Africa has continued to venture into cryptos in recent years, but most of the world hasn’t been paying attention. While most crypto enthusiasts in the western world have continued to obsess over price speculation, African crypto investors have continued to explore its use in their daily lives. No one knows this better than Ray Youssef, the founder and CEO of peer-to-peer Bitcoin Core (BTC) marketplace, Paxful.
Paxful has been one of the pioneer crypto platforms in the continent. Its trading platform is especially popular in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy as well as Kenya and South Africa.
Paxful hasn’t stopped at just trading cryptos. The startup has been on a mission to champion the gospel of cryptos throughout the continent. Its focus has been mainly on the young people, organizing campus tours across the continent where they introduce them to cryptos, most of them for the first time. It was at such an event, organized in Nairobi, where I met Youssef.
“We really love Africa, because most of what we know now and what we have been implementing in the company, it’s the people of Africa that have taught us. They tell us what they need and that helps us develop products that suit them. They are also very hardworking and full of energy which inspires us even more,” Youssef told me.
The charismatic innovator and entrepreneur shared with me his passion for the continent’s development. The only way we can advance is through educating the young people, enabling them create wealth, he told me. And as much as he talks the talk, he walks the walk.
Paxful was co-founded with Artur Schaback, who serves as the COO, and the company has embarked on a mission to bring in young people to crypto space.
“This is the generation that is the most innovative and that has access to smartphones and the internet. If we bring them on board, then it’s only a matter of time before we finally reach the mama mbogas (Swahili for vegetable vendor),” he said.
And indeed, cryptocurrencies have ceased from being a niche topic, among the geeks and cyberpunks, to becoming a more mainstream asset class. In South Africa, for instance, Centbee has partnered with major retailers to help users buy Bitcoin SV (BSV) in the easiest of ways. The voucher system is popular in the country and now, the citizens can use it to get into cryptos. Initiatives like these, along with many others by firms like Paxful, Dash Nigeria, Luno and more are opening up a continent that has the highest ratio of unbanked adults in the world.
Having been in South Africa already, where it organized conferences in four universities, the Paxful team is going to Kenya, and then Nigeria is next. During the event, the attendants learnt about the history of cryptos, the use cases, how to buy and sell and the risks involved in cryptos. They also had their burning questions answered by experts from the Paxful team. To top it all off, those who had a Paxful account received some BTC with which they can experience the world of crypto. The excitement was palpable in the crowd as for many of the attendants; this was the first instance of interaction with cryptocurrencies.
“I’ve always thought that Bitcoin was a scam,” one of the attendants told me after the event. “This event helped me get a better understanding of cryptocurrencies. I’m excited because now I also have some Bitcoins.”
The sentiment was popular among most of the attendants. The Kenyan government, just like many others in Africa, has advised citizens to stay away from cryptos as they could end up losing their money. This has created a negative image of cryptos, with many viewing them as scams. And with pyramid schemes being fairly popular in the continent, most uninformed investors aren’t too eager to lose their money.
“The government has every right to warn the citizens against cryptos,” Youssef believes. “After all, there have been way too many scams in the industry and this has made the government wary. For most of the leaders, the first time they learnt about Bitcoin was when someone they know got scammed. But through the young people, we can turn it around.”