We need to do better when comparing our needs and desires in the Western world to those in the Global South. An experience showed me, we still have long ways to go but can be bullish on communities!
If you’ve been active in the Bitcoin social layers, chances are you’ve stumbled across this statement a few times. You often read about it if someone is making some ridiculous statement with people in the West and completely forgets that 75% of the world’s population is out there who don’t have access to the financial rails.
You often get told to check your financial privilege and that more things are at stake. Does it matter if your on-chain transaction takes a bit longer or if you need to pay more? You’re actually able to execute the payment without any issues. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The inspiration behind the article was a two-day back-and-forth I read in a Telegram meet-up group. In there, the topic of high on-chain fees and possible solutions with Layer solutions came up. As usual, the topic of financial privilege came up, as many fear that people in the global south wouldn’t be able to use on-chain anymore if things like Ordinals and high fees continue.
Some also feared that layer solutions like the Lightning Network or newer tech like Arc wouldn’t solve the problem and centralize the whole network more, as you would need to trust service providers or more closed systems to get the job done. This goes against the main vision of Bitcoin, as you want to be the sole owner of your keys and the assets in your wallet.
I also share some of these concerns, but I want to give my perspective and what I’ve learned in 10 years in the Bitcoin ecosystem. Because I think we’re underestimating the power of people in the Global South and are blinded by our financial privilege. So take what I say with a grain of salt. I’m not offending anyone but explaining my experiences with friends in Africa or people I’ve met in Central America.
The Global South is resilient and ready for more!
If there is one thing I’ve learned in 10 years in this industry, it’s to never under any circumstances underestimate the Global South, not just in their abilities to get the job done but also in the fact that they’re extremely adaptable.
We often read stuff on Bitcoin Twitter that Africa is the place with the biggest potential for adoption and how no one has so far helped them. That’s not the experience I’ve had and is definitely clickbait or just lousy framing.
I’m not stating that everything is peachy, people in Africa or Central America have issues and problems too, but they’re incredibly well-educated about the issues at hand.
I don’t have to explain to any one of them how the system is exploiting them and that Fiat is set up to fail. They don’t struggle with 10% inflation because they’re used to 100%. No one is whining about how unfair the world is because they simply don’t have time for that. They’re too busy making money and paying the bills at the end of the month.
Therefore if you see a post on social saying how poor these economies in Africa or Central America are, stop for a minute and try to find someone on the ground who can verify what you just read. And if this is the case, speak to these people and try to find out if they need help or if they managed to find a way.
For most of them, Bitcoin is already the solution. They don’t need us Western folks to educate them anymore but actual solutions or support with access to the system. This could be hardware to build nodes, generators, or phones to get more people onboard. Also, if you’re a developer working on decreasing node sync times or have a solution to enable Lightning via burner phones, reach out to communities.
They don’t need petty or meaningless social posts. These communities need solutions with which they can work now! Most of them get onboard real quick by learning by trial and error. We often worry that people won’t be able to catch up. The fact of the matter is most of them have caught up and are miles ahead.
Bullish on communities
As I’ve established, the Global South is much more advanced than we think. They’re fast to adapt and open to trying as many different avenues as possible. One of these avenues is to get together collectively and build a better future as a community.
This is something I took away from the Bitcoin Collective event last week in London. It was a social gathering in South West London where people could meet fellow Bitcoiners and listen to talks. I actually interviewed one of the panelists, but that’s not the story.
The second talk that evening was with Obi from Fedi. In it, he explained the ideas behind Fedi and Fedimint. He also showed the difference a Bitcoin mining facility could make for African villages. Once his talk ended, a few people were able to question Obi.
One of the audience members asked him if things like Ordinals aren’t destroying the possibilities for African communities to get on board and how Fedi aims to solve these problems. Obi’s response was brilliant! He said that we in the West think about these nuances too much. People in these communities know they’ll never get a loan individually. But they’re far more powerful if they combine their resources and build this way.
He also explained how we in the West always struggle with this concept. The Global South knows its weaknesses and is working hard to close the gap. Instead of arguing on Twitter why on-chain is so expensive, they sit down and find a solution, whether that be Lightning, Liquid, or something like Fedi.
All we need to do is to offer these products or solutions to the Global South and be there if they have questions or ideas to improve the product.
Time to take action
This recaps the problem we face perfectly! The Global South is doing everything in its power to improve its situation. This includes some out-of-the-box thinking; while we in the West live off our financial privilege.
Yes, there is still a big part of the world’s population out there without access to the banking world or even access to the Internet. We don’t improve their lives by whining online and fighting each other. What we can do is build better products and listen to the people in need.
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