Jack Dorsey, Bitcoin fanboy and Twitter/Square CEO, is on a modern day mission to Africa.
Dorsey alighted in Nigeria last week. While coy about the exact purpose of his month-long tour, which also takes him to Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa, he’s been pictured, on Twitter, with local Bitcoin entrepreneurs, and at a couple of low key Bitcoin meetups.
Dorsey has long been a Bitcoin advocate. In October, he invested in CoinList—a company that helps digital asset companies manage their token sales. He’s also an investor in scaling solution, Lightning Labs, and has been hiring engineers and designers to work on open-source contributions to the Bitcoin ecosystem.
Three of the four countries Dorsey is visiting just happen to feature in the top five most active for “Bitcoin” searches worldwide, as per data from Google Trends over the past 12 months.
That’s led to speculation that a big part of Dorsey’s so-called “listening and learning” tour is to lay the land for Square—the other platform he founded. Square is best known for its disruptive, card-payment technology, CashApp—and, most recently, for betting big on cryptocurrencies, and bitcoin in particular.
Boots on the ground
Yet, while Bitcoin is a trend in the countries Dorsey is targeting, it may not yet have translated to adoption, at least if studies are to be believed. Adoption is notoriously difficult to gauge Africa. Electricity is scarce in many areas, and many of those studies are based on the concentration of Bitcoin’s energy-consuming nodes.
That’s why Dorsey has had to put boots on the ground. (It’s his first visit.)
“I want to understand the challenges of starting a company here and figure out a way I can support,” Dorsey said at a meeting at media hub Techpoint, in Nigeria’s capital Lagos. “I want to live here for three to six months next year, full time, no travelling.”
There could also be a few non-crypto-related reasons for his trip, too. Dorsey has made public plans to expand Twitter’s workforce in Africa, in line with the social media platform’s expected growth trend over the coming years. He did meet with some non-crypto entrepreneurs, academics and artists, and said that, during the trip, he plans to meet US-based VC firm Kudu Ventures, and Ethiopian AI-focused startup iCog Labs.
Where the puck is going
But it’s his crypto-related stuff that’s been exciting the cryptorati, who believe that Dorsey’s tour is a kind of bellwether for the industry.
.@jack is showing us where the puck is going:
1. He's in Africa at local BTC meetups
2. His #CashApp is 'banking the unbanked' all over the country, 40% penetration in depressed areas
3. He's hiring cypherpunks & core devs
He's not yelling about ETFs or lettuce on the block https://t.co/QJXNrN28kX
— Jacob Kostecki (@jacobkostecki) November 11, 2019
While in Nigeria on Saturday, Dorsey met up with some of Nigeria’s cryptocurrency community, and arriving in Ghana yesterday, he was pictured with Atsu Davoh, CEO of BitSika, a Ghanaian crypto exchange.
Dorsey is not the only crypto entrepreneur who believes African nations such as Nigeria and South Africa are ripe for crypto adoption.
Binance, the biggest crypto exchange by volume, added the Nigerian Naira as its first ever fiat trading pair last month. It’s also aiming to connect with African entrepreneurs, and pursuing strategic goals in the region.
According to the United Nations, Africa could be crypto’s next frontier. Much of the continent is an ideal breeding ground for mobile money. In Sub-Saharan regions the majority of Africans are unbanked, but mobile phones are plentiful and have given rise to mobile money services, even in rural areas.
By tapping into this market at an early stage, Dorsey can plant the seeds for Bitcoin adoption—seen by many enthusiasts as the next step in helping many Africans enter the formal economy.
Fortunately, being an inveterate Tweeter, it may not be too hard to see what he’s up to.