Sandi Bitenc of 3air talks about blockchain, business in Africa

Temitope Akintade
Sandi Bitenc, CEO of 3air

Sandi Bitenc
is a blockchain entrepreneur, advisor and investor. Having studied microeconomics in school, he was really good with computers but got involved with blockchain quite late.

In a chat with Technext, the founder and CEO of 3air shares with us bits and pieces of his fantastic blockchain journey and his perspective on the blockchain space. 

It was 2018, I was ignoring it for too long just because I was too busy with other stuff and I just didn’t pay attention. There was a project that I was involved in, and I needed to pay for something with bitcoin. After the payment, I started looking into what bitcoin is, read the whitepaper, and educated myself on the blockchain, how it works and what potential it has.

It was just amazing, I was blown away. I said this is gonna be a revolution, this is gonna change the world and that’s when I started doing stuff around it. I started researching different projects and investing a bit. And now I’m actually running my own project called 3air.” – Sandi Bitenc. 

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Sandi Bitenc talks about 3air in Africa

Sandi Bitenc is the CEO of 3air, a mixture of telecom and blockchain. 3air brings high-speed broadband connectivity and blockchain services to users that cannot access the internet in Africa. The telecom part started over ten years ago but the blockchain part began around two years ago. Amongst numerous selling points, Sandi highlights some: 

We put subscriptions in NFTs, that’s one of the major selling points. You own your own subscription when you buy an internet connection for a month or a year and that is minted with the NFT. You can transfer, sell or rent out that NFT because you own it in full.

The other thing that is quite big is the mesh network. With the mesh network, blockchain allows you to set up access points nodes and those nodes can connect to each other and form a mesh network that you can use the internet with on your phone Wi-Fi and you also generate revenue on that. So if somebody is using your access points, you will be earning some revenue from this person that is using it.”

On the telecom side, 3air connects people that don’t have an internet connection because there’s a technology that can bring broadband internet connection over air. 

With quite a few years of doing business in the African region, Sandi Bitenc remarks that his experience in the market has not been easy. 

Our experience in the African market, I can tell you, was not easy. That’s for sure. We were part of some civil unrest and there’s a big cultural gap between how we do business in Europe and Africa. There’s a difference in how we perceive time, it was a challenge.

But I think we’re managing it quite well. I also think our services are well accepted so this is something we are proud of and also very much accepted by the countrymen. If you offer a good internet connection, everyone needs that so I think we’re quite satisfied.” – Sandi Bitenc.

Sandi Bitenc on DeFi, Centralised Finance and the future of blockchain 

Decentralised Finance is touted to be the future of finance and is billed to revolutionise the world. According to Sandi Bitenc, with the recent happenings with FTX and other centralised players, DeFi is no longer here to complement, it’s here to replace. 

We need to be also looking at what happened with Luna because Luna was a DeFi protocol. Of course, not every DeFi protocol will succeed.

We are at the stage where we’re more or less experimenting with things. I think this is how innovation comes about, this is how a space can evolve and when it does that it will replace traditional finance.

Sandi Bitenc

DeFi is far more secure in my opinion, it’s far more transparent and less likely for centralised players to take advantage. Defi will prevail in the end, how long will it take? Probably longer than we might hope for. Hard to say.”

Related post: The aftermath of the FTX: Is blockchain doomed to die

Sandi also thinks that people need to educate themselves a bit more about DeFi. He opines that we need better developers and once the space matures, coding practices will develop and we will see less of hacks and exploits. 

A recent devastating occurrence, the FTX crash has brought debates surrounding the sustainability of centralised exchanges to the fore. According to Sandi Bitenc, CExs do not operate in accordance with the underlying principles of the blockchain.

They’re not playing in a decentralized fashion. you just deposit your funds there. There is no decentralisation, there is no owning your own assets. We are actually transferring this to them in the same manner as you would transfer your money to a bank account. With DeFi, it’s just impossible to do when you’re always in control of your own money and you always can see transparently what is happening with your funds.”

Following unfortunate events in the blockchain space this year – ranging from the Terra debacle, market crashes, hacks and exploits, FTX collapse and so many others – the industry is proclaimed dead by sceptics.

Sandi Bitenc, CEO of 3air
Sandi Bitenc, CEO of 3air

However, Sandi Bitenc says the blockchain industry has been declared dead at least 100 times already so now is just one of those times. 

“I do think we’ll go through this. It is a tough market right now. We are in the middle of a bear market and then we are getting those black spot events. I don’t think we will recover that soon. it looks like the FTX contagion will spread and there’s more pain to come and more collapses of centralised entities to come, but then after that, I think we can start slowly rising up again.

I think that we are probably going to start getting into a nice bull market by the end of next year. There is a halving that’s going to occur probably around March – April 2024 and the markets usually go into a bull rally around six months, four months or something like that before the halving.”

What to expect from Sandi Bitenc in the near future

As we advance, Sandi says 3air is expanding, moving out to new countries, to broader markets. The first one should be DRC Congo and then they’re also looking into going into even bigger markets later on. 

“We’re still looking for some funding for concurrent expansions and there’s probably going to be some really cool stuff going on so we have some amazing partnerships coming up and also there is an idea how to further decentralise the Telecom industry so this is what we are really looking forward to.”

Sandi Bitenc is just going to stay with 3air or maybe also do some advisory on some projects and stay through to the crypto and blockchain sphere. He thinks it’s the future. He thinks it’s revolutionary and it’ll turn the whole world for the better.

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