Bitcoin Events Connects International Audience to African Blockchain Ecosystem

Sonya Kuhnel and Theo Sauls established Bitcoin Events with the intention of creating awareness to individuals and organisations in Africa, of the potential disruption and innovation that blockchain technology offers. 

Bitcoin Events prides itself on being the first events company to host world-class blockchain-specific conferences in Africa. To date, they have hosted seven highly successful Blockchain Africa Conferences in Cape Town and Johannesburg, and most recently, online. Bitcoin Events has also introduced additional annual events such as the Crypto Fest and DeFi Conferences.

Over the past 7 years, Bitcoin Events has  hosted 14,000+ attendees from 165+ countries. They are pioneers within the space and their commitment to the blockchain movement is respected and appreciated by the wider African ecosystem. 

The Blockchain Africa Conference, a journey through the ages…

The Blockchain Africa Conference that we are experiencing today is not the same as the first event that took place. In 2015 Bitcoin Events hosted their inaugural Bitcoin Africa Conference at a time where there was very little interest in blockchain and cryptocurrencies in South Africa. The event was bitcoin specific and most of the discussions were around this topic.

Included in the line up of prestigious speakers at the inaugural event were Brock Pierce, American entrepreneur and philanthropist, the well-known South African entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Vinny Lingham, radio personality, Simon Dingle, and Elizabeth Rossiello, one of the first woman to found a company in Africa using cryptocurrencies for cross border payments.  

In 2016, the 2nd edition of the conference took place and focus was shifted from being bitcoin centric to instead include talks on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. The 2nd edition of the annual event was called the Bitcoin and Blockchain Africa Conference.

One of the highlights of the 2016 conference was the attendance of Andreas Antonopoulos as a Keynote Speaker. Andreas  is an educator, security expert and author of Mastering Bitcoin, and often referred to as one of the most knowledgeable individuals in this space. Andreas’s talk at the event, “Bitcoin, Blockchain or Bullshit?” is still regarded as one of the event’s most memorable talks to date.

In 2016, financial institutions’ began to showcase their interest in blockchain technology by taking part in the conference. A new phrase that was gaining momentum at the time was, “Blockchain, not bitcoin”.

To further illustrate the growing interest from financial institutions, Absa Group Limited, one of the largest banks in South Africa, claimed the spot as the Premier Sponsor of the 2016 Bitcoin and Blockchain Africa Conference.

Sonya Kuhnel commented, “We found this sponsorship from Absa particularly interesting because just a few years before, bitcoin was regarded by these financial institutions as a tool for money laundering or illegal activity. This sentiment was clearly changing and what followed was several key individuals from financial institutions such as BankservAfrica, Standard Bank, and the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), taking part in the events.”

Sonya continued, “Over the years we have found that our most well-attended sessions were those on the regulation of cryptocurrencies, with particular interest with representatives from the SARB sharing their views on digital assets and what possible regulation will look like.”

Bitcoin Events’s 3rd and subsequent event, would move away from the name “Bitcoin and Blockchain Conference”, and become what is still known today as the “Blockchain Africa Conference”.

Bitcoin Events introduced a new annual event into the calendar by creating the very dynamic Crypto Fest in spring of 2019. The first edition proved to be a fun and festive event at the very popular Shimmy’s Beach Club in Cape Town.

Theo Sauls said, “We wanted to create a fun, high energy festival-type event that would be very different to the Blockchain Africa Conferences. We wanted people to relax, have a drink, network with others and learn about cryptocurrencies at Crypto Fest.

In March 2020, Bitcoin Events managed to host the 6th Blockchain Africa Conference: Beyond the Hype, at Premier Sponsor Investec’s office in Johannesburg just before South Africa went into lockdown because of Covid-19.

Bitcoin Events created their 3rd annual event, the DeFi Conference: The Rise of Decentralised Finance, in 2020 as a response to the explosion of interest in decentralised finance (DeFi). The event would prove to be an interesting addition to the other 2 annual events hosted by the team.  

Charles Hoskinson, Founder of Cardano was the Keynote speaker at the Blockchain Africa Conference 2021: From Hype to Mainstream. The event was hosted online for the first time and a record 5700 people attended the event. Charles’s talk was the most viewed talk of the day and he discussed how he and his team are working with the Government of Ethiopia on creating blockchain-based identities for 2 million people. 

Bitcoin Events is gearing up for the 8th edition of the Blockchain Africa Conference on the 17th and 18th of March 2022 in Johannesburg as a hybrid event, meaning that some speakers, attendees and delegates will participate virtually.

Blockchain Africa Conference 2022 is themed, and will be driving the discussion toward, “Ready for Business?“. As blockchain technology and its numerous applications become more prevalent, we are seeing fewer experiments and more robust enterprise-ready solutions. 

Businesses today are being transformed and digitised, improving customer experience while revolutionising offerings. Whether it’s improved tracking, faster transactions, medical records, supply chain management, you name it, blockchain is disrupting it!

Disrupt, transform, connect! 

The Blockchain Africa Conferences have not only provided an opportunity for people on the continent to learn what is happening globally in the blockchain and cryptocurrency ecosystem, but more importantly, it has provided an opportunity for the community in Africa to meet each other and to be introduced to key players in the global ecosystem.

Over the years, the conferences have showcased the transition from a fringe, niche-like interest in bitcoin, to the adoption of  blockchain technology and from some of the world’s largest companies. 

The last 7 years have certainly been an interesting time to experience and witness“, says Theo Sauls. “So much disruption and innovation is happening in this space and we are privileged to be part of it! We are extremely fortunate to host such incredible international speakers and be able to showcase developments within Africa to global players and industry leaders.”

The Blockchain Africa Conference is a clear highlight on the South African blockchain communities calendar, and next year’s 2022 conference promises to be another exciting edition of the event!

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