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[0:07] CK: If folks want more detail about Central African Republic updates, we have the best information we could put together yesterday in an article pinned to the top here. Alex has been tweeting about it. There’s also an official document that’s pinned to the top. So, got some decent resources trying to get some folks on the ground to talk about it.
[0:30] Alex Gladstein: Well, yes. So, as we get Clément connected, Fode, why don’t we start with your initial reactions? Do you just want to give the audience a sense of maybe the quick history of this country from your perspective as someone who’s part of the CFA Zone and kind of what this means to you as someone who’s a member of what you would call the French Monetary Union?
[0:55] Fode Diop: Sure. Well, first of all, thank you for having me here. I appreciate it. Always happy to share my thoughts and just insights on stuff that I got to see happening in Africa, in general. Yeah, funny enough, I don’t know much about the Central African Republic as a country as a whole because I’m never personally been there.
But growing up in Senegal, it was always these horror stories coming from there because they had a dictator called Bokassa. And then when you were kids, when your parents want to threaten you, they always talk about like sending you to Bokassa’s house because apparently, he liked to collect children’s heads. I’m not sure if it’s true. I’m not sure if it’s a reality.
But it was like really a nightmare growing up actually in hearing a bunch of stories coming out of there because it was a very brutal dictator, who worshiped France and worshiped French monarchy which is kind of weird. And he was in power for a very, very long time until he finally got pushed out and he ended up dying in this castle in France, I believe, which is ironic.
So, when I first heard about the news, like anybody else, I was kind of skeptical because we didn’t hear anything leading up to it. So, I wasn’t sure if it was just fake news, or if it was just people just trying to push articles out there and trying to stir up some controversies or whatnot.
Because it happened before in Senegal, like 4, 5 years ago, there was an article that said that Senegal was about to release this e-cash and it was widely shared and publicized, but it turned out it was a fabricated story. So, when I saw this one coming from what we call, in a French, [inaudible], I was like, well, maybe it’s the same situation because we have heard nothing about it anywhere in any news. The only publication that show the article was something called Forbes MC. I believe MC means Monaco.
It couldn’t possibly be true because it came from this obscure blog site. But I ended up just talking to a friend of mine who grew up there and who ended up coming to Senegal to do his master’s. And he kind of verified some of the information, but wasn’t quite sure. It took me a couple of days to kind of like get at the bottom of it. And I was like, okay, well than talking to you as well, Gladstein, that this is a reality happening today. And I’m excited about it because I never thought in my lifetime that I would see this happen, honestly.
Because as much as I’m bullish about Bitcoin, as much as I work on Bitcoin, I always treated it like a pyramid in Egypt. This means that we are building something truly revolutionary, that will possibly outlive all of us, we might not get a chance to see the results or the fruits of it. So, same as the people in Egypt who designed those pyramids. It took them about a thousand years to build these things, but I’m sure they knew that they were not going to see the final result, but still dedicated time and effort to design and build these things.
So for me, the same thing I want to see for Africa in general as well because I know that I have a limited time on this planet. And I would like to see one day, the results of the efforts and hard work of the community and individually. All of the work would be put in together, we far as trying to help Africa come out of this rut that it is in right now.
To see this happen though, in this lifetime is very promising and I think it opens up tremendous opportunities for West Africans. It opens up tremendous possibilities for us to finally circumvent this imperial currency they call the franc CFA, ultimately. And I think it is an exciting time ahead and I’m personally trying to get to Saint-Affrique as fast as possible. I’m headed to Oslo in a few weeks here with a glass team. But my goal is to head straight to CAR right after that. So, I’m excited.
[5:01] Alex: Fode, when you, when you read this bill, I mean it says that Le Bitcoin is going to be the currency of the nation. I mean, how does that make you feel?
[5:17] Fode: Well, I’ll be honest. I have mixed feelings about that. Because I just got back from El Salvador, just to kind of see I went right after the conference, because I was there about a year ago or like 7, 8 months ago after the Bitcoin Conference in 2021. And I went there when they passed a law and stayed for a while, and I wanted to go back again and see how things were undergoing or whatnot. I was disappointed because I didn’t see as much adoption on the ground that I was hoping for after a few months. So, I wasn’t sure if it was because of misinformation, miseducation, or the lack of information per se, I should say.
The same thing going to happen in this particular country. I had this kind of worry a bit. But then again, I go back to saying that Bitcoin is still fairly young, still a teenager. It’s about like 12 years old or so, and I think we haven’t figured out somehow the true applications of it. And I think it will take four places I feel for more adoption, more experimentation, and more building, for us to figure out what will stick and how can we best use this technology itself.
[6:36] Alex: Yeah, so we’re going to hopefully get Clément up here to break it down from what he’s seeing. But just to refresh the audience, this bill passed on the 22nd. This is a country that obviously, as Fode is saying has been through a lot. It had a string of historically infamous dictators going up through the early 2000s.
The current leader of the country is not a dictator; is someone who was elected in a process that was praised even by groups like the UN as a kind of bringing order back to the country. But I think it’s important for us to understand that first of all, a small country that’s just been through a lot. Clément, can you hear us?
[7:24] Clément Di Roma: Yeah. Hello, everyone.
[7:26] Alex: Amazing. Okay. Well, let’s just get to it. If you can hear us, give us your background. How did you wind up in Bangui? And what kind of stories have you been covering over the last few years?
[7:37] Clément: So, I’m a journalist that has been in Bangui for about a year and a half right now. And I’ve been covering all kinds of stories, mostly related to the dire humanitarian situation here in the Central African Republic. But also related to the security situation since the country now has been in a civil war for a few decades and a new wave of that civil war started just a year about a year ago.
[8:07] Alex: Can you give us just a quick overview of the humanitarian crisis and who are the actors in The Civil War, and who is the kind of foreign proxies involved?
[8:17] Clément: So, when you’re talking about the Central African Republic, you have about 5 million people as the total population. The humanitarian crisis here represents about half of that population that is in dire need of [inaudible] health, but also in need of food. Some people are lacking food at the moment in the country, including in Bangui, the capital.
And when it comes to who’s taking part in the security crisis, of course, the national troops with Russian allies and random troops as well, but there’s also against them there is armed groups, and rebel groups that are a bit everywhere in the country at the moment, and fighting has been going on for about a year and a few months now, and it’s still going on. So, people are still being displaced, killed, and are still lacking food and basic stuff all over the country.
[9:21] Alex: Bernard, would love to hear your reactions to what’s happening here, from what you’re seeing in Nigeria.
[9:29] Bernard Parah: Hey, everyone. Hi, Alex. For me, I’m still trying to internalize this. It seems surreal, from seeing the first was, I think Corey posted this, and then I went to the website Forbes Monaco and it just doesn’t look legit because I would never have guessed in a million years that it’s the Central African Republic that would make this significant move. We were just discussing the other day if this happened, what it meant for them?
First, looking at the colonization by France, CFA and what it meant for the African countries to say, “Okay, look. Maybe everyone has been looking to see what will happen with El Salvador maybe six months down the line. If we attempted this, can we attempt it?” And if we attempted, I was going to be like right.
For us, it’s just watching and discussing how can we support them. This is the first move, gave me the first move. So, now they’re going to be dependent on the community that will be dependent on Bitcoiners from more African countries and the whole world to get behind them. And just help them do this because what happens in situations like these is, apart from the IMF from France, we also have in just general.
Everyone called me with a crypto project, all of a sudden saying do this, do that, and focusing on how they’re going to liberate these people. Because if we look at the economic indices in that country, it’s really poor. But then, for them, they are one of these countries that going to quickly find utility in this because when you look at the announcements talking about making payments, talking about IMF circumventing all of these capital controls around. It just makes a lot of sense that they’re doing this and honestly, I still haven’t fully internalized this. I want to travel there as soon as I can to just go understand what is happening. But it’s exciting, at the same time.
[11:48] Alex: Just to fill in what I think Clément was telling me earlier. So, hopefully, he’ll hop up in and be able to give more detail. But just as a reminder again, this is a country with a civil war. There’s a proxy war happening between the government which is backed by the Russians, and the Rwandans, and then just a whole bunch of rebel groups. This is a country that’s bordering Darfur. There are millions of people who are displaced as he said, I think 90% of the people don’t have access to electricity. If you just think about that for a second, only 10% or so people have access to the internet or could conceivably use Bitcoin. And it’s interesting to look at the process here.
Again, the leader of the country is not a dictator. And doesn’t have control over the whole country. But there are concerns around the government. There are concerns around low turnout around elections and just hoping Clément could fill us in hopefully a little bit more on the sort of the proceedings. But this bill has been debated, basically for a month there, and it passed unanimously, but I think that’s a little misleading.
Because of some of the opposition, this wasn’t like El Salvador where it was just sort of pushed through in a day or whatever. There was a whole like a month, apparently if back and forth and it did pass “unanimously.” But I think a lot of the opposition politicians who didn’t support it just sort of weren’t there the day when the vote happened.
But in many events, the same criticisms that you see in El Salvador are at play here. Most people won’t be able to use it. It’s going to be an opportunity for scams, which we’ll get into, and people just don’t understand. The average person doesn’t understand why this has been done. I think there are some interesting positives and some interesting things to be concerned about.
We’re trying to have Clément back in, so hopefully, he’ll join. And I want to get his thoughts on the actual bill itself and how it came to be. But just wanted to set the stage for you all in terms of the data of just how kind of underdeveloped his country is, again, the second least developed country in the world and very much a sort of a sad outcome of the Colonial French system. So, we’ll get him in here. But again…
[14:19]: CK: Alex.
[12:19] Alex: Yeah. Hey, what’s up?
[14:21] CK: I guess I’m kind of curious you wrote in for many Bitcoiners. You’re the first person that educated many people about this CFA Franc system and that was less than a year ago. I think it was September 21 when you wrote about it. I guess in…
[14:36] Alex: I guess, I think it was in June, but yeah.
[14:38] CK: Sorry, June. Okay, but I guess, what was it like writing about this thing, and then less than a year after one of the countries within that block is adopting Bitcoin. And you were one of the first people that suggested that Bitcoin could be a good solution.
[14:53] Alex: Yeah, I mean it’s surreal because I just spent a lot of time at the suggestion of Fode and friends looking at the history of the colonial Franc which like, obviously was under-discussed in international politics, but the TLDR is that the French government controls the economic fate of 180 million people through the currency.
So, people in 15 African countries still use the French system, which is ultimately still controlled by Paris and its proxies. It used to be more directly controlled through Paris. Today, it’s controlled kind of a little more indirectly. But the point is that people in these countries want to resist this system. Maybe not the leaders. The leaders tend to be dictators who are supported by the French government.
But people have been starting to push out and trying to create resistance movements to get away from this system. I think that if anything, the fact that this is happening regardless of the intentions and I’ll get to why we think this happened in a second, the impact is going to be pretty huge because all of a sudden people across the whole CFA zone are going to be talking at a higher rate about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency.
And I think that’s going to have some positive effects. I mean people are kind of forced to reckon with it and it’s just astonishing to think about the fact that this currency that was invented by somebody, that we don’t even know who they are, not that long ago, it’s now the currency, if you had another nation, it’s just kind of a surreal thing.
But as far as the bill itself, I would encourage people to look at the bill. I guess we have Olumide up on the stage here who I’ll get to in a second. But in my opinion, the bill is unworkable. So, what’s interesting about the bill is that the bill refers to Bitcoin kind of at the outset. But then, throughout the admittance of the bill, it talks about cryptocurrency or crypto money in French.
But essentially, what’s interesting about the bill is it says that from what I can understand, and again, hoping to get Clément’s thoughts on this, is that it says that debts in the country have to be repaid in cryptocurrency. And that the central bank has to convert cryptocurrency to legal tender.
And the worrying thing here is there’s a guy who helped push this through, a business guy from the region who’s super shady and has had a lot of Ponzi schemes. There are worries that like he pushed this through and that he made it so that even though it’s a Bitcoin kind of law that there’s like crypto, it’s defined as cryptocurrency loosely.
So, what does that mean? That this guy can just create a whole bunch of tokens and then go to the central bank and redeem them for CFA francs. It’s a little strange here. So, I don’t know if Clément is back here. Clément, can you hear us?
[18:00] CK: Seems like he’s having a lot of issues.
[18:02] Alex: Yeah, it’s okay will be patient. Hopefully, he’ll pipe back in later. But Clément just speak up anytime that you can and we’ll come back to you. We have to be patient as his troubles are indicative of it, the country, and the fact that the internet is so bad there. But anyway, I would encourage people to look at the actual bill and start to understand that as is, it’s not workable.
I mean, maybe it ends up being de facto, the law of the land in the coming months, but the bill itself was hit, not well put together, and doesn’t make a lot of sense in as much as it doesn’t define what cryptocurrency is. Like what does that mean? Does that mean Shiba coin? Does that mean, what? It’s really strange. So, Olumide, do you want to weigh in on this at all? I know you’re up. Go ahead, man.
[18:50] Olumide Adesina: Yeah, so I listened to all your analysis, and very interesting. But, as an African and I speak with any crypto space in Africa, I’ll tell you that I performed the fact that, is our CAR adoption of Bitcoin looks to be more symbolic, it has to be systemic.
Now, the narrative is that the Central African Republic is a poor country. I beg to differ because you need to understand that it’s a country that is very rich in mineral resources despite its GDP falling about five billion dollars and it’s wrong to turn around 168 and the world in terms of world standing. It means that there have been conflicts and weak institutions in play to see colonial powers and foreign powers taking trying to sway those resources.
And that is why the country tends to be poor. And if you look at internet penetration also because of weak institutions and the lack of stability, we can’t see the things we see in North African countries. But I will say that I think it’s not just symbolic, they’ve seen the importance, because you take the case of Nigeria, for example. Nigeria happens to be Africa’s biggest economy home to 200 million people.
And if you look at statistics, although Niger has political instability growing challenges, you [inaudible], and some form of overpopulation that just seems to be topping the crypto market in terms of YouTube users around the world. And that’s because Remington’s use of Bitcoin has attracted so many Nigerians, apart from Salvador, that’s because they have a poor President that is supposed to improve Bitcoin President. Despite Nigeria’s institutions don’t support the crypto Market, that hasn’t deterred Nigeria.
So, that has true for African countries. A lot of people forget that. Another thing you need to also understand is that one in every three Africans is Nigerian. So that has also pushed Bitcoin adoption across Africa in a very aggressive way because trust me a lot of Africans used the crypto market. So, that’s why you see big labels that FDX, Binance, and crypto.com setting business here. They understand the systemic adoption that is coming into the market.
Now, if you look at Paxos for example, Paxos which came in 5, 6 years ago in Nigeria, is the biggest market in the world. So, what I’m just trying to tell you is that while we are focusing on the property or focusing on the French and Greek on CAR, I think we’re losing the context of what Bitcoin is gripping the African continent.
And it’s just the start because if you look at the technology if you look at the number of developers coming from that continent alone and statistics suggest the last a loan the amount of money that came from crypto-sponsored projects in Africa was in billions of dollars.
And that just tells you that the attraction is building up, and the momentum despite the fact the market looks like is moderating, the attention is getting a lot of bubble from young people because on the average and crypto developers and more than many professionals in the African continent.
I think we should look at the dynamics Bitcoin has done in CAR and like I said, to be pretty much all fair to look at the fact that the nation is really poor based on their output, I look inward, not forgetting inward that this country has so many resources and that’s why you could see the French trying to make a grip on the country.
I think if there’s stability if we Africans can start to get their actions together [inaudible] or certainty reduces and because we have a pretty much young population. I think the dynamics we have to the crypto market and that’s why Bitcoin is having that grip in Africa, so I felt like highlighting those points.
[24:36] CK: Thank you. Okay, so I’m working on getting Clément just…
[24:37] Alex: I got my phone and I’ll put him on speaker, but I got to look to go back to you…
[24:41] CK: I got him, Alex.
[24:42] Alex: Oh, you got him? Okay, great. Go ahead.
[24:44] Clément: Yeah, I think I can speak now and it should work fine.
[24:28] Alex: Okay, perfect. That’s amazing. Thank you so much, CK. So, Clément, just going back to the background of the bill. We kind of covered the humanitarian situation, the lack of internet penetration. When did you first start hearing about the bill and can you talk to us about what’s been happening the last few weeks?
[25:07] Clément: So, we first heard about the bill a few months ago. When you look at a specific businessman that lives in Cameroon, the country next started to talk about crypto [unintelligible] it’s doping that was never on the table with politicians even less than the population. You’ve talked about the lack of internet. Electricity, smartphone, and the internet are way too expensive here. And you’ve been trying to get me this evening and the internet is super bad.
The development of this bill quite seems quite shady because it’s linked to a specific businessman that lives in Cameroon and made some shady investments, made some weird contacts with the President as well. And has been already accused of trying to scam people on the continent in the region of Sierra and Cameroon as well by international authorities, individuals, by companies also. So it’s a shady case on how this deal came to be.
[26:20] Alex: And can you talk about the back and forth between the opposition, the civil society, and the government? And how did it come to pass sort of unanimously?
[26:30] Clément: So it didn’t quite pass unanimously because there were three deputies from the opposition that was part of the commission to defrock this bill. There was a special commission that was put in place to try and develop a bill that would try and be passed next at the National Assembly. But the opposition seems like they realized during the process that maybe it wasn’t transparent, and it wasn’t what they expected.
So they elect the commission before the final report of that commission developed this bill. It was on the table for the National Assembly to vote and now they’ve communicated, they’re protesting, because this bill isn’t what they wanted, and they’re saying that it could lead to money laundering and tax evasion. This sort of stuff.
[27:26] Alex: What about civil society? When you say civil society, what do you mean? Do you mean like independent media? I mean, what do you mean by that?
[27:34] Clément: Yeah, so civil society is association organizations of people in the Central African Republic that I think sometimes published opinions, and some opinions are very well defined because the freedom of speech here is very relative. Some of those organizations that are politically motivated are also protesting against this bill saying it won’t do anything for the regular send traffic and because people here don’t have smartphones, and don’t have internet or electricity.
And that is mostly just for the 1% in the government and that they probably won’t be used anytime soon for proper use by the people and that it would only be used for purposes that are quite illegal on the international scale.
[28:30] Alex: Yes. So, when you’re looking at the bill itself and the different articles like do any of them seem particularly surprising to you? I mean, I know that you and I were talking about 22 and 23, which makes it seem like debts could be repaid with “cryptocurrency,” that the central bank would have to redeem cryptocurrency for Francs, like what?
I guess in your mind this bill is not workable. What do you think is going to happen in the next few months? I mean, do you think this will fizzle out or do you think that it’ll get modified and kind of tightened up?
[29:08] Clément: So, my opinion is that the bill will probably stay the same even though the opposition has pressed forward to the constitutional consul that should say if it’s a constitutional bill or not and maybe make some changes. But I think most articles don’t see how they don’t have the infrastructure, they don’t have the network to put in place those specific types of transactions, insurance, and even that depending on creating an agency that regulates the exchange.
But I don’t think that will happen anytime soon because it’s a complex thing to do, maybe in a few years. But at the moment, the country isn’t very much dire state. And it’s not the financial priority to put this system in place. So for me, it won’t be in place for years.
[30:04] Alex: Now, I guess the question is if you have a business and you’re doing something like remittance or commerce within the neighboring state that this bill would make it like may be easier for you or let’s say less unclear if you’re trying to do business and you don’t want to deal with the exchange with the CFA Franc. Maybe you just want to use Bitcoin or stable coins or something. I guess that’s the optimistic view.
The negative view would be that this was rigged up by this guy that you mentioned, this kind of Ponzi scheme architect. And that maybe he just did this so that he and the government can kind of launch a bunch of corrupt schemes and then get paid out at the expense of the citizenry. I mean, what are your thoughts on these two opinions?
[31:00] Clément: That’s opinion is very valid. It could be really good for the country and future investments and business people that want to invest in the CAR and for everyone really that has CFA Franc, it’s much better to trade in crypto this year because it’s hard to get money in out and to do an exchange with the CAR and outside of this year.
But for sure, this bill was developed in very weird condition. I think there’s probably a shady part to it, but it could translate to real improvements on the drug transaction side. But at the moment the country is very much lacking the infrastructure to do this.
And most people here, I would say even people that have a stable job that that have like medium revenues don’t know about crypto. They don’t know what it is. Most people here, don’t use the internet at all. So, it would take a few years. I think it’s good to have legal grounds to organize all of this. But we would have to see if there’s a political will to put in place all of those things or if it’s just a big scam and if it was pushed by the government with a specific purpose.
[32:21] Alex: So, there’s been a lot of speculation about this Twitter account that’s popped up of the President. You were telling me that the President told you it’s real and that you’ve been getting information from them. Can you just talk about that? Like that you were telling me you think that the Twitter account is real, but it’s just kind of maybe like mismanaged or something.
[32:45] Clément: Yes. So, we have confirmation that the Twitter account was real. It was created I think just a few weeks ago and a week ago. But so far, there’s been a lot of tweets that are just about cryptocurrency. So, that seems super weird to us because there are a lot of other issues like diplomatic issues as a lot of news in the CAR, lot of reactions that I expected from the present the other than just talking about cryptocurrency.
Also, when I was talking about mismanagement, it’s mostly that people have mocked online this Twitter account because there’s so much bad spelling. Some sentences don’t even make much sense. And unfortunately, it’s the President ’s account, it should be really clean and use some complex sentences…
[33:45] Alex: Yeah, so, the…
[33:46] Clément: …[unintelligible] of the case.
[33:48] Alex: So, the truth is stranger than fiction here. So, you think there’s a small group of people basically who are using this account on behalf of the President, or like, how knowledgeable do you think he is about this bill and the statements? Do you feel like from what you’ve seen, his office is supporting this? Or is this something that’s being kind of like done without their knowledge?
[34:13] Clément: I think his office and himself are supporting the bill. I think it’s done with his knowledge because it’s done. I think it is with his signature, the bill was signed by him, and is it shows to communicate about it in a very strong manner, on an international scale as well as the story once was blown up and it seems to tweet about this because it’s getting a lot of attention, as well, or at least you seem.
Yeah. At the moment, I think it’s just bad sentences, bad formulation, and maybe they are putting forward the story and narrative of this specific communication team that couldn’t be put forward because that’s not what the people here in CAR already expect from the President, expect of much better communication. And communication about just other topics and then this one.
[35:09] Alex: Yeah. I mean, look. You’re going to get a ton of interest and engagement from the world in the coming months that just didn’t exist before. So, again, maybe some good can come of it. In the West African countries that are under the CFA Franc, there’s like resistance movements against it. Is there any resistance against the Franc in and the sort of the colonial franc in the CAR? Or is it not something that’s a political movement there?
[35:37] Clément: So, political movement is about this are very small in the CAR at the moment. I think that some people aren’t happy with the CFA Franc, of course. It’s been a long project to create a unified currency. And I think, it’s just really good projects they should put in place, but there are no real political movements at the moment to end the CFA Franc in the Central African Republic.
And there are certainly no movements. I don’t know, political movements at all, and in the population, in general, to replace the CFA Franc with the cryptocurrency just because people won’t be able to use it for decades, I would say in the CAR, because the infrastructures are just not here to even be able to connect people.
[36:27] Alex: Can you give us some details about Russia’s involvement? We know that France withdrew troops recently. I mean, would it be fair to say that France is kind of withdrawing its influence in a way, whereas Russia’s moving in? Can you talk about the Wagner Group and how it works with the President?
[36:44] Clément: So, there are some issues that I won’t talk about and I can talk about France withdrawing from the country. For sure they had a military operation there until 2016. And when they have withdrawn, Russia took their place with military support, paramilitary support, and the support of Great Britain has been much bigger recently because there was a new wave of violence and Russia held this year to get out of this specific year a wave of violence at the bottom.
So, all I can say, France, it’s losing ground. There wasn’t a recent withdrawal of troops because there were no troops. There was recent funding from France, following accusations by the UN, and other NGOs, violations of human rights by the national army, and bombing terrorists, but it wasn’t French troops withdrawing. It was just some militaries about to withdraw and major information will bring [inaudible]…
[38:02] Alex: Now, with first Russia’s involvement, why would they be there? I mean, can you talk about some of the natural resources that are in this small country? Like why is it a strategic interest to foreign powers?
[38:13] Clément: So, in the CAR this has always been their strategic country, for a lot of foreign policy has been for France for decades and decades, and even centuries at that point. But yes, a lot of countries are involved here and I was thinking about Russia, specifically, but they’re involved here to access some natural resources, including mines that are hard to access.
It has been of interest for a lot of countries but is known as being able to make a profit out of its or do build a stable mining exchange system or industry here because it’s hard with armed groups. So, it’s still really stable at the moment. But yes, foreign powers, Russians are interested and attracted to the Central African Republic at the moment.
[39:04] Alex: You were saying that half the country is in a humanitarian crisis. From what we understand, only about again, 10% have access to the internet, and only about 10 to 15 percent of access to the grid electricity. I assume you’ve tracked around a little bit. I mean, can you talk to us about what life is like outside of the capitals and what people are dealing with?
[39:28] Clément: Yes, the humanitarian situation here is dire at the moment. So, you can imagine 2.5 million people. Half the population is in lacks food, humanitarian agencies are not enough to save everyone. People don’t have access to food or clean water. They don’t have access to health centers. They don’t have access to healthcare and people live with very little money every day, even here in the capital, Bangui has slightly 1% or even less of people that can afford a smartphone, for example.
So, life is really tough in the CAR for everyone. And when you go out of the capital, that’s nothing. There’s no infrastructure. There’s no internet. In most places, if there’s no antenna doesn’t you’re lucky to get a signal in the cities outside of the capital. Very little infrastructure and no roads. There are just a few paved roads here in Bangui, but the most cases, no roads are all over. So, yeah. At the moment, at least in the country, we’re talking about crypto.
[41:37] Alex: One more question and then I want to turn it over to Fode, to allow him to ask some questions of you, as someone who is born into the CFA Zone. But can you talk about the money piece like currently, you were saying, maybe this law could be the beginning of something that eventually may impact people positively because of, I guess how broken it is? But if you need to send a payment to France or the United States, I assume this isn’t so easy. Can you talk a little bit about kind of how problematic I guess the money system is today?
[42:11] Clément: It seems super problematic for everyone in the Central African Republic, especially because people at least here in the capital can often live off the money that is sent by the people living outside of the country. [inaudible] here maybe you say it in English better. So, they have a member of the family that’s in Europe and they want to send money but it’s tough. You have to use sometimes Western Union, Express Union, and other services, but it’s really expensive.
People lose a lot of money doing that. It takes a long time as well. You need paper. Sometimes just mistakes. Sometimes there’s a thief and the banks here are very isolated. The CAR is a very isolated country because of all the crises. Even for people here is tough to get and send money. And also just to do business, we go a bit outside and everywhere.
Like you want to invest here, bring money, or I know to live with money, it’s super hard. Very, very complicated. And the crypto could try to make that part of the Central African life a bit better if people had access to infrastructure, [inaudible], and the internet.
[43:42] Alex: Roughly speaking, how much would like it to cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Bangui? Or you know, what is the daily wage in Sifa. Do you have any rough ideas? Rough numbers for us?
[43:51] Clément: So, I have to convert in my head quickly but per month, some people would get between fifty and a hundred dollars. That would be the regular wage for people that are maybe functionaries that are working at administrations and stuff and get $100 a month if they’re lucky.
And it’s a complex question because the UN Mission is here as well. There are a lot of NGOs. So, for experts here, for international people, the rents are too expensive because it’s really hard to get this… [icrosstalk]
[44:29] Alex: So, $100 a month… [crosstalk]
[44:36] Clément: It’s very expensive to get a house, but it’s still a big part of the salary. I would say you can get a month in most neighborhoods for about $30.
[44:44] Alex: Last thing. The IMF has recently spoken out, Clément, about this and sort of said, they’re not so sure about this. You were saying that that’s going to be a serious topic at the government level and that maybe the opposition is worried that some of the aid that is necessary to feed people will be cut off. Do you want to talk about that at all?
[45:05] Clément: It might be a huge problem indeed because the IMF and most International donors to the CAR, which is half of the national budget here, they’re very suspicious of this law, they think they get money laundering scams and all of this. So, they don’t want to put money in to send a lot of money to a country where it can easily get out.
Easily be lost, and easily transferred with very little control and is already very limited. They already have very limited control over that money. I don’t think they see this law as something that makes the situation better at all in the Central African Republic, at least, as international donors.
[45:50] Alex: Fode, do you have any questions for Clément?
[45:53] Fode: Oh, sure. Clément merci beaucoup pour tout, I hope to see you out there soon. Well, my only question is that what do you think has been the reception from financial institutions like banks and such? Has it been positive or have they been quiet? Because I’ve been looking online and I couldn’t quite see how they received that, the news, basically about the Bitcoin legal tender. What do you think like overall feeling is?
[46:22] Clément: I don’t think there’s not a lot of French-based banks in the country at the moment, mostly regional banks. And I mean, they didn’t react so far because it’s so new and a lot of people have heard about this bill being passed, but not a lot of people thought that this bill would pass so quickly and that we would talk about it so quickly.
So far, no reactions. I don’t think it will change much for them at the moment. But if the government has to implement new protocols and stuff they probably won’t be happy because it’s already very complex for them to operate in Central Africa and the Central African Republic. So, I’ll have to check their reactions later.
[47:10] Fode: Awesome, thank you.
[47:11] Alex: Okay. Thank you. Bernard, do you have any questions about Clément while we have them?
[47:16] Bernard: No, I don’t. I think you’ve asked the question is all about to ask. Thank you, Clément.
[47:22] Alex: Awesome. Well, look. Thank you, Clément, so much for your time. This has been great. It’s nice for us to hear from someone there. Just to repeat to conclude for the audience, this is real. The bill is real. The Twitter account is real. This is happening, but we’re just not sure about the impact because so few people have access to the internet.
I guess the charitable perspective would be that it could be the start of something that could be helpful for many people because this financial system is so broken. And so kind of corrupted by middlemen, by fees, and by unworkable different currencies that, yeah, maybe an open-source permissionless currency, that would be equal for everybody would over time, make a difference. And I think that’s why most of us are here.
But I think we need to be clear that the person who pushed this law, most likely, was someone with like like shady business interests, and Clément what happens is, maybe that maybe the bill gets clarified to Bitcoin and virtual dollars or something a little more kind of clear. Because right now, the bill is just like so wide open that it does leave room for scams.
Because if crypto money or whatever is going to be something that needs to be dealt with at the national level. For someone like me, I just feel like that’s going to be a problem. So, I don’t know. Do you have any closing thoughts for us? Again, very grateful for your time.
[49:02] Clément: Thanks for so summing that up. I think it’s been good. So yeah, this bill could make the situation better here, but no one in the International Community and no other countries of individuals or businessmen should expect this bill to be implemented any time soon. This could say the business going on because it’s so wide open.
We’ve seen that it’s open. I don’t think it will get modified. It will probably stay as it is. And we’ll see in the month in the years to come what comes out of this bill. I mean, so far, it’s really hard to say. And it’s hard to imagine people here in the Central African Republic, actually using crypto anytime soon.
[49:46] Alex: Well, again, thank you will be following you for updates. One last thing I thought I’d throw out there was that the country I think is half powered by Hydro resources for whatever electricity they do have. The rest, I believe is diesel essentially, but something to keep an eye on certainly, if people are listening who want to find a way to help. I think the interesting thing, Clément, is like, what this bill does offer is ways for people to help.
I mean before this bill, let’s put it this way. Most people have never heard of this country and probably would live the rest of their lives without ever hearing it. But now you’re going to have a lot of people worldwide who have heard about it and who are interested. And look some of those people are going to carry through with actual good intentions and are going to bring commerce and they are going to bring capital and it’s going to be interesting.
So, we look forward to hearing from you about what’s going on on the ground. And yeah, again, thank you so much for your time, and I appreciate the audience here for battling with us through these internet issues. Thank you, CK, you’re a champ for getting Clément on your phone. Again, we’ll be following you. Thank you all so much for coming. And CK, I don’t know if you want to pitch anything here at the end. But yeah, thank you.
[51:00] CK: Thanks, everyone. Appreciate Alex for organizing this. It’s very, very informative. You got people on the ground and I can tell that a lot of Bitcoiners were eager to learn firsthand to get information. So, I appreciate you in the community.
[51:15] Alex: Thank you, everybody. Thank you, Clément. We’ll see you guys later. Take care. Thank you, Fode. Thank you, Bernard.