Bitcoin progress in Botswana
There are currently 6 LocalBitcoin exchangers selling Bitcoin using the USD, Euro, and the Aussie Dollar. There are 6 Bitcoin buyers who transact in the USD, Euro, or the Thai Baht.
Kipochi also supports exchanging between Pula and Bitcoin and has a web wallet that is smartphone friendly.
One of Bitcoin Magazine’s own writers, Tristan Winters, has been actively engaged in bringing more people in the South African region into the Bitcoin community. His exchange (https://ice3x.com) supports African currencies. And he has partnered with an adventurous Botswanan, named Alakanani Itireleng.
Alakanani is a woman in her mid-thirties with a fervent spirit sharing Bitcoin to others in her community. She has been heavily promoting Bitcoin and has been written about by vice.com, maxkeiser.com, and reddit.com, and has an active Facebook group to help coordinate Bitcoin adoption in Botswana.
I communicated with Alakanani to find out more about her efforts and the progress in increasing Bitcoin adoption in Africa.
Alakanani speaking at the1st Bitcoin meetup in Botswana. [photo credit: Quantum Leap Foundation]
Ruben Alexander:Please share how your first heard about Bitcoin.
Alakanani Itireleng: My first encounter with Bitcoin was through a site called virtapay.com. It was at that time when I was searching for ways to earn [money] online and raise money for my son who was sick and also supplement what we were earning at home. Someone had advertised on the buying section about Bitcoins and when I read that I was intrigued.
RA: What would you like to improve about Bitcoin?
AI: I believe so much in the ability of Bitcoin to have an influence in the global economy and as the global Bitcoin community we should strive to find to find ways to avoid sliding back to a situation that we found ourself in with the problems faced by Mt. Gox. Don’t take things lightly with an assumption that Bitcoin is powerful and all, careful programming, planning and records is important too, the future of the world lies with Bitcoin.
RA: Some folks are hesitant about Bitcoin because of its reliance on the Internet and stable power infrastructure. Have you had internet and power issues in Botswana that have interfered with your Bitcoin use? If so, please explain.
AI: So far, because I am still new to the Bitcoin phenomena and I don’t have any money to start the mining Business, the frequent power cuts in Botswana have no impact in my use of Bitcoin, for now I rely upon faucets as many others in my group to earn Bitcoin, maybe in the future when we are more established in the use of Bitcoin such events will impact us.
RA: How do you explain Bitcoin to your parents or your parents’ generation?
AI: Since my mission is to advocate for the use of Bitcoin into changing the lives of people in Botswana, I have started my evangelism with the younger generation or the youth who I believe have a lot of influence on bringing change in my country. The few elderly people I have had conversation with are very skeptical. To them, when I talk about Bitcoin they are thinking about ideas such as AMware or forex exchange and all these. It is a difficult exercise talking to adults and the simplest way I have used is to show them the coinmill.com site and show them, you see Bitcoin is a currency then explain how it differs from the other currencies and how they can benefit from using it.
RA: Have you seen local businesses try using Bitcoin in Botswana? If so, what has been their experience?
AI: [There are] no businesses using Bitcoin at the moment; I have sold the T-shirts I printed for Bitcoin Botswana to someone in Sweden, [and] it was a good experience trading in Bitcoin. My only challenge was that in pricing the 10 T-shirts I have sold in BTC I failed to put the shipping costs within the price. I think that could be the same problem that many will face in the beginning of incorporating or accepting Bitcoin. The problem of pricing Bitcoin and Botswana Pula might be a challenge especially if one wants to sell goods or products outside the country.
RA: Are you aware that a public Bitcoin address can be transmitted via ham radio? Do Botswanans use ham radios?
AI: I really don’t know about their ability to do that, I guess I will start reading on that. Yes, Ham radios are used in Botswana more especially in departments like fire, the police, and also in remote areas.
RA: What progress have you made in getting Botswanans to buy goods with Bitcoin?
AI: When my Bitcoin campaign started in Botswana I have received 4 BTC in total and I used 2+ of these to help 8 people open their first Bitcoin addresses and donated coins to them and one of them even managed to buy himself a camera with the Bitcoins. My dream is to see Bitcoin be used even by the smallest of businesses in Botswana and am slowly reaching out to some of these business people.
RA: Are people happy with the Pula or are they seeking alternatives?
AI: Our currency is Pula(BWP); the reason many have in the past (including me) fallen for one scam after the other is [due to] the problem with the value of our currency. There were times when Botswana’s Pula was known as the African Dollar, but not anymore. People are looking for alternatives [and] that is why few years back we had a lot of nurses moving out from Botswana to look for greener pastures.
RA: What is the current sentiment in Botswana towards the banking system?
AI: When there are no other alternatives, people become used [to] and comfortable with even the poorest situation. The same applies to the bank situation in Botswana, we always hear of people’s money disappearing from people‘s account and all that, but people have no choice but [to] continue trusting the bank with their hard earned cash despite the problems they face.
RA: Have you heard of Batswana using bitcoins to receive remittances?
AI: No sir, This is what I want to see in the future. The more people I can reach the better the chance of Bitcoin usage and survival In Botswana.
RA: Is there a predominant religion in Botswana? What are their thoughts on Bitcoin?
AI: Botswana is a Christian country, but it still accepts other religions. The worst one I heard was Bitcoin was an antichrist currency predicted in Revelation.
RA: Do you have any other thoughts about Bitcoin or any ideas for how to improve its usability?
AI: There is something beautiful about Bitcoin that I can’t explain. Once I came across Bitcoin, I felt I should share what I have come across with people and the idea of the Bitcoin Botswana facebook group was born (https://www.facebook.com/groups/bitcrazy/)
I started reaching out to people online with my story and Alec Liu interviewed me (http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/one-womans-quest-to-bring-bitcoin-to-botswana) and did the article.
I still have a long way to go to reach out to the whole country. To make this easy, I need support and for people in my country to believe that Bitcoin is going to bring a lot of good on my country.
I recently have been talking to Steven Carpenter of Quantum Leap Foundation of the idea of them coming to Botswana to come help two of the nonprofit organizations in Botswana reach their goals. I believe by so doing it will bring a better platform for Bitcoin advocacy in Botswana and people will see Bitcoin cares more for their lives than any other.
If things will be made easier for Bitcoin a lot of African countries will find [it is the] perfect solution to most of the problems the continent is facing.
Visit bitconfused.org/africa or Alakanani’s Facebook page to see Alakanani speak about her first Bitcoin meetup and Bitcoin’s current progress in Botswana.