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One man’s plan to orange pill a nation: Bitcoin Senegal

Nourou is a 29 year old Bitcoiner with a vision for his home country. A former financial analyst for a French Bank, he founded Bitcoin Senegal in late 2021.

Following an eight-year stint in France, during which Nourou earned his Masters degree, Bitcoin Chaincode qualifications, and a deep understanding of legacy financial markets thanks to work in investment finance, he was primed to orange-pill Senegal.

He returned to his home country disheartened to learn that Coinmap (a website showing Bitcoin vendors and merchants around the world), had zero locations in Senegal. That’s despite singer and influencer Akon’s plans to set up a crypto-style Akon City.

Passionate about Bitcoin and equipped with the knowledge that a “Bitcoin Beach” idea in El Salvador eventually lead to the first country to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender, the 29-year-old was inspired to try a similar thing in his hometown. 

Since setting foot in Africa’s westernmost capital, Dakar, Nourou has made progress. As well as founding Bitcoin Senegal, he’s given upwards of 18 educational talks about Bitcoin, and orange-pilled two restaurants, one games shop, a surf camp and a few local vendors. That’s all in the space of about six weeks.

The current status of Bitcoin merchants in Dakar, according to Coinmap

He has his sights set on 20 restaurants to accept Bitcoin by July 2022, right before he finishes coding up Senegal’s first proprietary Bitcoin exchange from scratch. The exchange would compete with Binance (which has an impressive footprint in Africa), Paxful, as well a friend’s cryptocurrency exchange which uses an off-the-shelf, third-party solution.

Nourou told Cointelegraph that his exchange will be as decentralized as possible, and knows that while competition may be tough:

“The demand for bitcoin is so large in Senegal that it doesn’t matter how many exchanges you make.”

Indeed, while the Sub-Saharan country of about 17 million people is familiar with Bitcoin, it’s hardly up to speed with the digital currency. Plus, Nourou says “literacy rates are very low, one of the biggest barriers to adoption.”

Furthermore, while the national language is officially French, the majority of Senegalese speak Wolof, a local language. There are sparse Bitcoin educational resources in Wolof; Nourou, therefore, started a YouTube channel in Wolof to educate his countrymen about Bitcoin.

For vendors, the Bitcoin quest began in Les Almadies, a wealthy, ex-pat area of Dakar where foreign travelers are common and literacy rates are high. He’s approached beach bars, restaurants and barber shops, happy to come “day or night” if there is ever a problem with BitPay or lightning terminals.

A restaurant now accepting Bitcoin in Dakar, Senegal 

In the restaurant Praïnha (see picture), the Bitcoin sign is loud and proud. The owner of the establishment, Renée, is a surf coach and free thinker who was “open to the idea of Bitcoin. Why not?” They accepted their first payment in Bitcoin on Feb. 24 having set up a BTCPay Server earlier in the month.

Nonetheless, volatility in the Bitcoin price and education continue to hamper Nourou’s orange-pilling efforts. It’s for that reason that he advises vendors to include a 10% markup for Bitcoin payments.

Equally, he spends considerable amounts of time sitting down with retailers going over Bitcoin, before introducing them to the Bitcoin layer 2 solution, Lightning. 

Related: Crypto firms ignore Africa at their peril as continent set for major adoption

Regarding education, it’s simply not time-effective to attempt to equip taxi drivers or street sellers with QR codes and BTC Pay servers. For the self-employed hustlers, a conversation and a mention of the Youtube channel is a useful start. 

Instead, Nourou is targeting restaurant owners, business people, surf schools and established commerce. It’s a small but vital step towards further Bitcoin recognition in the country.

A surf camp in N’Gor, northwest Dakar that accepts Bitcoin