A group of entrepreneurs promoting bitcoin in western Africa has reminded the world of the dire situation it faces as its daily fight to stop the spread of Ebola continues.
The Sierra Leone Liberty Group (SLLG), initially formed to promote free enterprise and libertarian ideals as the path to prosperity in the country, has continued to promote its message despite the frequent need to jump in and assist members' fellow countrymen more directly.
According to leader Mustapha Cole, the group has worked with Ministry of Health vehicles alongside local nurses and has used funds from bitcoin donations to deliver dwindling medical supplies such as disinfectant, goggles and rubber gloves and also to help educate local populations on how to avoid Ebola infection.
"In Sierra Leone we are suffering from the Ebola outbreak. Every day there is death in my community as people die and food is scarce as the people are quarantined in their homes. Ebola burial teams went on strike due to non-payment of weekly allowances. So we have no faith in the government."
There is also a need to feed people in villages that have been cut off from the world by quarantine and road blocks. Cole and his group have also used the funds to purchase rice, onions, fish, pepper and oil for delivery.
Ebola continues to spread
The SLLG initially asked for donations via bitcoin to help fight Ebola's spread in August, when there had been only 1,400 deaths. That number has since skyrocketed to over 4,000, and the World Health Organization has warned there could be 20,000 cases by next month without an increase in international assistance.
Cole's effort to introduce bitcoin to the country has two channels: one a straight-up donation drive through his group's website to collect micro-donations from anywhere in the world, and the other to raise money through local entrepreneurs selling their products.
The lack of a functioning bitcoin ecosystem in Sierra Leone means only the sending end of the process is streamlined. The SLLG's American mentor, writer and economist Dan McLaughlin, must facilitate payments by exchanging the BTC amounts to fiat and then transferring to Africa via the traditional, cumbersome remittance channels.
West African bitcoin drive
Despite the daily hardships, Cole still hopes to attend the first regional Bitcoin Seminar in Ghana on 5-7th December.
The conference is organized by Ghana's Dream Bitcoin Foundation (DBF), which shares the principles of the SLLG and believes economic freedom transcending national boundaries is the best way to build African economies.
The DBF's campaign page for the seminar reads:
"We will also demonstrate to them how bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are the irrepressible tool for Liberty, which will rapidly replace the existing corrupt system that keeps them all in poverty and suppression."
The DBF is working in conjunction with bitcoin entrepreneurs both locally and from the US. In addition to organizing the conference, the DBF is also experimenting with the idea of its own local cryptocurrency, called Dreamcoin, as a promotional and educational tool.
Both DBF and SLLG hope that cryptocurrency use, bitcoin or otherwise, will streamline local economies as well as open up new markets internationally for local sellers.
Bitcoin donations to the SLLG to help fight Ebola can be made on the group's website.
Images courtesy Sierra Leone Liberty Group