Bitcoin adoption in West Africa is primarily driven by Nigeria, but there is also growing interest and educational efforts in French-speaking West African countries. Senegal recently opened its first physical Bitcoin exchange and education center called Bitique, and the country will host a Bitcoin Forum in December. In Benin, the Bitcoin-only Bitcoin Mastermind conference will take place next month, bringing together Bitcoin entrepreneurs and crypto enthusiasts from local groups and businesses.
Countries in French-speaking West Africa use the West African CFA franc currency, which has faced criticism as a “colonial hangover.” This has led to anti-French sentiment in the region, with some Bitcoin advocates expressing their frustrations with the currency as a form of criticism towards post-colonial French policies. As a result, alternative currency initiatives, including Bitcoin, are gaining traction in the region.
The emphasis on financial education and discussions in West African countries is more focused on physical meetups and real-life interaction, compared to online platforms in the West. Although the COVID-19 pandemic initially limited discussions to online platforms, more physical spaces have opened up post-pandemic. These physical spaces, such as Bitcoin conferences, meetups, and shops, play a crucial role in educating and engaging the community.
In Senegal, Bitique is the first physical Bitcoin store in Dakar, offering trading services and educational programs for people to learn about Bitcoin in person. Additionally, Bitcoin Senegal conducts a nationwide program called “Baol Digital Kids,” which teaches children how to use Bitcoin and the Lightning Network. The video shows children receiving and sending their first satoshis via the Lightning Network, which they can then spend at merchants that accept Bitcoin.
Internet connectivity can be unreliable in West Africa, which poses a challenge for running Bitcoin nodes. To address this, Nourou in Senegal received a Blockstream Satellite kit, allowing him to run a Bitcoin node that is protected against network interruptions. In Benin, Kassamoto and his peers run one of the country’s first Bitcoin nodes, contributing to the increased adoption of Bitcoin in the region.
While Bitcoin adoption is growing, it also comes with risks due to its association with other cryptocurrencies and potential scams. Kassamoto emphasizes the importance of understanding Bitcoin specifically and distinguishing it from the broader crypto market. bitcoin meetups and educational events provide opportunities to educate the West African community about the potential benefits and differences of Bitcoin.
In addition to Senegal and Benin, other countries in West Africa are also exploring the use of cryptocurrencies. The Central African Republic, which adopted Bitcoin as legal tender, has also introduced its own crypto token and is experimenting with tokenizing real-world assets. Ghana will host a large Bitcoin and educational conference this year, featuring prominent figures in the Bitcoin community.
These developments signify the growing interest and adoption of Bitcoin in West Africa, particularly in French-speaking countries. Efforts to educate and engage the community through physical spaces and events play a crucial role in facilitating the understanding and adoption of Bitcoin as a decentralized currency in the region.