“Bitcoin for Africa, by Africans” was the key theme at the Qala Bitcoin developer offsite event held earlier this month in Lagos, Nigeria. And that theme, as well as the event itself, spoke to one of the continent’s greatest opportunities today, as well as Qala’s larger mission and how it is finding success already.
GROWING OPPORTUNITY AMONG PERVASIVE CHALLENGE
It’s imperative to know that the growing adoption of Bitcoin in African countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, South Africa and the Central African Republic is connected to the intensive Bitcoin education programs organized by Bitcoin-focused firms and stakeholders in these jurisdictions, such as Qala, a program meant to train African Bitcoin and Lightning Network developers.
Unlike a few years back, when Africa as a continent had always been thought of for dragging its feet in terms of adopting and getting acquitted with fourth industrial revolution technologies, the narrative is changing positively today as it’s becoming obvious that Africa offers the best use cases for Bitcoin as an innovation.
For instance, a recent report by Chainalysis, a blockchain data platform, has shown that between July 2020 and June 2021, Africans received $105.6 billion worth of bitcoin and cryptocurrency payments — with Africa’s cryptocurrency market increasing by 1,200% from the year before. In Africa, the usefulness of Bitcoin isn’t limited to building generational wealth alone, but it cuts across features such as enabling cross-border remittances, helping withstand inflation, as well as serving as a tool for social justice, among other things.
Abukakar Nur Khalil, who is a Bitcoin Core contributor, has highlighted the need to leverage Bitcoin infrastructure and layered frameworks in building products focused on creating real-time solutions and addressing problems specific to different regions in Africa. There are different Western exchange platforms and products offering peer-to-peer Bitcoin services in Africa but, not unsurprisingly, these products aren’t developed and built specifically for Africans.
HOW QALA HELPS AFRICAN BITCOIN DEVELOPERS
At the Qala event in Lagos, Nigerian entrepreneur Femi Lounge said, “Traditionally, African countries are consumers of products built outside of the continent. In this room, we are no longer consumers, we are producers. Bitcoin is the tool that we build with.”
The Bitcoin developer-focused gathering featured plebs, sponsors, speakers and representative from almost all the Bitcoin-only focused startups in Africa and beyond, such as Carla Kirk-Cohen, a board member of Btrust; Tim Akinbo, a long-time Bitcoiner and open-source enthusiast; Adam Jonas, core member at Chaincode Labs; Benard Parah, the CEO of Bitnob; Caralie Chrisco, content lead at Hello Bitcoin; Dele Joseph, logistics lead at DigiOats; Oluwasegun Kosemani, the CEO of BotMeCash; Nur Khalil; Femi Lounge, cofounder at Co-Creation Hub; and Qala program director, Victor Asemota; along with support from the Built With Bitcoin Foundation, among others.
The event made it clear that Africans are living to change the world and truly believe that Bitcoin will fast track that process. But it also acknowledged that challenges remain.
Seeing these challenges as an opportunity to build, train and enable productivity in the African Bitcoin ecosystem has fueled the structure and initiative around Qala Africa. Eight months ago, Qala admitted 12 Africans (Bamidele Oluwatobi, Collin Rukundo, Enigbe Ochekliye, Theophilus Isah, Olutobi Adeyemi, Peter Tyonum, Raphael Osaze Eyerin, Vladimir Fomene, Munirat Olayiwola, Oladimeji Omotosho, Jennifer Ezeobi and Omoniyi Ilesanmi ) with the goal of training them to become builders on Bitcoin’s second layer and testing protocols such as Lightning, Bitcoin’s testnet and other frameworks, rather than just remaining consumers and users of Bitcoin services.
Bernard Parah, the CEO of Bitnob who is also one of the six organizers of the program tweeted his excitement after three (Ochekliye, Isah and Tyonum) of the 12 graduates became competent Bitcoin and Lightning Network developers and product builders, and found full-time roles with Galoy.io, a payment solution platform offering lightning as a retail payment system.
Building on these developments, Qala promises to keep up with this feat by onboarding more developers who are interested in building with Bitcoin.