Jack Dorsey’s Thirst For An Africa-Led Bitcoin Revolution Is Not Going Away

By  |  September 6, 2023

In a significant development for the campaign to drive adoption of the flagship cryptocurrency Bitcoin in Africa, ₿trust, a non-profit organisation seeded by X (fka Twitter) and Square co-founder Jack Dorsey and music tycoon Jay-Z (Shawn Carter), committed to decentralising Bitcoin software development, has recently acquired Qala, a fledgling organisation that set out to train African Bitcoin and Lightning engineers.

The deal, finalised this month, will result in Qala undergoing a rebranding as the ₿trust Builders Programme, marking a strategic move to further ₿Trust’s mission of promoting the development and education of Bitcoin open-source engineers from the Global South.

₿trust, established in 2021 with initial funding of 500 Bitcoins from Jay-Z and Dorsey, a notable Bitcoin maximalist known to be keen on the potential for Bitcoin adoption in Africa, primarily focuses on nurturing developer talent and supporting the free and open-source Bitcoin ecosystem.

“[…] Africa will define the future (especially the bitcoin one!) […],” Dorsey wrote in 2019 as he concluded a tour of key African tech hubs, adding that he would be living in Africa for 3-6 months the following year to push the mission, though those plans ultimately never materialised. However, in 2021, Dorsey co-created the Bitcoin endowment ‘₿trust ‘ with an initial focus on funding Bitcoin development in India and Africa, appointing three Nigerians to its board months later.

Africa’s crypto prospects have long been promising, with growing adoption, innovative applications, and increasing interest from both the public and private sectors. Although the downturn currently stifling the crypto market has caused a lull, interest in Bitcoin has soared over the years as the continent embraces digital currencies, blockchain technology, and fintech innovation to address financial access gaps.

Currently overseen by a board of directors including Abubakar Nur Khalil, Carla Kirk-Cohen, Obi Nwosu, and Ojoma Ochai, ₿trust has initiated initiatives such as the Africa Open Source Cohort, supporting Bitcoin Development Kit contributor Vladimir Fomene, and proudly sponsoring the Africa Bitcoin Conference, an annual gathering of Bitcoin stakeholders from across Africa and beyond.

On the other hand, Qala, founded in 2021, specialises in identifying, training, and connecting African software developers with leading Bitcoin companies worldwide, equipping them with highly sought-after skills in the global Bitcoin talent market. With a vast online community spanning over 42 countries, including Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda, Qala boasts an impressive fellowship placement rate, with its alumni securing positions at renowned companies like Galoy, SphinxChat, and Bitnob, along with receiving open-source grants from ₿trust and Superlunar.

Bernard Parah, Co-Founder/Director of Qala, expressed his enthusiasm about the acquisition, emphasising that it will significantly accelerate their mission to cultivate a critical mass of African engineers well-versed in Bitcoin’s capabilities, which can drive transformative change across the continent. Parah sees this transition not just as a boost for the Bitcoin ecosystem but also as a crucial step towards leveraging Bitcoin to achieve financial freedom in Africa and the Global South.

As part of the acquisition, Femi Longe, CEO of Qala, and Stephanie Titcombe, Programmes Manager at Qala, will assume roles as Programme Leads at ₿trust Builders. This move signals a shift in ₿trust Builders’ focus towards open-source training, and they have already launched a call for their next cohort of senior African software developers interested in transitioning into Bitcoin and Lightning development.

Ojoma Ochai, a Board Member at ₿trust, expressed pride in welcoming Femi and his team, highlighting Qala’s remarkable work in driving open-source development in the Global South through education, closely aligning with ₿trust’s core mission. The organisation is now committed to building upon Qala’s achievements and empowering more developers in the Global South to create innovative open-source solutions using Bitcoin.

Looking ahead to September 2023, ₿trust Builders is gearing up for the ‘Build for Africa’ Hackathon, aimed at encouraging makers to develop solutions that address African challenges and boost Bitcoin adoption on the continent. This event will serve as a platform for open innovation and collaborative problem-solving, with a particular focus on tackling Africa-specific issues and accelerating Bitcoin projects through mentorship in design, development, and Lightning integration. The hackathon sets the stage for the Africa Bitcoin Conference in December, an event that ₿trust supports for the second consecutive year, solidifying its commitment to the region’s Bitcoin community.

Featured Image Credits: Coin Culture

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