Cryptocurrency in Burkina Faso: Dining made possible by the blockchain Restaurant
On May 06, 2020, I visited an extraordinary restaurant, the “Blockchain Restaurant”, located in Ouagadougou across the Boulevard de l’insurrection (about 500 m before Petrofa Gas Station in Ouaga 2000 and facing the Faso pharmacy). This amazing initiative which grabbed my attention was born out of an initiative of Ecash Group, one of the Cryptocurrency leaders in Burkina Faso. As part of my strategic partnership management activities aiming to benefit Aid & Save, this visit focussed on discovering this outstanding company and learning more about the initiative. We had an enriching discussion together with Mr. BB, the CEO of the Group who has also been a longtime partner. Below is our discussion!
If you have been knowledgeable about Cryptocurrency and its ability to generate revenue through digital assets, you may be also aware of the possibility to make spending via this technology. It works like any other local mobile banking platforms such as Orange money, mobicash, etc. The innovation that we are displaying today is an initiative of a Burkinabè company, ECASH GROUP. It has innovated in the restaurant sector as an attempt to build an ecosystem, by offering its customers the possibility to use their electronic currencies, Bitcoin, to pay for their orders. In the following lines, Mr. Bienvenu Bamouni, CEO of ECASH GROUP, answered our questions in order to share his experience and further describe his activity.
Achille Sawadogo (AS): Who is ECASH GROUP?
Bienvenue Bamouni (BB): Ecash Group is the first mover and leading company of Cryptocurrency in Burkina Faso. The company is currently divided into 3 different departments: The Ecash Exchange Department, specializing in the sale, purchase and conversion of electronic money. The department also provides training and consulting in cryptocurrency; the Ecash Mining department, which serves as an investment platform (ecashmining.com) and specializes in trading and training in the currency and index markets; and the BLOCKCHAIN Restaurant which is an innovation in the field of catering.
AS: Before briefly mentioning your innovation in catering, what is Cryptocurrency?
BB: Cryptocurrency is a new form of money based on Blockchain technology, a 100% electronic currency that can be used for any fiduciary needs. It offers various benefits along with its easy accessibility. In fact, the cryptocurrency has a decentralized structure and increases in value consistently.
AS: Now tell us about your innovation? Where did the idea originate from?
BB: The idea of enabling our customers to make purchases via the BLOCKCHAIN in our restaurant, that actually bears this name, results first, from the fact that cryptocurrency exchange is part of the services that we provide. Our goal was to facilitate the use of this currency and allow our customers and the Cryptocurrency adepts to spend their digital money inside and outside the country. This is the reason that prevailed in the creation of this restaurant which extends the cryptocurrency ecosystem and easens cryptocurrency transaction. In fact, customers can pay directly without having to switch their crypto money into CFA Franc (local currency). The utmost goal is to raise awareness about crypto money within the country and demonstrate that it is real, accessible and can be used in everyday spending.
AS: How does it work?
BB: One has to attend training that we provide in our company. Once the training is completed, one can use this electronic wallet for any expenses. That being said, we are not exclusive in the payment method. We accept every type of currency including cash, mobile money and cryptocurrency. However, the restaurant remains first and foremost, a framework for cryptocurrency adepts.
AS: How do we attend the training?
BB: The training consists of several levels offered into different modules. First, there is the beginner module which costs 75,000 CFA Francs; an intermediate module which costs 100,000 CFA Francs and the professional module that costs 150,000 CFA francs. The full package option costs up to 325,000f with the possibility to benefit from a 25,000 CFA Francs discount. The outcomes of the training are such that the trainee is able to make investment on his own, create value and make payment in the restaurant. Additionally, the trainee will be able to prevent and identify scams that are widespread in the industry. You might have already heard about the Dipgold Investment case, which has caused so many disappointments. Avoiding to fall into the trap of these imposters requires substantial training. Without training, the odds are high that one will lose a subsequent amount of money. We strive to be more creative and offer efficient training to the people of Burkina Faso.
AS: What is the attitude of your customers towards electronic payment?
BB: Digital economy is in its early days in our country. However, we witnessed a real boom in this area in 2018 where several young people began to cultivate an unprecedented interest in the field through trading. This resulted in the creation of several companies which subsequently contributed to increasing awareness among the population. The infatuation of the field is growing along with the number of users. The restaurant has been operating for almost 2 weeks and the crisis that resulted from COVID19 had made it difficult to receive customers. Besides, payment made through cryptocurrency is uncommon. However, we remain confident that the situation will improve over the next few weeks. In the meantime, we strive to offer the best service to our current customers who have expressed their satisfaction.
AS: Are you not at risk of losing money due to scams or technology?
BB: We are lower risk compared to others restaurants who only receive cash payment. In the past, restaurants have been robbed. We offer a safer alternative as the money is permanently available and safe. A robber will have a hard time forcing me to cash out my crypto money. Therefore, the risk of losing cash is almost nonexistent. However, there are other risks related to those who receive the cash because a lot of restaurants have been attacked. This technology is a way of permanently having money on you while keeping it safe. Nobody can force me to empty money which is in Cryptocurrency. This represents a minimal risk compared to those who use regular currency. Other risks include the possibility of losing funds from the portfolio, but our knowledge of the field and the relevant years of experience that we registered, help us stay covered and protected from any uncertainty.
AS: How do you intend to conquer citizens who do not yet have knowledge of this industry?
BB: The recent boom of cryptocurrency that can be visible through the increasing number of new Cryptocurrency companies, exhibits an ever growing and manifest interest towards this technology. As time goes by, more people will begin using digital currency and the trend will keep growing. We have the advantage of working with seasoned experts in the field who support us with technical knowledge and introduce us to a variety of opportunities that the field of cryptocurrencies offers. That makes Cryptocurrency an opportunity, before it can be a means for currency transaction. Gain can be generated through this form of money that increases in value daily. It is first a source of income before being a transaction currency. We believe that many people will adhere.
Let’s suppose we have two clients. One uses CFA Franc and the other uses bitcoin. The second has $ 1,000 in his wallet, he pays a $10 bill here today. Whoever has the regular currency has the same amount. He pays an invoice of 5000CFA Franc, the one who uses the regular currency, even over a year, will have the same face value of 1000 CFA Franc minus the 5000 that he paid. The person who paid in electronic money, has 990 dollars left. Tomorrow, he may end up with $ 1,200; the week ahead, he may end up with $ 1,500. It can be seen that the cryptocurrency offers many benefits in addition to being a safe money.
AS: What menu is available to your customers?
BB: The restaurant serves both African and European dishes (fast food, pizza) as well as drinks and very soon an ice cream menu. The prices are competitive. In addition, we provide comfort to our customers and make it easier for them to pay via Cryptocurrency. Prices vary from 400f CFA (0.67 USD) to 6,000f CFA (10 USD) and everyone is pleased.
AS: Are you currently looking for partners?
BB: Logically. We have a vision and we believe that over time, this vision will evolve. We are currently striving with the few means at our disposal but eventually, we will need technical support to help grow the industry. We will also need capital to invest in opening offices across the country and beyond. Partners will be essential if we want to sustain and we are open to any form of support.
AS: What do you say to those who still hesitate?
BB: Over time, currency has evolved through different stages. You remember years ago, our grandparents used cowries. Then we had coins and banknotes. It is crucial to acknowledge that the era of coins and banknotes is being out-passed for the age of electronics. These are the different forms of currency that will set the stage for a new revolution. Individuals who retracted from exchanging their cowries for banknotes still have their cowries today but they have no value. The same will apply to those who will refrain from embracing cryptocurrency.
AS: What about those who think this is a scam?
BB: I invite those who still doubt, to be open to discovering and developing a better understanding of the industry. They must take advantage of every opportunity before it is too late. We must keep abreast of the upcoming change in order to escape remorses. It is essential that we connect with companies that have better expertise and learn from them. I remember, a few years ago, when I was talking about cryptocurrency, my friends told me “we’re not even done with the CFA, you’re talking about crypto”. Today despite the current hardships, these same people are tripping over themselves so I can introduce them to the system. It is about time to converge to Cryptocurrency.
AS: Are you experiencing any difficulties?
BB: There are many. The major difficulty is the internet connection. The field in which we operate requires a very fluid connection which we are yet to have in Burkina Faso.
AS: What are your future prospects?
BB: Our plan is to consolidate our investment in Ouagadougou, before we can extend the initiative to other areas in Burkina Faso, the region and perhaps go worldwide. This idea is bigger than it actually seems. Currently, we are working on developing a mobile app that will enable customers to shop online and pay via electronic currency (Bitcoin). Additionally, we ambition to broaden our ecosystem by partnering with health centers, restaurants and pharmacies so that our customers can make their daily expenses via cryptocurrency in aforementioned places. I remember one day, I was seeking to make a payment with a street vendor. As he had no familiarity with the electronic money system, I had to exchange my electronic currencies in CFA Franc before I could purchase my item. This taught us valuable lessons that we want to leverage in the process of growing our business. Moreover, we plan to host an event at the restaurant, which will bring together professionals in the field and new adepts who want to learn more. The event is expected to host people from the country and beyond and promote experience sharing.
AS : Avez-vous un dernier mot ?
BB : I would like to address my sincere gratitude to you and your team for your constant support and for the interest in our initiative. I am particularly grateful to you, Mr. SAWADOGO, our key and long-standing partner.
Annex: Testimony of a customer of the Blockchain Restaurant
“I have a little story with this restaurant. I was passing by one day and I saw the name, Blockchain which grabbed my attention. As new technologies, new computer systems and electronics adept, I turned around and stayed at a distance to just take a picture. After, I will notice that the restaurant was offering the possibility to purchase food through Bitcoin. This furthered my curiosity and I approached them to understand better. I am yet to use this app but I have already bought Bitcoin in this restaurant and my next purchases will be through Bitcoin. In fact, I’m in a learning process that will eventually result in me being able to use cryptocurrency to make payments. Beside, I truly like the setting inside the restaurant. It is welcoming and the meals are amazing. I discovered the restaurant very recently but I often joke with them saying that I am the best customer and that I should be given a loyalty card.” M. Ouédraogo