Fishing for women’s empowerment with crypto in West Africa

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

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

“There are very few women who are active in the blockchain space around the world and the situation is no different in Senegal. I wanted to shine a light on being a woman in the crypto industry.”

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

Mbour village beach, 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 a multi-level marketing scheme (MLM) before hearing from a friend in Cameroon that Bitcoin might just fit.

After extensive research, Bineta’s curiosity was aroused. She soon realized that Bitcoin was far more important to her vision than a potentially risky MLM scheme. Fast-forward to mid-2017 and Mama Bitcoin had spent hours and hours devouring Bitcoin-related content in French and English, translated where possible.

She had come to the conclusion that Bitcoin is more than just a “number up” technology – it could build much more than a new village bakery:

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

The journey down the Bitcoin rabbit hole kicked Bineta’s plans into high gear. The bakery (Bineta jokes it would have been called the Bitcoin Boulangerie) fell and a vision for Bitcoin in West Africa took its place.

As Bitcoin’s progress and price soared during the 2017 bull run, her understanding of the protocol evolved.

“Bitcoin is not just a means to fund itself without going through a bank, it is a technological revolution and a way to unlock growth and development in Senegal.”

Questions like “why is it so big and why so few Senegalese people talk about it, why is the media avoiding this critical topic, why is Senegal not using this tool and why so few women are talking about it?” kept going around in her head.

Bineta got to work, writing articles about Bitcoin on social media websites, reaching out to the Senegalese Bitcoin and crypto community and re-evaluating its goals.

Drawing on previous business experience and given Senegal’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, Bineta allowed herself to dream bigger. She then conceived and founded an ambitious coastal operation called Bleu comme la mer.

Bleu comme la mer, a fisheries trading platform, connects fishermen directly with consumers, eliminating the middleman. It is the first company in Senegal to accept Bitcoin as payment. They also accept Ether (ETH) and Tezos (XTZ). Mama Bitcoin even founded the Tezos community in West Africa.

Sardines, shrimp, octopus and squid – anything that can be fished from the Atlantic – are available to buy with cryptocurrency on the platform. Binetta adds:

“Payment with cryptocurrencies shows that, contrary to popular belief, Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer payment solution, not a speculative asset.”

Bineta shows a potential buyer how to buy fish with crypto. Source: Mama Bitcoin

The blockchain vision goes beyond just cryptocurrency payments. Bineta has focused on making Bleu comme la Mer a decentralized e-commerce platform where fishermen record their catches and consumers can see exactly what has been fished and where from.

The decentralized platform not only aims to streamline the fishing industry, but it also aims to undermine overfishing, a damaging but common activity in West African waters.

Related: One Man’s Plan to Destroy a Nation: Bitcoin Senegal

Nevertheless, “Senegalese and West Africans are quite skeptical about Bitcoin.” Getting more women into crypto, a passion project of hers, remains a long-term challenge.

However, there is hope. At Dakar’s first in-person Bitcoin meeting in 2022, there were three of the 20 participants. It’s a small but strong start, no doubt spurred on by Mama Bitcoin’s infectious energy and enthusiasm for cryptocurrency.

Celebrating Senegal’s victory in The Africa Cup of Nations football tournament. Source: Mama Bitcoin

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