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Eighteen hours before this newsletter hit your inbox, I was on the phone with reception. The shower in my bathroom had stopped working while I was_ _ _ Anyway, remind me to leave them a nice, not-really-passive-aggressive-but-frank rating on Hotels.ng later. As Robert Ingersoll famously said – and I paraphrase – we rise by reviewing orders.
Hope your 2021 is off to a greater start than mine. How’s your Bitcoin journey going? You haven’t started? Oh thoughts and prayers, because that *bleep* is through the roof like a dog on steroids. It’s risen so rapidly over the last month that Elon Musk, the world’s richest man and meme daddy, now wants to be paid in Bitcoin. Is 2021 the year Africa fully rides the crypto train?
Over the next 50 weeks, The Next Wave will bring you relatable insights on this and other leading questions on the trajectory of tech and innovation on the continent. In this edition, we review key themes from 2020 and invite you to ponder what this year has in store for each.
Funding announcements, boring and basic as they have become can alert you to market trends.
Last August, BuyCoins Co-founder and CEO Timi Ajiboye tweeted that Balaji Srinivasan had invested in the crypto startup. Besides a few blurbs in newsletters, there wasn’t a lot of attention or analysis about the event. Nevermind Srinivasan’s credentials as a former general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, former CTO at Coinbase, and all-round Silicon Valley seer.
I’m not jumping into a retrospective deep dive here, but two things: Bitcoin is climbing towards all-time highs, and individuals are trading by using exchanges like BuyCoins. It is one of a growing number of startups positioning for cryptocurrency’s rising recognition in Africa.
Bitsika, a startup based in Ghana, made its own notable move in October by winning over Nigerian artiste Davido as an equity investor and brand ambassador. A Series A round appears to be on the startup’s schedule for February, a move that could further nudge the fast-growing popular perception about cryptocurrency.
If 2021 is to be crypto’s year in Africa, we expect these startups to build substance on these good vibes. That partly requires rolling out delightful product experiences to assure users that crypto’s value is not only in possession but in utilization.
BuyCoins sort of kicked that trend off with Sendcash, the service that allows Nigerians to receive the naira-equivalent of Bitcoin sent by a benefactor abroad. It’s a good start, but when can this feature become deployable on ecommerce stores, hotels and Uber?
Doing commerce with Bitcoin in Africa is a key 2021 topic because of the AfCFTA – the African Continental Free Trade Agreement which went into effect on the first of January.
The AfCFTA secretariat says it will take a while for the agreement’s fruits to manifest, thanks to deficits of roads, equipment at borders, and other infrastructure needed for efficient movement of goods.
While we wait, crypto startups should double down on their piping from Lagos to Djibouti. As Bitcoin’s appeal improves, it’ll be up to these startups to prepare Africans to overcome the limitations our multiple currencies impose on the easy exchange of products and services.
But they won’t have to do everything alone. Startups like Paystack and Flutterwave have taken up the challenge of helping individuals set up online stores conveniently, and respond to orders from anywhere. Can we see some cross-functionality across channels?
The hope for crypto growth – and growth in other tech sectors – in Africa this year is that reasonable steps will be taken on foundational issues like internet availability. Only about a quarter of the continent’s population is connected to the internet and the majority are on the 2G grade scale.
Maybe Facebook will hasten its undersea fibre optic cable project in Africa when its Nigerian offices open this year. Google’s Project Taara, aimed at delivering fast internet with light beams, should boost the spectrum. Switch these on and it’ll be all systems go!
FROM THE CABAL
New year, same Nigeria?
Nigeria wants all her citizens to register for an identification number, making it a new requirement for owning a SIM. But in typical Nigerian fashion, staff of the organisation responsible for enrolling users have started a strike. New year, same Nigeria.
OPay expands to North Africa. OPay’s numbers cause a stir whenever the company publishes end-of-quarter figures. Their October 2020 results are quite the sight: processed a gross transaction value of $1.4 billion, more than three times the level in January. What to do with this kind of growth? Explore an expansion to North Africa.
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