Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey has announced a partnership with entrepreneur and hip-hop billionaire Jay-Z to start a bitcoin endowment focused on developing the cryptocurrency in Africa and India.
Called “₿trust,” the endowment is being funded with an initial investment of 500 bitcoin, which was worth about $23.6 million as of Friday, Business Insider reported. Bitcoin hit an all-time high on Friday, trading at more than $48,000 and up about 24 percent in the prior week.
The mission of ₿trust is to make bitcoin the internet’s currency, according to Dorsey, a long-time bitcoin bull and cryptocurrency enthusiast.
“It‘ll be set up as a blind irrevocable trust, taking zero direction from us. We need 3 board members to start,” Dorsey tweeted Friday with a link to an application form for people who would like to be on the ₿trust board of directors.
The application process to be a ₿trust board member relies on three details: email, name or nym, and proof of work. Proof of work is the most important, according to the form. “We will judge valid candidates entirely on what’s shared here,” it said.
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In December, Square was reportedly interested in buying Jay-Z’s music-streaming service, Tidal. Dorsey and Jay-Z were photographed together on a yacht in 2020, according to Vulture. They were also seen walking together in the Hamptons, Business Insider reported.
Dorsey has described bitcoin’s design and ideals as “the most beautiful thing” and one of “the most seminal works of computer science in the last 20 or 30 years,” according to a bitcoin whitepaper.
His payments-processing company, Square, has supported bitcoin for more than three years and Twitter said it’s looking into using bitcoin to pay its employees and suppliers, Variety reported. In October 2020, Square bought 4,709 bitcoins worth $50 million at the time.
Multiple exchanges can be used to convert bitcoin into conventional currencies and bitcoin can be exchanged directly between users without the need for a third party to facilitate the transaction. As a decentralized digital currency, bitcoin is not tied to any country’s central bank.
Africans have a massive interest in cryptocurrency transactions. Nigerians are second only to the U.S. for volume of bitcoin traded in the last five years. In 2020, Nigerians traded more than $400 million worth of cryptocurrency on major local crypto exchanges.
Africans trade cryptocurrencies in cross-border transactions and as a hedge against currency devaluation, Techcrunch reported. Bitcoin trading gained popularity in Nigeria in 2020 during the #EndSARS protests that rocked the country. When donations for the protests flooded in from around the world, the Nigerian government shut down the bank accounts used for this effort, Techcrunch reported. Bitcoin became a lifeline keeping the crowdfunding activities alive.
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Since then, there are growing concerns that the Nigerian government intends to regulate cryptocurrency. Earlier in February, Nigeria’s central bank asked commercial banks and other financial institutions to close accounts transacting in, or operating on, cryptocurrency exchanges, Quartz reported. All deals involving cryptocurrencies are prohibited with the threat of “severe regulatory sanctions.”
The Indian government has been reluctant to embrace bitcoin and is said to be considering creating its own digital currency and banning private cryptocurrencies.
“Even though India is the software development capital of the world, we haven’t contributed to bitcoin core development in any significant way,” said Varun Deshpande, co-founder of India-based OnJuno, which is building a digital banking platform for Asian Americans, Techcrunch reported.