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Meet Africa’s Youngest Blockchain Entrepreneur: Token Media’s Elisha Owusu Akyaw

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Youngest Blockchain Entrepreneur

In Africa, the number of entrepreneurs working on cryptocurrency and blockchain businesses is on the rise due to a growing global appetite for blockchain-based solutions and crypto-commerce. An example of this would be the story of Africa’s youngest blockchain entrepreneur, Elisha Owusu Akyaw.

Becoming a Blockchain Entrepreneur at a Young Age

Elisha is the founder and CEO of Token Media, a Ghana-based cryptocurrency marketing company. Founded in 2017, the company aims to assist new and existing blockchain projects to reach their target audience using global best practice marketing solutions.

Token MediaInterestingly, most people would agree that Elisha does not fit the profile of your typical entrepreneur. The 16-year-old is looking to carve his own niche in advertising with a particular focus on blockchain projects, at a time when his peers are mostly concerned with school or other social activities. He first came across cryptocurrencies on TV, fell in love with the technology and decided the opportunities presented in the space were too good to be ignored.

About what developed his interest in cryptocurrencies he mentioned this in an interview with BitcoinAfrica.io,

“I got into the cryptocurrency space after I saw a news item about bitcoin on TV and then decided to check it out. The idea of financial freedom and an entire economy based on the blockchain appealed to my curiosity, which caused me to investigate about bitcoins and cryptocurrencies as a whole. After research, I then looked at how I could apply my skills in the field and later joined the DASH community and started the first DASH commercial blog.”

Establishing his Mark on Blockchain Advertising with Token Media

Elisha’s foray into digital currencies could not have been at a more opportune time when big players like Goldman Sachs and Google recognise the untapped potential of blockchain technology. Meanwhile, startups are developing other uses for blockchain technology to secure information from tampering and allow users to access the entire record of transactions.

Elisha identified the need for PR services for established companies as well as new market entrants. With this in mind, Token Media was conceived. He states his inspiration for starting the company was,

“I watched a lot of cryptocurrency related videos and I remember watching one that spoke about bringing businesses from other industries into the blockchain industry, which got me thinking about a PR solutions company. After the boom of ICO’s and the popularity of cryptocurrencies, the need for proper marketing services in the space has become very important which lead to the birth of Token Media. Our solutions are unique because we blend affordability and quality.”

Token Media offers a variety of services primarily in public relations, ICO marketing, and social media management. Under public relations the company creates, publishes and distributes press releases, working with notable partners such as BTC Manager, Merkle, and Hongico just to name a few. With ICO marketing, the core activities are public relations and investor relations. Social media management involves spreading the message about various blockchain projects on popular social media channels.

According to Elisha, the company which began operations in June last year has so far worked with several clients such as PIVX, Komodo, Local World Forwarder, and SmartCash. Token Media has helped raise over $40 million in token sales through its marketing services and has worked with cryptocurrencies with a combined market capitalisation of over $1 billion.

While this may seem impressive for a company less than a year old, for Elisha this is just the beginning,

“In the future Token Media aims to be more than a marketing solutions firm. We are working on new projects that include an initial coin offering startup platform, content distribution, and creation on the blockchain and a blockchain related content platform that integrates all media formats,” he said about his future plans.

Challenges Faced and Advice to Aspiring Entrepreneurs

However, a journey into entrepreneurship is not without its hiccups and blockchain businesses are no exception. For Elisha, a persistent problem has been the presence of few platforms in Africa with cryptocurrency integration which makes moving money around quite hectic. Until recently he couldn’t find a decent cryptocurrency exchange in Ghana that offered excellent services with reasonable fees.

With cryptocurrency adoption in the continent still at its infancy stage, most Africans have to contend with international peer-to-peer exchanges like Localbitcoins and Remitano to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. While the exchanges support millions of dollars in trades every day, users are often faced with above market rate prices when buying bitcoin and other digital currencies. Lately, though, we are seeing more localised exchanges coming up across the continent that supports local currencies.

However, the biggest challenge according to Elisha has been unpredictable nature of market regulators. He says,

“Another problem that is getting bigger is the silence on the part of most governments on the continent on the regulation of cryptocurrencies. Regulators on the content seem not to understand the fundamental concepts of blockchain technology and may take rushed decisions that will hamper the growth of the blockchain industry in Africa. As an entrepreneur, it makes it hard for me to plan with this high level of uncertainty at play.”

The reality is the legal status of cryptocurrencies remains undefined in most African countries with regulators regularly sounding warnings against its use. The lack of a policy framework pertaining to digital currencies creates an environment of uncertainty for blockchain enterprises and hampers digital currency innovation across the continent. Hopefully, African governments which are more receptive towards blockchain technologies will involve stakeholders like Elisha in coming up with structures that can assimilate cryptocurrencies into local ecosystems.

For now, the Accra-based entrepreneur has split his time between growing Token Media and his studies. His advice to other young aspiring African cryptocurrency entrepreneurs is:

”There is a lot to be done in the blockchain space in Africa. Identify the problems around you, fix the problem and you will have a winning project or product in your hands. Let’s all work together to bridge the gaps on the continent, educate the masses and help the continent grow.”

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The Top 5 African Countries That Are Embracing Bitcoin

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African Countries

Bitcoin tends to polarise opinions between sceptics and believers, with almost no room for the middle ground. However, there’s a substantial demand for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in many Africa countries.

Do a quick search on Google Trends and you will see three African countries in the top ten of global search interest for the term “bitcoin.” This is a testament to the embrace of bitcoin in a number of leading African economies.

In this guide, you will discover the five leading bitcoin economies in Africa that have the most demand for digital currency as well as the most active local cryptocurrency communities.

South Africa

south africaBitcoin is popular among South Africans. According to their search interests on Google, they top the ranking for bitcoin. One particular group bitcoin appeals to is millennials. South Africa has a lot of them. Young people between the ages of 15 to 34 years old make up 20.6 million people – 35.7 percent of the total population, according to Statistics South Africa’s 2018 mid-year population estimate report. Combined with the fact that the country has one of the highest internet penetration rates in Africa, the country has become a sweet spot for many cryptocurrency exchanges.

The online multi-asset broker, eToro, reported a 671 percent increase in new users trading between January and November 2017, and a 574 percent increase a year before. LocalBitcoins, one of the largest peer-to-peer (P2P) bitcoin marketplaces in the world, saw over 600 percent increase in trading volume between January and December 2017, according to data from CoinDance.

The latest report by Ecobank on the state of cryptocurrency regulation in sub-Saharan Africa shows only two – South Africa and Swaziland – have a favourable stance on cryptocurrencies. The bank analysed 39 African countries.

The South African Reserve Bank has stated that virtual currencies pose no significant risk to financial stability, price stability or the National Payment System.

Africa’s second-largest economy has been struggling to stand on both feet for the past two years; the economy has refused to grow. In light of this, bitcoin has become a haven from the political and economic turmoil.

Nigeria

buy bitcoin in nigeriaIn Nigeria, many local traders and activists believe this is an opportunity to liberate themselves from a flailing economy using digital currencies and blockchain technology.

The main driving force for Nigeria’s strong bitcoin adoption could be tied to the prolonged dollar shortage in the country in 2016 and 2017. The government had devalued the currency and inflation was at rising rapidly. Bitcoin was a viable means for Nigerians to work around the lack of access to foreign exchange and also preserve their money from being eroded by inflation.

In the week of August 19, 2017, LocalBitcoins’ trading volume crossed the 1 billion naira mark (about $360 million) in Nigeria. The exchange’s weekly trading volume has not traded less than that amount since then. Local crypto exchanges have also been on the rise in the country giving more people access to a broader range of cryptocurrencies.

Zimbabwe

ZimbabweThe situation in Nigeria is not too dissimilar from Zimbabwe. A cash-strapped economy, failing currency and depleted foreign exchange markets saw locals turn to bitcoin as a store of value. Golix, the leading crypto exchange in Zimbabwe, says it processed bitcoin transactions worth around $1 million during October 2017. The price of bitcoin had once risen more than double the average price in other countries in 2017.

However, in 2018, the relationship between financial regulators and crypto businesses have been strained. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) decided to ban all local financial institutions from servicing cryptocurrency businesses. There have been court cases and more back and forth between the country’s leading crypto exchange, Golix and the RBZ, but as it stands it is difficult for local exchanges to operate within the country’s borders.

Young Zimbabweans – desperate to overcome the foreign currency and liquidity challenges plaguing the country – have found innovative ways around the ban though. Recently, Cryptogem Global defied the ban and opened a branch in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. Remitano and LocalBitcoins have also been servicing crypto fans in Zimbabweans.

Kenya

KenyaA Citibank research in December 2017 ranked Kenya among countries with the largest bitcoin holdings worth $1.63 billion, approximately 2.3 percent of the GDP.

The East African country has one of the highest bitcoin trading volumes in Africa. The weekly trading volume on LocalBitcoins jumped by almost 429 percent in 2017 and has only dipped by 19 percent this year despite bitcoin losing two-thirds of its value.

Also, local innovators have launched cryptocurrency systems to support payments and cross-border transactions, as embodied by initiatives like BitPesa.

Kenya is also one of the few countries in Africa with a Bitcoin ATM. Others are Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Djibouti.

Ghana

buy bitcoin in GhanaGhanaians began the year 2018 with a statement from the Bank of Ghana (BOG) cautioning the public about the use of bitcoins.

The central bank also expressed an interest in introducing cyber security guidelines to guide the use of digital currencies in the country. The central bank presented a bill referred to as Payment Systems and Services Bill to the Ghanian parliament. The BOG also hailed the potential of the technology behind bitcoin, blockchain.

A report earlier in 2018 shows Paxful, one of the prominent P2P exchange in Africa, monthly bitcoin volume in Africa is now around $40 million. The company’s most active locations are Nigeria and Ghana, the second and third largest markets respectively.

There are also several local bitcoin and blockchain startups, such as Bitland and BTCGhana.

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South African Man Beaten And Tortured to Give Up Bitcoin Holdings

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A South African bitcoin trader was reportedly drugged, beaten, and tortured by assailants who wanted to gain access to his bitcoin holdings.

Facebook Invitation Led to Torture and Bitcoin Theft

According to local media, the incident happened on November 16 after the victim was invited by a man he met on Facebook to give a presentation on cryptocurrency. The same man who had invited him was present when the victim arrived with six other people in the room.

Identified only as Andrew, the victim trustingly entered the residence of his attackers in the afternoon. It was at this point that someone approached him from the back and covered his face with what is presumed to be a drug-stained cloth that knocked him out.

cryptocurrency tax regulationsAfter regaining consciousness he woke up in a different house and was surrounded by two women and three men. According to a report from the Meadowlands police, the victim was stripped of his clothing, tortured and assaulted.

Andrew also stated that the gang demanded his bitcoin password and his FNB (First National Bank) account details. All the while threatening to kill him and burning him with a hot iron if he failed to give up the information. He was at first reluctant to give up the information but gave in after they continuously tortured him.

After finally giving the details, he transferred R 800,000 ($57,789) worth of bitcoin to the account they provided him with. He also transferred a further R 100,000 ($7,224) from his bank account to their account. Apart from the bitcoin holdings and the money on the victim’s account, the robbers also got away with R 3,000 ($216.53) in cash, two laptops, and two Apple iPhones.

After the theft, the gang of robbers blindfolded Andrew and dumped him off at Kliprivier Road in Johannesburg. He is currently in the intensive care unit recovering after sustaining burn wounds on his body.

Crypto Related Crimes Are on the Rise

Unfortunately, the downside of cryptocurrencies gaining so much popularity means that people who trade in it are vulnerable to attacks. Cryptocurrency theft is a lucrative business for criminals especially since it is difficult to trace transactions.

This is not the first crime and will be a far cry from the last, as scams involving digital coin are being reported more often and violent attacks on known bitcoin holders have increased since 2017.

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Middle Eastern Bitcoin Exchange BitOasis Launches in Egypt and Morocco

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BitOasis

Dubai-based digital asset exchange BitOasis has announced that it has now opened its doors in Egypt and Morocco, expanding its operation to North Africa.

BitOasis Expands Into North Africa

BitOasisBitOasis has been serving the Middle East as one of the first exchanges to offer cryptocurrency trading for local currency and has now decided to expand into North Africa to provide Morrocans and Egyptians with the opportunity to buy bitcoin (BTC) and other digital assets.

Despite the recent rise in interest of cryptocurrencies in Africa, Moroccan and Egyptian markets rarely make the news. While markets like South Africa, Nigeria, and Uganda have cryptocurrencies exchange services set up shop, the North African countries have largely remained underserved.

Part of the reason Morocco did not previously have any exchanges could be because transactions using digital currencies are considered de facto illegal. A year ago the Moroccan central bank, and the country’s Foreign Exchange Office, Office des Changes, declared that transactions using digital currencies such as bitcoin constitute a violation of the country’s exchange regulations.

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts in Egypt have been facing similar issues. From the Central Bank of Egypt asserting that no organisations have authority to trade bitcoin, to Dar Al Iftaa classifying cryptocurrencies forbidden by Islam, bitcoin has had no easy ride in the North African country. Still, there has been a growing interest in Egypt for blockchain technology as well as cryptocurrencies.

BitOasis is now an excellent alternative platform to peer-to-peer exchanges to buy bitcoin in Egpyt and Morrocco. Moreover, Egyptians and Moroccans are now also able to trade LTC, BCH, BSV, XRP, XLM, ETH, ETC, and ZEC.

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