Interview: Prince Don, “Africa speaks Bitcoin”

We continue our series of interviews conducted at the Dakar Bitcoin Days forum. Prince Don is a professional with over 12 years of experience in digital and technology risk management within an audit firm. In March 2022, he launched a podcast called “L’Afrique parle Bitcoin” to popularize Bitcoin in French-speaking communities in Africa.

Hello Prince, could you tell us about your background and what brought you to the crypto world?

Hello, my name is Prince Don and I have been working in finance for twelve years now, in auditing more precisely. I learned about Bitcoin in 2017. It was the first time I heard about Bitcoin in the media, when there was the bull run and I bought some to see. Out of greed very clearly, and like many people who do that, I burned my wings. A few months later, when the price of bitcoin fell, I sold in a panic, lost money and didn’t want to talk about it again.

And then, thanks to the confinement in 2020, I wanted to develop new skills. This is where I will start to change, to document myself a little, to train myself, to listen to podcasts, to read books. I consumed an awful lot of bitcoin content at that time.

You launched the “Africa speaks Bitcoin” initiative. What does it consist of?

The objective is to talk about the uses that are made of Bitcoin in African countries. Because there is a very big difference between the use of Bitcoin in developed countries and what people do with it in African countries. In my opinion, in fact, it is a real solution to many of our problems. And I’m flabbergasted that there aren’t enough people looking into the thinking around Bitcoin or the development of tools that bring Bitcoin closer to African users. So that’s kind of what I’m trying to develop in my podcast.

I very quickly saw that the existing content was mainly English-speaking, even if we have been finding more and more French-speaking content over the past year or two. But there are even fewer made by French-speaking Africans. And so I said to myself that I could contribute to it. To help the younger generation not make the same mistakes I did in 2017. And to produce content so they can know what Bitcoin really is. It is not to get rich, you have to acquire the right habits of security and accumulation of bitcoins. It’s a bit like that that pushed me to go further in what was first an idea and which was concretized a little later.

On which social networks can we find your podcast?

It is available on all the usual podcast platforms: Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast. There is a platform that is much more focused on African countries called boom play. It can be found on Encore and also on YouTube.

Prince Don
Prince Don

How can the decentralization of Bitcoin be an advantage for Africa?

Huge and very interesting question. In fact, in African countries, we have a long history of very badly managed currencies by states with a lot of corruption. And that’s always involved having currencies with a lifespan of about 30 or 40 years before they completely go to hell. And it is the population behind who suffers enormously. But it’s good because these currencies are centralized and managed by someone. History has shown that all those who have control, who have the power of money creation which is “the ultimate power” end up abusing and printing money for their own benefit and those of their relatives. And so it is in this sense that a currency that is decentralized, that no one can control makes sense in economies like ours.

On the other hand, Bitcoin is a currency accessible to all without distinction and without constraint to use it. You don’t need to be identified; we don’t need to know your race, your skin color, your religion, your political opinions. You just have an internet phone and you can receive and send bitcoin. And that is very powerful in sub-Saharan Africa, where 40% of the population does not have access to identification. That is one of the obstacles to banking. So today, Bitcoin makes it possible to circumvent that. Because normally, to have access to digital currency, one must go through the bank while the banking rate is extremely low.

So, somewhere, Bitcoin’s private key is what could replace the traditional civil status?

Exact ! I had never thought of it like that, but it’s a very nice way to see it indeed. I am convinced that we will very quickly go beyond these key questions. Because that is still very geeky. People need convenience, they need to be able to transact directly without worrying about how the machine is running behind. And with the notion of private key, you have to go into a lot of things. I see things in a practical way. People can use Bitcoin without needing to go through this. I know the best practices, that’s what I teach new people, but to have mass adoption, we will go beyond that. I am convinced that African entrepreneurs and creators will reflect and find solutions to use bitcoin in a super easy way.

And just as an example: it was in Africa that we had the first application that allows you to use Bitcoin without internet. It never occurred to anyone to develop a solution for using Bitcoin without the Internet, because Bitcoin was created to work with the Internet. But it’s good because people who are in a context where is have a solution which is Bitcoin, but with a barrier, which is internet connectivity. So they created the product, an app that can allow bitcoin to be used without internet. And that’s how we will gradually have solutions that will be built, adapted to the needs of African populations. And that’s why I’m into bitcoin.

Mobile payment is already widespread in Africa, can this be a brake or an opportunity for the adoption of cryptocurrencies?

Absolutely not. I have thought about this several times and have come to the point where I consider mobile Money to have paved the way for the adoption of Bitcoin. Because ultimately, mobile money is electronic money that is transferred. That is to say convertible tokens 1 to 1 with the CFA currency. It’s guaranteed by the banks behind it. So we have a population that is already used to using digital currency and for whom this concept is not something aberrant: everyone now knows how to use a mobile wallet and is used to having money kept in a phone. And that is a difficult intellectual step to take for someone who has never been confronted with it. In the end, African populations, already exposed to mobile money, are mentally prepared for the adoption of Bitcoin.

Basically, you’re replacing mobile money with bitcoin. The infrastructure is Bitcoin, it’s public, it’s no longer a mobile phone operator and the bank that are behind it and can censor all that. And then you replace the phone number you use to send mobile money with a bitcoin address. The distance to be traveled intellectually and even from a user experience point of view is really not important.

Mobile money has therefore come to bring the population closer to the use of Bitcoin. It is something quite particular that makes Africans privileged in the adoption of Bitcoin. And for once that happens…

What are your goals for 2023 and beyond?

Continue with the podcast of course. I have a lot of feedback from people in my community who through the podcast discover entrepreneurs, interesting people, interesting bitcoiners. So little by little, we are expanding the community a bit and especially the understanding that people have of Bitcoin. For 2023, I will try to do a little more educational content and presentations for students, universities, schools. It’s a bit like the next step of my project “Africa speaks Bitcoin”.

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