Proof Of Resilience: Financial Freedom – Bitcoin Magazine
This is an opinion editorial by Alexandria, a citizen of Zimbabwe and a second-year business administration student at Liaoning Shuhua University in China.
Have the majority of Africans ever had access to wealth like Bitcoin?
If the question were to be asked: “Do many people in Africa own shares in Google, Amazon or Microsoft?” or “Have many people from Africa built wealth from any of the listed public companies above?” The answer, for the majority of individuals in Africa, would be a resounding “no”.
The main reason why many Africans are unable to participate in the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is that you have to have banking services interoperable with American systems. Within this American system, individuals operate and trade with either American brokers or American banks that are all part of an exclusive and impenetrable closed monetary network. These financial institutions and bodies almost always require significant amounts of money from foreigners for minimum account opening deposits or balances.
In recent years, another crippling stipulation imposed on non-US applicants is that their country of citizenship must currently have good bilateral relations with the US. If, like me, you were born in a sanctioned country, you will suffer unilateral illegal sanctions imposed by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) that will block all access to the NYSE and many other financial markets and services.
“I was born in 1930, the odds were probably 40/1 against me being born in the US. I won the ovary lottery on the first day and on top of that I was a man and if I had been a woman my life would have been completely different. So put it down as a 50/50 shot, and the odds are 80/1 against being born male in the United States, and that was hugely important throughout my life.” – Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett states that it was enormously important that he was born in the United States. This is true because if you were to Google Warren Buffett’s annual report, you would see that his returns over the past 57 years averaged a 20% return on compound interest alone. This resulted in Warren Buffett achieving a compounded return of 3,641,613% on his investments.
Warren Buffet demonstrates the numerical importance of accessibility and the importance of participation in the financial markets, especially markets as liquid as the NYSE. This mostly excludes Africans.
Access to wealth through credit for Africans and African Americans
The Great Depression may have started because of a stock market crash, but what hit the general economy was a disruption of credit – every citizen was unable to borrow money, making them unable to do anything. Credit has the ability to build a modern economy, but lack of credit has the ability to destroy them, quickly and absolutely.
Let’s start with the subject of discrimination which has led to part of the impoverishment of my people.
African American access to credit:
Redlining: The term came about when the government created color-coded maps that told banks where they could issue mortgages. Green sections were an advance and red sections populated by black people were considered too risky. Redlining blocked entire black neighborhoods from accessing public and private investment. Banks and insurance companies used these cards for decades to deny black people access to loans and other services based solely on race. Home ownership is the primary driver of wealth, but African Americans in their neighborhoods paid higher insurance premiums, higher interest rates and were more often denied mortgages.
“You can’t get a loan, you can’t own a home, you can’t start a business. Which means you can’t build wealth. You are excluded from the American dream. Why is it so important to you to exclude an entire race of people from the American Dream?” – Anthony Mackie in “The Banker”
African access to credit:
In 1930, the land distribution in Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) made it illegal for native Africans to buy land outside the established native lands. The native African population was over 1 million, while that of the Europeans was less than 50,000. That put the European population at only 5% of the population, but they had more than 51% of the land while 95% of the population only got 28% of the dry rocky lands which were called “reserves.”
In 1980, Zimbabwe became independent, after a long war. They then began negotiations for a settlement at the end of the war which led to an agreement called The Lancaster House Agreement. The Lancaster House Agreement stated that the new government could not draft legislation to forcibly take land for the next 10 years. The only way landless black people can be resettled is if they buy from whites who wanted to sell. Only a few white farmers sold. Until the 1990s, less than one million hectares of land was given up only for resettlement.
“Only 19% of the nearly 3.5 million hectares of resettled land was considered prime or usable. 75% of the best land was still about 4,500 white farmers.” —Human Rights Watch
In 2000, land reform programs began, white farmers were forcibly removed from farms and were replaced by new black farmers. This was a massive agreement internationally and historically. It had never been attempted before. Zimbabwe also challenged imperialist powers by joining the struggle for an apartheid-free South Africa. Zimbabwe also joined the struggle against imperialism in the Congo. So in 2001, the United States responded by adopting two types of sanctions.
The first were congestion sanctions: ZIDERA, Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act Stops Zimbabweans from getting loans from multilateral lending institutions. Especially restructuring and development loans.
The second is imposition of sanctions. America has tried to call it targeted sanctions, but when you look at the list of targeted sanctions, you see a ban on any company in the world doing business with Zimbabwe. Otherwise, these companies will be fined or face prison terms under the International Economic Emergency Powers Act.
These were unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States. These unilateral sanctions were only possible because the US currency dominates the world’s payment systems and a large part of the world’s global business is done in America. So anyone who wants to do business often has to do it with America and has to cooperate with America. They must have a bilateral agreement and relationship with America. Yet these bilateral relations are the ones that America uses to enforce its sanctions or what we call the Executive Order Sanctions, and these ensure that other countries around the world implement those sanctions or suffer secondary sanctions.
Sanctions in the executive order actually says that if a country or company assists the government of Zimbabwe with software, finance, logistics, machinery, equipment in trade, that company can also face sanctions because America is trying to make the sanctions effective. However, those who impose international sanctions claim that our sanctions are actually self-imposed sanctions due to the fact that even before the 2001 ZIDERA sanctions – in 1999 Zimbabwe defaulted on its debt to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which meant that Zimbabwe was banned from access to credit from these two multilateral institutions. Then again it is a misunderstanding that the sanctions in Zimbabwe did not start in 2001 but actually started in 1980 when we got independence. At independence, Zimbabwe was left with Rhodesia’s debt. In addition, Zimbabweans were not compensated for the destruction wrought by the Rhodesians which cost the nation over a trillion dollars.
Another case of self-imposed sanctions
In Zimbabwe the interest rate is 30% per month. In just four months, the interest on the loan would be more than the principal. This is because Zimbabwe’s interest rates have to be continuously readjusted to compensate for the hyperinflation which peaked at a whopping 600%. In addition – Zimbabwe does not have a sovereign credit rating from the three international credit rating agencies. The government has not yet requested a rating from the three major rating agencies. It is among the African countries that have not yet requested an international sovereign review. A favorable rating makes it possible for authorities and companies to raise capital in the international financial market. Institutional investors in both developed and developing countries rely heavily on rating agencies when making investment decisions.
Being unrated makes it more difficult for the state to get funds for large debt projects or to get debt relief. This makes it more difficult for entrepreneurs who are struggling to grow their business due to a lack of funding. People who lack financing cannot get a mortgage and therefore cannot own their own home. The end result is that under these circumstances one cannot build wealth.
Can Bitcoin finally give Africans fair and free access to wealth?
For centuries, Africans and African-Americans have suffered from severe discriminatory policies regarding access to credit through redlining and sanctions that either prohibited credit or increased the cost of credit. The innovation of Bitcoin was crucial for Africa and African Americans as it gave everyone on earth access to it, and this time it includes Africans. It is not a surprise at all that sub-Saharan Africa is leading the way in Bitcoin adoption.
This time, Africans and African Americans do not have to worry about discrimination. Largely thanks to the innovation of DeFi on bitcoin, this is the long-awaited innovation and the decisive step in Bitcoin scalability and utility in Africa.