“One of life’s greatest tragedies,” according to author KL Toth, “is losing your sense of yourself and accepting the version of yourself that everyone else expects.” For the people of Afghanistan, almost 40 million of them, the loss of self, as well as the loss of life, has become a brutal reality. With the Taliban in control, now chaos reigns. As businesses close, tens of thousands of people are desperately trying to flee the country. Furthermore, as the political system collapses, so does the financial one.
As CNBC’s MacKenzie Sigalos recently noted, Afghanistan is “a country that moves on legacy financial rails.” This painful 20-year reckoning has resulted in a “nationwide cash shortage” as well as “closed borders, a falling currency and rapidly rising commodity prices.” The people are desperate as the country rapidly descends into the deepest depths of despair.
According to Sigalos, many of the country’s banks, obviously affected by the country’s rapid demise, have been “forced to close their doors after running out of cash.” To make matters worse, Western Union has suspended its services. As Sigalos writes, “even the centuries-old ‘hawala’ system, which facilitates cross-border transactions,” has been shut down. The despair is palpable. The people of Afghanistan need help.
Fortunately, grassroots nonprofits are doing their best to offer assistance. They are currently helping some 20,000 Afghan citizens “who are still in the country waiting for the United States authorities to process special immigrant visas.” This is where the importance of cryptocurrencies comes into play. To raise enough funds to relocate 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. YFI from Finance, MATIC from Polygon, Synthetix Network Token (SNX) and Bancor Network Token (BNT).
For critics of crypto, many of whom have questioned whether it is of any use, the events in Afghanistan demonstrate how it can literally save lives. This may seem hyperbolic, but it is not. In addition to non-profit organizations, more and more Afghan citizens are turning to cryptocurrencies. In the CNBC article, Sigalos spoke with a young Afghan who believes that “a situation similar to that of Venezuela” is looming. It may well be. According to a Bloomberg report, when the Taliban took control of Kabul in mid-August, the Afghan Afghani, the country’s currency, fell to a record low.
Venezuela can provide an eye-opening blueprint for the future of Afghanistan. The South American country, ravaged by hyperinflation, political instability and US sanctions, is in dire straits. With the country mired in an economic crisis, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether have proven their worth. According to Jhonnatan Morales, Venezuela-based cryptocurrency consultant and Cointelegraph en Español contributor, “Many people are mining and trading Bitcoin not to purchase products, but to protect themselves from hyperinflation.”
Related: Exploring Venezuela’s Crypto Ecosystem Since The Start Of The Pandemic
Speaking of Venezuela, the nation’s government recently announced plans to remove six zeros from the bolivar. It doesn’t take an economist to recognize 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? If a government is not formed soon, do not bet against it.
In Afghanistan, as the Taliban struggle to impose some political order, cryptocurrencies also offer hope to Afghans. In fact, throughout this region, in places like Lebanon and Palestine, cryptocurrencies are in high demand. An increasing number of people in Lebanon and Palestine, all too familiar with currency depreciation and political instability, are finding comfort in cryptocurrencies. According to Arabian Business, as the Lebanese pound “continues to plummet and the economic situation worsens,” people are turning to cryptocurrencies, both as an investment and as a means of transferring their funds abroad. Furthermore, according to the report, a “growing number of small local businesses, ranging from supermarkets to fashion boutiques,” are accepting payments in Bitcoin.
Related: Why Pakistan and the Middle East can bet on cryptocurrency mining
Again, for those quickly wondering why cryptocurrencies are necessary, Lebanon offers more than a few answers. Since 2019, the Lebanese pound has lost around 90% of its value. The political analyst and journalist Marwan Bishara, who has written extensively on the disappearance of Lebanon, readers have said that the Lebanese people have become accustomed to the “shawarma paradox”: Two years ago, “the national sandwich” cost 5,000 Lebanese pounds , or about $ 2; today, it is priced at £ 20,000, less than $ 1. This may seem dark humor, but there is little humor in the disappearance of the nation’s currency, which is essentially worthless.
Some 120 miles away in Palestine, the independent state’s monetary authority is currently debating whether or not to issue its own digital currency. As Palestine seeks to gain greater independence from Israeli rule, a digital currency would at least offer it a form of monetary independence. With so many uninformed commentators obsessed with the bad actors who use cryptocurrencies, very few focus on the desperate people who use them to survive. This brings us back to Afghanistan, a volatile place plagued by acts of terrorism and political instability. The future of the country is uncertain, but cryptocurrencies are offering a lifeline to the millions of Afghans whose lives are at stake.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed here are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
John mac ghlionn is a researcher and cultural commentator. His work has been published by publications such as the New York Post, The Spectator, The Sydney Morning Herald, and the National Review.