"Finally back in Ghana," Jack Dorsey, former Twitter CEO tweeted on Monday, December 5, 2022. Jack was in Ghana to attend the Africa ₿itcoin Conference.
Later in 2021, Twitter launched its first African office in Ghana—now defunct, solidifying Jack's interest in the continent.
The conference is hosted by "Africans...who believe in the Bitcoin revolution and are building a movement to bolster its Adoption." Although the adoption of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has been affected by tough regulations across the continent, Africa remains a crypto-active territory.
According to Chainalysis, a blockchain forensics firm, Africa's cryptocurrency market grew by over 1200% between 2020 and 2021. They added that four African countries–Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tanzania–all rank in the top 20 for global crypto adoption.
"In Europe & in the US, Bitcoin is a desire. In Africa and in some other countries, Bitcoin is a necessity." — Jack Dorsey
Jack—who is now the founded of Block Inc, a digital payment company— and US entertainment mogul Jay-Z, launched ₿itcoin Trust (₿Trust) to invest 500 bitcoin ($21.5m) to enable the adoption of Bitcoin across the world, starting with Africa and India. Out of 700 applications, Jack appointed four Africans—Nigerians Obi Nwosu, Ojoma Ochai and Abubakar Nur Khalil joined South African Carla Kirk-Cohen—to lead the initiative. All were present at the Africa Bitcoin Conference.
“My primary goal is to see that the bitcoin ecosystem in Africa is grown. There is a huge deficit of developers in the Bitcoin ecosystem whereas there are lots of talented developers here in Africa and the global south. With Btrust we have funding now and we are decentralising the developer pool supporting the developers in these regions," Khalil said in January 2022, shortly after his appointment.
Jack believes that Africa will "likely" lead the world into a Bitcoin future. In October 2020, during the nationwide ENDSars protest against police brutality in Nigeria—Jack actively supported the Bitcoin fundraiser that was established to raise funds for the protest.
In February 2021, the Central Bank of Nigeria announced a sweeping ban on cryptocurrency purchases and trading in the country.
Block Inc invests in Kenya-based Bitcoin mining company, Gridless
A day after Jack tweeted that he was finally back in Ghana, his company—Block Inc, and Los Angeles-based Bitcoin-focused VC firm, Stillmark announced a $2 million seed investment into Gridless, a Kenyan-based bitcoin mining company helping to bring new energy generation to rural communities in Africa.
Gridless builds and operates bitcoin mining sites alongside small-scale renewable energy producers in rural Africa where excess energy is not utilized. The company serves as the anchor tenant, financing the construction and managing the operation of data centres in rural communities where traditional industrial or commercial customers are not available.
In its first year, Gridless has contracted five project pilots in rural Kenya with HydroBox, an African hydroelectric energy company, three of which are currently operational. The company plans to expand to other geographies in East Africa in the near future.
In 2020, more than 50% of people across Africa were without electricity. There is immense demand for reliable, clean, and affordable energy, yet mini-grid energy generators struggle for sustainability. Gridless believes bitcoin mining can play a pivotal role as a buyer of first and last resort in creating more sustainable energy production and increasing electrification for local communities in the region.
“While bitcoin mining has been dominant in North America, Europe and Asia, Africa presents a great opportunity to further diversify mining across the globe, helping to better secure the network,” Erik Hersman, CEO of Gridless, said. “Renewable energy is abundant on the continent. This presents an excellent potential for profits for both energy generators and miners as well as the ability to deliver a real positive impact on the communities where it is put to use.”
2022: Before Jack, CZ visited Africa. Why? Crypto!
Founder and CEO of Binance—the world’s largest cryptocurrency and blockchain infrastructure provider—Changpeng "CZ" Zhao was in Africa in July 2022, where he met with Alassane Dramane Ouattara, President of Côte d'Ivoire and Macky Sall, President of Senegal, as part of his tour to connect with Binance users across the world and collaborate with policymakers.
"Africa is primed for crypto adoption. 10-20% banked. Need financial access and inclusion. Blockchain provides that with a smartphone," CZ tweeted. Two months after his trip to Africa, Binance has appointed nine global political and business leaders to its advisory board, including two Africans—Ibukun Awosika and Leslie Maasdorp.
He said that "[with the board, we will] consult the most complex regulatory, compliance, political, and social issues that we, as a company, and the entire crypto industry will face today and in the future. I'm honoured that our company has the credibility to convene such distinguished people who sit on our board."
Some African countries like Uganda have in recent times made a conflating stance on crypto transactions. In their latest finance bill amendments, Nigeria and Kenya have moved to tax crypto transactions.