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Here's What We Can Learn from Bitcoin's Moment in Currency-Doomed Nigeria and Lebanon
We talked to Bitcoiners in Africa and the Middle East. Here are the three most valuable lessons.
Reading about some far-off “global phenomenon” is a lot like imagining “Trillions of Dollars” – you know it’s a really big thing and you should probably care about it. But the brain has a hard time grasping really big things and gets overwhelmed.
So today I’d like to quickly break down three lessons on global Bitcoin adoption I’ve learned from my interviews with Mary Imasuen in Nigeria and Sooly Kobayashi in Lebanon – two countries whose citizens desperately need Bitcoin right now because their elites royally fucked up the country and their currencies.
Lesson 1: Bitcoin is the perfect solution for countries in Africa and the Middle East
This is a big one, again. But stick with me here. We in the “rich” West love to sit and talk about the benefits of Bitcoin. But people in Nigeria and Lebanon, where inflation and mismanagement are magnitudes worse, actually must use Bitcoin every day. Not only as a savings vehicle, but as a transactional currency.
Mary even told me the high volume of Bitcoin transactions in Nigeria is not only because of traders in peer-to-peer markets. It seems businesses in Nigeria have been using Bitcoin to circumvent capital controls for years. Especially businesses that trade with China!
Let that sink in for a moment: African companies using Bitcoin to pay Chinese importers. And no one cares about the rules and regulation their countries have imposed on them. They just want to do business. And now they found a way. Big stuff, no?
Lesson 2: Governments are much worse at managing the economy than previously thought
Lebanon is experiencing brutal hyperinflation and a collapse of society right now. This is not the fault of the Lebanese people. We see the same thing over and over again: Corrupt elites plunder a country and leave it in ruins.
In the case of Lebanon we’re talking about a central bank chief that has been in power for decades – running a literal ponzi scheme – while reaping the awards from Western financial “institutions”. It’s truly shocking when you think of it.
Us in the West are conditioned to think of “other” people as incapable of taking care of themselves. This is the long shadow of colonialism.
But we should face the facts: What we see in countries like Nigeria and Lebanon is a reminder of the fact that governments, politicians and central bankers should absolutely not try to be in “charge” of the economy.
The fact that we in the West still live better lives is not a testament to the system of central control working well: the corruption, mismanagement and outright fraud is just well covered. Economic success is helped by the ongoing plundering of other countries around the world.
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Lesson 3: There is a long, long road ahead of us
While Bitcoin is helping people in Nigeria, Lebanon and elsewhere right now, both Mary and Sooly agree: adoption is still pretty low, even in countries that desperately need Bitcoin. Oftentimes people have no access to the necessary technology, especially in the case of Africa. People are also incredibly reluctant to change their old ways. Even those who have been devastated by government-induced inflation before would once again put their trust in government money and national banking networks.
In the case of Nigeria, where cash is still king, people are not used to electronic forms of money. While African countries like Ghana and Kenya have adopted systems like MPesa long ago, showing that a private telecom company is better at managing money than the state central bank, Nigerians have stuck to their Naira-notes – and are now paying the price.
It will be up to Bitcoiners like Mary and Sooly and the social network that Bitcoin spans around the globe to change that.
The implications of a secure, permissionless, hard money standard for the whole world are truly mind-boggling. Much bigger than “global phenomenon” or “Trillions of Dollars”. Taking money out of the hands of government is the most important step for human progress in the early 21st century. And I believe it is happening. But not as fast as many would wish for. This is going to take time. A lot of time.
Until next time.
Niko: @nikojilch / nostr: npub1st4elxz4dphx2qxpuaklvs855zetnkglu8dvszdxamgqn5q3pk5svflv5p
Yaël: @yaeloss / nostr: npub15dnln6cukw3yrflnv3hnrntdt9amh0uw466u6tns05ymqp3nal4qzz3lfc
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