Stop the press! Bitcoin dropped below $30,000 today, heading toward a new low of the year. While some long-time crypto traders are stressing over when to take profit, new adopters in developing economies are seizing the moment to break into the market. In Africa, home of the youngest and fastest-growing population in the world, where many people lack access to formalized financial services, cryptocurrency and blockchain are improving lives day to day.
In Botswana, Africa, Alakanani Itireleng, lovingly referred to by her community as the BitcoinLady, is educating people on how to make money through bitcoin and alt coins, as well as how to build applications on blockchain at the Satoshicentre, a hub she started out of her home in Gaborone. Self-funded and supported through donations, the center’s small team has plans to create an incubator, where startups can connect with mentos and sponsors.
“I was feeling that there’s something about bitcoin that is unique, that is different from normal fiat money,” says Itireleng. “I always call it a currency of love.”
Born Out Of Love
And that’s how her crypto journey began in 2012—out of love. While she was working as a teacher, Itireleng’s son got sick. She needed to generate funds to take him to the hospital, so she started learning about bitcoin. Tragically, her son passed away, and for a moment so did her passion for crypto. But in 2013, she couldn’t escape the feeling that crypto education could help empower her friends and ignite an ecosystem.
“I called 10 of my friends, and then those friends called 10 of their friends, and eventually we became a community of bitcoiners,” shares Itireleng. “Growing the community hasn’t been easy because people are afraid of change. “If it’s something they can’t see, the fear becomes enormous. I had to stay true to my mission. I don’t divert. I don’t allow ponzi schemes. I tell people just starting out to save just $1 every month and invest it in bitcoin.”
At the Satoshicentre, Itireleng teaches people skills depending on their needs, and their needs are diverse. For example, some participants want to make mone. So Itireleng and her team teaches them about coins, how to put their money on Ethereum or ADA, and then how to move their money to bitcoin. Other people are interested in building solutions on blockchain, and some want to learn about how they can use bitcoin as a way of sending money to people outside of the country.
Meeting People Where They Are
So far, no one in the Satoshicentre community has built a startup yet, as Botswana doesn’t have many blockchain developers. Case in point: a blockchain-based agritech solution that Itireleng is working on is being built by developers in Kenya. Scheduled for an August launch, the objective of the project is to show the people of Botswana that there’s a future in crypto and blockchain.
As part of her mission, Itereleng has been to the Bank of Botswana to urge the institution to have bitcoin be accepted as a regulated currency. She’s also developing a local Botswana wallet that connects to ATMs.
In “Bitcoin in Botswana – Education,” a short film directed by Sergio Ruestes that’s part of the documentary series, BitcoinFilm, Itireleng said: ‘I believe in my heart of hearts that bitcoin is going to change the lives of a lot of people. It’s going to change the way we do things. It has brought a lot of opportunities that we didn’t have in the past.”
One of the most vital takeaways from Itireleng’s teachings is that if you want to empower people through crypto and blockchain you need to show them simple ways the technology can make their lives better.
On that note, Itereleng says, “Imagine a situation where you can verify your records of your cows, know where all your food came from, know how a plant was planted, what fertilizers were used…think of wanting to send your child to university in a different country. You can do it without waiting for the bank to open. Bitcoin can make a difference in your day to day life.”