Fishing for female empowerment with crypto in West Africa

Mama Bitcoin is the pseudonym of a young Senegalese Bitcoiner named Bineta. Her business, Bleu comme la mer, was the first retailer in Senegal (and possibly West Africa) to accept cryptocurrency as payment. She is also the first generation in her family to read and write fluently.

The name Mama Bitcoin is inspired by the initials of her name, while “mama” not only reflects her maternal instincts but serves to inspire other women in West Africa to enter blockchain technology and bitcoin (BTC). She told Cointelegraph:

“There are very few women active in the blockchain space worldwide and the situation is no different in Senegal. I wanted to highlight being a woman in the cryptocurrency industry.”

Bineta first stumbled upon Bitcoin in early 2017 thanks to a curious mix of good intentions and incongruous circumstances. Bineta dreamed of opening the first bakery in his town, a small fishing village called Mbour 90 minutes south of Senegal’s capital, Dakar. But in order to deliver hot chocolate buns to the community every morning, Bineta needed money.

Beach of the town of Mbour, Senegal

It is incredibly difficult to get a bank loan for a business idea in West Africa, and it is even more difficult for women. Bineta had to look for alternative means. She tried out a multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme before hearing from a friend in Cameroon that Bitcoin might fit the bill.

After extensive research, Bineta’s curiosity was piqued. He quickly realized that Bitcoin was far more important to his vision than a potentially risky MLM scheme. Fast-forward to mid-2017 and Mama Bitcoin had spent hours upon hours devouring Bitcoin-related content in French and English, translating it wherever possible.

He concluded that Bitcoin is more than just a “number-increasing” technology: it could build much more than a new village bakery:

“The more I learned, the more I realized that we need this. This kind of money will help to overcome so many problems. Bitcoin is not only a tool for freedom, but the technology that underpins Bitcoin, such as blockchain and decentralization, will change the development of Africa.”

The trip down the Bitcoin rabbit hole changed Bineta’s plans. The bakery (Bineta jokes that it would have been called the Bitcoin Boulangerie) was abandoned and a vision of Bitcoin in West Africa took its place.

As the progress and price of Bitcoin increased during the 2017 bull run, his understanding of the protocol evolved.

“Bitcoin is not just a means of self-financing without using a bank, it is a technological revolution and a way to unlock growth and development in Senegal.”

Questions like “why is it still so big, why are so few Senegalese talking about it, why is the media avoiding this critical issue, why is Senegal not using this tool, and why are so few women talking about it? ”. she kept spinning in her head.

Bineta went to work, writing articles about Bitcoin on social media websites, contacting the Senegalese Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Community and reevaluating your goals.

Building on his previous business experience and given Senegal’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, Bineta allowed himself to dream big. She conceived and later established an ambitious seaside operation called Bleu comme la mer.

A fish trading platform, Bleu comme la mer connects fishermen directly with consumers, cutting out the middle man. It is the first business in Senegal to accept Bitcoin as payment. They also accept Ether (ETH) and Tezos (XTZ). In fact, Mama Bitcoin founded the Tezos community in West Africa.

Sardines, shrimp, octopus, and squid – anything that can be caught in the Atlantic – are available to buy with crypto on the platform. Bineta adds:

“Paying with cryptocurrencies shows that contrary to what many people think, Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer payment solution, not a speculative asset.”

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Bineta showing a potential buyer how to buy fish with cryptocurrencies. Source: Bitcoin Mom

The blockchain vision simply extends beyond cryptocurrency payments. Bineta has focused on making Bleu comme la Mer a decentralized e-commerce platform where fishermen record their catch and consumers can see exactly what they caught and from where.

The decentralized platform not only aims to optimize the fishing industry, but also strives to undermine overfishing, a harmful but common activity in West African waters.

Related: One Man’s Plan to Give an Orange Pill to a Nation: Bitcoin Senegal

Nonetheless, “Senegalese and West Africans are quite skeptical about Bitcoin.” Bringing more women into crypto, a project she is passionate about, remains a long-standing challenge.

However, there is hope. At Dakar’s first in-person Bitcoin meetup in 2022, there were three women out of 20 participants. It’s a small but strong start, no doubt fueled by Mama Bitcoin’s contagious energy and enthusiasm for cryptocurrencies.

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Celebrating Senegal’s victory in the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament. Source: Bitcoin Mom