New Amazon Prime Documentary Shows How Bitcoin Is Changing Africa
Alakanani Itireleng On The Farm She Set Up From Her Bitcoin Profits
It turns out that Africa is a perfect proving ground for Bitcoin, according to a documentary and companion report. New Amazon Prime Documentary Shows How Bitcoin Is Changing Africa
Bitcoin came too late for Alakanani Itireleng’s little boy. He died before she could raise the money to pay for his surgery in South Africa.
But it was through trying to save Paco that Alakanani was first introduced to Bitcoin. What she learned amazed her—and like many other people around the globe, she became an evangelist for the digital currency.
Now known as Botswana’s Bitcoin Lady, Itireleng went on to found the educational non-profit Satoshi Centre, where she teaches others about how to use and profit from it, and transform their lives. She’s one of the many inspiring Africans featured in “Banking on Africa: The Bitcoin Revolution.”
The documentary, shot by Tamarin Gerriety, for award winning South African production house Documinute, launches on Amazon Prime on Friday. It explores how Bitcoin pioneers in Southern Africa are surmounting the widespread challenges on the continent—poor infrastructure, mismanaged economies, high remittance fees, and widespread poverty—with crypto.
A comprehensive report on the African Bitcoin ecosystem, conducted by research agency, Arcane Research, is set to be released alongside the documentary.
Monero Cryptocurrency Contributor, Riccardo Spagni Lives In South Africa, And Appears In The Documentary.
“Africa is one of, if not the most promising regions for the adoption of cryptocurrencies,” the report claims. Most of the continent is underserved by traditional financial services, with 66% having no access to a traditional bank account. But much of Africa still requires significant investment in crypto-specific infrastructure (such as exchanges) as well as its Internet and electricity networks, per the report.
Focus is often placed on investment, speculation, and trading, but Africa, more than any other continent, has a need for the utility of cryptocurrencies, according to the report.
For example, cryptocurrencies could offer lower-cost and faster remittance payments than current systems. Sending a payment of less than $200 to a Sub-Saharan country, costs an average of about 9% compared to the global average of 6.8%, while payments between countries are even more expensive.
Crypto projects have not been slow to recognize the opportunity Africa offers, and the report highlights those most active in Sub Saharan Africa, including Akoin, an ambitious project building a crypto city in Senegal and Sun Exchange, a peer-to-peer solar panel micro-leasing platform, as well as cryptocurrency platforms Bitcoin Cash, Dash, and Electroneum.
What these projects have in common is that their successes in African markets have resulted from in-the-field action, said the report. That spirit also came across from the individuals featured in the documentary.
75% Of Luno’s Trading Volume Comes From The South African Rand.
“Bitcoin has already shown how it has been able to usher in a new and improved financial system across a region that has so desperately needed it,” Marius Reitz, Africa Manager at Luno, said. The exchange was established in 2013, and most of its 4 million customers are in Africa.
But as the report highlights, Africa’s lack of infrastructure—an astonishing 57% of the region’s population still lacks access to electricity—is not an easy hurdle for Bitcoin to surmount.
“You’re not going to solve all the problems, certainly,” Monero cryptocurrency contributor, South African Riccardo Spagni said in the documentary. “Even if it just becomes a reserve currency, the local currency becomes less important. People can trivially shift from whatever the local currency is into Bitcoin. Now, your reliance isn’t on the government to keep the economy stable, because you’ve got a fallback, that’s very powerful.”
There are technologies where Africa could still steal a march on the West—the so-called leapfrogging phenomenon, that could see innovations adopted more quickly, as traditional infrastructure is less likely to exist. “We were on 3G before the United States and most of Europe,” Spagni pointed out.
Perhaps the most inspirational story belongs to Lorien Gamaroff, founder of blockchain-based social outreach platform, Uziso.
Celebrations As The Lights Go On At A South African School, Thanks To A Blockchain-Enabled Smart Meter.
Gamaroff was filmed in 2015, setting up an energy payments platform to enable donors to pay for electricity for schools in South Africa, where many rural communities are disadvantaged by an expensive and complicated system of paying upfront. The system also relies on third parties to act as middlemen between end users and the power companies—a problem a blockchain-enabled smart meter would solve.
“It’s not just a tech thing. It’s not just a new invention. It’s something that can actually help real people,” he said at the start of the film.”
The documentary shows him setting up the first demo of the system, and builds in excitement as he waits with the school teachers for the funds to be transferred, and the schoolhouse lights to go on. Miraculously, everything worked as planned.
Documentary Review – Banking on Africa: The Bitcoin Revolution
A new crypto documentary promises to tell the story of how cryptocurrency can affect social change across the African continent.
Another week, another cryptocurrency documentary review… Although Banking on Africa: The Bitcoin Revolution, released May 22, promises something a little different.
For a start, amongst the usual crypto-101 and industry-overview fare, a focus on how Bitcoin and cryptocurrency is transforming the African continent feels like a breath of fresh air. After all, wasn’t “banking the unbanked” one of the nobler use-cases for Bitcoin, before it became all about the price?
So far, so promising. Exploring how Bitcoin and cryptocurrency can enact actual social change in African communities desperate for the opportunity to improve their living conditions is a strong theme.
Unfortunately, for me personally, the film doesn’t explore this theme deeply enough. The threads featuring Gamaroff and Itireleng are spread across the film’s 47 minute run-time. But they are interspersed with more general comment, explaining Bitcoin and cryptocurrency in relation to traditional financial systems, and the benefits it can bring.
Sure, this is delivered by crypto personalities from Southern Africa, and gives an African perspective on the subject, exploring why the continent is well-suited to best realize the potential of the technology… but in general terms, this isn’t that different from elsewhere in the world.
Don’t Blame The Player…
This isn’t the fault of the film, but of the niche nature of the cryptocurrency world itself.
While those who follow the industry (our readers included), are often passionate about it, this is still only a tiny fraction of the population. Certainly not enough to rely on to create a sizable audience for your latest film, for example.
For the majority of people, crypto is still an often impenetrable and confusing subject, so such entry level explanations are still necessary in the attempt to attract a mass audience.
To be fair, the film achieves this balance well, but leaves me wanting to discover more of the individual projects which are changing Africa for the better. Yes, the report has such information, but a majority of viewers probably won’t even realize that report exists.
I have no hesitation in recommending this film, which is available now on Amazon Prime video to rent or buy (and free for Prime subscribers).
But where many cryptocurrency-related documentaries have felt overly long, I genuinely wish there was another half hour or so of this, giving some more practical examples of how crypto can change the Africa continent, and the world.
NB: To its credit, despite funding the film, Luno has stayed out of the filmmaking process entirely. The film promotes cryptocurrency, promotes Africa, but never once promotes Luno… to which I doff my hat.
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