5 African Women Paving the Way for Inclusion in the Cryptocurrency Ecosystem

These five remarkable African individuals have not only embraced the world of cryptocurrencies but have dedicated themselves to making it accessible to everyone.

5 African Women Paving the Way for Inclusion in the Cryptocurrency Ecosystem


1. Introduction

2. Sonya Kuhnel

3. Alakanani Itireleng

4. Olayinka Odeniran

5. Michelle Chivunga Nsunsumuco

6. Roselyn Gicira Mwangi

7. Closing Thoughts


"A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture, and transform." - Diane Mariechild

In recent years, the world has seen a surge in interest in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other altcoins that have gained global recognition. In these years, we have been crediting the creators of these cryptocurrencies for their role in the advancement of digital and decentralised finance. However, what often goes unnoticed is the significant role that women, particularly African women, play in shaping the inclusive future of the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

In this article, we will look into the inspiring stories of five remarkable African women who have been instrumental in fostering inclusion in the crypto industry.

1. Sonya Kuhnel: South Africa

Sonya Kuhnel is a prominent figure in the South African crypto scene who has played a significant role in making the cryptocurrency space more accessible to everyone. As the co-founder of the Blockchain Academy in South Africa, Sonya has been dedicated to educating people from diverse backgrounds about blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Her focus on simplifying complex topics has empowered individuals, especially women, to actively participate in an industry traditionally dominated by men. Sonya's contributions have set the stage for a more diverse and inclusive presence in the crypto field.

Sonya's journey into the world of cryptocurrencies began in 2013 when she established Bitcoin Payments, a BitPay affiliate partner, enabling online merchants in South Africa to accept Bitcoin as a payment method. This early venture marked her as an industry pioneer. In 2014, she co-founded Bitcoin Events, a renowned company hosting premier cryptocurrency and blockchain events in South Africa, including the Blockchain Africa Conferences, DeFi Conference, and Crypto Fest. These events have consistently attracted audiences comprising venture capitalists, government delegates, and industry leaders, fostering dialogue and innovation.

Recognising the increasing demand for education in blockchain technology, Sonya founded the Bitcoin Academy in 2015, later rebranded as the Blockchain Academy. It became the first institution of its kind in South Africa, offering comprehensive training and consulting services globally. In her role as Co-founder and Crypto and Blockchain Specialist at Xago, a Cape Town-based company, Sonya has been instrumental in developing an XRP cryptocurrency exchange and payment platform that leverages the Ripple blockchain for fast and cost-effective payments.

Sonya also co-organises the Cape Town Crypto Meetup Group, showcasing her commitment to community engagement and knowledge-sharing in the cryptocurrency and blockchain space. Notably, she was nominated for the "Woman in #Web3" Award by Women in Tech South Africa, highlighting her recognition in the tech industry.

Her ongoing role as the Co-founder and Managing Director of Bitcoin Events reflects her dedication to organising conferences that have become prominent gatherings in the industry, welcoming attendees from over 165 countries. Sonya Kuhnel's journey exemplifies her commitment to breaking down barriers, fostering education, and driving diversity in the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

Sonya’s network is open to everyone, and you can connect with her on LinkedIn and X.

2. Alakanani Itireleng: Botswana

Alakanani Itireleng, often referred to as The Bitcoin Lady, stands out as a key figure in championing the understanding and use of cryptocurrencies in Africa. Based in Botswana, she is the founder and CEO of Satoshi Centre, a blockchain hub with a mission to empower young entrepreneurs and raise awareness about Bitcoin. Alakanani, a wife, mother, and former religious education teacher, found her way into the world of blockchain and cryptocurrency in 2013 while seeking financial assistance for her son's medical condition. Despite facing setbacks, including the loss of her son, she recognised the potential of Bitcoin and dedicated herself to learning and educating others about the technology.

Satoshi Centre, established in 2014, serves as a co-working space fostering collaboration among like-minded individuals to develop blockchain and fintech projects. Alakanani's vision extends beyond Botswana, aiming to connect startups with mentors, training, and funding through an online platform. She is committed to simplifying blockchain technology, offering free developer training, and organising events to promote awareness.

Alakanani emphasises the importance of education for the adoption of 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution) technologies like blockchain in Botswana. She believes that without rapid adoption, the country will lag behind in innovation and remain dependent on external innovations. Her mantra, "Discover, Support, Innovate," reflects her commitment to nurturing talent and fostering innovation.

Despite initial scepticism due to her non-tech background, Alakanani overcame challenges in building the Satoshi Centre. The centre has received international recognition, winning awards in Sandton and Washington DC. Alakanani's proudest moment lies in taking Satoshi Centre's vision global and contributing to the recognition of Botswana in the blockchain space.

Looking ahead, Alakanani envisions Satoshi Centre becoming the go-to collaboration space for blockchain in Africa. She aspires to have helped produce at least three globally recognised blockchain businesses within the next 3-5 years. Alakanani advises young people venturing into blockchain startups to believe in their ideas and start now.

You can connect with Alakanani on LinkedIn and X.

3. Olayinka Odeniran: Nigeria

Olayinka Odeniran is an influential figure in the world of blockchain and cryptocurrency, making significant contributions to the industry over her impressive 15+ years of experience. As the founder and chairwoman of the Black Women Blockchain Council (BWBC), she plays an important role in providing consulting, education, and strategic frameworks for blockchain enthusiasts. BWBC's mission under Olayinka's leadership is to inspire, train, and activate a talent and economic pipeline of black women in blockchain and fintech, fostering diversity and inclusivity.

Odeniran's journey is marked by her expertise in compliance, cybersecurity, and risk management. With a Master's degree in Cybersecurity Management and Policy from UMC and a solid background from Boston University, she operates comfortably in the expanding blockchain landscape, providing information assurance to others. Her dedication to making all sectors of tech inclusive and diverse is evident through her role as the Executive Director of the BWBC 501(c)3 Foundation.

In addition to her leadership at BWBC, Olayinka has been recognised and featured on major platforms like Yahoo Finance, The Root, Forbes, and CNBC. Her notable achievements include being listed among the “Top 10 Women Who Used Crypto To Make A Difference In 2021” by CoinTelegraph and named one of the “Top 10 Influential African Women in Blockchain” by IT News Africa. Further accolades include her feature as one of the “100 Women of The Future Change-makers in Web3 and the Metaverse,” highlighting her commitment to using emerging technologies for positive change in the physical world.

Olayinka's impact extends beyond her advocacy and leadership. She is the Creative Director of the International Women of Blockchain (IWB), an all-women speaker conference addressing critical blockchain topics. With her wealth of experience, she brings a strategic vision and innovative approach to cybersecurity, demonstrating skills in governance, entrepreneurship, security operations management, employee/end-user training, and programme management. Olayinka Odeniran's journey exemplifies a commitment to inclusion, education, and empowerment in the rapidly evolving world of blockchain and emerging technologies.

You can connect with Olayinka Odeniran on LinkedIn.

4. Michelle Chivunga Nsunsumuco: Zambia

Michelle Chivunga Nsunsumuco, hailing from Zambia, is a powerhouse in the world of digital transformation and blockchain. As the Founder, CEO, and Investor of Global Policy House, she's at the forefront of exploring emerging technologies like blockchain in the context of emerging markets, trade, enterprise, and sustainable development. Michelle is recognised as a young thought leader in the blockchain space, and her journey began in 2009 when she first engaged with blockchain. Since then, she has tirelessly worked to evaluate the growth of the digital economy and the potential of emerging technologies, collaborating with university partners and global institutions such as WTO, UN, World Bank, and the African Union.

In addition to her role at Global Policy House, Michelle serves as a Senior Advisor to the Government of Bermuda on the Global Fintech Advisory Board. Her influence extends across the globe, with engagements in the African Union, United Nations, World Trade Organisation, Commonwealth, ICC, World Economic Forum, and World Union of Small and Medium Enterprises. Notably, she holds various positions on boards, including the African Union's Digital Trade and Transformation Taskforce.

Michelle's extensive experience spans digital transformation, blockchain, AI, cyber, CBDC, investments, stakeholder/economic/monetary policy, SMEs, government technical support, and youth/women development programs. Her ultimate goal is to use digital tools and transformation to bridge the digital divide, shaping policies for impactful change and advocating for sustainable and inclusive development. Michelle has proven herself as an influential communicator, working with global governments on large-scale projects, financing institutions, academia, and international communities.

Her career trajectory, from consultancy in the hotel investment sector to influencing UK government policy and designing economic frameworks, reflects her commitment to positive change. As the Chair of the International/Foreign Affairs Committee and Senior Regional Advisor (Africa) at the British Blockchain Association, Michelle continues to explore emerging technologies, particularly in the context of international development, emerging markets, climate change, trade, enterprise, and sustainable development.

In recognition of her remarkable contributions, Michelle has been awarded Digital Transformation Woman of the Year 2022, listed among the Top 10 Women in Blockchain in Africa, and recognised as one of the Top 40 Global Fintech4Good Fellows with the United Nations. Her leadership, passion, and commitment to inclusive and sustainable development make Michelle Chivunga Nsunsumuco a standout figure in the global cryptocurrency and blockchain ecosystem, inspiring positive change and innovation.

You can connect with Michelle on LinkedIn and X.

5. Roselyn Gicira Mwangi: Kenya

Roselyn Gicira Mwangi, hailing from Kenya, stands as a prominent figure in Africa's blockchain landscape, leading the Blockchain Association of Kenya and spearheading the Kenyan Women in Blockchain Chapter. Her journey reflects a deep commitment to fostering innovation and empowering communities through disruptive technologies. With over a decade of experience, she brings a wealth of expertise, having served as a programme officer at UN Women for eight years before venturing into entrepreneurship as a Safaricom business dealer.

Roselyn's leadership extends beyond administrative roles; she is deeply involved in the grassroots of blockchain education and empowerment. Her interest in equity investments and disruptive technologies has driven her to provide private coaching sessions to new traders, guiding them through the intricacies of trading styles. Additionally, as a co-founder and director of Azuri Blockchain Consultants Ltd, she facilitates strategic linkages for companies delving into emerging technologies across Africa.

Her journey reflects a steadfast dedication to women's empowerment, which is evident in her initiatives like the Kenyan Women in Blockchain Chapter. Through her leadership, she has cultivated a vibrant community of women actively engaged in blockchain technology, advocating for their inclusion and participation in Africa's evolving crypto ecosystem.

Roselyn's impact transcends borders; she has been featured in numerous press articles and international conferences, highlighting her influence and contributions to the blockchain space in Africa. Her vision for the future is grounded in collaboration and education, as she plans to expand training programmes for blockchain professionals and foster partnerships with regional organisations to drive innovation and awareness.

In a landscape often dominated by male voices, Roselyn Gicira Mwangi stands as a beacon of empowerment, championing diversity and inclusion in Africa's burgeoning blockchain industry. Her journey embodies resilience, tenacity, and a relentless pursuit of progress, paving the way for a more inclusive and empowered future in the world of cryptocurrency and technology.

You can connect with Roselyn on LinkedIn.

Closing Thoughts

These five remarkable African individuals have not only embraced the world of cryptocurrencies but have dedicated themselves to making it accessible to everyone.

Through education, advocacy, and user-friendly tools, they are breaking down barriers and inspiring a new era of inclusion in the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

As we celebrate their achievements, it is important to recognise that their work is not just shaping the future of finance in Africa but is contributing to a more inclusive and diverse global crypto community.