The Bitcoin Breakthrough in the Third World


The World of Bitcoin

A coffee shop starts taking bitcoin in Cleveland.

This is often enough what counts as big news in the bitcoin sphere these days. And, of course, it is something that we all are hoping for. When bitcoin reaches the point where we can get a cup of coffee on the way to work without having to think about it, the currency will have arrived.

But, despite the fact that bitcoin is being traded in the US more than anywhere else in the world, I am becoming increasingly convinced the breakthroughs will be happen in the third world. It will be adopted only grudgingly here in the US (note, I actually live in Tokyo, but my heart is in the US).

Not as apparent to those who live in the first world are the incredible problems that exist with fiat money.

  • In places with high inflation, money can become worthless quickly, which bitcoin solves by not being a national currency.
  • In places where countries but up against each other, many types of money may be floating around. Dealing with their exchange can be a real problem. I remember getting Canadian coins when I was a kid in Philadelphia. These were considered worthless. Bitcoin solves that problem.
  • In those same places, counterfeiting is a big problem. Bitcoin solves that problem.
  • In the first world, credit cards can be a pain, but almost anyone can get one. In other parts of the world, getting a credit card may not be an option at all. That person is then cut off from any kind of internet activity. Cell phones, however, are widespread in the third world. So, bitcoin solves that problem.
  • I used to work with a lot of people from South and Central America when I was in college. They all had family back home that they were supporting. They had to send a lot of their hard-earned money back home, incurring lots of bank fees. As was recently noted, you can make an around-the-world call for free these days, but can’t send $100 without a lot of hassle and expense. Bitcoin solves this problem.
  • Charities working in difficult to reach places may have difficulty accepting donations directly. Bitcoin solves this problem.

Given these reasons, it is possible that we will see a rapid adoption of bitcoin in a third-world country long before we see it really gain traction here. The one element that could send this in a different direction is that China does seem to be encouraging the adoption of bitcoin within its borders. (The articles I have read on this all seem to say that what is not expressly forbidden in China is encouraged). If China gets into bitcoin in a big way, it may force corporations and other national entities to adopt it to keep up. We’ll see about that, though.

What does this mean for the future of bitcoin? Well, for all of those who are building businesses in the US, they should keep building. But the groundswell is likely to come from outside the boarders, and not from within.

Please visit my list of charities that accept bitcoin. If you are a charity and would like to have your organization added to the list, or if you are a charity that accepts bitcoin and you would like me to write a profile piece, please contact me by visiting the About BitCoin Warrior page or leaving a comment below.


  1. I’m a reporter in Cleveland. Did a local coffee shop actually start accepting Bitcoin? I’m thinking about doing a story on the issue but need to find examples.

  2. Thanks for writing this! The 3rd world is my only hope against bitcoin being shut down by the 1st world.

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for the comment. I have a sneaking suspicion that first-world governments won’t act until it is too late. Every day that bitcoin exists, its infrastructure grows. We are already probably near a tipping point where any concerted effort will simply drive bitcoin underground for a while. But the next big financial crisis will see bitcoin, or maybe one of its successors roaring back. Cheers.

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