“One of the greatest tragedies in life,” according to author KL Toth, “is losing one’s self-esteem and accepting the version of oneself that is expected from everyone else.” For the people of Afghanistan – almost 40 million of them – loss of self and loss of life is a brutal reality. With the Taliban in control, there is now chaos. As shops close, tens of thousands of people are desperately trying to flee the country. In addition, the financial system collapses with the political system.
As CNBC’s MacKenzie Sigalos recently stated, Afghanistan is “a country that is on old financial tracks”. This painful reckoning after 20 years has resulted in a “nationwide cash shortage” as well as “closed borders, a falling currency and rapidly rising prices for basic goods”. The people are desperate as the country is quickly sinking into the depths of despair.
According to Sigalos, many of the country’s banks, apparently affected by the country’s rapid decline, were “forced to close their doors after running out of cash.” To make matters worse, Western Union has shut down. As Sigalos writes, “even the centuries-old ‘hawala’ system that facilitates cross-border transactions” has been closed. The desperation is palpable. The people in Afghanistan need help.
Fortunately, grassroots nonprofits are doing their best to provide help. They are currently supporting around 20,000 Afghan citizens “who are still in the country and waiting for the US authorities to process special immigrant visas”. This is where the importance of cryptocurrencies comes into play. In order to raise enough funds for the resettlement of Afghan families, non-profit organizations currently accept Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC), Zcash (ZEC), Gemini Dollar (GUSD), Balancer’s BAL, Yearn . Finances YFI, Polygons MATIC, Synthetix Network Token (SNX) and Bancor Network Token (BNT).
For the critics of crypto, many of whom have questioned its purpose, events in Afghanistan show how it can literally save lives. That may sound hyperbolic – but it is not. In addition to non-profit organizations, more and more Afghan citizens are turning to crypto. In the CNBC article, Sigalos spoke to a young Afghan who believes “a situation like Venezuela” is on the horizon. It can be very good. When the Taliban took control of Kabul in mid-August, the Afghan Afghani – the country’s currency – fell to an all-time low, according to a Bloomberg report.
Venezuela could provide a telling blueprint for Afghanistan’s future. The South American country, ravaged by hyperinflation, political instability and US sanctions, is in a dire state. While the country is in an economic crisis, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether have proven their worth. According to Venezuela-based cryptocurrency advisor and Cointelegraph en Español employee Jhonnatan Morales: “Many people do not mine and trade Bitcoin to buy products, but to protect themselves from hyperinflation.”
Related: Exploring Venezuela’s crypto ecosystem since the pandemic began
Speaking of Venezuela, the country’s government recently announced plans to remove six zeros from the bolivar. You don’t have to be an economist to realize that the Venezuelan government is doing everything in its power to save a currency that has been in a hyperinflationary coma for years. Could the same fate await Afghanistan? Unless a government is formed soon, don’t bet against it.
While the Taliban are trying to enforce a certain political order in Afghanistan, cryptocurrencies also offer Afghans hope. In fact, cryptocurrencies are in high demand in this region – in places like Lebanon and Palestine. An increasing number of people from Lebanon and Palestine, all too familiar with currency devaluation and political instability, find solace in crypto. According to Arabian Business, people are turning to crypto as the Lebanese pound “continues to decline and the economic situation worsens”, both as an investment and a means to move their funds overseas. In addition, “a growing number of local small businesses, from grocery stores to fashion boutiques,” are accepting payments in Bitcoin, according to the report.
Related: Why Pakistan and the Middle East can count on crypto mining
For those quick to wonder why cryptocurrencies are necessary, Lebanon offers more than just a few answers. Since 2019, the Lebanese pound has lost around 90% of its value. Political scientist and journalist Marwan Bishara, who has written extensively on the fall of Lebanon, told readers that the Lebanese people had gotten used to the “Schwarma paradox”: two years ago, “the national sandwich” cost 5,000 Lebanese pounds or about $ 2; today it costs £ 20,000, less than $ 1. This may seem somberly humorous, but the demise of the nation’s currency, which is essentially worthless, has little humor.
Around 120 kilometers away in Palestine, the monetary authority of the independent state is currently debating whether or not to issue its own digital currency. As Palestine seeks further independence from Israeli rule, a digital currency would offer it at least some form of monetary independence. With so many uninformed commentators fixated on the bad actors using crypto, too few focus on the desperate people who survive with it. This brings us back to Afghanistan, an unstable place plagued by acts of terrorism and political instability. The country’s future is uncertain, but cryptocurrencies offer a lifeline to the millions of Afghans whose lives are at stake.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and cultural commentator. His work has been published by the New York Post, The Spectator, The Sydney Morning Herald, and National Review.