Skip links

Bitcoin delegation to Central African Republic

Bienvenue à Bitcoin,

Central African Republic!

On May 22nd, a diverse group of francophone Bitcoiners arrived in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic – a landlocked country in the heart of the African continent. As per Sebastien Gouspillou, one of the Bitcoiners in the delegation, the purpose of the trip was “to listen and to try to bring some solutions to the country to help them, so that it is not an obvious failure but a success for the population”. What he meant was the adoption of Bitcoin as legal tender in Central African Republic, announced a month earlier, adding CAR as the second country onto the world map to make this step after the pioneer El Salvador in 2021.

Just last month, President Faustin Touaderá had declared April 21st 2022 a historic date for the Republic of Central Africa, announcing to Twitter that Bitcoin would be regulated as legal tender. Little was known where all of this would be going at that time.

In a viral follow-up tweet shortly after, however, Touaderà connected Bitcoin to mathematics, where he holds two PhDs, that hinted at a deeper understanding of the subject and excited Bitcoiners worldwide.

It was around this time that the idea came up that CAR, similar to El Salvador, would need the support of Bitcoiners if this endeavour were to be successful, and a delegation of French-speaking Bitcoiners that would visit CAR started to form. Two weeks later, an official invitation was extended by the President and travel preparations started.

The delegation consisted of organizer and mining expert Sebastién Gouspillou, President of the Commission of Foreign Affairs of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council of France JeanMarie Cambacérès, Journalist Richard Détente, SurfinBitcoin organizer Jean Christophe Brusnel, privacy activist David Oren as well as CEO Nicolas Burtey and Director of Partnerships Noor from the Galoy team. But where exactly were they heading to?

CAR is one of the poorest countries in the world, heavily dependent on foreign aid, ranked 188th on the Human Development Index, second to last, only ahead of Niger. Only 15% of the population have access to electricity, and a meager 11% to internet, both mostly in the capital Bangui. How is the population supposed to use digital money when they barely have electricity? Sure, game theory dictates that outcasts, misfits and those left behind will find Bitcoin earlier than others, but how this theory will play out in practice is certainly one of the big questions that many are curious about and that will be addressed in the next episode of Adopting Bitcoin – A Conversation with Galoy (ABCG #23) on June 2nd at 6PM UTC, where we’ll be joined by the Bitcoiners that traveled to Bangui.

What we know so far is that the delegation were welcomed cordially and with a lot of interest. A number of meetings with government officials as well as civil society representatives took place during the week. Orange pills were distributed. Sats were sent over Lightning. Minds were blown.

Blowing minds by sending sats over Lightning

On Thursday, the delegation held a presentation and workshop for local merchants. All participants downloaded Bitcoin wallets and received $10 worth of sats each. According to Noor, the experience of instantly sending and receiving sats caused a lot of satisfaction and enthusiasm, quickly developing a dynamic of its own with merchants having fun sending money back and forth. A situation very familiar to any Bitcoiner showcasing Lightning.

President Faustin Touaderá with the delegation of Bitcoiners at  the CEMAC concention center in Bangui

Now to the exciting part: On Friday, the delegation held a presentation in the convention center of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), an international organisation made up of Central African Republic, Gabon, Cameroon, Chad, the Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea with the primary mission “to promote harmonised development in its member states in the framework of a common market.” The member states of CEMAC together have a total population of about 37 million and together, among others, seek to “strengthen competitiveness of economic and financial activities by harmonising regulations that govern them”. The event was attended by several ministers of the Central African Republic, among them were Minister Alfred Taïnga Poloko, President of the Economic and Social Council, Minister Daniel Kokouendo, Presidential Advisor on the Digital Economy, and Minister Pascal Bida Koyagbele, responsible for Strategic Investment.

In front of an audience of 400 listeners, Galoy’s own Nicolas Burtey held a presentation that emphasized the uniqueness of Bitcoin and how it is critically distinct from other cryptocurrencies. Furthermore, he outlined the benefits of Bitcoin adoption in El Salvador in the few months since the Bitcoin Law, from financial inclusion, over tourism and foreign investment to mining with renewable energy sources, before exploring the potential positive impact proper adoption could bring to the people of Central African Republic. If you want to see the full presentation, we’ve made it public in French and English.

After the presentation, Dr. Yamb Ntimba revealed a mind-boggling fact that illustrated the extent of CAR’s financial dependence on third parties. Bitcoin can fix this for CAR.

Of course, CAR’s announcement of Bitcoin adoption has triggered the usual international organizations to issue warnings. Yesterday, the World Bank was cited as “worried over use of BTC as legal tender” in CAR, and in a response to Bloomberg further: “We have concerns regarding transparency and the potential implications for financial inclusion, the financial sector and public finance at large, in addition to environmental shortcomings.” We’ve seen these kind of warning remarks from the legacy international financial institutions already in the case of El Salvador as well as recently towards Argentina. They are expected and don’t really come as a surprise as Bitcoin challenges the system of control that they have been guarding since the end of World War 2.

IMF representative addressing the Bitcoin delegation

However, it would be welcome if the Bitcoin critique of these gentlemen could finally move away from obvious falsehoods and rigorous hostility towards free innovation, and evolve into a constructive dialogue that respects the sovereignty and right to self-determination of those peoples for whom the old financial system has not worked for decades. It can therefore be celebrated as a ray of hope that a representative of the IMF found his way to this historic meeting to listen to the presentation of the Bitcoin delegation and to participate in the discussion constructively and with interest.

UPDATE, May 29 2022: In an earlier version, the article linked Minister Alfred Taïnga Poloko to a Twitter account, that turned out to be an imposter account. The link has been removed.

Leave a comment