In this episode I talk with Alakanani Itireleng, who founded the Satoshicentre in Botswana in 2014 and single-handedly built a growing Bitcoin community. She is the heart and center of Bitcoin education there, even the government is relying on her consultancy. We recorded this interview in February 2020, only days before the Covid-19 lockdowns went into effect. Her greatest ambition, the organization of a Bitcoin conference in Southern Africa will not come true soon. If you like to support her work and the Satoshicentre – please do so, you can find her on Twitter.
If you have a question, feel free to scroll down, press the appropriate button and record your question.
“Bitcoin is for everyone, Bitcoin is the currency of love.” – Alakanani Itireleng
“Bitcoin is allowing me to use and receive money from anyone and to send it to anyone around the world without discriminating. That’s the most excellent thing about Bitcoin. It’s money for everyone, regardless of where you are coming from, your race or creed or whatever. So it’s the best.” – Alakanani Itireleng
We talk about:
- How her sons illness and death lead to the first meetup
- The internet as “white people’s problem”
- The high unemployment rate in Botswana
- The cost of internet connections
- Ponzi schemes and how they are disturbing bitcoin adoption
- Bitcoin usecases and regulation in Botswana
- Exchanging the local currency Pula to Bitcoin
- African countries on the forefront of adoption
- Her opinion about Libra and Lightning
- Mobile Money in Botswana
- The Future of Bitcoin in Botswana
This podcast special and my trip to Africa would not have been possible without my sponsors and supporters.
I want to thank my sponsors first: Thank you: LocalBitcoins.com a person-to-person bitcoin trading site, Peter McCormack and the whatbitcoindid podcast, Coinfinity and the Card Wallet, SHIFT Cryptosecurity, manufacturer of the hardware wallet BitBox02 and many thanks to several unknown private donors, who sent me Satoshis over the Lightning Network.
This special is edited by CoinDesk’s Podcasts Editor Adam B. Levine and published first on the CoinDesk Podcast Network. Thank you very much for supporting the Bitcoin in Africa series with your work.
Thanks goes also out to stakwork.com – stakwork is a great project that brings bitcoin into the world through earning. One can do microjobs on stakwork, earning Satoshis and cash them out without even having an understanding about the lightning network or bitcoin. I think we need more projects like that to spread the usage of bitcoin around the world.
This special is also brought to you by the Let’s Talk Bitcoin Network.
Hello, Alakanani. I’m happy that I’m here. Finally, I found my way from Europe to Botswana. Thanks for the invitation, we are just setting up a Bitcoin and Lightning node. How and when did you find out about Bitcoin?
Okay, Um, my journey with Bitcoin started in 2012, on the personal level when I started trying to find ways in which I can, like, make money online to help my son.
That’s my son, right on the wall. Yeah, he was, he was sick and was having ah, hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, which is, like a heart disease kind of.
So he got, like, really, really sick, and he was having an issue with the lungs and all that. So I wanted to find ways in which I can, like, work and get extra money, to
take him out of Botswana to get medical help. So that’s when I came across this Bitcoin thing in 2012.
And that was, like, early 2012 maybe January or so, because I know a few months back a few months later, my son passed away.
So and, uh, then I stopped doing Bitcoin.
You had enough stress and yeah.
Yeah, I had enough stress and stuff. So I paused the Bitcoin thing.
And then in 2013 I was like, you know, there’s something about that thing that I learned, so I should, like, go back to it and study, it a little bit more. See how I can help other people.
At that moment, the idea was to set up a nonprofit to help kids who were like my kid, so I went back, and started doing a lot of reading. I wasn’t, like, very, very good at understanding what it was.
But I have a drive to set up a community. So I remember I had, like, 10 friends or so and I called a Meetup my first, Bitcoin Meetup in 2013.
Wow. In 2013, cool.
Yeah, so then I called my friends and I told them the little knowledge that I had about Bitcoin and I told them the possibilities in Bitcoin about you making your own money and stuff and how it would have been better than the Pula. You know, it was all about that.
Did people here understand it? And follow your path from the beginning on did they say I don’t understand it?
You know, a lot of people have got issues with anything that has to do with the Internet.
You know, a lot of people have got issues, you know, anything that has to do with the Internet is a scam, or it’s there to steal their money. Or it’s white people’s problem.
White people’s problem. Okay. Anything with the internet?
Yeah, yeah, they always have. A lot of people have that mentality.
We say ……… meaning it’s a white people’s issues, kind off, it’s white peoples thing.
Yeah, you know, in the beginning people had that kind of thing. When using the Internet……….., things for the white people.
So when you introduce something like Bitcoin, so it was kind of difficult in the beginning.
People do not understand what I was on about. How can there be money that can be on the Internet and stuff like.
They’re used to paper money and all that. So I have, like, do a lot of reading and in the beginning it was so tough I didn’t have all the answers, though I must say I have not all the answers now, but I’m better.
So at that moment I didn’t have, like, all the answers, like lot of answers.
So I had to go through a lot of reading so that I can empower the people that are following me. So that’s how it started.
Can we get a little back to the general situation here in Botswana?
I’ve been to Zimbabwe in the last 2.5 weeks.
And the situation there is really, really bad with the economic situation And people are lining in for petrol for hours for nights they are waiting for the fuel and then they don’t get it maybe.
People have nothing to eat, No work. How is the situation in Botswana?
I won’t say we are bad, bad. No. People can still go to the bank and get money. People can still get petrol.
The only thing is now unemployment rate is high. I think it has doubled to 18.97% around 20% and it’s growing. It’s growing like, you know.
Ah, that is like the statistics for 2019 I think, and a lot of graduates who are graduating every year from the universities. So it keeps on piling adding cause we have got universities and colleges. We’ve got all that way. Students are graduating every year.
Is this a free education here?
So you get kind of. It’s kind of a student loan or kind of you create a loan or a grant. The government pays for you and then when you’re done with school and you’re like pay back the money if you don’t have a job, then you don’t pay. Nobody has been arrested yet.
Yeah, so that kind of situation is the issue of jobs, you know, like there’s so many so many people were, um, industry with no jobs.
I remember. I think it was 2019, if it’s not 2018 when some graduates, you know, went on a peaceful demonstration or whatever they called a riot or whatever then, because they were beaten for that. So they were beaten by the police, they were not allowed to demonstrate.
So you could see it’s because people were crying like we have graduated. Where we go from here. Sorbet.So there are no jobs.
Yeah, that’s the big thing. That was the big challenge we are having right now, in Botswana, every year we’re piling maybe 5000 or more or graduates on the IT field, for example, like 5000 or more.
But think off others also, we were not IT. How many do we have every year who are graduating and no jobs?
Can you get anything in the supermarkets? And then the other question is, can people afford it?
Yeah. I mean, like, we’ve got shops off different standards.
Yeah, we were, like, expensive shops, like Woolworths. You know who the Whos and whos will go there going buy stuff. And then we have got, you know, middle class kind of shops, and then we have got, like low class kind of shops.
But are there many people that are suffering from hunger? Like in Zimbabwe, I think.
Yeah, definitely there are. That’s why we have, like, social workers.
So what happens is we have got kind of poverty eradication schemes and the staff, like for example, if there’s offen there is given a card, there’s a card,
which you can use they put money in it, and then they can like $80 all $90 or so.
So then they can go and get food, even though there is also a destitute program kind of. Yeah, they can register as destitutes and the government can give them money on a monthly basis for basics.
And do you think that the pessimism against the Internet or that you could earn money over the Internet, is this going away? Or is this I mean, with the young people coming out off university?
Yeah, young people are changing the whole dynamics, that is changing the whole culture. They are not stubborn.
They’re open to possibilities and different cultures, different opinions.
They’re not like our parents who were like, don’t do this. You don’t go there. You don’t go there. So nowadays, in towns, for example, that’s where we have a lot of young people in towns.
So that’s where you see that. Dynamics have changed with people using so many smartphones laptops, you know.
How good is the Internet connection here? And how much do you have to pay for it?
I think my Internet is not that good, ah, compared to like when I was in Kenya I could see how quick it was when I was in South Africa it’s quick, but I hear it’s expensive, so here I think the Internet is not that good, like the one that I’m using. It’s not that good. And also I’ll think it’s expensive.
How much do you pay for a month?
Mine is like 2 MB. But it’s never 2 MB bandwith. It’s always one point something.
So I pay, yeah it’s very slow. So I pay like 40 dollars.
Yeah, a month it’s unlimited, but very slow. It’s expensive.
Yeah, so if you need a good, good one, you’ll have to pay, like $150 dollars.
And on the smartphone? Do you also have these social media bundles?
Yes, we do have, they may have WhatsApp or Facebook bundles. It is called social media bundles, and then they can have the full one.
So, for example, with the network that I’m using called Orange, they’ll give you for a day, one day Internet. Also, you will pay like a dollar for a day or so, and then after a day it expires.
How could people use Bitcoin here when the Internet connections are so expensive? Do you have an idea?
If, for example, they can use their Internet that they’re using the small internet they’re using to earn bitcoin, for example, then they can be able to pay for the Internet and then use bitcoin. People still pay, even if it’s expensive.
They paid to download movies to stream videos, which actually is not giving them any money. It’s making them to lose more money.
So if for to use my Internet, my data, why not use it to earn bitcoin so that I can pay for my data and earn more bitcoin.
So what are the properties about Bitcoin that interests you the most?
I mean, like, it’s easy to send money to receive money from anywhere. No restrictions like PayPal have restrictions for other countries.
I think Nigerians are not using PayPal, so Bitcoin allows me to use and receive money from anyone and send it to anyone around the world without discriminating.
So that’s the most excellent thing about Bitcoin. So it’s for everyone.
It’s money for everyone, regardless of where you come from, your race or creed or whatever, so it’s like, yeah it is the best.
And do you think that the people here can connect with it and realize that, or do they still think it’s, ah, white Internet?
No, no, no. I think now as young people, especially are like into it some for whatever reasons like, for example, some. They’re doing it because they join some scheme. Whatever somebody has promised them, we can make money very quick.
If you put $10 today, tomorrow you will have $20,000 they believe, and some they’re using it for that.
But young people are like, really embracing them. Like I believe when you come to my meet up tomorrow, you’re gonna see a lot of young people.
They’re the ones who are like they like a lot of them. Were like they
So we’re like they’re into the Internet there into trying to find ways to make money. Because they are unemployed?
It’s painful to be unemployed. That’s what you know. You will see. Like a lot of young people, embracing the Internet. It is no longer, it is not a white people thing.
Now they are also the government is trying, for example, to introduce computers in primary school level.
So we see the introduction of computers slowly, slowly by giving I students tablets.
Eventually people will understand we’ll know the generation that is coming is gonna be better than the one that is before us. Yeah.
You just mentioned the government. How is regulation here with Bitcoin?
Quiet. Nothing. Last year in November, we were called to like some kind of consultative meeting? So we went there as Satoshicentre.
And they were asking us a lot of questions, so we told them. They said, no. We want to know what is happening so that if there is anything that we need to know, like told, tell us what is happening.
So for me, I think the way like they are open even though that’s the like not yet there.
But they’re open for discussions. So I think if there is, it’s just up to us to like, make sure that we we keep on showing them what is happening and in Bitcoin and what not.
You can even see there’s a Bitcoin ATM in Gaborone at airport junction.
Yeah, there’s a Bitcoin ATM. So it’s there. It’s been used. Yeah, as long as you just go and declare what you’re doing.
I think that’s why they want you to declare what you are doing and think, even even when it comes to the issues off tax, you can still pay your taxes.
I mean, you only have to cash out in Pula then and pay the taxes.
Then you pay the taxes. Yeah. So I think I think they’re open for that. They have not been like shown any resistance for us, they are only against the Ponzi schemes.
Yeah, because I think the Golix exchange in Zimbabwe has been shut down. Maybe because of the many Ponzi schemes and and MLM things because people were ripped off their Bitcoin and they bought Bitcoin on Golix. So was that the reason? Do you know something?
I don’t really know what was the issue with Golix, because it was one of the best exchanges in Zimbabwe I even went there. I saw their Bitcoin ATM. It was a beautiful Bitcoin ATM and they were doing good.
So I don’t know, maybe it’s because people now they don’t know how to differentiate between what Bitcoin is and what Ponzi schemes are. Somebody calls and says, “Hey, I want to join Bitcoin.”
You can see even the way they say, …
Then you see, people are still confused. They don’t know, is Bitcoin something that you can join? How can I say, I want to join Dollar.
Yeah. Thank you. What do you think are the hurdles here in Botswana for Bitcoin adoption.
Ponzi schemes. They are really disturbing us. They’re disturbing us, you know, because it is so confusing.
Like some people will even call me and say “hello is that Satoshicentre like yeah, like Okay, I’m joining this and this whatever, whatever – can you help me?” I say no, I can’t help you.
But they said no, but I heard you are the Bitcoin person here.
That’s the thing that is, you know, making it so hard because now people know that the Satoshicentre is for Bitcoin.
So now people who are joining whatever they think well, Satoshicentre is Bitcoin it is a misunderstanding is what they’re doing.
So we have to like have we have, like, a lot of work to, like tell people that there is Satoshicentre Bitcoin and then there is those things that they’re doing, which are like the total different thing.
So I think that’s the greatest hurdle, people should understand what Bitcoin is, what the opportunities are and avoid Ponzi schemes? I know people like they want money.
I mean, if I would have joined the schemes, I could be rich.
I’m telling you, everybody who comes with a scheme they start calling me first, because they’re going to the Internet Bitcoin they get to me, they get my name and then they call me.
And in a Ponzi or in a pyramid, if you’re the 1st one then you’re good off.
I didn’t do it. So I decided, like I have to focus on what is true.
So the one thing that is like, really disturbing is that. I one of the things that I really want to do is one that I’ve been trying and trying, but it’s so hard to get sponsorship. Number one I wanted to do a hackathon.
That was the first thing that I wanted to do to create a hackathon. So that people where, like I wasn’t getting like, good responses in terms of sponsorship for me to be able to pay for the venue because it’s expensive for the venue.
The one that I wanted to use was, like very expensive. Didn’t have the money for tthe veneu. I only got somebody was going to sponsor the winners then there was no point for me to like do a meet up where I don’t even have a venue.
I don’t have the resources, you know, to be able to carry that Hackathon. The whole idea for my hackathon was for people now, and the young people especially who are my target to understand Bitcoin more by becoming hands on.
And then the other thing that I’ve been like wishing to do so much was to have a Bitcoin conference where I can call anybody, everybody, even those in governments, to come and attend the conference. I think if I can be able to do those two things. I’m telling you, people will have like a switch.
Because meetups they come, chat we chat, we go. Then we meet again in another meet up, you know, but if we can… and sometimes always the same people who are coming and very few new are coming.
But imagine a Bitcoin conference. Where we calling people like you guys from Austria we call you, you come different people come. And then we teach people the government because there’s those are the people that we really have to like reach. So if I can be able to do that then I know there’s gonna be a shift. But it has been so tough I’ve been trying.
So what was the problem then, the companies from, like outside of Botswana that don’t sponsor you?
They haven’t like responded. I’ve been writing but people are not responding. Even if the conference is coming by someone from outside. I’ll still like embrace it if, let’s say, for example, Blockchain Bitcoin Foundation, Austria.They want to do a Bitcoin conference in Botswana I will embrace it because what I want is for the information to reach the people that I want it to reach.
If the Bitcoin foundation in Austria have got sponsors and all know that they can sponsor of the conference in Botswana, we can set it up.
How do people here in Botswana get Bitcoin?
I think number one is because of these schemes that they join. And then there are those who came online and then those who are doing forex trading yeah, that traders. I know there are a group of young traders called the company called Afritrade (?). They do forex trading and crypto trading.
It’s also like a bunch of guys who are into trading and those who are into sports betting they are doing crypto because there’s a company called PlayBettr which they’re doing betting sports and life sports betting.
So I introduced the company in Botswana, they have got people who are also betting, …
They should hold Bitcoin instead.
I think they shall bet responsibly. And they also hold Bitcoins and yeah, I think it’s that online work and Ponzi schemes, of course. Yeah.
How do people install their wallets? And then how do they exchange Pula to Bitcoin or something?
A lot of them they are using mobile, what you call… the downloads, the one that the downloads on their phones.
And one thing that I have realized is, I was interacting with a lot of people. Like, maybe they’ll be calling me to say they’re looking for Bitcoins and a lot of them they don’t have recovery phrases for their wallets.
Wow. So they don’t do backups?
When I call them. I say, like before I send you money – Is your wallet backed up. What is that, then? I have to, like, take them through the process of backing up their wallet so that their money is safe and all that.
So that’s also we need a conference where people can hold that Bitcoins and still be safe, because some they have lost their wallet. I can remember, there was a lady who called me and said he lost his wallet can you recover the password. I said no. Unless you have done the Bitcoin backup. But what is that? You see the problem with the Ponzi schemes is they’ll make you to download your wallet very quick.
No information whatsoever. You don’t understand what is happening, and they don’t even have the recovery. No seed. You don’t have anything.
So you lose your money.Once you lose your phone, you lost your money and all that. So that’s one thing.
Yeah. So most of them hold it on their phones or on their web wallets.
It’s really criminal. I mean, really, Yeah. I mean that those Ponzi schemes they don’t tell them. I mean, they have no interest in educating people. Of course.
Yeah, they are. I don’t like them.
I don’t like them. Some they pretend to be educating, there are those who were saying when they when they advertise their whatever they are like come and learn about Blockchain.
I’m like, you’re not teaching people anything you say come, learn about Blockchain and then after they have learned, they say give us $50 or whatever to join our scheme. So at the end of the day.
How many people are coming to your meetups?
It was that those moments where we have close to 100 then there are those moments when you have 20. I never have less than 20. Yeah.
And yesterday you told me that you’ve been to many African countries doing meet ups. Where and when was that happening?
Kenya. So many times, Kenya is like my second home , so Kenya so many times.
And I’ve been to Uganda to teach, I went to Zimbabwe to teach. I’ve been to South Africa to teach.
So those are like my countries where, like, I’ve been there to, like teach.
And so I have been invited to other countries, some I felt to go, you know?
Yeah, but I’ve been invited so many. I think I’ve become like this African Bitcoin person. So yeah, I love it. I mean, I love teaching to empower people.
If I can do that all my life, it will be and protect people from Ponzi schemes. I’ll be so happy.
Which countries in Africa do you think are the most forward in Bitcoin education and using Bitcoin and people who are in this space?
South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana that are the top three like the forefront of this.
They’re like, I mean, like when I say I mean like, we see a lot of development coming in.
You know, people we have got wallets, people are doing wallets and there is this and that there is development, you know?
You see that? That doing something they’ve understood, you know, they’re looking for solutions. You know all that. So you can tell by what is happening there.
Yeah, and you can tell. Also by a lot of people being interested in going to those countries than other countries.
What do you think? Which things have to be in place that countries or people in different countries see the positive sides of Bitcoin and want to adopt it? You know what you just said? South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria.
I mean, like, sending money remittance, Yeah, sending money. I mean, we have to, like, find a lot of fintech solutions on Bitcoin.
We should go to see that it shows that people are really embracing that, you know, having businesses that are focusing on Bitcoin having education centers which are established, like in Botswana are not established.
We’re struggling to establish ourselves because people are looking at maybe the population, maybe the population of Ghana is good they can be able to sponsor.
You know, certain businesses. We only have 2,4 million so it is a small market for a lot of people. So people that the market is not…
But Bitcoin is a global market. So actually it should also work here.
Yeah, but at the end of the day, you know, what drives people to go to people is money, you know, so profits some way.
Here to profit somewhere.
So some countries are not that much profitable for people, you know? Yeah.
A little bit left out.
Even if you try, you know, you still get a little bit left out.
Likewise, given example of how much are struggling with the hackathon. And I pushed it to August with the hope that maybe some people will come in and help.
I’m still waiting to see. But if I was to set the same in Nigeria, in South Africa, it would be so fast because the population is good.
So here the population is so small, so it’s kind of a struggle.
So since you’re into Bitcoin since 2012/2013 you’ve seen a lot of development around it. Like other hard forks, other cryptocurrencies and such. Are you still a Bitcoiner?
Yeah, Bitcoin is king. No matter what, I can develop or whatever, like, solution that can come. To me: Bitcoin is king.
I don’t think there is such brilliance as can be seen in Bitcoin. You know, Bitcoin is brilliant thinking, you know, the whole, the whole ecosystem of Bitcoin.
If you read the whitepaper, it has a lot of brilliant ideas.
You know, the eliminating third parties, the miners, you know, the work has been done.
Everything is so systematic. And it’s so beautiful, so beautiful, that I still believe Bitcoin is king, there might be maybe in the future, other developments that will come. But Bitcoin will still remain king.
Yeah, it is the foundation of everything. Okay. You can beat your mom in terms of knowledge, but she is still your mom?
That’s a nice comparison. Yeah.
Yeah, she’s still your mom. I mean, like you, you have got good knowledge. Maybe you’re more more advanced than she is. But at the end of the day, if you have a problem. You go to mom.
Do you see any usability, or accessibility problems here or hurdles for Bitcoin in the African countries?
Yeah. There are a lot of issues with power cuts. Yeah.
So that you couldn’t use Bitcoin because you don’t have electricity on your phone and the same with Internet, I guess.
Same with internet because it is expensive.
So I think if you can put more money into making accessibility easier and making it easy for people in Africa to have resources like electricity. We have got a lot of sun. So if you can use it and find a way in which can use electricity to, you know, I mean the sun to convert it into electricity and so that people can have access to electricity 24 7 will be better. And, also to make internet cheap, it’s expensive.
That are exterior effects that Bitcoin cannot change in a way.
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
But like using wallets or stuff like that, maybe there should be a way to use Bitcoin in WhatsApp or in Telegram maybe, because the people have those bundles.
As long as ah, those applications are decentralized and they don’t have— if they are still like the person at the end controlling WhatsApp and what not, how do we trust?
You know with Bitcoin is, don’t trust, but verify.
So we’re not sure if you will be safe to use it.
What do you think about Facebook’s Libra?
For me it is another Ripple.
But I think many people will use it because they don’t realize what the difference is between Ripple or Libra or Bitcoin, huh?
I think that’s the thing that did wonders for me off course, maybe and sometimes it’s also be like I remember the words from Max Keiser.
I think he’s the one who says it’s Bitcoin little bitch, sort of , but yeah, it will help, Bitcoin to be even adopted even more.
It’s because it’s authenticates Bitcoin. Yeah, but it’s another Ripple.
What is the latest development in Bitcoin that got you interested in say, yeah, that’s a great development.
Lightning, Yeah. I think if you can like it, it can grow and develop more.
It’s gonna help with all those issues that Bitcoin has, the scalability, issues of like sending micropayments, making everybody everywhere to use it for for whatever that they want.
I mean, it’s making Bitcoin easy to use?
So I think lightning I still believe there might be even more improvement on the lightning that we don’t know.
In my mind, I keep on thinking is gonna even improve more. It is going, maybe it has own issues. I don’t know, but I’m telling you, lightning is gonna make Bitcoin beautiful Yeah, that’s my thought anyway. Yeah, I like it, though.
Do you see – I mean, besides of you,- people here using Bitcoin or lightning?
Bitcoin on lightning. Yes, it will have to, like, teach people people have to be taught. Like, for example, I was able to go to a doctor and convince him to accept Bitcoin in his clinic.
So if I can be able to do that, if I am able to like, go anyway and educate people, I think we’ll see people you know, having those lighnting nodes you know, to make them making their own payment channels and stuff, you know?
Well, well, yeah, if I can have workshops on that, not only where I am, like, right now, if you if you if you can follow my meet ups and that based only here in Gaborone, because I don’t have the resources to be able to travel.
My my dream is to travel the whole of Botswana and cover the whole of Botswana every littlesingle place.
And if I can have, like, Lightning nodes in every single place set that will make me feel like I’ve achieved, you know, I’ve achieved and like I was, I was telling someone that if I can have someone who’s like me in Botswana also, it’ll make me feel like, Yeah, I’ve done my my work real good.
Yeah. So I’m still if I can find that sponsor that says hey travel the whole of Botswana and do what you have to do, I will gladly do it. Yeah.
I brought a RaspiBlitz with me. My sponsors were so kind to pay for it. So we just try to download the Blockchain. Is this then the 1st one in Botswana?
We had the Casa Nodes, which were set up by the Satoshicentre with the lightning nodes.
But was this one of this kind is the 1st one.
Yeah, and it’s, I love the way it is. Like it’s built beautifully, and I like it that it’s synching quick so I can see it is already already see it on the 99%.
So it didn’t take a day or two. I think having things like this like lightning nodes, Bitcoin nodes not only in Gaborone but all over Botswana, I mean it will make the whole sense.
It’ll make people to be interested. They want to see such things.
And people are their own banks then.
Yeah, so maybe one day I’ll be able to have the tour. Botswana tour. I want to do that to go around Botswana and setup such things nodes and all that. You can see I still have my lightning node, some of them are still in the box, so I haven’t like, used them. So I want to set them somewhere you know where people can, like, embrace them and use them. Yeah.
If there is somebody in Botswana who doesn’t know you yet or you don’t know him or her yet and he’s interested in setting up a node.
I’m ready, I’m ready. I mean, like, I’m here for them. I mean, I’m like a Bitcoin preacher. The information that I’m learning it’s not for me, but it’s for people.
So I want to, they should not be afraid to contact me and I’m easy. I talk a lot.
What would you like to tell the world? Um, about Bitcoin or Botswana or how we could support you?
I mean, I’ve been here faithfully, in faithful love of Bitcoin for so many years.
I mean, like I remain faithful to my calling in Bitcoin. But I want to have talks with people around the world and share, uh, with mentors around Botswana and share the people’s thoughts.
The people’s beliefs on Bitcoin. And I want people to be able to also know Bitcoin in depth and not schemes, not Ponzi schemes, not what not.
I want people to be able to have the knowledge and route to use it and to see the beauty of Bitcoin and I can only do that if I’m able to, like, get out of Gaborone and go to the whole of Botswana and I want to do that.
I even have a plan on one of my laptops where I have drawn that I want to go to this place with this place, to this place, to this place. And all I needed was like brochures. If somebody somewhere they globally have got brochures I can share with people, I can be sure in those brochures I can be doing more activation exercises, for people who don’t have WiFi, we can be giving them paper wallets and teach them how to use them. You know, it’s there is still like a lot that I need to do.
Yeah. I mean, you know, I think you also need devices and stuff. I mean, nobody has hardware wallets here or something like that.
Yes, devices and stuff. Yeah.
Yeah, people don’t have. Yeah, I remember I was so excited when I bought a hardware wallet in the U. S.
I can imagine that. Yeah.
I was excited, so I brought a Trezor, when I was in the US.
I hope tomorrow when we have the Bitcoin meetup and we will give away the SHIFT BitBoxes and also I’ve got some Card Wallets here.
I think they will be stoked. They will be so excited.
Is there something like EcoCash or M-Pesa here?
Mobile money. Yeah, we’ve got Orange money. And then we got MyZaka.
Yeah. So there are different mobile companies providing mobile money solutions like Orange is providing Orange money.
Mascom is providing MyZaka. And then there’s mobile, I forgot what it’s called.
They have got their own mobile money kind of, but it is not as huge as M-Pesa.
Yeah, M-Pesa is big, you go to the shops you can just pay with M-Pesa and all that.
Yeah, but with Orange also, they’re trying. You can buy electricity with the Orange money.
You can go and they’ve got even a card. You know like that visa card, where you can go and just swipe your food and what not with the mobile money.
And all those food stands or the little shops?
The little shops. Oh, you pay with paper money, the ones outside you pay with paper money.
Yeah, because in Zimbabwe, you also pay with EcoCash. Yeah, because you only need an old smartphone or a Nokia one, you know these older phones and you don’t have to pay for the Internet useage or somehting.
Yeah. Oh, wow
You only have to have a sim card and then you can pay.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Even here you can use your orange money to pay for your electricity, for example, even to pay for your data and stuff. But for those small businesses, they haven’t yet embraced the culture of people coming with orange money and using it. So maybe if maybe the mobile money market can improve in Botswana people start using QR codes.
Just have to scan your code and pay, then, yeah, maybe they will be, like a lot of adoption of Mobile Money.
Maybe they leapfrog and use Bitcoin.
Yeah, that would be so cool. Yeah, because, yeah, I think that will be so cool.
Yeah, we will see. How do you see the future of Bitcoin in Botswana?
I think it’s gonna be big! For me somehow in my head, I believe some of this is, this is the original home of the honey badger.
Talk about that. The honey badger is from here?
Yeah, I mean, somehow I do believe so much young people are gonna be the agent of change that so I’m, like, target them so much. Even they can understand and run with this vision, we gonna be able to use Bitcoin like a lot. We are already using it, you know?
We just need to have more places using bitcoin not only one doctor, we need more businesses using bitcoin.
We’ve got people from Zimbabwe here, who are buying bitcoin to send home, so you can see it’s already there.
It might not be a formal market, that informal market exists.
So we just need to make everything formal.
Do you have exchanges here that you use, online exchanges? Do you use something like LocalBitcoins?
No peer to peer. No. They left. They’ve closed us, LocalBitcoins closed us, we were one of the countries that were moved from localbitcoins. But yeah, I never understood why. Because Botswana is so cool.
Botswana. Really? Huh. That’s interesting. I didn’t know that.
Yeah. We were one of the countries which were listed on LocalBitcoins. So Yeah.
I think at Paxful, I think. Yeah. Yeah.
So but normally here people just call us. Like yesterday there was obviously a lot of calls when I was with you, people were looking for Bitcoins, so I received a lot of calls, people looking for Bitcoins and then I will have to, like, connect them with somebody in the US. To send me bitcoin.
And you’ve got everything in your head, all the connections because I think or are they do you have, like, WhatsApp groups or Telegram groups? Where the people connect the peer to peer people who want to exchange?
No, we don’t haven’t yet formed peer to peer WhatsApp groups. Just the Satoshicentre has been the like, the center where people just call the center and say Hey, and then I’m connecting everybody. I never thought off doing a WhatsApp group because people tend to take people’s numbers and use them for own things.
You’re connecting everybody.
So I always, like, try. Uh, yeah, yeah, maybe telegram, if maybe, can introduce the culture of telegram.
That’s why I prefer telegram because you do not have to show your number.
Because here it is a lot of WhatsApp and Facebook.
Yeah, which is bad anyhow, because everything is centralized at Facebook.
Yeah, so. And I don’t like, uh, WhatsApp groups. Because people take your number. And then the next thing you’ll be called by someone from wherever is starting, you know, selling some phone and scams and stuff, so I don’t like that.
I think that was a nice interview. I hope you think so, too. Is there anything we left out to say?
No, I think, we want to build. I mean, like, for me.
I just want people to understand that I want to build, I want to build the Bitcoin economy.
If I have to go down in history, I have to go down in history as one of the people who were like faithfully educating people about Bitcoin without wavering.
So it’s my passion and I want to push it.
But sometimes it’s hard because I’m broke without the money, I am not yet rich.
So, uh, I want to help people get into the Bitcoin ecosystem and set the ecosystem to make it like work for Africa, not only for Botswana to make it work for Africa.
You know, we are the very people that need Bitcoin.
We are the people. Yeah, we are. Yeah. This is the place where it is needed the most.
I think so, too. That actually, this is the place where it’s needed the most.
Like I was shocked when I was in the U. S. In Orange County.
I saw a drive through bank.
I was like, what you guys have got drive hrough banks? You don’t need Bitcoin. So we need Bitcoin.
We don’t own anything anyway, so we can all the only thing that we can own and feel it’s ours is Bitcoin.
Since you’re in since 2013. How did this change to now? Like the adoption here or the interest of people.
Yeah. Now people know Bitcoin I mean, like, a lot of people know Bitcoin.
Back then, you were the first one.
Yeah, I was the formal one. I don’t know if there were others, who were hiding. Yeah.
So I was the formal one, I was the one who, like, came out and say, Hey, come, let’s get together and do this I did that single handedly with the help of God and some friends in the US.
You know, who are still my friends up to today.
So I was the person who felt like this is not something to be selfish about. It is something that you can share with other people.
Yeah, so and I still continue doing that.
Would you say Bitcoin is community money or something like that? How would you brand Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a family. It’s money with swag. You know?
It’s beautiful. I mean, like, you can, it makes you to socialize with anyone without fear.
I mean, like, I cannot socialize with ah, some millionaires right here in Botswana I cannot even sit down on the table with them or anything.
But with Bitcoin, I sit with anyone. It doesn’t give labels.
That’s the beauty about it, when you’re sitting with someone, you don’t feel labeled. You don’t feel you’re broke or you don’t feel your rich, you feel like you’re in this community of family, your are a family like it big.
That’s why I talk about Twitter like my Bitcoin family because it feels like family, it feels like you’ve got people.
You have got brothers, sisters, cousins, whatever. Whatever.
Yeah, worldwide. So it’s: Bitcoin is a currency of love.
That’s nice. Yeah.
Yeah, it’s the currency of love. Yeah, it’s the currency of love. Yeah.
Perfect. I think that’s the perfect ending for this interview. So thank you very much, Alakanani. See you soon again.
Oh, perfect. I’d definitely would love to see you again.
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Edited by CoinDesk’s Podcasts Editor: Adam B. Levine
Idea, content and production: Anita Posch
Music: “Start with yes” by Delicate beats
Other relevant episodes
Part 1 Zimbabwe: Ideal Conditions for Bitcoin?
Part 2 Zimbabwe: Living in a Multi-Currency World
Part 3 Using Bitcoin in Zimbabwe
Part 4 If Bitcoin Works in Zimbabwe, It Works Everywhere
Part 5 Afriblocks a Pan-African Network for Remote Jobs & Answering Questions