COVID -19: We will survive this thing

Bitcoins. Much maligned by some on the continent, it seems a record number of Africans have packed their fortunes in crypto currencies during the pandemic. Amidst the gloom of Covid-19, we have been grasping for some reassurance that our will not end before Christmas. We found encouraging signs.

When the new coronavirus made its entrance, one of the first perilous reports spoke of diaspora remittances, that are the leading source of foreign exchange source for many African countries, would dry up. Indeed, from Somalia, reports in May were bleak. Then a few days ago, came news that Kenyans living abroad sent home Sh31.1 billion in June, a 12 per cent rise from Sh27.8 billion in May. The cumulative inflows in the 12 months were higher, at Sh302.4 billion compared to Sh291.6 billion over a similar period last year. Were projections too pessimistic, or they underestimated the pull of the homeland for the diaspora even in crisis?


A development that has been under the radar — crypto currencies — also caught our eye. Much maligned by some on the continent, it seems a record number of Africans have packed their fortunes in crypto currencies during the pandemic. The past three months have seen all-time highs of Bitcoin adoption in Africa, making it the second-strongest peer-to-peer (P2P) market by volume margins. A report tracking the $33 billion (Sh3.3 trillion) worth of Bitcoin sent between exchanges in recent months found that the Seychelles accounts for the vast majority. About 45 per cent per cent of Bitcoin transfer volume originated from the G-20 countries, however tiny Seychelles covered 31 per cent of the global volume in the first half of 2020.

Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, and Ghana are the big kahunas of cryptocurrency in Africa.


According to a report on the state of cryptocurrency in Africa, in the second quarter of the year, Nigeria led with $34.4 million in peer-to-peer transactional trades, followed by South Africa with $15.2 million, Kenya third with $7.8 million, and Ghana fourth with $640,000.

Chris Maurice, CEO of Yellow Card, a crypto exchange based in Lagos, Nigeria, told Cointelegraph, an outlet that does some wonderful reporting on this strange ‘money’:

“The majority of [crypto asset volumes] it is not running through formal exchanges. The actual volume in Africa, I would estimate that it’s at least five to eight times higher than any actual volume number that you can find, just based on the amount of money that moves through these dark pools, essentially, through these Telegram and WhatsApp groups.”

As we were hiding from the virus, this one got away. Where did it go?

An almost obscure recent report said Rwanda was about to become the first country to have a digital-first universal primary care service. If, like us, you are wondering what that is, it is a universal primary health care service in which everyone over the age of 12 will have access to consultations with doctors or nurses through their mobile phones within minutes.


Clearly, the spirits of our people haven’t been broken by the virus. They are exploring new frontiers even further out from the humdrum we were living in when it struck. But other developments were less esoteric, and reminded us that the old familiar world is still very much with us. The chairman of the Nigerian House of Representatives’ Committee on Diaspora last week released some bone-jarring numbers.

He said 80,000 Nigerians are currently trapped and held as sex slaves and are in forced labour across the world especially in countries like Lebanon, Mali and across the Middle East. That 80,000 is a few thousands shy of crypto-loving Seychelles’ population.

The pandemic has also not shortened our thieving fingers. Last week South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, announced he was setting up a special agency bringing together several law enforcement agencies to deal with what he called “COVID corruption”. God knows South Africa is not alone, the virus has spawned a new wave of thieving; relief funds, food for the vulnerable, health contracts, face masks, hospital building funds, have been swindled wherever you look around the continent.

In these last five months of the lockdown, “COVID corruption” in South Africa is estimated to have swallowed nearly a cool US$134 million, with at least 90 businesses suspected of setting up corrupt contracts with the Health ministry. Impressive.

We wanted to talk about the horrific things women have endured at men’s hands during the lockdown, but we shall return to it in future. We shall finish with Nigeria. As it reopens, the authorities have enforced strict Covid-19 in the transport..

You can’t get into the state-controlled train service without a face mask, and all that. So far, so good. Except the story doesn’t end there. With trains taking only half the passengers they used to, the politicians did their thing. They announced a 100 per cent increase in train fare, thank you.


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