Faith Obafemi answers a series of questions from Coin Rivet.
How did you get involved in blockchain technology?
After a two year hiatus due to a fracture surgery, I joined an online group of lawyers to help brush up on my rusty legal knowledge. One of the lawyers in the group kept throwing around the word ‘blockchain’, but I never paid much attention.
One fateful day in late 2016, I came across an online article from the folks at Blockgeeks with the title: “How Smart Contracts Will Replace Lawyers.” You guessed right, I screamed what? But also paid attention and read the article.
While the title was sort of misleading and sounded like a doomsday prophecy, it opened my mind into the possibilities of a decentralised future. Thus began my journey in blockchain.
Tell me more about what you do?
I work with blockchain and crypto projects in two capacities, depending on what solutions they need. On one side of the coin, I offer legal consulting and advisory services to help projects navigate the uncertain legal regulations maze in the space.
Some come with a request for structuring their token sale or how to proceed with an STO in the country they are registered. On the other side of the coin, I offer digital content consulting, helping projects craft content that enlightens their prospective clients about the solutions they offer.
Why is it so important to be philanthropic?
Philanthropy to me goes beyond giving people fish because they are hungry and can’t provide for themselves at that moment. I believe more in providing people with the means to fish, that is more sustainable. In this belief lies my answer as to why it is so important to be philanthropic.
You never know, that little act of philanthropy could be all someone somewhere needs to survive, to breakthrough and become capable of empowering others, to smile.
Four years ago, when I was still bedridden, without a job and depending on my parents with their meagre monthly income, the philanthropic acts of a few friends was how I could crawl out of that gloomy-tunnel period of my life.
No, they didn’t send me monthly allowances or stock my fridge and pantry. What they did was a one-time philanthropic act where they gave me the funds to get an 8-inch smartphone, as before then, I couldn’t get online. Another connected me to my first digital content consulting client. Today, I’ve been able to rent and furnish my own apartment, while also helping others with the means to fish.
What were your career ambitions when you were younger?
I make a lot of references to the two-year hiatus because my view of life, before and after the near-fatal accident that rendered me bedridden for two years, are distinctly different. The sum of my career ambitions then was getting hired by one of the top law firms in Nigeria.
Before the hiatus, all I aspired to was having a nice job that paid the bills, period. But after the hiatus, you could say I became filled with boundless energy, suddenly developed a buzzing mind with one new idea daily.
Why are so few women involved in blockchain?
Access and mindset. And this is not just in blockchain, it is in all areas of life, women seem content to always be in the background.
Women lack the access needed to get exposure to things that matter. Mindset too is an issue. Like I said earlier, before the hiatus, all I wanted was a nice job in a big law firm.
Then, it never occurred to me that I too could be creating the nice job I was desiring. It took a life-changing event for me to realise this. Unfortunately, many women are still trapped in this mindset. The society also reinforces this by telling them lies like, don’t aim too high, otherwise, you won’t get a husband, or you won’t be able to have children, etc. The usual, career or your life, you can’t have both.
What more needs to be done to remove obstacles for women in blockchain?
Decentralising access, this is very important. In Nigeria, we would be hosting a BlockTech conference where the target participants are women. Efforts towards removing obstacles to women participation in blockchain need to be deliberate. It is not enough to say, “we googled and couldn’t find women.”
What are you, personally, doing to get more people involved in blockchain?
I leverage more on one-on-one evangelism. I tell women I know how they can chart new career paths in blockchain. In a few weeks, I would be training female teens on an introduction to blockchain. This is just one of the similar kind of training I do to bring in more women into the space by letting them know in simple terms what they stand to gain.
How do you see this technology changing peoples’ lives for the better?
On the financial front, the technology has near eliminated barriers to entry for those without a working government identity. They are usually the ones counted in the poverty statistics which we read from the comfort of our houses or offices, on our laptops and tablets.
But for the first time in history, we have a technology for good that would allow these people to go from being just a statistic to becoming relevant players in the economy, consequently improving their circumstances.
Why are people so suspicious of it?
Because the technology is yet to receive a stamp of approval from the government. Also, there is the argument of crypto being used for criminal activities and cybercrime, which to me is ridiculous considering the tracking and immutability features of the blockchain. Well, a creator cannot control how their invention is used. Crypto’s close relationship with Ponzi schemes which has got several people burnt is another reason most people are suspicious of the technology.
After the events of recent weeks, with the price of crypto falling dramatically what does this mean for trust in the technology?
In my opinion, this would mean more attention would shift to building other use cases of the blockchain technology beyond crypto.
Do people need to be kinder to one another after the last week instead of turning on each other?
Whatever the circumstance, people need to always show kindness, because you never know what the other is dealing with.
What would you say to young women considering a career in blockchain? How would you encourage them?
Never wait for anyone to give you permission to be successful. You have to learn before you can earn. Write, write, write.
Is gender a barrier to success. Or not?
Interestingly, in the blockchain space, gender has never been a barrier for me. In fact, I could say it even helped as leverage. I can’t begin to count how many times I have been in an all-male meeting and when I raise my hand to speak, there is an instant hush, not in a mocking way, but because they want to be encouraging.
Do you feel that there’s resistance to this tech in Africa, whereas it’s been embraced in the rest of the world?
I do not think there is any resistance, just snail-pace approach to reacting to the technology. African countries like Kenya, South Africa, Mauritius and Nigeria have made positive efforts towards creating regulatory frameworks, especially for blockchain, while some seem to treat crypto as leprous.
The regulatory sandbox approach we hope will birth a fertile ground for blockchain to develop while protecting end users and not stifle innovation.