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Web3, Bitcoin... Meet Argentina's "crypto-MP

Web3, Bitcoin... Meet Argentina's "crypto-MP

Argentinian opposition MP (right) Camila crescimbeni wants to use cryptos to promote financial inclusion.

The Big Whale: Argentina is one of the countries with the most dynamic crypto ecosystem. How do you explain this?

Camila Crescimbeni: We have very well-known developers, so there are a lot of crypto projects being created in Argentina. The ecosystem is dynamic. But you have to bear in mind that the 'success' of cryptos is also strongly linked to the country's catastrophic economic situation. Argentines have no confidence in their currency. They want to get rid of the peso at all costs, which makes crypto currencies an ideal alternative, particularly in Buenos Aires (our report from there). And I stress Buenos Aires, because it's mainly here that we talk about cryptos. If you go to more remote areas, many Argentines have never heard of cryptocurrencies. Maybe bitcoin, but the majority don't know how it works or what it's for. It's still very unclear.

And you, how did you become interested in cryptocurrencies?

I'm 32, so I'm something of an internet kid. For me, cryptos are something quite natural and obvious. Incidentally, I can see how the age difference can play into the hands of some of my colleagues in Parliament who totally neglect these subjects. But I was particularly interested because I work on social and financial inclusion issues. In Argentina, a considerable proportion of the population has no bank account or credit card. The banks are too expensive, they don't want customers who don't earn much. Also, the country is so big that even if they wanted to, they couldn't be present everywhere. The main victims of this situation are women, who earn less than men. So we need to bank on cryptocurrencies to help them.

How can cryptocurrencies help in concrete terms?

Nearly all Argentines now have a smartphone, whereas it is estimated that only 65% of the population has a bank account. With a smartphone, you can download a digital wallet or an application. It's free and you can buy, store your cryptocurrencies and even borrow money thanks to decentralised finance. You have access to financial services without a banking intermediary, which is why cryptocurrency buying and selling apps like Lemon, Belo or Ripio are so successful.

What can you do to improve people's financial inclusion?

We're working on bills to make it easier for people to become bankers, but we can't change everything at the wave of a magic wand by forcing the banks. The problem goes much deeper than that. For more than 20 years, this country has been going from crisis to crisis with a currency that is constantly losing value. Since 2002, the peso has collapsed by 99%. So working with the banks is a priority, but it's not the only lever. What we need to do is educate people. We have a very poor economic and financial culture in Argentina. People know that the peso is worth nothing, but they don't understand why. They don't know what savings and investment are. Education is needed from a very early age, from secondary school onwards. Young Argentines need to understand how the economy works, and the country also needs to embrace Web3. We're going to be debating this in Congress shortly.

"Turning the corner on Web3?" Do you think that in a country where there are 40% of poor people, this is the priority?

Yes because everything is connected. When we talk about Web3, we're not just talking about online games or virtual worlds, we're also talking about new payment methods and a new financial architecture. Argentina needs to take advantage of these new technologies and cryptocurrencies to overhaul its system. For decades, we've been trying to solve financial problems with the same solutions. Printing money doesn't work, and neither does controlling capital. It's time to try something else.

Recently Argentina's largest bank, Banco Galicia, announced that it wanted to allow its customers to buy and sell cryptos. How do you interpret this move?

It's quite logical that banks want to allow investment in crypto-currencies, but here we're just talking about investment and placement, which is important, but not enough. Cryptos are a new infrastructure. Bitcoin is a network and a currency. The banks have a role to play, but they are not the only solution. Argentines must all be able to access financial services.

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