A highlight from Anita Posch on Why Bitcoin Is a Tool for Freedom Especially in Africa - Ep. 531
Bitcoin can be one of the solutions for people who are disempowered, who are outlawed, the misfits, you know, basically Bitcoin is for them. Hi, everyone, welcome to Unchained, your no -hype resource for all things crypto. I'm your host, Laura Shin, author of The Cryptopians. I started covering crypto eight years ago, and as a senior editor at Forbes, was the first mainstream media reporter to cover cryptocurrency full time. This is the August 15th, 2023 episode of Unchained. At Token 2049 Singapore on September 13th to 14th, Balaji Sreenivasan, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, Arthur Hayes and 200 others will hit the stage, joining over 10 ,000 attendees. Visit token2049 .com for 65 % off regular ticket prices with the code unchained. Link in the description. Arbitrum's leading layer two scaling solutions can provide you with lightning fast transactions at a fraction of the cost, all while ensuring security rooted on Ethereum. Arbitrum's newest addition, Orbit, enables you to build your own tailor made layer three. Visit arbitrum .io today. Buy, trade and spend crypto on the crypto .com app. New users can enjoy zero credit card fees on crypto purchases in the first seven days. Download the crypto .com app and get $25 with the code Laura. Link in the description. If you've been enjoying Unchained and find the discussions here fascinating, mind blowing or as crypto tends to be downright bonkers, please share this episode with a friend to keep the conversation going. Today's guest is Anita Pausch, Bitcoin educator, founder of Bitcoin for Fairness and author of Learn Bitcoin. Welcome, Anita. Hi, Laura. Thank you very much for the invitation. I'm honored to be here. I'm excited to have you. You work on so many different things related to Bitcoin. Why don't you just give us an overview of your work? I guess it's almost too much sometimes for my personal life. So, yeah, my main focus is on Bitcoin education, and I founded a nonprofit initiative called Bitcoin for Fairness, which brings knowledge or shares knowledge with people on the ground in the global south. And the last year I spent around eight months in southern African countries to support local initiatives with building Bitcoin communities, meetups, and of course, to share knowledge there and build knowledge on the ground. And two years ago, I published a book called Learn Bitcoin, which is a book for beginners, which basically speeds you up from zero to a self custody Bitcoin holder. So a real Bitcoin holder. And yeah, and besides that, I'm part of the C4 cryptocurrency certification consortium, Bitcoin Professional Committee. So I also help there to establish standards of education and knowledge of Bitcoin for people in the professional space. And at the moment, I'm just building a online learning program. Maybe we can talk about that later. So I do a lot of things. And also I'm testing wallets, for instance, in rural areas in Zimbabwe and see if they are working or not. And yeah, so I try to contribute my part to the Bitcoin adoption and Bitcoin education. And yeah, that's what I actually spend every day on almost. And how did you get into Bitcoin? That was early 2017. And I was working in web development and web platform development and online products for about 20 years, online marketing and build little businesses. I was an entrepreneur and I always had the feeling or I was looking for something that I'm really, really, really interested in. I mean, internet marketing, et cetera. I liked it. I loved it. But then after 20 years, it felt boring. And I also, we built online platforms for designers, for people who have small businesses. So we had something like Etsy in Austria when Etsy wasn't even in Austria. And when we built that tool, I realized how difficult it was back then to let people pay over the internet in your shop. And we had to pay upfront like 3 ,000 euros or something just to get the possibility to do that. So I learned how complicated that is and how much permissions you need, basically, and how much friction is in that system and how expensive it is. And so in 2016, I thought to myself, oh, I want to do something else and something that really makes more sense for the world than just sell stuff. And then I stumbled upon Bitcoin and I was drawn to it because very early, I think I understood because I had a great teacher in Andreas Antonopoulos, for instance, that Bitcoin is a tool for freedom. And it gives people like me, for instance, I'm a lesbian. I was born in Austria, 53 years ago already. And the first 30 years of my life, I didn't have the same rights as all the other people. And also my grandparents came from Bohemia, you know, they passed borders, they became Austrians. We had hyperinflation a hundred years ago in Austria too. And also they told me a lot about the Nazis in Austria and how life was for them and how shocking the change was suddenly when the Nazis came to Austria. And all these kinds of things, I think, came together. My life story, what I experienced so far, and that Bitcoin can be one of the solutions for people who are disempowered, who are outlawed, the misfits. You know, basically Bitcoin is for them because no one can take it away from you. It gives you the freedom to interact without anyone that can hinder you. And that's what I saw. And that's what I thought is a life -changing tool. Basically, we didn't have that in hundreds of thousands of years, an invention like that. And so I was greatly drawn to that. And that's, I think, where I take my energy from, from that discrimination that I felt here. And I think that for many, many, many people in other countries, life is much worse than for me. And so I think even more for them is a tool for liberation. And that's why I work so hard. And how did you, like, when you first got into Bitcoin, like you said, you had been doing web development. And so how did you go from that to Bitcoin education? Because I think your initiative in Africa, I think it only started in, I don't know, 2021 or 2022. Yeah. I think you just started it when I met you in 2022. That was Bitcoin for fairness. I just started that half a year before. Okay, so from 2017 on, I had to learn myself. That was the first thing. So I still did the marketing stuff and the web design stuff. And at the same time, I taught myself and I learned a lot about Bitcoin. I did the University of Nicosia online curriculum and course to learn more. And I very early started to write my first book, my first learn Bitcoin book, because I thought you can learn the most. If you have to understand everything to write it down for other people to learn it. And also I had a lot of good feedback. I asked people who were much more knowledgeable about it back then as I was and they helped me. And then one of the first things I also did was I translated Andreas Antonopoulos' The Internet of Money to German and learned a lot with that, of course. And I very early in 2018, end of 2018 or something like that, I did my first Bitcoin seminars in Austria and then also an online course in German. And then I took on the podcast because that was actually the first bigger thing where I think people in the English speaking world got to know me. So I did like 160 interviews with all sorts of people from the Bitcoin space, Adam Beck, Andreas Antonopoulos, James Loeb, yeah, on and on to learn myself. The Anita Pausch show, which you apparently have suspended or paused or something. It's paused because I was in Africa and in Zimbabwe, I didn't have internet. I could not record something like this. It's just it's not possible. So I stopped doing it, but I want to start again. And so and in 2020, let me go back a little bit. Like I said, in 2017, 2018, everyone was talking about how Bitcoin can be a tool against hyperinflation, a hedge against inflation, for instance, in Venezuela or in Zimbabwe. And I always was like, aha, that's interesting. And I have a friend who is living in Zimbabwe. And then I thought, OK, so if I think that Bitcoin is a tool of liberation for people in these countries, for people who are living under authoritarian leaders and against inflation. Then I have to go there and see if anyone is really using it because the Bitcoiners are talking about it. So I focused also in my podcast on the global south and on Argentina, Venezuela, I had guests from these countries. And then in early 2020, before the pandemic started, I visited my friend for four weeks in Zimbabwe to understand the problems there in real life, because, you know, we're always talking about it. And it's like, if you're not there and if you don't really see it, if you don't feel it, if you don't have to calculate each day the price of goods again and the next day, it's different than the day before. If you don't feel that yourself, I think you can't really understand the problems of the people. And that was the first time I went there. I also went to Botswana to meet with Alakani Etireleng, who founded the Satoshi Center in Botswana, I think, as early as in 2015 or maybe even earlier. So she's a real pioneer also. And then I went back to Austria because I still had my place here, my apartment and everything. But I knew that I want to go into that direction. And after the travel bans were lifted, I started traveling again to El Salvador when the Bitcoin was introduced there. And then I realized, podcasting is all good and fine, but where is the real education happening? I mean, podcasts are great for education, but there are so many now. I think it's even also difficult to get to have an audience there. And when I saw in Zimbabwe that there is some sort of adoption, yes, some people are knowledgeable about Bitcoin and are using it, but the vast amount of people is not. And there are so many scams down there. Everyone knows Bitcoin. Really, you can ask anyone, they know it, but everyone will ask you, but is it not a scam? Because everyone has been scammed or at least knows someone. And when I was there the last time I was living in a house and the maid, there are still people who have maids there, came to me because she saw a Bitcoin flyer on my desk and she said to me, can you tell me what is this Bitcoin? You are doing something with it. And I said, yeah, I mean, imagine it's like cash, only digital and your government can take it away from you. And she said, uh -huh, uh -huh. And I said, why are you asking? And she said, I'm in a WhatsApp group. And suddenly someone sent me a message saying to me, give me $50 now and in three weeks you get $100. And she said, yeah. And she said, that can't be right, can it? And I said, no. Yeah. So people are bombarded with emails, with messages like that. And I have seen so many people who've lost money and that's really sickening. And I think that's also why I try to get more and more and more education on the ground there so that people can share the knowledge with their own peers and things like that. And so is your sense that the efforts that you are making are, I mean, you know, obviously I'm sure what you're doing is true Bitcoin education in the sense that you're educating people about this technology and like understanding what this is. But is your sense that a lot of the activity in those places is, yeah, more of like using it to perpetrate scams? I mean, yeah, that can be. I mean, but I can't estimate that. I mean, using the name Bitcoin to do scams, of course, yes, they are all using that name. But it's not Bitcoin what they sell, of course. I definitely also a big amount of like exchanging dollars into Bitcoin because people who have dollars and know Bitcoin know that Bitcoin is a hedge against inflation of their own Zimbabwean dollar and also the US dollar also has inflation. But I also saw that a lot of people want to get hold of Bitcoin as a sort of a small investment for themselves. And of course, the rate of usage as a means to be able to send money in and out of the country is going up as well because Zimbabwe, for instance, is a country where you have very strict financial exchange controls. And also, you can't easily send money in and out of the country. I mean, first, no one wants the Zimbabwe dollar. I mean, I wouldn't want it, you know. The US dollar is mostly in banknotes. They only have banknotes. So, I mean, that's the next thing. You only have one dollar notes. And when you go into a shop and something is like 30 US dollar cents, you don't get 70 cents back. You get a small goodie or something. Yeah, so they are using like in the war times in Austria when people use cigarettes as money. You don't get any cash back. So I know people in Zimbabwe, for instance, who have freelancers in other African countries, and it's not easy to send money in and out of the country. And they told me, you know, when I send my freelancer in, I say, Malawi, three or four times money via mobile money or other providers, the government comes and asks me what I'm doing with that money. Why am I sending that money out? And with Bitcoin, I mean, she immediately could send the money from her wallet to the guy's wallet and no problem. Yeah, less costs, less friction, can't be censored. Nobody's questioning why she's doing that. And another big story in Zimbabwe is foreign exchange control also means that if you, for instance, a business in Zimbabwe and you want to buy goods from South Africa or another country. You can't do that with Zimbabwean dollar. So you need US dollar and then you have to go to the central bank of Zimbabwe and say, I would like to buy, let's say, 10 ,000 US dollars because I need them to buy the goods from South Africa. And every week is an auction in the central bank where the central bank decides on the value of the exchange rate from the Zimbabwe dollar to the US dollar. So it's decided it's totally controlled. And then when you get your US dollar granted, so you are allowed to exchange it. It's not that you as the business owner get the money and you pay your partner in South Africa. No, the central bank is paying you on your behalf.