We sat down with former Barrister and Kamari CEO, Chris Cleverly, to talk about his background and vision for blockchain in Africa and Kamari.
- What were you doing before you got involved in crypto and blockchain?
My life has always been about doing business in Africa, for Africa. Nearly 15 years ago back in 2005, I set up something called the Made in Africa Foundation. It is all about funding and constructing infrastructure across Africa. Our goal has been to transform Africa through infrastructure and development projects to bring new revenue to the region. By 2007 we were presenting our plans to the African Union. We told them how it could allow Africa to live up to its reality, and empower a billion people.
Our role was as a harbinger of what Africa could be, that it could see similar growth patterns to China and India. In 2013 we took this to the next stage and launched at NasDaq, the $3 billion Africa50 fund with the African Development Bank to fund a series of infrastructure projects, such as railroad construction, clean water infrastructure, renewable energy projects. We were committed to creating projects that would join people and their environments together.
2. How did you first get involved in blockchain? What was your first exposure?
My first exposure was in Santa Monica, California, while I was working on a business trip in the summer of 2017. I was introduced to a guy called Alex Lightman, a futurologist who became one of Kamari’s advisors as well as an advisor to Brock Pierce. We talked about a number of things related to international trade and development, and he told me that I “should look at this whole new thing going on, blockchain.” We discussed how it could really make a huge difference in Africa.
3. Do you believe that blockchain and crypto can change the world? How?
A lot of people at the moment are quite negative towards crypto, because they live in developed environments that function. If you live in environments that don’t function, then crypto starts looking attractive. The ability to eat, live, and escape the Malthusian struggle for existence, everyone wants that. So people who talk about the fluctuations of crypto negatively, they don’t know about African currencies that see wild exchange rate and interest rate fluctuations which van devastate any opportunity for the average African to escape the poverty cycle.
One of the great things about it is the evolution it has brought to ledgers. Ledgers began hundreds of years ago in London. When a boat went out to get goods, people had shares in that ship, and would invest in it. When the ship returned with the bounty and spices, they would give a portion back to the investors. However, only one person would write this down in a book. Chances are, they were skimming off the top, or perhaps intoxicated. Flash forward to today, and blockchain technology is upgrading that ledger technology to something that is decentralised, distributed and public, which means that we can control the narrative and not rely on some guy in a bank, in the government on the other side of the planet.
What’s amazing about this is that it democratizes what is going on in finance, and allows everyone to create a consensus about what is reality. This allows things to be real. When you are dealing with a continent like Africa, it is a powerful thing. Instead of a colonial boss or a corrupt leader, blockchain has the power to democratize finance and technology for all of Africa.
4. What excites you most about crypto in Africa and Kamari?
The ability to disintermediate interest rates keeps is very exciting. Interest rates are set from central positions: NY, London, Shanghai, Paris — and from there they attempt to get with any accuracy the cost of risk between two individuals in Africa. Crypto and Blockchain will open this up fairly and equitably for Africans, and bring the opportunity for economic prosperity on a level we have never seen before.
What excites me about Kamari is that it has the ability to breach borders, and levels the playing field across countries. The opportunity for individuals to participate in a win can transform their very existence. In London, there wouldn’t have been a London Olympics without the lottery that was held to finance the games. We are taxing ourselves to create goods for ourselves, that is what the lottery is at its core.
5. How do you see crypto becoming a part of everyday life for billions of people?
When it becomes a currency, which is a store of value. If it’s trusted, then it becomes an everyday thing like money. Cryptocurrency, there is no magic. We are just storing value in something we trust. To create ease of use is the key. Digital money is the only way to transmit true trust, over the phone, across borders, between people you have never met. That is how it affects a billion people, because it establishes a new form of trust that we haven’t experienced yet with financial institutions.
6. What obstacles exist to mass adoption of crypto and blockchain technologies?
The only barrier to the mass adoption of crypto is legacy systems. People and companies that already exist and are making profits off of existing technologies are perhaps not surprisingly disinterested in new technologies. The systems we already have in place will be barriers to adoption of new ways of thinking and new ways to communicate, because they are already invested in the current way of doing business. They have to continue to make money. Their fear of obsolescence is the reason they have to slow this down until they have ownership of it. Jamie Dimon (boss of JP Morgan) maligns digital currency, upsets an upward trend in the market, creates an entry point and then announces the launching of his own digital currency. The JP Morgans of the world have ignored Africa, so there is less legacy for new technology to wade through.
7. How do you see crypto and blockchain changing gaming and lotteries in Africa?
In Africa, there are many countries and many borders, and corrupted systems with a lack of trust. Crypto is allowing for a transformation of money to occur. If there is a pan-African lottery, you can interact within that structure. What people don’t often realize is that gaming is often the precursor of technology for new things. The internet would not be the internet without gaming and gambling websites, and the traffic and technology development that they drove. What we are creating is a spine for how cross border transactions and value can be stored across Africa. This will enable low volatile transactions to occur eventually in the future.
8. What other types of trends do you see happening specifically in Africa that make it an exciting place to do business?
I think the really big things are the mega trends. The huge population in Africa, and its high population growth, means that they have a natural bend towards revolt of the old systems, to overturn legacy ways of doing things. Just this by itself, that it has the opportunity to leapfrog places with aging populations, like the West and Asia, is creating a space of excitement and hope for the future. The percentage of people who are able to develop these new technologies will innovate so that it suits themselves, rather than having it imposed upon themselves.
9. Where do you think blockchain and crypto will be in 2025?
When you go into a room and you flip the light switch, you don’t ask how did the light get there? You just accept it. We sometimes forget that the iPad came out in 2010. Crypto and blockchain will become seamless, and just be called value. The value in your phone will be stored in many different ways. Some will be stablecoins pegged to gold, maybe solar energy. Others will be emotive, like storing happiness or love. We will be able to store those values. All the things we are talking about now like “What is money” will be ridiculous conversations looking back in the near future.
How we store money is the biggest illusion we have been told. At the moment, when we look at money, the concept of money, it is based on one central point deciding what and how much money is printed each year. It is not based on anything other than our belief that it may be worth something. That consensus has now been broken, and many of us, we don’t believe it anymore. I think in just a short time blockchain will be the backbone of most of mainstream digital technology in a way we can barely fathom.
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