Kgothatso Ngako first heard of Bitcoin in 2015 while studying computer science at the University of Pretoria. He immediately recognized his potential to change Africa and the world.
“I saw it as a tool to give the common people sovereignty and freedom rather than relying on governments. The first thing I noticed here was a way to save money, not your savings being destroyed by inflation. At that point I decided that I wanted to get involved in the crypto space full time. ”
In 2019, he launched Exonumia, an open source platform with the mission of translating content into native African languages via Bitcoin.
To date, the material has been translated into eight African languages, including the original “whitepaper” written by Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto, as well as several of his explanatory emails and other materials aimed at promoting wider adoption of Bitcoin in Africa.
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The languages most covered so far are: IsiZulu, Sesotho, IsiNdebele, TshiVenda, Kiswahili, Oshiwambo and Khoekhoegowab. This week Shona was added to the list, with the translations made possible with a grant from the BitMex crypto exchange.
Next up are translations into Arabic, Somali, Hausa, Igbo, Berber, Chewa and several other West African languages.
Ngako comes from a Sotho-speaking family, although English is very much a second language. The South African school system forced him to master English, and in doing so he found a new fascination – language and translation.
What began as a love ministry for Ngako has now grown into full-time employment.
“I brought in specialists for most of the translations. Since then we’ve expanded the team across Africa, but it’s all run from SA. We did all of this on a tight budget, but the response we got was huge and we can measure this in the number of page views on our website, ”says Ngako.
Ngako’s colleague Happy Mahlangu was responsible for many of the translations into South African indigenous languages as well as the translation of Nik Bhatia’s book “Layered Money” into Zulu.
Earlier this year, Ngako formed a non-profit organization – also known as Exonumia – and brought on three other directors who share his passion for bringing Bitcoin to Africa: Siyabonga Mjali, Matlapane Sebetoa, and Sibongile Rakgatjane.
Ngako grew up in Mamelodi, north of Pretoria, and went to school and wanted to be an engineer – until an avid technology freak convinced him to study computer science at a career fair at the University of Pretoria.
He imagined he could end up as a software engineer for Facebook or one of the other tech giants, but then got the crypto bug.
“I was running a software project and I was offered payment via PayPal or Bitcoin. Unfortunately, I took the payment in Rand through PayPal and then I saw what happened to the Bitcoin price and I kicked myself, ”he says.
“I decided I had better start paying attention and understanding why its price accelerated the way it was.”
Read: Hilton College Student Solves Billions Of Dollars Worth Crypto Puzzles
To explain the purpose of Exonumia (a name for numismatic items such as tokens, medals or bills), Ngako refers to the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises from his book “Theory and History”.
Mises emphasizes that those who only speak their mother tongue will be relegated to subordinate positions in society when new rulers come to power and establish a new language as the medium of instruction for both economic and political activities.
“The longer such a society goes on with its day-to-day affairs without using its native dialects, then those native dialects die out because they are no longer sufficient for those who want to participate in valuable activities,” says Ngako.
“Our project aims to give all people in Africa sovereignty and financial freedom.”
He adds, “Perhaps for the first time in history we have a system of private money like Bitcoin that is beyond the control of politicians and central banks.
“China, powerful as it is, has tried to ban cryptos and see what effect that has had on prices – very little.
“These are exciting times and we want to share this excitement with the more than one billion people on the continent.”
You can sponsor a language translation here.
Here you can contribute translations to the project.