The Managing Director of Awoof-Dey: an e-commerce platform and ICT guru, Mr. Peter Elofusim, in this interview with Dele Ogbodo averred that banking and other financial institutions should re-strategise their wealth creation models, otherwise the emergence of creating wealth through digital money may erode their relevance
How did you evolve from being an ICT practitioner to digital-money entrepreneur?
Well, first it is through sheer courage coupled with knowledge of the ICT terrain, which is daily, evolving. From my background, I studied Engineering in the University and after my NYSC, I got job with Vodacom as Satellite/Radio Communication engineer and later I moved to MTN as Switch-engineer. After acquiring enough experience and exposure I felt it was time to move on and add value to myself and impact on the society. So from MTN, I launched out to set up my 2 ICT firms: Awoof-Dey, an e-commerce shopping engine and Promosol.
I’m still fully into Information Technology (IT) because of the evolving convergence of IT and telecommunications, which is my background; I was able to venture into television infrastructure. One of the things that my company does is that we set up satellite television stations for other TV stations. I also set up e-commerce platforms. I’m a strong believer in IT driving innovations. Today, Awoof-Dey has gone into wholesale provision for smaller e-commerce companies. We leverage on our international connection to get good prices, which has always been our dream out to smaller e-commerce companies. Today, with my varied knowledge of ICT I have ventured into making money online with the hope to build more entrepreneurs on how they can improve their well being through digital money making.
What is the status of ICT as driver of investment opportunities considering the perception that it is not too safe making money online?
Well, as it is I will take it that yes, there is a place for naysayers. There is one thing that cannot take it away even if Information Technology has been driving business for the past 100 years in Nigeria. There will still be people who will wake up and say that they will not be part of it, but the truth about it is that it is all part of human nature to resist change. But eventually human beings will fall in line, because not changing is fatal. Eventually, human beings will adapt. I know there are people who will tell you that they don’t want to use ATM card. Some people will tell you they don’t want to do online banking. But over time, when they see the pressure from it, you will start seeing them use the ATM card or do online banking
All over the place new forms of making money online are emerging, what is your take?
You would have noticed that money had evolved over time and it had been changing forms though a lot of people didn’t quite notice it. It started from trade by barter. Later it moved to cowries and coins and from there, it moved to paper money and again it proceeded to plastic money referred to as ATM cards, which million of Nigerians are using today. In all these forms of monies, there is one essential thing that money has been lacking: That means storage of wealth and assets that will remain relatively stable over a period of time. This is because once you store money in any ‘fiat-form’ like naira, pound or dollar, there is that likelihood that it will depreciate over time because of the dynamics of social and political events in any country. That tells you that there is no safe haven for any currency to store wealth. In other words, all currencies are subject to depreciation.
Investigation has shown that businessmen are looking for transactions that guarantee instant payment; however and to some extent you can say that technology within the local and external environment guarantees instant transfers/payments. Also as in most cases when this is not delivered within 24 hours due to hitches or other reasons, complaints are lodged and it will take the bank 72 hours to resolve the issue, so it means that there is no 100 per cent guarantee of fool proof instant money transfer and therefore clients and people may wait for upward of three days for accounts to be credited overseas. Today, modern businesses do not have that luxury of time any more. It is the answer to these discrepancies that led to the emergence of money in digital form known as cryptocurrency, which is gaining wide acceptance and creating wealth for people across the globe.
What is the evolution of this currency?
A Japanese established the first cryptocurrency that came into existence. He started basically by putting out some mathematically algorithm on the Internet in such a way that any person who solved a mathematical equation was rewarded with a coin called or known as Bitcoin. In the course of time, there were hitches because it was only those who were mathematically and technically oriented that could solve the equation and as more equations were solved they were getting more difficult just like the: who wants to be a millionaire programme on TV. Essentially, the Bitcoin that was created in 2009 became the answer to the lack of stability in storing wealth and assets as an instant payment for transactions that will not depreciate over time.
The man who developed this currency in digital form was though facially anonymous, he even did not envisage or know that Bitcoin was going to be a success. As things evolve, the first Bitcoin was therefore exchanging for $10. With spread in technology, businesses started accepting it as they found out that if wealth and assets were stored in digital money/currency, the value of that wealth keeps appreciating. Between 2009 and 2012, the value of Bitcoin jumped from Cent10 to $1,200. This led to the emergence of millionaires across the globe. Coincidentally these millionaires were people who ventured to take positions ahead of time mainly due to their technology instinct. Now, hear the poster boy story of Bitcoin: A Norwegian lad called Christopher invested $27 in Bitcoin and by 2012, the value of his investment was networth was $8,086. As an IT guru, I can say that cryptocurrency is an idea whose time has come, nobody or force that can stop it.
In several of my workshop on digital currency, I have often said that very soon commercial and central banks across the world will close shops, it may sound far too fetched. I have also predicted that within the next 15 years commercial banks will be looking for what to do because of the technology called blockchain technology which is essentially a digital open ledger that tracks, verifies and validates transactions which essentially is what our CBN does. The digital open ledger what is driving cryptocurrency. You will agree with me today that the world is looking for more transparent means of payment and therefore what cryptocurrency seeks to do is that its takes away the middle man (who is the bank) from the banking transaction and makes individual their own bankers. By so doing, charges, which drive the banking system, were taken away. Whether, the world likes it or not, the fact that businesses are looking for other means of transaction that are relatively cheap, instant and without charges at all and also because businesses are looking for means of storing assets that are relatively stable over a period over time that are not affected by any socio-political event. This is exactly what cryptocurrency does.
How does perception affects the value of a country’s currency?
I want to say first and foremost that money is what it is, but it is the perception that is given to it that matters. For example, N100 and $100 is the same money but with so much value difference. It takes about five times more to produce the naira than the dollar because of the colours embedded in the production of the different currencies, but today the dollar has greater value than the naira. As Nigerians, if we can create enough perception and hope in our currency and people buy into it, the first thing that will happen is that the Nigerian currency will take a jump at least to a greater measure. If there is a major threat to peace in U.S. or anywhere in the world, the dollar will depreciate or go down, it is all about perception. That was exactly what happened to Brexit. The confidence that is put on a currency to some extent determines the value of that currency. On the other hand, the only thing that determine the value of cryptocurrency is the demand and supply dynamics. There are though many cryptocurrencies that have come out after Bitcoin. Any cryptocurrency that essentially has a strategic marketing platform to boost demand and has confidence in it will rival the U.S. currency in the future as the world reserve currency, and this is Bitcoin. The driving force behind cryptocurrency is the blockchain technology.
Can government be part of this new vista of creating wealth?
The truth about it is that cryptocurrency seeks to take away power from government and put it in the hands of citizens, individuals and businessmen. This is where the world is headed. With the way things are happening across the globe today, individuals are getting more influential than government, corporations are getting more powerful than government. For example, the CEO of Facebook, Mr. Mark Zuckerberg, is becoming more powerful than some countries. What is evolving now will be a disruption in the next financial institution, which is through cryptocurrency. Banks and other financial institutions should re-strategise on their business models or key into cryptocurrency or they risk being shipped out of the system.
How does this technology create money?
Technology is evolving on daily basis to add value to life and to a greater measure cannot be regulated. This digital money/cryptocurrency technology, which is blockchain, cannot be regulated. Because once it is regulated, the whole essence of blockchain is defeated. Blockchain is an open ledger that cannot be hidden or regulated and it is the most secured means of payment and transactions. For example, you can spend N1000 note today in Abuja and within the next six months it will pass through several hands and come back to you again, but you won’t know that it is the same money that was handed over to you some months ago. But with cryptocurrency, every coin that is mined in blockchain pools goes into my coins. If for instance, I give you a coin now, you will give it to Mr. ‘B’ and ‘C’ and before you know it, any day that coins enter your hand you can trace the history of all its transactions that it was used for before it came back to you. It is therefore easy to check the movement of the Bitcoin through the blockchain technology, which is safe and secure.
How about fear of the unknown and likelihood of collapse systems and networks?
The good thing about it is that there are opportunities that exist in two folds. The first opportunity is to do a due diligence on any cryptocurrency that is presented to you based on the strategic marketing plans to first make it useable and acceptable. Once you have done that, convert part of your fiat money into cryptocurrency by taking a stake because at this point. On conversion for instance of one-coin platform what it does is that it offers you in different platforms like the one coin, ripple coin and on the one coin which I promote there are different packages for potential investors to come onboard and take a chunk of it which depends on how much money you can dispose of for now and the company has packaged it in such a way that there is a generous reward for an early adaptor.
For example, an investment of about N3 million in cryptocurrency today will yield about N80 million in a year’s time. What Nigerians should take advantage now is the fool proof security of the technology because most people that are rich today in the world are people that took position in technology companies. So Bitcoin is a technology company offering the one-coin cryptocurrency which is an avenue for Nigerians to become million in the nearest future in Euro. If for instance, you have children’s school fees to pay abroad together quickest way to create the wealth that can sponsor that education of your children anywhere is to take advantage of this technology company and this one happens to be it.
How can wealth be created for individuals through Bitcoin?
On creating wealth, the way we are used to creating wealth in the past had gone, the traditional way of creating wealth is gone forever. It is awareness that is creating wealth for people now. If you are aware and know that this opportunity exist and you key into it, and any wealth that is tangible now is about value addition and nit about production of goods and services anymore.
Production of goods and services as a means of being wealthy is gone, though you can be rich, but in terms of being wealthy, you need to create values and what one-coin is doing basically now is first of all is creation of merchant pools. The wealth creation is left to the company and what it does to create this wealth through actively marketing this opportunity all over the world as they are meeting businesses that will accept the coin, making it popular. If you go to YouTube, there are a lot of presentations on one coin and actively building the network. In Nigeria, there are relatively few of us that have invested in one coin and this is just like Facebook.
Most times I travel to educate people and I hold seminar every weekend and what we are doing right now is to basically educate people on digital currency. The value creation for one coin is that it is actively building members in daily basis and about 8000 investors are coming in every day globally. Right now there are about 2000 Nigerians on the network. What gives advantage is that for every new investment, coming at the early stage matters and so anybody coming now is coming in at that early stage because potentially one coin optimistic value is that it is going to reach Euro100 per coin in the next three years.
If Nigerians really want to benefit from the wealth creation that one coin technology is doing this is the best time to come. Just like Facebook, one coin is building on the number of its investors. When I invested in one coin about four months ago, the number of investors was about 1.6 million people; today I have invested a lot of money on one coin business. The first benefit is because we are trying to maintain price stability, you cannot sell until it is a year’s time and this is for obvious reasons, because if you allow everybody to sell. The value of Bitcoin will crash when it is sold to everybody and so because of this restriction it will rise to about $1200.