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Parent Category: Bitcoin
14. 04. 02


 Barbara Messer spoke to Tristan Winters 

B: Tristan, let's start from general issues: How do you perceive recent regulatory trends of bitcoin market worldwide?

 T: It is to be expected, as regulators come to terms with this new and extraordinary technology. We will continue to see different and varied reactions from various governments around the globe, over the next few years.
In our market of South Africa regulators have been quite favourable. As a result we at ICE Cubed know exactly what we have to do to run a good, compliant exchange.

B: What's your opinion about filing the technological gap between African countries and highly developed countries and can Bitcoin be beneficial in this matter?

T: I am not sure it is a gap exactly. Just different stages and types of growth. It provides some very unique opportunities for entrepreneurs to develop products and services that are tailored to Africa markets. That is exciting.

B: Let's look at some data:
According to United Nation Population Estimates: "The continent's overall population is expected to more than quadruple over just 90 years, an astonishingly rapid growth that will make Africa more important than ever. And it's not just that there will four times the workforce, four times the resource burden, four times as many voters. The rapid growth itself will likely transform political and social dynamics within African countries and thus their relationship with the rest of the world"
In 3.5 Years, Most Africans Will Have Smartphones.

"I actually believe it could be sooner than 2017- said a young man. You have to understand not just the economics of smartphone adoption in Africa but how smartphones are used on the continent. The majority of blackberry users in South Africa for example are not professionals, but youth's under 30. The smartphone is not a business device in Africa,  but a Life device for anyone between 15 - 30 in Africa"

If we look at Burundi. Burundi is a small landlocked country in East Africa, only 2% of Burundians have access to electricity, far behind the average of 16% in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. However some investors are seeing opportunities.
For instance  telecom provides real opportunities. Far fewer Burundians have access to mobiles phones, compared with the rest of Africa, suggesting huge growth potential, also for Bitcoin in the future.

Mobile banking is widely used, especially in nations like Kenya and Somalia, where services like M-PESA have taken hold.
There is also a low switching cost to using Bitcoin, as many people and businesses do not use traditional banking.

But still the cryptocurrency is not as widely used in Africa, apart from a few smaller online retailers like Fashion design startup Minku,  which is based in Nigeria. I read her interview and interesting statement.  When asked, if she can see a traction with Bitcoin as a payment method with her customers and in Nigeria,  she answered, that for her company accepting Bitcoin is not just about nudging Nigerians to adopt the currency, because she believes this will happen over time, rather this is about including Nigeria…in an interesting global conversation.

B: Tristan don't you think, that these numbers can support a huge network built around Bitcoin?

T: Assuming they scale as well as we expect, Bitcoin and similar decentralised technologies will support this huge growth in numbers.
These technologies provide a unique benefit, in that they can facilitate trade at any distance, in the absence of any formal financial infrastructure.
That doesn’t change, no matter how many people are using the network. The functionality and benefits are the same.

B: It all looks like Bitcoin has the potential for tremendous improvement in the future and it is always cited, but what is the real situation now? In one of your articles you mentioned “ It’s not that Bitcoin has a bad image in Africa, it has no image at all".  In that way it is a clean slate?

T: The press reinforce negative stereotypes about Bitcoin in the west. But Bitcoin does not suffer from the same negative associations in Africa.
So there is an opportunity to position Bitcoin as something positive in people’s minds, from the very beginning. In that way it is an interesting marketing opportunity.

B: What issues must be overcome and in what way, in your opinion?

T: Bitcoin’s need to start flowing into Africa. People need to be able to get them. Ideally, they would begin to be used in trade in a meaningful way, for the huge flows of goods and services flowing through the country. At we are working on that. We hope to help overcome this primary issue. We believe we can do that.

B: is one of only two operational exchanges on the African continent, when was it founded and what is your position in a company?

T: I am a partner and team member. We do not have hierarchies at ICE Cubed. Bitcoin doesn’t have hierarchies, so neither do we. We all collaborate on all aspects of operation. We help each other to provide the best possible service. It’s the best approach.

B: What services do you offer?

T: At the moment: Fully functional and secure platform for trading Bitcoin , Litecoin and Rand. Secure Bitcoin and Litecoin wallet and merchant services.

B: Where are you located and which African countries do you accept customers from?

T: We are located in Johannesburg and Klerksdorp, South Africa.
For regulatory reasons we can only accept South African customers at the moment. Of course, as we expand through Africa, that will change.

B: What are the biggest problems (technical/legal/organizational/...) with Bitcoin from your own business experience?

T: There are no real problems with Bitcoin. Issues we face are mainly educational and volume.
Because Bitcoin is such a new and different technology I spend a lot of time educating people about what it is. That’s great. I enjoy that. I love talking about Bitcoin.

Other than that, in South Africa and Africa generally there aren’t a lot of Bitcoins and Litecoins in the economy. So, volumes for trade are still quite low compared to the rest of the world. I think that is actually a benefit though. Now at we have to think harder and come up with solutions to bring more Bitcoins and Litecoins into the continent.

B: How do you view the position of the traditional banking system towards Bitcoin in Africa?

T: It’s quite favourable in South Africa, by world standards. Our banking partners: Standard Bank, actually trialled their own internal Bitcoin system earlier this year! So, that was really exciting to see. They know we are a Bitcoin business and they really support us. That is very encouraging.

The banking infrastructure across the rest of Africa is not the greatest. So, Bitcoin can really help with that.

B: What is your view on the media representation of Bitcoin, Bitcoin PR etc?

T: In the West it is quite tedious, but expected. Over time the dialogue will change, as people understand what it is and learn of the benefits.
In Africa, the media representation is really non-existent. So at we’re trying to lead the way: creating a positive image from the beginning.

We run a community charity program called ‘Resources’, where we support Africa based charities and help them raise Bitcoin and Litecoin to fund their operations. Programs like that help to establish a positive image for the technology from the beginning. It shows that Bitcoin can be a force for good in a real and practical way.

B: Bitcoin’s notorious volatility is one of the reasons businesses are very reluctant to accept the currency, what does your company do to eliminate the risk of this volatility?

T: Simple: we offer a merchant service that allows them to take Bitcoins or Litecoins and convert them instantly to their national currency, for immediate deposit into their bank accounts.
So there is no volatility risk at all for our merchants. They can also keep the BTC or LTC if they want, or do a percentage split between the two in any proportion.
Volatility is easily managed for merchants for services like ours.

B: Bitcoin is still relatively complicated for the average consumer without technical nous to use. How do you help people to learn about Bitcoin? If you don't have any educational program, where do you direct people for this knowledge?

T: We do this in a few ways. We constantly publish educational content on our blog:

We also encourage people to interact with us through our social media and email. Ask any question you want, don’t be shy. :)

We are passionate about Bitcoin at this company, so we love to talk about it to our customers and anyone interested.

B: You actively grow the community with the initiative “Resources", it is very interesting, tell us more about it…

T: African community organisations, doing good work but struggling to survive, come to us. They are vaguely familiar with Bitcoin. They are then introduced to the potential of the technology for their operations. They become intimate with Bitcoin and its promise. is an exchange. Here it acts simply as a facilitator: a platform. It is the right approach – Corporate Philanthropy.
Organisations are given a wallet, zero fee account and a blogging voice to inform the world of their activities, collecting donations directly. They have complete control of their accounts and direct access to global funding, at no cost: a world of possibility presents itself. It is magic.

B: What do you think about our initiative, we make first steps in Africa, we want to focus on women and help them start using Bitcoins, we work hard on creating a simple model of educational platform for women,  which in particular can be useful in Africa.

T: There is an old African saying: "if you educate a man, you educate an individual. But, if you educate a woman then you educate a nation.”

Considering that, education is the key issue Bitcoin faces globally, I am hugely in favour of any effort that seeks to educate.

And if the effort focuses specifically on women, then it focuses on entire nations through future generations. So, that is a most important effort.


Thank you :)

Barbara Messer spoke to Tristan Winters

twitter: @tristan_winters