How Far You Can Go With Bitcoin in Ghana (and Make Juice Out of Stone)

Ghana is a big time cash society. Cointelegraph decided to find out how far you can go with Bitcoin.

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How Far You Can Go With Bitcoin in Ghana (and Make Juice Out of Stone)

Ghana is a big time cash society. Though before the country's 2007 redenomination, one needed to load sacks full of money before purchasing a house, car or land.

Everything is paid for with money, and in a few cases by cheque. The twenty thousand Cedis note was equivalent to $2.  

Cashless society only a dream

Government attempts towards a cashless society has been a fiasco, just like most government projects are notoriously known here. Case in point is the E-Switch project initiated by the state in 2008.

Through the National Switch, the new Universal Electronic Payments (UEPS) technology was purposely intended for all commercial banks, rural banks, and savings, and loans institutions in Ghana to implement a common payment platform and biometric Smartcard.

It was a total jest of the highest order. The system was down most of the time rendering transactions impossible. Many users had bitter experiences using it. At the time Cointelegraph was filing this report, the website of the government agency responsible for this project was down. It has become a white elephant.

Godwin Bush, Director of Operations, PM Cedis Capital, an Accra-based Bitcoin Exchange echoed:

“If you want to apply for a POS for your office it is like trying to mine gold in the air.”

Borrowing Spree

With a government that has an insatiable appetite for borrowing to satisfy its opulent lifestyle, while children go to school under trees, the IMF estimates indicate Ghana's Debt to GDP ratio will hit 74.1 percent at the end of 2016. Meanwhile, inflation is hovering around 17.2 percent.

Apparently, Ghana is ripe for Bitcoin to take deep roots.

Merchants Accepting Bitcoin

Cointelegraph decided to find out how far you can go with Bitcoin. Even though the West African country is among a few countries in the continent leading in Bitcoin adoption getting a dealer who accepts Bitcoin is just like looking for a needle in a haystack.

There are no landlords, shops, restaurants, theaters, and hotels accepting the pioneer cryptocurrency. However, it is invigorating to mention some handicraft vendors at the Cultural Center in Kumasi and the Art Center in Accra that accepts Bitcoin.

Musa Safianu, a handicraft vendor at the Kumasi Cultural Center disclosed:

“A Swedish tourist introduced me to Bitcoin, and since then whenever tourists are buying from me I ask if they can pay in Bitcoins. This caught up with some vendors who were thrilled with the process and began accepting Bitcoins too.”

Upon further inquiries, it was established that there is a restaurant accepting Bitcoin sixteen Kilometers south of the center of the city of Kumasi. Cointelegraph tracked it down.

Unfortunately, it was not operating anymore, but the owner who is in his late 20s was around. “I couldn't survive the recently ended power crisis even though I invested heavily in a generator set,” Henry Obeng Agyemang, owner of the defunct restaurant related to Cointelegraph. Ghana Just got out of a debilitating electricity outage that saw many businesses closing down. The Libertarian Anarchist and Bitcoin enthusiast who revealed he learned about Bitcoin through an Entrepreneurship Camp believes pitching Bitcoin acceptance by Merchants should be pursued vigorously.  

A Forex Trader, Kwame Boateng, who uses Bitcoin to trade to avoid bank charges agreed with Henry in toto. “It is strange that there are no visible entities pushing Bitcoin in this country especially merchants accepting it. We need a significant commitment towards that end.”

Juice out of stone

On the Contrary, Godwin thinks it will be next to impossible to sell that to Ghanaians. “The average Ghanaian is so used to carrying cash, Convincing him to go cashless is similar to squeezing juice out of stones. We are not there yet,” the digital currency trader firmly asserted.  

There are several Bitcoin Exchanges in Ghana, mostly operating extralegally. It is fascinating to note that you can send Bitcoin to an Exchange and receive fiat on your mobile money wallet in less than five minutes.

The Exchanges are your best bet when you are holding Bitcoin in this West Coast African nation. Disappointingly, for now, you can’t go far with Bitcoin in Ghana, as far as merchants and service companies who accept Bitcoin are concerned.

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