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‘With right information, Nigerians can make huge returns investing in crypto-currencies’

 

Rume Ophi is a partner and a brand strategist of Vorem Nigeria, a blockchain company transacting digital assets to fiat, which is known as over the counter trade (OTC) market. He is the founder of The Cryptopreacher fellowship, a platform where newbies in the Crypto space undergo mentorship on trading cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE, he speaks on the prospects for investing in cryptocurrencies and ways to differentiate Ponzi schemes from genuine ones.
 
What is your niche as an entrepreneur?

I am popularly known as the Cryptopreacher. I tell people the reasons why they need to invest in crypto and understand what they are investing in. My niche is generally more on the young people because for me it is a way to make young people and adults financially independent. The population of Nigeria is mostly made up of young people, so it is a motivation for the young people. Last year I was at the African Blockchain Conference in Kampala and I was the only Nigerian there. I needed to see things for myself and understand what is going on outside Nigeria and it was an eye opener for young people into block chain, cryptocurrency amongst others.

 
You teach about cryptocurrency. How far is your reach in this regard?

I have students across Africa, Europe and the US. When I started, I wasn’t really too sure of what I needed to study. In 2016, it was off and on for me; then I was in the Telco space, in Huawei Nigeria to be precise doing Airtel project. I was trading in cryptocurrency but I was still trying to get my feet. I had a crypto asset investment but unfortunately I lost close to $5,000 and I realised eventually that happened because there was a knowledge gap. I needed to get better so I started studying. When I heard about the African Block Chain Conference, I wasn’t so sure I was going to attend. When I eventually attended, I was happy I did because I learnt a lot. We have a self-regulated organisation in Nigeria called Stakeholders in Blockchain Association of Nigeria (SIBAN) and I am a member. I am also a researcher.

 
Why did you leave Huawei Nigeria, a renowned tech organisation, to settle for cryptocurrency?

When I was in Huawei, I felt that there was something in me that wasn’t fulfilling because from my childhood days, I have always dreamt about sitting down in my computer and making money without scamming anyone. I am from Warri and I actually enrolled for a programme back then but my parents couldn’t afford to pay the fees. That night, I cried throughout but today, I have all those certifications, even more than 10 of them. My idea is to get a computer, have the internet and work. The stress level for the average Nigeria is very high. We work round the clock. So, crypto is more like it for me.

How long have you operated in the cryptocurrency space?

I have been in this space officially for three years. I took one year to study the cryptocurrency space. I have some friends in the US and some mentors that helped me with materials to study. At about last year ending, I did a programme with someone in the US on Block chain consultancy and content development. The technology is really fascinating. I bought books worth 1,500 dollars in and out of Nigeria.

People have diverse perceptions of cryptocurrency. Some say they have lost a lot of money investing in this space and others think it is the way to go. What is your opinion?

I love the situation where people acquire some knowledge when they want to invest in something. For me, I go all out to get the knowledge. People feel disappointed when they have lost money. In 2016 and 2017, there was a rush for acquisition of bitcoin. Bitcoin is influenced by demand and supply. In 2015 one bitcoin was about $200-$300 but today, bitcoin is sold for $9,393, which is about N3,000,330. This is just for one bitcoin. You can get fractions of bitcoin because it is calculated in Satoshi value. So, those people that lost money are actually those that invested at the peak of the bubble because bitcoin rose to N7 million. At some point, some exchange platforms sold bitcoin for $20,000. So without knowing, they got into it but when the bubble ended, they lost money. After every four years, bitcoin value increases because there is always scarcity. This happened in 2016, so towards ending of 2016 and beginning of 2017, the price increased. Those people that came in that time didn’t know what they were investing in and some of their friends influenced them into investing in bitcoin. But if you are patient and you don’t sell, the value will increase but the time it will increase, you don’t know. So it is not like they lost their money, they only lost the value of Satoshi. For instance, if they bought the bitcoin for N1 million at a point in time because of the high demand, the bitcoin that was bought for N1 million now becomes N3 million. So, if they bought it when it was sold for N3 million and eventually the value drops again because of demand and supply, they will say they have lost money. This is how the value of Satoshi works. That is why I said people need to have that knowledge.

However, there are other crypto assets you can invest in aside from bitcoin. There are more than 5,000 cryptocurrencies and some of these Ponzi guys code their own cryptocurrency and put it out in the market. Their own obviously will not add value because their intention is to get money off people. If people fall for this, they will lose money.

How can those interested in investing in cryptocurrency differentiate the good guys from the bad ones so they don’t fall into the wrong hands?

Some years ago, I did a research about Ponzi and I discovered that the MMM thing was a specific case for Nigeria. Apart from cash, MMM paid people with bitcoins and then bitcoin was about $200-$300. Because of this, the Ponzi thing robbed off on bitcoin then. Some people had up to 10 bitcoins but they didn’t understand the value and that it will appreciate in few years but some sold theirs very cheap. When you are asked to bring in people to gain some good amount of money, just understand that there is a Ponzi scheme in that. Ponzi schemes give their benefactor a lot of guarantee that they will make high end profits. Imagine promising 20 to 30 percent profit, when treasury bills which are issued by Federal Government is less than 10 percent. Another way to know Ponzi schemes is that they make their finance structure very complex so that people don’t understand properly. Also, there is this affinity that goes with Ponzi scheme. For instance, people testifying of others that have made it through the scheme. There is this religious or social undertone in this.

What can a potential investor do to ensure they acquire the right knowledge to operate in this space?

They need to research and that is why some of us are on ground. I have a platform online. You can reach me on twitter and Instagram. I have four WhatsApp platforms where I teach young people and older ones what cryptocurrencies are and which ones have prospects in the future. I advise them on the exchange platforms to register on because there are exchange platforms where you buy and sell cryptocurrency. Some are global, some are indigenous and some are from Africa. Because of my curiosity for knowledge, I have been able to go out of the country to get the knowledge. I have done personal research and done online courses. So, we are around to make sure that Nigerians can benefit from this. Every crypto asset has white paper, which is like a template. Satoshi is the creator of bitcoin, no one knows Satoshi. From the white paper I read, Satoshi is a 37-year-old man residing in Japan and from research, he is either from the Caribbean, North America, South America, Asia or Europe because of his writings and his attitude. But sadly Africa was not mentioned and the fact that Africa was not mentioned, I was motivated to go into this space. We should be able to carve a niche for ourselves because it is money for the masses. It is money not censored, or controlled. Your treasury bills could be shut down by government but I can do transactions using a bitcoin. Because of the way bitcoin is designed, I don’t need a third party. That is why governments are scared that it could be used for illegal dealings but even the dollar and naira bill has been used for illegal deals. Just having a copy of the protocol, you can send money and be your own bank. So, we are on ground to make people understand all of these things, using the social media.

What do you think the government can do to help deepen knowledge in this space?

I have been speaking more on cryptocurrency and bitcoin which are monies. No government will want to support these wholeheartedly but the governments of this world have come out to say they support block chain technology. China is building their cryptocurrency, which will go through block chain technology. The US is being threatened because China has large population and they are also thinking of getting their own digital platform. All of these countries are going towards block chain technology which is the power house for cryptocurrency. The way the world is going now, all advanced countries are looking at block chain technologies because it is a global ledger where you cannot fake anything. For instance, you can have a project where all our date of births is programmed in block chain for Nigeria. If you call the data base of this block chain after 2000 years, you will still get your date of birth. Each block chain is coded in a way that it cannot be edited. You need to go through a lot of processes to validate it and for transactions to move through. Government needs to encourage people to come into the space using the right avenues. This technology doesn’t need a third party. It will help reduce unemployment. If I buy a wrist watch from you, I can pay in a bitcoin, I don’t need to go to the bank. This again, is a problem for the government. This is more for the people than the government.

Looking at the direction block chain technology is going globally, where do you see yourself in five years time?

I see myself as a voice for Africa because he monetary policy of Africa and the way our economy is being fashioned, it cannot match the West. Bitcoin is our money. I always say bitcoin is the money for the people and by the people. There are about two billion unbanked people globally and I heard 100 percent of them are from Africa. Even those of us with bank accounts go through some rigorous process to get our monies but with having my software on my phone, I can pay for so many things. If you look at the evolution of money, you will see that there were cowries, then precious metal, which is the gold, then paper money, after which plastic money came out which are the ATM cards. Now we are in digital money. I see myself as a go-to person to talk to about cryptocurrency.

I like people to know that knowledge has been decentralised with the internet. People should find out. I have all my social media handles. You can always do things online and even validate all we have been saying. We have been pushing and we will continue to push until people get the right information to invest wisely.

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