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My Bitcoin Journey started in July 2017 when I moved from Texas to Lilongwe, Malawi, where I would spend the next three years of my life. A week before my life in Africa began, I was encouraged to view my mission in Malawi as a marathon – a long-term relationship. I’ve taken that piece of advice to heart. During my first tour in Malawi, I worked with an American medical institution whose primary focus is serving women and children in some of the poorest countries in the world. I was fortunate enough to self-direct myself as long as I performed a set of core responsibilities.
Besides conducting medical research and managing the organization’s guest house for traveling doctors, I devoted most of my energy to learning how to farm regeneratively by improving nutrient-depleted soils ubiquitous across Malawi. During my first two years, I developed a community center with a permaculture garden to feed pregnant women, facilitated community events at the hospital and local schools, and learned the local language. Of the many lessons I learned, the most significant was knowing the value of community. In Malawi, communities must be strong to withstand the trials of extreme poverty.
However, the community cannot solve many of the problems that Malawians face today. People will act selfishly in a certain desperation and start misusing or exploiting their power. For example, the forest closest to Lilongwe, which supplies almost all its fuel (as coal and firewood), will be depleted in 5 years at the current harvest rate. The road between the forest and the city is lined with men hauling up to six bags of charcoal (each weighing 50kg) on their bicycles.
If you ask any ordinary Malawian why there are so many problems in their country, they will cite government corruption almost 100% of the time. However, the corruption they see is rooted far upstream from the Malawian government; our current debt-based capitalism perpetuates this modern form of slavery. I propose what’s needed to solve this problem is new money, free of debasement and corruption; I propose what’s required is Bitcoin.
Before being sucked into the notion that Bitcoin solves everything (as seems to be the case), let me paint you a picture of life in Malawi. This morning on my daily walk, I departed my lush, paved neighborhood and entered the well-worn dirt paths that etched the city’s outskirts. Counterintuitively, this is where most of the city’s population resides. You may call them slums, but I prefer resettlement communities.
The community closest to my home is called “Kwa Kauma” the village of Kauma, the head chef. Each day at dawn and dusk, thousands of people walk, bike, and take motorcycle taxis to and from Kauma as they commute to and from work. Most of them are employed in my neighborhood or town as guards, garden boys, cooks, technicians, maids, nannies, and street merchants. At the same time, all the people living in the walled gardens get in their cars to drive to work in town for the banks, NGOs, corporate businesses, or the Malawi government.
Four years ago, I walked these same pathways in the open fields that separate the ornate walled gardens of the bourgeoisie and the mud-brick houses of the proletariat.
Nowadays, however, the land has been claimed by new settlers who have jumped on the opportunity to settle closer to town. This land was (and probably still is) owned by a wealthy Malawian who spent most of his time in South Africa. Unfortunately for him, the authorities cannot forcefully remove the hundreds of families that have settled on his land. I feel bad for the landowner, but he should know that you shouldn’t expect to maintain ownership indefinitely if you neglect your property here in Malawi. Wealth transfers of this kind are happening worldwide and in all domains. Nothing can remain stagnant or idle forever; there must be change.
As I return home from Kauma, I chat with three men in their twenties who are going to work. They walk at least 5km every morning at dawn to go to their posts as guards. I ask them about Bitcoin. Do they know what Bitcoin is? Yes, they’ve heard of it. When did they hear about it? For one, back in 2020; for the other two, this year. What do they know about it? It is a kind of money. They mention that they can’t access it because they need smartphones. Immediately, I stopped them and explained that it was no longer valid.
As of this year, there exists a way for people to send and receive BTC using simple feature phones. Their eyebrows raise, and they stare at me for a few seconds, and I quickly prompt them to register their Machankura lightning wallets and send them a few sats. At that moment, I could see the hope in their eyes. They ask me if they can become Bitcoin agents, and I tell them I would love to work with them. We continue chatting about the wonder of Bitcoin until our paths eventually diverge.
Malawi’s most valuable asset is its youth, mainly its educated youth. 8 out of 10 people in Malawi are between the ages of 15 and 35, and most have access to at least a feature phone and know how to use USSD mobile money interfaces. Given proper Bitcoin education and adequate support, the youth have the potential to spearhead a monetary revolution that will swing the pendulum of power into their hands.
My mission here in Malawi is to facilitate this revolution. I will educate and support Malawian entrepreneurs keen to build Bitcoin businesses. For a country like Malawi, the task will be long and arduous. But as I keep reminding myself, the more complex the goal, the sweeter the rewards will be. I have already begun working with young farmers, and I hope this grows into a network of farmers who use Bitcoin as their preferred currency.
Please join me as I continue my journey to bring Bitcoin to Malawi, one person at a time. As my motto goes: ili pano mwa nsanga ngati chiphaliwali – it is here as fast as lightning. Once the conditions are right, it happens instantly!
This is a guest post by Nick Twyman. You can follow him on Twitter @TwymanNicholas. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Satoshi’s Journal or Satoshi’s Entertainment Company.