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Ghana [Formerly: Tradehill Bitcoin exchange shut down for 2nd time in 2 years]

From: Charles Evans <cevans@chyden.net>
Date: Tue, 10 Sep 2013 07:35:44 -0400
Message-ID: <522F0410.3000903@chyden.net>
To: Web Payments CG <public-webpayments@w3.org>
CC: Manu Sporny <msporny@digitalbazaar.com>
On 09/09/2013 11:05 PM, Manu Sporny wrote:
> As an aside, but an important one: Charles, please tell this group
> about the time that you sent Bitcoins to save someone from a Ghanaian
> jail (the story you told at the Inside Bitcoins conference). It's a
> great example of the sort of thing we're trying to support at a
> larger scale here.

My involvement picks up at the end of this story:

26 & 27 July 2013, A few days before Bitcoin supporters met in Manhattan
at Mediabistro's Inside Bitcoins conference, more than 350 students
attended Students for Liberty’s first ever West African Regional
Conference at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria.  Unfortunately, other
West African nations were underrepresented because of high
transportation costs, poor infrastructure, and corruption.  Nominally,
West Africans are allowed to cross borders with a passport or a national
identity card, but in practice they are forced to pay exorbitant bribes.

One group of twenty-five Ghanaian students—led by Afrikanus Kofi Akosah,
president of Africa Youth Peace Call (AYPC)
<http://www.aypcghana.org/>—spent four uncomfortable days on the road
from Ghana through Togo and Benin to the Nigerian border, only to be
turned back with insults and threats of violence at each border crossing.

Their journey began on 25 July, and their first border crossing from
Ghana to Togo was delayed because Togolese officials closed its borders
for elections. After paying a substantial bribe the group was allowed to
continue, but the situation deteriorated at the Togo-Benin border
crossing the next day, when they were forced to pay the last of their
money—the equivalent of USD 130—in bribes to the Beninois border guards.

27 July, the final day of the conference, the Ghanians were denied entry
into Nigeria, when border guards demanded payment of the equivalent of
USD 750. Because of the bribes that they had paid to cross Togo and
Benin, they had no money either to move forward or to return home. 
Making matters worse, they had run out of food and water, as they had
expected to make the 850 km (520 mile) journey in less than a day;
Google Maps estimates approximately 12 hours.

Mr. Akosah says of the experience, "I’ve not seen so much humiliation,
extortion and disrespect for human rights throughout my life."

28 July the group returned to Ghana after a group of libertarian friends
in Nigeria sent them the equivalent of USD 700 for food and bribe money,
but Mr. Akosah was still responsible for outstanding expenses, including
fuel and the bus driver.  If he did not pay, he faced serious legal

Bitcoin to the Rescue

I live in South Florida and teach Finance at a local university.  If you
saw me on the sidewalk (pavement), you wouldn't notice me.  I am a
veteran of the first moneypunk wave in the 1990s, during the Dot.Com
Boom-Bubble-Bust.  Today, the biggest stresses of my day are traffic,
student emails, and whether my puppy was able to wait to go outside
first thing in the morning.

I, like Kofi Akosah, am also a very strong believer in Bitcoin's ability
to level the playing field for the 83% of humanity who live outside the

I've never met Kofi in person; we know each other through Facebook, via
Neema Vedadi, whom I also never have met in person.  If you google the
three of us, you'll see that we are about as dissimilar as one could

While Kofi and two dozen Ghanians were suffering humiliation in Western
Africa, I was 1,200 miles (2,000 km) from home attending the 30 July
Inside Bitcoins conference in New York City.

The morning of 29 July, I received a private Facebook message from Kofi
imploring me to buy USD 1,000 worth of Bitcoin from him that he had
borrowed from friends and family, so that he could avoid going to jail. 
Fortunately for both of us, he is an advocate of Bitcoin in Ghana and
asks Western donors to contribute Bitcoin to AYPC.

We settled on a price of USD 92, and he spent BTC 11.4 to me to cover
the trade and transfer fee. I tried to use Western Union's website to
send the USD, but it would not allow me to do so. The fee for immediate
transfer was quoted as USD 48 online.  I went to a stationery store in
Yonkers, NY, where I was staying with a family member, and paid USD
18.50 for the transfer.

Over the next couple days, the price of Bitcoin rose enough from USD 92
that I felt compelled to reimburse Kofi not only for the excess USD
29.50 in Western Union fees but for some of the price runup, as well. We
rounded it to BTC 1.00, which I spent back to him.

The next morning, his time, Kofi picked up the money and the story ended

In isolation, this story is merely interesting, but it gives us a
glimpse of what is possible for the nearly 6 billion people who live
outside the OECD.

> On 09/09/2013 10:18 AM, Charles Evans wrote:
>> In response to both the Bono Declaration, "Capitalism takes more
>> people out of poverty than aid," and the Tradehill/IAFCU blowup,
>> some of us in South Florida have taken the first steps to establish
>> a non-profit membership organization with plans to establish a
>> appropriate credit union, once we have enough members to justify
>> this.
>> http://bitcountant.com/foundation-for-conscious-entrepreneurship/
> We've been exploring a similar path to creating a Federal Credit
> Union for Internet professionals. One of the requirements of the
> credit union would be to compel it to use new or experimental
> technology and specifically work with startups in the financial
> space. We were going to try to band together with the Bitcoin,
> Ripple, and Web Payment communities to create a large crowdfunding
> campaign (lots of press) around creating what PayPal was supposed to
> turn into. The campaign would be used mostly for media exposure to
> drive initial deposits into the credit union.
> We should definitely talk more about this. Creating an institution
> like this is going to be a necessity if we want to realize some of
> the goals of the Web Payments community.
> -- manu
Received on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 11:36:12 UTC

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