16 June 2023

Bitcoin Ekasi: Fostering Positive Change - A Conversation with South African Entrepreneur Hermann Vivier

Discover how Hermann Vivier and Bitcoin Ekasi uplift Mossel Bay with Bitcoin, bringing hope and transformation to his community.

Bitcoin Ekasi: Fostering Positive Change - A Conversation with South African Entrepreneur Hermann Vivier

    NOAH has proudly contributed 20,000 USD to support Hermann Vivier's transformative Bitcoin Ekasi project in South Africa. This investment underlines NOAH's belief in the power of Bitcoin to shape financial landscapes, particularly in regions that stand to benefit significantly. If you wish to join us in supporting this initiative, you can make a contribution using the provided lightning address: bitcoinekasi@noah.me. Let's make a difference with Bitcoin together.

    On the rugged coastline of South Africa, where the township of Mossel Bay intertwines with the country's rich cultural history, a story of financial innovation and social transformation takes shape, spearheaded by a passionate entrepreneur devoted to uplifting his community through the power of Bitcoin.

    Meet Hermann Vivier, a visionary whose flourishing surfing tourism business caters to international clients, primarily from Russia, Ukraine, and Eastern Europe. But, beyond the sun-soaked beaches and azure waters, Vivier and his wife have embarked on a groundbreaking project that aims to transform the lives of their employees and the wider community, bitcoin by bitcoin.

    Vivier speaks with impassioned zeal, a black t-shirt stretched taut across his chest, his eyes glinting with the fiery passion of a true believer. On his t-shirt sits the word "Hope" emblazoned across his sternum, but instead of the "O," it's the bright orange Bitcoin symbol, conspicuously landing right over his heart.

    Vivier reflected on his first encounter with cryptocurrency in 2013, initially sparked by the banking crisis and bank bailouts in Cyprus.

    "I remember I downloaded the Bitcoin-QT client at that time and had to download the full blockchain to buy my first bitcoin. I remember waiting two weeks for the blockchain to sink before I could finally see my wallet balance," he said.

    Since integrating Bitcoin into their tourism business, Vivier and his wife have witnessed the digital currency's potential to revolutionize international transactions.

    "The decision to accept Bitcoin was a game-changer for us; it allowed our business to grow and attract more clients from around the world," Vivier said.

    Inspired by the success of the Bitcoin Beach project in El Salvador, Vivier embarked on a larger mission: leveraging Bitcoin to uplift impoverished communities in South Africa. "I thought, if Bitcoin can work there, why can't it work here in South Africa?" Vivier said.

    Through Surfer Kids, their nonprofit organization, Vivier and his wife teach underprivileged children to surf and facilitate meaningful interactions between tourists and local residents while also introducing them to Bitcoin.

    Yet, implementing Bitcoin in these communities presented a significant hurdle: low literacy levels made it difficult to grasp the complexities of the digital currency. Undeterred, Vivier and his team adopted a hands-on approach. In August 2021, they expanded their efforts by launching Bitcoin Ekasi, an extension of the Surfer Kids program that fosters personal and financial empowerment among local children.

    "To tackle this issue, we focused on practical demonstrations and applications, showing people how they could use Bitcoin in their everyday lives, even without a traditional bank account," Vivier said. Vivier added he's seen Bitcoin Ekasi spur increased interest and financial comprehension by fostering cash-based Bitcoin transactions and encouraging local businesses to accept the cryptocurrency.

    Today, the ambitious initiative pays 11 nonprofit employees in Bitcoin and has successfully onboarded 13 shops to accept the digital currency. In addition, the Surfer Kids program serves 50 children from economically disadvantaged townships around Mossel Bay and employs a team of coaches, teachers, and lifeguards from the same community.

    Vivier underscored the importance of cultivating knowledge and experience among those earning Bitcoin salaries and the shop owners receiving it as payment. "The main objective is to create a strong foundation for these individuals, equipping them with the necessary understanding of Bitcoin and its potential," he said.

    Vivier's strategy centers on nurturing organic growth, with the core group of 11 members driving adoption by using their Bitcoin salaries for everyday purchases. As others in the community bear witness to the benefits of Bitcoin, Vivier believes interest in the cryptocurrency will naturally snowball.

    "We want to create a ripple effect, where the impact of Bitcoin on the lives of our core group members becomes a compelling story that inspires others to learn about and use it," he said. Looking ahead, Vivier is optimistic about the future of Bitcoin in his community. "Short term, I would like to see a continued steady adoption of Bitcoin within the community, more people understanding its value, and beginning to save in it," he said.

    In the medium term, Vivier envisions a future where community members who have saved in Bitcoin significantly improve their financial situation. "This could lead to improved living conditions, better education, and overall well-being for them and their families," he said. "I also hope that as more people witness the positive impact of Bitcoin on early adopters, they will be inspired to take control of their financial futures and start saving in Bitcoin as well."

    Vivier's long-term dream is a transformation that resonates throughout the entire community. "I believe that if we can create a culture of personal responsibility and save for the future through Bitcoin, we could potentially see a ripple effect that uplifts the entire community and even extends beyond the township," Vivier said. "I envision a community where individuals are less dependent on external forces, such as the government, and are instead focused on building their futures and creating a better life for themselves and their children."

    To turn this vision into reality, Vivier invests in education, nurturing financial literacy and Bitcoin knowledge among children, junior coaches, coaches, and community members through Bitcoin Ekasi. "You know, I think education is the bedrock for adoption. You can't have responsible adoption if you don't also educate people as to what it is they are adopting."

    As Bitcoin technologies evolve, Vivier is eager to see more accessible and user-friendly solutions. He cited non-custodial wallets, which bridge the gap between custodial and self-custody options, as a crucial development.

    "You could potentially have a middle ground option for people who are not super technical, where they're not handing over their private keys to a stranger, but they can still trust someone to manage the private keys for them," he said.

    In the long term, Vivier hopes to prove that Bitcoin adoption can truly transform impoverished communities. "And I think if it can happen here, it would be an amazing beacon of hope. And that's something this country desperately needs," he said.

    Vivier said he wanted to acknowledge the pioneers of the digital currency movement who laid the groundwork for Bitcoin. E-cash pioneers include David Chaum, who founded DigiCash and developed the first digital currency concept, "ecash"; Douglass Jackson and Barry Downey, who founded E-gold; Arthur Budovsky Belanchuk and Vladimir Kats, who founded Liberty Reserve; and Wei Dai, Adam Back, and Nick Szabo, who respectively created B-Money, HashCash, and proposed the "Bit Gold" concept. Hal Finney, a renowned cryptographer, was also instrumental in the early development of Bitcoin and received the first-ever Bitcoin transaction.

    "There are so many people who have worked in this space, many of whom did not get any reward or any recognition at all," he said.

    Vivier's humble acknowledgment of the unsung heroes in the digital currency movement highlights the collaborative spirit that drives innovation in cryptocurrency. As he builds on the foundation laid by these pioneers, he said he's keenly aware of their vital contributions and the importance of continuing their legacy.

    From the sandy shores of South Africa, Vivier's story is a powerful reminder of the transformative potential of Bitcoin. As his surfing community continues to embrace Bitcoin, they're not only carving out a new financial landscape but also redefining the meaning of empowerment and hope for future generations.

    In the end, the surfers riding the waves of change in South Africa demonstrate that even the most unexpected places can become fertile ground for innovation and growth, propelled by the power of Bitcoin and the determination of passionate individuals like Vivier.

    To support Hermann Vivier's Bitcoin Ekasi initiative and help uplift communities in South Africa, you can send sats via lightning to *bitcoinekasi@noah.me.*

    Please be aware that: Cryptocurrencies are unregulated in the UK; Cryptocurrencies are not protected under Financial Ombudsman Service or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS); Profits may be subject to capital gains tax; The value of investments can go down as well as up.

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