It has been referred to as the internet of money, being praised by many as well as maligned by the myopic few, interestingly the majority lot of them being politicians. However, that is not to say that Bitcoin legislation has not been impressive, especially on the African corridor. Bitcoin is the greatest invention, in my humble opinion, and quite a hoard of others, since Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the Holy Grail that is the World Wide Web.
Once upon a Bitcoin
My interaction with Bitcoin came with the autumnal glory of the year 2013 while I labored away on a computer on some vague assignment that had me lubricating myself with gallons of caffeine. As if a jolt from the vaults of Mt.Olympus shot through the room, that thundering sound that would indicate a friend from a far -country sought the pleasure of my conversation- “Bitcoin,” he wrote excitingly, “Is the New Thing that will change your life.” Of course I sat erect on my chair while he typed away to elaborate this foreign concept which had my brain working overtime, frankly, there was no longer need to down caffeine.
And so, cloaked with this New Wisdom and suddenly feeling like a Knight Templar, I ‘rode’ off into the Internet Pathway in search of this knowledge that would forever “change my life.”
Into the New Year, my interactions with this piece of post-modern archeology took off on a sporadic strain, but as the year galloped on, I had a more concrete communion with the coin; I had taken the scientific way to familiarize my person with the seemingly esoteric know-how. Fall is once again upon me and those words from the first time I heard of them, still echo within the hallowed halls of my mind. It rings true; Bitcoin has changed my life and continues to do so, as a matter of cold fact, the many, too. However, it is vital to note that Bitcoin still remains elusive, in Kenya and the Sub-Saharan corridor, to be specific.
The Idea of Personalized Banking:
Bitcoin is seen as having your own bank with you. The whole idea of crypto-currencies (currencies that are as a result programming and not actual printing of money) is to decentralize the autonomy that is enjoyed by banks in the world today. They are essentially meant to return or enhance the financial powers of an individual that sees them not always at the mercy of oligarchic banks.
Currently, there are around 2.5 billion people globally without access to financial services (these folks must be mitigating their money in some way or another). Statistically, 50 percent of adults worldwide do not have an account in a formal financial institution- credit union, bank, cooperative, post office, or a microfinance institution; and this amounts to the figure stipulated at the outset. Of course, this brings along with it problems of safety, access to credit, and such people tend to have a difficult time receiving wages, remittances, or even government payments. According to the World Bank Global Findex Database, 41 percent of adults in developing countries have a bank account, amongst the poorest, 23 percent of people leaving below 2 dollars a day have access to a bank account; whilst 89 percent of adults in advanced economies have a bank account, the disparity is self-evident, and interesting thing is, in developing countries and poorer countries, having a bank account more often than not is a costly affair.
Another issue emerges from the World Bank poll, that 55 percent of men, worldwide, have a bank account, while 47 percent of women do so. The most common reason provided for not having a bank account is not having money to need one. In fact, this reason was 65 percent of the people, 20 percent cited the far distance of a bank and 25 the expensive nature of an account, 18 percent not having the relevant documentation (like a National ID). In Kenya, the Kenya Financial Diaries Project done in 2013 found out that low the median household mitigates 128% of their funds in an average of 14 financial devices, for example mobile money wallets. The figure that exceeds 100 percent essentially means that the typical household is moving the same money in and out of the financial devices.
So, where do crypto-currencies come in to help in bridging this financial services gap and how does it translate here in Kenya, especially bitcoin. There are generally four ways to acquire bitcoin- mining (digitally ‘manufacturing’ or ‘printing’), buy them (they possess indivisibility, which means you can buy in small amounts that corresponds to your budget, make a profit them from arbitrage trading or investing or hedge-funding), donation (tipping), or work for bitcoins. Like any other currency, bitcoin is subject to foreign exchange, meaning you can choose to convert the bitcoins to KES or see fit to hold them in anticipation of a bull run (price rise), so they can function as a reserve asset. They work well with mobile money wallets like MPESA, so no need to go to a central authority to exchange bitcoins for KES (Bitpesa, a bitcoin start-up offers exchange services at only 3 percent cost to you, the cheapest in the country, so if you have remittances coming in for you, I recommend you use their services, I have, works like a charm).
I believe the youth who make up a highly significant portion of the Kenyan population are easily set to leverage on this currency, some of them are and the Bitcoin evangelism campaign goes on to see many adopt the use of the currency. Over half the population of Kenya has access to the internet, bitcoin is internet-intensive, and majority of the youth one way or another interact with the internet daily. Merchant interfaces would also aid in bitcoin adoption as a means of payment, such as Mammamikes, online merchant accept bitcoins as a mode of payment.
Beacon of Social Transformation
I believe that the “Blockchain” provides the most recognizable and elemental material that allows viewers to build a common sense of self, which is a key thing in enacting social change. This emotional investment in human relations and social realities constitutes a major part of Popular Finance that continues to draw people to Bitcoin by the second. Especially, the social group that carries the largest demographic, the youth, has been marginalized for quite a long time. One does not need to be a psychologist to understand the socio-psychological needs of the youth in their struggle to make sense of human conditions of a 21st century life. Bitcoin gives them the power to transform their lives, offering them a shared sense of the texture of life that not only reaches to the intimate sphere, but also the heart of the reflexive self; welcomed notion for any nation that wants to build a sustainable future.
Not only have I improved my financial life in a sense, but my social one is one to write to the Queen about, too.