Bitcoin is the buzzword of the year. Though, if we properly look into it, bitcoin has been the buzzword for some time – at least since its inception in 2009. The associated blockchain technology may have been relegated to the lips of those in the technology industry or those looking to invest but, as the tide of the cryptocurrency has ebbed and flowed, it has entered the lexicon of the general public. Bitcoin, for those unaware, is a form of cryptocurrency utilising blockchain technology that doesn’t rely on a central bank system and, therefore, argues that it is safer, quicker, and more cost-effective than standard currency. But what does it have to do with Uganda?
Bitcoin in Uganda
A recent warning from the Bank of Uganda into the possible dangers of bitcoin in Uganda will only make the cryptocurrency gather more adopters, according to Katherine Atuhairi of Uganda Bitcoin Network. She predicts a spike in interest of the blockchain technology, which sets itself as a potential rival to the Bank of Uganda. She also suggests that Silver Kayongo, an East African Banking and Legal Consultant, is correct in stating that, with 77% of Ugandans without a bank account, moving away from the Bank of Uganda could damage fintech ambitions. Some would even argue that standard banking in Uganda can be just as damaging, as with the possible closure in 2016 of the Barclays Bank of Uganda. Yet, bitcoin and cryptocurrency are treated with more wariness than standard banking, despite sharing some of the same possible limitations.
Bitcoin Adopters in Uganda
But, despite warnings and the fluctuation of the market, including the price drop in December 2017, enthusiasts are not deterred. Indeed, some claim to even enjoy the excitement that comes with the volatility, which could see their bitcoin stock rise and fall on a dime. Bitcoin mainly entices those with no employment, who hope to cash in on the boom much like the dot-com boom of the late 1990s. Others are professionals hoping to create an extra cash flow, likely at little risk to them. Indeed, bitcoin does look promising to those with an interest in technology, finance, or risk. In Kampala, many people dedicate their time to informing others as to the blessing that bitcoin may bring. Richard M Bagorogo is one, who claims the holidays he is able to take and the money he is able to give to his father are down to bitcoin and his early adoption. But is Bagorogo’s work helping others to adopt the technology?
Where Else is Bitcoin Used?
Bitcoin may be unknown to many traditionalists in Uganda but it is fairly prolific in its uses elsewhere online. For example, Japan made bitcoin legal tender, where bitcoin trade accounts for around half of the global trade volume. The Kenya-based BitPesa allows cash to be transferred throughout Africa, along with the many different currencies in the 54 countries – and utilises bitcoin to do so. Moreover, as metioned by Betway Casino, Expedia and Microsoft, two huge global online brands, both offer payment for certain services in the form of the cryptocurrency. Plus, Overstock, was the first online retailer to offer bitcoin payment options back in 2014. The company, which sells big-ticket items at cheaper prices due to overstocking, was a pioneer in the cryptocurrency field. Bitcoin was even utilised to crowdfund for bitcoin housing platform BitRent.
How to Get Involved in Bitcoin in Uganda
Bagorogo suggests people invest in mining pools of bitcoin. That is, the blockchain technology is derived from ‘mining’ it online, where the ownership of each chain is tracked and computational power is utilised to discover new chains that make up the cryptocurrency. Some, however, are sceptical due to the lack of middleman management – and, therefore, the lack of regulation and protection that central lending offers. Others compare bitcoin to other new technologies that were dismissed initially, yet proved to be successful later on.
What Else is Blockchain Technology Used For?
The blockchain technology which bitcoin is derived from also has other uses, which may help warm people up to the idea of cryptocurrency. CryptoKitties uses the unique markers of the blockchain technology to create individual digital cats – each one 100% exclusive. The cats have a trade value and different attributes, which can be swapped with other collectors. They can also breed and create other unique cats with their own attributes. The trade ability and the unique chain technology both go far to showcase how bitcoin works and the safety present in its functionality. If nothing else, the blockchain cats may just show people that bitcoin isn’t as bad as people make out.
Overall, bitcoin still represents a positive and exciting move forwards in how finance is conducted, especially in Uganda. While there are those in favour of the changes that bitcoin can make to how things are done and how people can be benefited, there are also plenty of detractors who err on the side of caution when it comes to the uptake of new technology. Others cite the energy usage – one bitcoin transactions uses the same energy as boiling 30,000 kettles. Ultimately, as the uptake of the cryptocurrency grows in the world, more people will come around to the idea – or, conversely, if the technology proves to be a flash in the pan fad, then those critical of the tech will be able to tell people how they were right.