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Inside Abuja local tea stall where cryptocurrency is accepted as payment

Rabiu, the Nigerien tea vendor, owns a tea stall a few meters from Gwagwalada’s main market in the heart of New Kutunku, Gwagwalada Area Council…

Rabiu, the Nigerien tea vendor, owns a tea stall a few meters from Gwagwalada’s main market in the heart of New Kutunku, Gwagwalada Area Council of the FCT. Over the years, the way people enjoy their breakfast has changed and to satisfy customers’ needs, tea vendors have transformed into fast food joints, operating in temporary shanties along busy road networks, Daily Trust Saturday reports.

In this makeshift shop, I prepare noodles, pepper soup, tea and sell Dambun Nama (shredded meat), as well as soft drinks; and I accept their payments in cryptocurrency,” says Halilu Rabiu, a local tea vendor tucked in a corner of Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory.

Unlike regular tea vendors, otherwise called Mai shayi, Rabiu also recently transformed his two-year-old tea business by introducing cryptocurrency; a new means of payment, mostly used by high-tech savvy individuals or investors.

This crypto tea vendor does not just sell tea and bread, he combines tea selling with other Nigerian delicacies such as noodles, goat head pepper soup, shredded meat and soft drinks to accommodate more customers. Based on this expansion, Rabiu was motivated by his friends who are into Pi network—a type of cryptocurrency, to introduce it into his business. While he keeps mining his crypto, he also accepts cash payments from his customers.

Speaking to Daily Trust Saturday, the father of two noted that the only form of education he enjoys to date is the Islamic education he was fortunate to receive at a young age. “The world is changing; one needs to adapt to these changes,” he said referring to his new found versatility in business. “When my friend introduced me to the Pi project four months ago, I decided to give it a try by adding it to my business since no one in the tea business around Gwagwalada is doing it,” he said.

“Honestly, I don’t have much knowledge about it but so far, accepting Pi has not affected my business negatively, it has been successful. The things I did before incorporating Pi to my business has not stopped or changed,” he added.

The tea-selling business, commonly popular in the northern part of Nigeria, has continued to evolve over time. Initially, tea sellers hawk their merchandise on trays, holding a locally made kettle around busy streets and markets. Today, Mai Shayi are around corners of almost every community, stationed in make-shift shanties that are characterised with large tables and benches for customers’ comfort. And always, there is a radio set to keep customers entertained and spark discussions about politics, world affairs and life in general, over cups of hot tea with bread and noodles.


Incidentally, Pi—the type of cryptocurrency the tea vendor accepts, is surrounded by lots of controversies. Most importantly, the project has not made a public launch and it is yet to be valued on crypto markets as well as credible crypto platforms, locally and internationally. However, interest in the Pi network continues to grow.

The Pi network was developed by two Stanford University academics—Nicolas Kokkalis and Chengdiao Fan. They commenced operation in 2018, with the aim of creating digital money for everyone. In March 2019, they launched the Pi Network app that allows people to mine using just an internet connection.

Daily Trust Saturday gathered that unlike bitcoin and other digital currencies, Pi is the first digital currency for everyday people as it allows anyone interested in it to mine on their mobile phones using an internet connection.

Cryptocurrencies are decentralized digital currencies designed to work as a medium of exchange through a computer network. One of their key features is that they do not rely on any central authority, such as banks or government to own or maintain them. Bitcoin was the first to be created in 2009.

Despite the crackdown on crypto by the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2021, its adoption is rapidly on the rise in Nigeria. The apex financial regulator warned that trading cryptocurrency poses significant risks including and not limited to investment loss, money laundering and terrorism financing. According to an April report by a cryptocurrency exchange platform, KuCoin, more than a third of Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 60 invest in cryptocurrencies.

Even after Nigeria became the first country in Africa to roll out a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), eNaira, in October 2021, the country was ranked sixth on the 2021 Global Crypto Adoption Index by a blockchain analytics organization, Chainalysis.

The tea brewer knows from the information he received from his friends that the Pi coin is an unlisted token that is practically worthless since it has not yet been launched on any cryptocurrency exchange, yet he still accepts it. “This is a global thing and almost everyone I know is doing it. If I prepare anything my customers want, I collect 1 Pi for each N500 combo. I believe it will be profitable for me in the future. Even if it does not, that is how God has ordained it to be,” he said.

Despite being mocked by some of his friends for accepting Pi as a means of payment, Halilu Rabiu says he is determined to continue on the path he has chosen. So far, the tea brewer has saved up to 95 Pi, all from payments received from his business.

“I get mocked sometimes. People say my business will crash and I’ll become bankrupt. But I believe God is the only one who can decide that. Every celebrated business person on earth took risks before they reached the position they are today, as a common Mai Shayi, I need to take risks too,” he said confidently.

“No matter the quantity of Pi, 50 or 100, I will accept it and give you anything you want from my shop without any fear. Though, I don’t know when Pi will be valued. Maybe this year, next or even longer. One thing I am certain is, if it does, dead or alive, my lineage would certainly benefit from it,” he said.

Contrary to the belief of the tea brewer, Malam Idris Tanko, the Chairman of Gwagwalada Pi mega mall, an umbrella body that Rabiu belongs to, said the digital currency is already valued in Gwagwalada and its value depends solely on the agreement between the buyer and seller.

“For us in Gwagwalada, the digital currency is already valued. This is because Rabiu already accepts it as legal tender, I accept it too and give shoes. As a group, we are already accepting it and giving valuables with it. Our only hope is that its value gets better.”

“On a global level, Pi is in an enclosed system and the value depends on the agreement between the buyer and the seller for now. However, based on the global consensus price, 1 pi would be worth $314,159 (N139,009,074.32) if it enters the main net,” Tanko said.  

However, Adamu Abubakar, a cyber security and blockchain expert, said those mining Pi are putting unrealistic expectations on the digital currency even though there is a likelihood for the cryptocurrency to be launched by December. He however warned that they should be wary of their digital information.

“There are possibilities of launching Pi this December. However, we all know that even when bitcoin was launched, it started at 1 cent until it gradually reached where it is today. Equally, we cannot on our own predict that Pi would be higher or lesser than bitcoin even though we hope it goes high, what will determine that is its acceptability and scarcity,” he said.

According to the expert: “I am not saying it will fail, but putting too much expectation on it even before it is launched is not advisable. This is because we have seen how other altcoins like OneCoin, Electroneum and Billion coin were hyped and they all failed.”

As for the crypto tea seller Rabiu, who has carved a unique identity for himself and his business, he remains hopeful that the digital currency would be valued and widely accepted by other business-like minds and Nigerians at large.

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