an energy startup looking to leverage blockchain technology in boosting renewable energy adoption across Africa
“If Africans are to benefit from the cryptocurrency revolution we need make it easier to buy, store and trade cryptocurrencies. As Africans, it is our responsibility to help build the infrastructure and we need to be a part of the revolution.”
Stephen Young, Co-Founder of Coindirect
“Africa is rarely mentioned among the largest markets for cryptocurrency, but it may be set to steal a march over other markets.” [...] “[citizens of countries battling high inflation are likely to opt for cryptocurrency, because] with their paradigm of decentralisation, cryptocurrencies offer an alternative to disastrous central bank policies.”
Rakesh Sharma, a business and technology journalist
The truth is, for many Africans, it is not simply the case that the financial system is no longer fit for purpose. In some areas of Africa, the financial system has never been fit for purpose. The advent of cryptocurrencies offers a different path and an avenue to financial tools that they have hitherto lacked and desperately need. The potential of crypto is vast, as experts from both inside and outside the space attest. What’s needed now is a concerted effort to ensure this potential is realised.
How do you feel about the potential of crypto in Africa? Do you believe that the continent is well-positioned to exploit its benefits? Let us know on Twitter.