ABS Exclusive Interview with Mayowa Tudonu of BuyCoins.Africa

So far on the African Blockchain Series, we have featured Blockchain Projects based in Africa. It’s time now to meet the people that work behind the scenes to bring these projects to live.
In this article we will be having an interview with a blockchain developer with vast experience in computing and the internet of things (IOT). Make sure you read this article from beginning to the end.
1. Hello Mr Mayowa, can we get to know you?
My name is Mayowa Tudonu, from Ogun state in Nigeria. I studied Computer Engineering at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife-Ife, where I developed further interests in computing. So far in the span of my career, I have worked in three industries.
I started in the E-commerce sector with Jumia as a Software Engineering intern and then transitioned into a full-time role after my internship. I guess I performed well, so I was allowed to work remotely with the team while I was still in school. After school, I got hungry for more adventure so I joined Interswitch – who are also kings in the local FinTech space. My time at Interswitch did not last for too long, as I left to join the awesome team at BuyCoins.africa to build cool Blockchain products.
2. How did you become a blockchain developer? let’s hear your story
To be honest, this is one of the few things that I did not plan to ‘become’. I consider myself a fairly moderate planner. Hence, I get to see the big picture ahead and I diligently plan how to achieve it. But it did not turn out that way this time.
It was my final year at the university, a classmate of mine was organizing a Bootcamp for Blockchain. I had heard about the new technology, but I am not really big on new technologies, especially because there are so many of them and it increasingly gets overwhelming. However, I was determined to change that and I chose to join his Bootcamp.
I learned a few things at the Bootcamp, but I wasn’t even serious with it, I was mostly working. The Bootcamp ended after a week or two, but I still had a keen interest in learning more about the technology.
A couple of weeks after, I saw an advert by Consensys Academy. They offered a Blockchain Developer course for about $1k, which was a lot back then. However, they also had a scholarship program for about 10 slots. I applied for the scholarship, passed the tests and got the scholarship. I guess that was how my Blockchain journey really started. I joined the course, really took my time to understand the material, connected and collaborated with other enthusiasts, and completed the course with a cool project and a score in the 90th percentile.Mayowa of buycoins.africa on Qrypto Central
3. How would you rate the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Industry in Africa in the last five years?
The industry has really grown. In the developer space, there are a handful of good Blockchain Developers around, but compared to the early days, I would say it is growing. There are not too many local companies focused on building products.
The few ones we have are startups like BuyCoins.africa are focused on building great cryptocurrency exchanges. But yeah, I would say the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Industry is looking good.
4. As a Blockchain Developer in Africa, what are the challenges you face?
In Africa, the challenges that I face are not really technical. There are technical challenges though, as with building other ‘non-blockchain’ products. But with some good research and right thinking, I get them solved. Also, in line with one of the main themes of Blockchain Technology which is decentralisation, the knowledge and tools in the Blockchain space have been `decentralised`. At least to a large extent.
The challenges are majorly around product adoption and awareness. A good case in point is the NGNT Stablecoin that was released by BuyCoins.africa a couple of weeks ago. I conducted a survey on Twitter on how much my followers knew about the product, and 67.3% of the respondents had no idea what the product was about (survey here).
The result was rather underwhelming because as a developer you do not only want to build stuffs, you also want people to use your product.
5. What do you recommend as solutions to address these challenges?
To increase adoption and awareness, I would recommend that Blockchain products are built with unique and intuitive user experiences that hides the underlying technology from the user.
For example, as a Twitter user, you don’t need to care if Twitter uses a Graph DB or a Relational DB, you just want to tweet, and join the banter. Many Blockchain applications still need users to be tech-savvy to use them, you’d still hear about things likey key management, signing transactions, etc. There is a lot of research in the area of UX for Blockchain apps, and things are really looking good.
On the product building side, Blockchain developers should adopt new tools that will enable the product design to be usable by less tech-savvy users. At BuyCoins.africa, during the process of Building our stable coin NGNT, we researched and implemented the concept of meta transactions which allowed users to purchase the coin without having Ether in their accounts – what would be called gas-less transactions.
It was a really novel idea and we faced some really technical challenges while building, however, anything to make the life of our users easier if worth doing. I would encourage other Blockchain developers to adopt more approaches like this as well.
6. Where do you see the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Industry in Africa by 2025?
Mehn, this simple answer is that I expect the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Industry to be huge. However, that would be scratching the surface. I expect more startups to come in. Last year saw companies like Binance set up their Binance Labs office in Lagos. I expect more over the next five year. Hackathons, meetups, training, etc.
I am particularly excited about the prospects of remittances with cryptocurrency. Simply put, as a developer in Nigeria who works remotely with a team anywhere in the world, I can get paid in bitcoin, convert my bitcoin directly to naira at a very good rate and receive my Naira in my account all within a few minutes. We already have cases of this happening on BuyCoins.africa like this. However, this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what we can achieve with cryptocurrency remittances.
7. As we round up, what is your word of advice to aspiring blockchain developers in Africa?
My first advice will be to get a solid foundation. Don’t jump into it. Find a great course and learn. You will be working with Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Ferrum, etc. Remember these digital currencies have value like real money.
There are hacks every now and then and you don’t want to get hacked due to your ignorance or mistakes. Hence, get a good course and really dig into the details. Consensys Academy is a good place to learn. I hear Udactiy has a Nanodegree for Blockchain too, but I have not checked it out yet. After completing a great course, work on a project and get reviewed by peers.
Contribute to open-source Blockchain projects – you will learn a lot from them. When you are comfortable enough, you can apply for Blockchain Developer jobs.
Thank you Mr Mayowa for your time.