PO Tsele uses Bitcoin for payments everyday, but knows it isn’t perfect. So he has been searching for a better currency, and that’s when he discovered Meter.
PO Tsele is an entrepreneur and active member of the Meter community. He has been using Bitcoin for everyday purchases for over four years in his home base of South Africa.
And while he has realized the benefits of using the popular cryptocurrency for payments, he also realized that it has drawbacks.
So PO searched for a better payments currency, and that’s when he discovered Meter’s unique properties that make it an ideal currency for peer-to-peer payments.
Since then, he’s been a very interested and involved member of the Meter community.
We were always curious about what attracted PO to Meter, so we interviewed him to learn more about his story.
How PO discovered Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies
PO’s use of cryptocurrency started in 2017 when he tried to source heirloom seeds from Sweden for his farming venture. Unfortunately, PO’s credit card company kept rejecting the transaction due to suspicion of criminal activity, and he was unable to purchase the seeds.
The seed vendor then suggested to PO that he use Bitcoin to pay for the goods.
That was the first time PO ever heard of Bitcoin. Initially, he was very skeptical because he wasn’t familiar with the currency, and educational resources weren’t dependable.
Nonetheless, PO took a leap of faith. He acquired some Bitcoin on a peer-to-peer exchange and finally completed the purchase for the seeds.
And that began his fascination with cryptocurrencies.
PO then discovered that the restaurant he frequented accepted Bitcoin for payment. Then the local coffee shop started accepting Bitcoin. Soon after, South Africa's largest chain of convenience stores began accepting Bitcoin.
This increased adoption of Bitcoin led PO to stop using cash and credit cards everyday.
The benefits of using Bitcoin for payments
PO quickly realized the benefits of using Bitcoin for payments.
The first benefit he saw was the reduction of high transaction fees.
Every time PO used his credit card, he paid a 3% - 4.5% transaction fee. With Bitcoin, that transaction fee was reduced to 0.5% - 1%. Over the long term, PO saved a lot of money on everyday purchases by using Bitcoin.
The second major benefit is avoidance of high inflation.
Due to poor monetary policy by its central bank, the South African economy has experienced an average annual inflation rate of 7.97% per year since 1961. In comparison, the inflation rate of the US economy typically averages 2-3% per year.
This high inflation has vastly devalued the Rand. For example, an item that costs 100 Rand in 1961 would cost 9211.29 Rand today!
On the other hand, Bitcoin’s inflation rate will drop below 2% in 2020 and continue to decrease due to its predetermined monetary policy.
For these reasons, the growth of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in South Africa has been astounding.
There are tens of thousands of Bitcoin payment transactions happening in South Africa every day.
Daily Bitcoin trading volume exceeds $6 million, and peer-to-peer crypto trading has risen by 2800% in the country, as many digital currency exchanges such as Paxful, Hodl Hodl, and Luno have emerged.
The drawbacks of using Bitcoin for payments
The official title of Satoshi Nakamoto's white paper was Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.
This clearly demonstrates that Satoshi's original intention was to use Bitcoin for payments between people.
But after using Bitcoin to purchase a few items, PO soon discovered that there were a couple of big problems with using the cryptocurrency for everyday payments.
Drawback #1: The volatility of the price of Bitcoin
On one day when the price of Bitcoin was $8000, PO paid 12,500 sats (0.000125 Bitcoin) for a cup of coffee.
The next day, when the price of Bitcoin was $7500, he had to pay 13,300 sats for the same cup of coffee. Not good!
Bitcoin’s unstable price causes relative fluctuations in the price of goods, which is a huge drawback not only for customers, but for merchants as well.
Merchants who accept Bitcoin are worried that the price will go down, and they’ll lose money if it does. They don’t have this fear if a stable currency is used.
PO believes this price instability is a primary reason why digital currencies aren’t widely accepted by merchants all over the world.
The price volatility of Bitcoin is mainly driven by its supply cap; a maximum of 21 million Bitcoins will ever exist. This disinflationary monetary policy causes Bitcoin to behave more like gold, where it’s being used for speculation or store of value, rather than fiat currencies like the US Dollar or Rand, which are used for payments.
It’s clear to believers like PO that the price of Bitcoin will pump in the future. Thus, spending Bitcoin on everyday purchases is not a smart financial choice, and many would rather hold on to their Bitcoin so they can profit in the future.
Drawback #2: The confirmation of a Bitcoin transaction takes a long time
On average, it takes 10 minutes for a Bitcoin transaction to be confirmed.
This causes big problems for the merchant.
Let’s say that you’re buying a cup of coffee with Bitcoin. You can initiate the transaction, have the Bitcoin taken out of your account, and get your cup of coffee. But the merchant doesn’t actually receive the payment until the transaction is confirmed on the Bitcoin blockchain, which may happen within 10 minutes, 1 hour, or much longer, depending on network traffic.
The speed at which a transaction is confirmed depends on the transaction fee paid. The higher the transaction fee, the faster the transaction will be confirmed. Thus, merchants who accept Bitcoin typically require customers to pay a 0.5% - 1% transaction fee so they receive their money in a reasonable amount of time.
PO believes that if these two issues can be resolved, more and more merchants will accept Bitcoin as payments.
What about using stablecoins for payments?
Soon after PO bought the heirloom seeds, the price of Bitcoin increased.
"I think Bitcoin will pump to $20,000 or more in the future,” said PO. “So I want to save my Bitcoin. I do hope there is a better currency that I can use.”
Naturally, PO did more research into alternative cryptocurrencies better suited for payments, and discovered stablecoins such as Tether (USDT), True USD (TUSD), and DAI.
While these stablecoins solved the problems of price volatility and slow confirmation times that Bitcoin faced, PO discovered new problems with these cryptocurrencies.
Fiat-backed stablecoins, like USDT and TUSD, where the stablecoin is (allegedly) backed 1-to-1 to a fiat currency like the US dollar, are the most popular type of stablecoin.
The problem with these stablecoins is that they are controlled by centralized organizations. When a currency is centralized, there is a risk that the organization in control can create too much of the currency and thus significantly devalue it.
These stablecoins reminded PO of the Rand, whose value decreased significantly due to the poor monetary policy of South Africa’s central bank.
Additionally, there have been some issues with transparency regarding centrally-managed stablecoins. Early in 2019, Tether admitted that only 74% of USDT is backed by fiat currency.
As such, very few people in South Africa use USDT and other centralized stablecoins.
Overcollateralization, liquidation risk, and potentially high stability fees
MakerDAO is a system where you can lock up Ether and other cryptocurrencies as collateral to acquire DAI, a stablecoin whose value is pegged to the US dollar.
This system solves most of the centralization problem, as DAI issuance is backed by smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain, rather than issued by a central organization. Still, MakerDAO is an organization that is responsible for maintaining the system, so some centralization remains.
One larger problem is that, at the moment, you have to lock up at least 50% more collateral than the amount of DAI you’re borrowing.
For example, if you want to borrow $100 in DAI, you have to lock up at least $150 worth of Ether or another accepted cryptocurrency, which may not be possible for many users.
This overcollateralization is necessary for MakerDAO to absorb price fluctuations of the collateralized cryptocurrency and keep the system balanced. But if the price of the collateralized cryptocurrency drops significantly, you may suffer a liquidation and lose all of the cryptocurrency you locked up. Ouch.
Additionally, MakerDAO charges a “Stability Fee” (essentially, an interest rate) that you have to pay when you want to get your collateral back. In the example above, if you want to get your $150 in Ether back, at the current stability fee of 5%, you’ll have to pay back $105. Stability fees have been as high as 19.5%.
For these reasons, MakerDAO and DAI are out of reach for many users.
The search for a better payments currency and discovery of Meter
PO continued his search for the ideal payment currency. That’s when he discovered and got involved with Meter.
"I have started mining on the Meter testnet,” said PO. "Meter is the most suitable and the most logical for the value of currency when it comes to solving the problems that Bitcoin and other currencies encounter.”
“It is the better currency I am looking for.”
But what does a better currency look like?
Meter uses Proof of Work (PoW) mining, with the same algorithm as Bitcoin, to issue MTR stablecoins. And just like Bitcoin, anyone can become a miner to issue MTR. MTR is equally as decentralized as Bitcoin.
But Meter is unique in that the system verifies transactions using Proof of Stake (PoS), separating the issuance and bookkeeping. This makes the overall system extremely stable, secure, and scalable.
Governance will be necessary to absorb short-term volatility of MTR and maintain the system over the long term. And this governance will be decentralized as well. MTRG is the governance token of the Meter system and its holders will be able to vote on monetary policies and other management issues.
Meter anchors MTR’s price to the cost of power consumed by mining.
Miners are profit driven, so if they see that the price of MTR is rising, they will deploy more computing power to mine MTR to realize these gains. If the price of MTR is falling, miners may avoid these shrinking margins and move their computing power to other cryptocurrencies. These natural market dynamics will help keep the price of MTR stable and anchor it to the global competitive price of electricity.
Unlike Bitcoin, Meter can process thousands of transactions per second on each chain/shard, reaching finality in seconds rather than minutes or hours.
This high speed and scalability will allow merchants to receive their payments much more quickly, alleviating the uncertainty that comes with receiving payments in Bitcoin.
PO Tsele felt the pain of using fiat and credit cards for payments, so he searched for better payment methods.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies suffer from high volatility and long transaction times, which make them unacceptable for everyday payments.
Currently-available stablecoins have issues with centralization and other risks.
Then PO found Meter, which he believes is the ideal currency for everyday use that will link the real and crypto worlds.
We’re appreciative of community members like PO who help mine, use, and evangelize the mission of Meter.
What are your thoughts on PO Tsele’s story? What problems have you faced in using cryptocurrencies for everyday purchases? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.
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