High Proliferation of Crypto Scams in Africa Linked to Limited Educational Efforts — Mitroplus Labs Founder

According to Ivaibi Festo, the founder of Mitroplus Labs, a crypto and blockchain education organization, cybercriminals continue to find success in Africa because not enough is being done to educate residents on the basics of digital assets or the technology that underpins such assets. To make matters worse, the few African individuals who have made it either as traders or entrepreneurs often lack the desire to help their fellow residents become acquainted with the basics.

Using Education to Strike Back Against Scammers

However, Festo, who claims to have bought his first bitcoins in 2009, said African governments’ negative disposition as well as the stigma surrounding cryptos and the blockchain industry have helped convince some successful traders and entrepreneurs to reconsider.

Meanwhile, the Mitroplus founder told Bitcoin.com News that in addition to educating residents and prospective users, his organization is also working to include regulators and legislators in its classes. Festo argued that doing this ensures regulators and legislators are better informed when dealing with crypto assets.

Concerning the approach to regulating cryptocurrencies that African countries should adopt, Festo said governments should consider creating “a friendly environment for this tech to grow as they study and learn how to regulate them” as the biggest and most valuable industry participants will only “run to places where they are welcome.”

Below are Festo’s written answers to all questions sent to him via Whatsapp.

Bitcoin.com News (BCN): The utility of crypto assets and blockchain has become more apparent in the past few years. However, the increasing number of scams or criminals who hide behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin has slowed the uptake of the technology by those who need it most. In your opinion, why are criminals and scammers still able to steal using the same crypto scams?

Ivaibi Festo (IF): As would be the case with any other new technology, many people still know little about cryptocurrencies and their underlying technology, architecture, white papers, security etc. And the fact that there are still little or no regulations in many countries, criminals are taking advantage of the anonymity, the hype and the fear of missing out (FOMO) to target their prey. Entry into cryptocurrencies hasn’t been easy for at least 95% of the adopters but this can change with education. Some bad actors in the space intentionally scam people using hype, greed & FOMO and the decentralised nature of the industry which allows them to do this for quick money even without showing their faces.

BCN: Many players in the crypto industry agree that a lack of knowledge or the right information on cryptocurrencies is one reason why criminals continue to succeed in their endeavors. However, in places like Africa where many victims of crypto scams are found, there is a sense that the current efforts to educate prospective crypto users fall short of what is expected. Do you agree that not enough is being done to raise awareness or educate prospective users?

IF: I agree that not enough has been done to create awareness in Africa for blockchain and cryptocurrencies. This is a tech that not so many people went to school for, many blockchain participants and cryptocurrency traders quietly go about their business without needing so much external interaction and interference. This leaves the other population at the mercy of network marketers who are eager to earn commission from unregulated crypto projects or initial coin offerings (ICOs).

Unfortunately, this has created a stigma in the African market which can only be healed through education and awareness campaigns run by genuine and successful industry leaders. The only problem is that there is not enough to be earned from education and raising awareness hence there is often little or no motivation for this. However, the negative government attitude towards cryptocurrency and the industry at large as well as the public’s outcry over the growing number of crypto scams are factors that motivate some leaders to act. They understand that this problem affects everyone including both legit and non-legit industry players.

BCN: Scammers predate cryptocurrencies and they will certainly be around for years to come. How, then, can players in the crypto industry make it more difficult for criminals to successfully defraud victims using the allure of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin?

IF: Through education and awareness even in rural areas. Mitroplus Labs is setting up blockchain literacy centres in cities and small towns of Africa for free blockchain, Web3, metaverse and cryptocurrency education. Mitroplus is also blending education and earning with entertainment through free online blockchain and fintech classes, marketmania competitions, translation of the tech and new updates into local languages and Gorilla hub competitions for blockchain startups.

For Mitroplus Labs, this is a better solution to the problems than migrating to crypto-friendly countries as many successful traders and blockchain enthusiasts from the African continent have done. Since there is not any sort of fee collection or deposit-taking, this approach comes with no risk of financial loss to scholars and affiliates. Some governments have welcomed this for their learning as well, a step towards regulations.

BCN: In one of your past interviews, you suggested educating government officials and regulators as one way of driving adoption. Why do you believe that this can make a difference?

IF: Blockchain and cryptocurrencies are disruptive technologies to mainstream financial architecture and other sectors. This is a technology that no one went to school for, all governments are learning. Thereafter they can be able to regulate what is known. So education to governments and regulatory aid is one good step towards citizen protection.

BCN: Since the start of the year 2023, the U.S. government has upped the ante against digital assets. We have heard of the so-called Operation Chokepoint 2.0 and we have seen how the Gary Gensler-led SEC is attempting to hound out crypto firms. In contrast, Asian countries and the EU have adopted a very different approach. In your opinion, what is the most effective approach that African governments should follow when seeking to regulate cryptocurrencies?

IF: We must understand that African governments are younger than many Western governments if not all. Therefore, African governments should now understand the politics behind the whole monetary system. In disruptive innovations, there is usually chaos before order, they should create a friendly environment for this tech to grow as they study and learn how to regulate them.

The biggest and most valuable industry participants will run to places where they are welcome. We have seen this in UAE and Hong Kong which are now earning a lot from the presence of these billion-dollar enterprises. This change in the financial and monetary system is going to be bigger and more impactful than any other that the world has ever seen. All countries have an equal opportunity to participate in this transition.

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