In 2009, Satoshi Nakamoto launched Bitcoin, and few people embraced the revolutionary financial technology. Unsurprisingly, many sceptics questioned the credibility of the ‘strange’ concept. Gaius Chibueze, popularly known as Bitcoin Chief, did not act on the reviews.
According to Gaius, he invested in Bitcoin as far back as 2011, making him “the first Nigerian bitcoin investor and one of Africa’s pioneers in the cryptocurrency space.” In an exclusive interview with Technext, he narrates his journey.
He says he bought around 100,000 naira worth of bitcoin when a unit was $35 in 2011. Before then, he used to be part of a Network Marketing firm called Organo Gold, with an American as the leader, who Gaius looked up to. According to Gaius, the American suddenly stopped posting about Organo Gold and switched to Bitcoin.
“I asked him to help me understand this. He said he found something better and sent me a video, where they said a whole lot about bitcoin. But, what caught my interest was when it was mentioned in the video that there will forever be just 21 million bitcoins. I’ve always had this love for exclusivity, so I bought my first bitcoin the day after watching the video. That was how the whole journey started for me.”
Bitcoin Chief sounds like a big title, and while it is, he says he started with the name Bitcoin for Africa, then Bitcoin King.
“I had posted a picture in an Igbo attire, and a guy came under the post and commented ‘Bitcoin Chief’. I saw the comment and preferred it to Bitcoin King because it sounded better. That was how I adapted and immediately changed my name to Bitcoin Chief on Instagram and my brand identity came along.”
Bitcoin Chief loved the idea of making borderless payments but what caught his interest in the early days was the scarcity attached to Bitcoin.
I became interested in it (bitcoin) because not everybody is going to be able to share 21 million bitcoins.Bitcoin Chief
He describes his crypto journey as an amazing one, having travelled to 26 countries and made an impact in the top cities of the world.
“Looking at where I’m coming from and looking at where I was ten years ago, I would say only crypto would have done this. No other skill or investment could have turned my life around. I’ve been fortunate and I would describe my journey as one that has come with grace and awesomeness.”
In 2019, Bitcoin Chief was ranked by Binance as one of the biggest crypto traders in the world. A phenomenal feat by any measure and a reflection of the work he has put in.
According to Binance, I was among the top three present traders by volume. I think that year I traded about over 300 million dollars worth of crypto in 12 months on Binance. That was a big one for me that year.
Crypto in Nigeria and challenges
Gaius Chibueze’s giant strides have not come without challenges, especially in the early days when bitcoin platforms were not as popular. He mentions trying to propagate the crypto gospel but Nigerians were sceptical. Many Nigerians were scared of putting their details online due to the fear of scams.
They were not ready to risk it. People would understand it, but when it comes to the point when they are to buy it, they shy away.
Fast forward to 2022, he believes crypto has fared well in Nigeria, as it has helped Nigerian youths especially. He believes he would have been a job seeker if not for the advent of blockchain technology.
“So because the government doesn’t understand it, they fight it. But, in the real sense, crypto has really changed so much for Nigeria. Many young Nigerians today, like myself, could have probably taken to social vices if not for crypto, and crypto has decongested many cities of the world because people spend much time on their phones working instead of going around to looking for jobs.”
In February last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) imposed a ban on individual and business users of cryptocurrencies from accessing the formal banking system. That ban saw commercial banks close down the accounts of cryptocurrency exchange businesses and private users.
At the end of 2021, a total of 23 African countries had already placed a ban on the use and trade of Cryptocurrencies within their economies.
In the list published by Report by Library for congress (LoC) in November 2021, 51 countries have implemented a ban on cryptocurrencies within their jurisdictions, out of which 23 countries are African. The LoC report also revealed that four African countries placed an absolute ban on cryptocurrency while 19 countries placed implicit restrictions on digital assets. Bitcoin Chief is of the opinion that the governments are at the losing end:
“The government are leaving so much money on the table as a result of this crypto-naira ban. If they were smart they would have regulated the industry and made money off it. I transact over 3 billion naira in some months but I don’t pay any tax in Nigeria because the government doesn’t recognise it and I find a way to boycott them. They are the ones actually losing, people lose nothing because there is always a way to boycott the government because it’s decentralised. Do you know everybody that trades crypto on coinbase pays tax to the government?”
On Building Tatcoin
Apart from being a crypto trader and investor, Bitcoin Chief has always been at the forefront of expanding the frontiers of crypto adoption in Africa. This desire spurred him to launch the first cryptocurrency out of Africa – Tatcoin in 2020.
Tatcoin is a utility token designed to create value across various sectors like Crypto trading, Agriculture, Real Estate, etc. The team’s goal is to build a token ecosystem that would go a long way in alleviating most of the financial problems faced by Africans.
According to Bitcoin Chief, launching Africa’s premiere cryptocurrency was a learning ground for him and his team.
“It was a success. Tatcoin was a success, we raised over 2 million dollars in our seed and presale round all just on Instagram and social media platforms.”
Working on Tatcoin also made him realise most crypto exchanges and platforms only want to sell to Africa, but do not want to promote African projects.
“…All they just want to do is, how can they sell to Africans. It comes with its own challenges but we changed the narrative. I have been able to prove that Africans can do it. Since the launch of Tatcoin, we have seen more than 50 projects that have come out of Africa.”
Gaius Chibueze lamented the lack of cooperation among top crypto leaders in Africa. And, he attributed the slow-paced development of the crypto sector to that defect.
“So, that lack of cooperation is what has always made us fight ourselves, go for the crumbs instead of going for the whole thing. They say when the house is disunited, strangers rule the house. This has been the challenge, but we have paved the way. We have made it known that Africans can do it and Tatcoin has been a success because Tatcoin is one of the cryptos in the world that has real-life utility. Today, even if the price of Tatcoin is down, people can still use Tatcoin to pay their bills. That was what I’ve ever wanted, where we build a real-life utility for crypto even if there’s nowhere to sell it. People can still spend it and I’ve achieved that, so I would say it’s a success.”
His company changed its brand identity from Abitnetwork to Tatspace recently and they have a lot in store for users and investors in 2022.
“We are working on launching the first of its kind – learn to earn platform called Tatearn, a platform where people could earn crypto for free while learning about it. We are also working on the first indigenous crypto trading bot that can take trades for people. We even have a partnership API deal now with Binance where people could buy any crypto on Binance on our platform. I recently moved from Dubai to Miami and I’m here now to tap into the American market which is one of the largest crypto markets in the world. I believe we’re on the right lane so everything is going to work out.”
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