Ray Youssef is building one of the most impactful Bitcoin companies serving Africa & India.

Brad Mills
4 min readJan 13, 2021

As Bitcoin continues to gain footing everywhere, it’s the most unexpected places in the world that are at the forefront with adoption. Places like Africa and India make up the vast majority of users on peer-to-peer crypto exchange Paxful — not Western economies like Canada, the US, UK, Australia, etc.

Google search volume for Bitcoin in Nigeria, a country with 200,000,000 people in Africa, is steadily increasing over time.

Is Bitcoin only a speculative asset, or are people using it for more than that? And why does it appear to be the go-to cryptocurrency for the majority of users?

In episode 31 of the Magic Money Internet Podcast, I discussed these topics with Ray Youssef, CEO, and founder of peer-to-peer crypto exchange Paxful.

Paxful came into the scene in 2015 and has amassed 5million+ followers, with more than half of those in Africa!

Youssef also reminisces his journey into the world of Bitcoin, his stint as an activist in his native Egypt and America, and his experiences as a serial entrepreneur.

Below are the key highlights of my conversation with Ray.

#1. The Killer Application of Bitcoin

Ray talks about Bitcoin’s killer use case as a clearing layer for money. Today’s global financial infrastructure is siloed such that financial products in countries are confined to those specific countries.

This speaks a lot to the lack of interoperability in financial systems across the world, and which leads to transaction delays and excessive fees. In the long term, especially in an increasingly hyper-connected world, such a fractured finance system will be untenable. The world’s a global village, but apparently, when it comes to money, that’s where the lines are drawn.

Enter Bitcoin, which is faceless — unaffiliated to any particular bank, country, or authority. This enables it to move seamlessly through this segregated infrastructure that defines the global financial system. With Bitcoin-powered platforms like Paxful that supports 355 payment channels, you can instantly and infinitely more cheaply send money to nearly every corner of the planet. Bitcoin is like a global passport for money.

#2. Paxful’s Experience with Regulation (and Sanctioned Countries)

The issue of regulation is one that Bitcoin companies can’t avoid, even if those regulations have nothing to do with their support for Bitcoin itself. For instance, as a US-based company, Paxful has to comply with regulations from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which has enforced sanctions against several countries around the world.

That means citizens from countries like Libya, Iran, Venezuela, Somalia, etc., cannot utilize and make good of the Paxful platform. It’s funny because a lot of crypto companies will treat USA just like the OFAC sanctioned countries because of overregulations.

From the Cambridge 2020 Survey of major Cryptocurrency Companies

That doesn’t mean citizens from those countries are locked out from the Bitcoin revolution. Far from it. Take, for example, Venezuela. Stories abound on the internet of people singing praises of Bitcoin as their literal salvation against the background of an economy in shatters and a dictatorial regime.

#3. Bitcoin as a Remedy for Financial Apartheid

Ray delves into the subject of financial apartheid, which he describes as a legacy of financial imperialism hanging over some African countries up to this day.

As he describes it, 14 African countries are still indebted to France. This is a “continuation of colonization” kind of system, where France holds a percentage of these countries’ reserves.

Putting aside that colonial legacy mess, there’s the fact that currencies from some countries are seen and treated as superior to others from other parts of the world.

Bitcoin, being a universal currency, is a remedy for this ill. It’s an equalizer — representing the same value to a farmer in rural Kazakhstan as to a high-flying attorney in Manhattan.

Thanks to the power of Bitcoin, people no longer have to be held hostage to outdated perceptions about superior and inferior fiat currencies.

Have a listen to the podcast here:



0:2:15: Introduction by Brad

0:0:09: Ray talks about his journey to Bitcoin, the beginnings of Paxful, and what the killer application of the currency is

0:7:31: Ray discusses Paxful’s experience with regulators

0:10:10: Discussion on the concept of ‘financial apartheid’ and people’s inclination to Bitcoin over other cryptocurrencies for remittances as well as Africa’s global leading role in BTC adoption

0.16:08: Discussion on the pull and push between Bitcoin and stablecoins and the opportunities of Bitcoin for people in Africa

0:21:56: Discussion on countries not supported by Paxful due to sanctions, the exchange’s preference for Bitcoin, and how the African crypto landscape is changing to accommodate altcoins

0:27:32: Delving into how Paxful handles volumes and fees

0:28:10: Discussion on why Paxful is not as popular in cryptocircles, its customer support, and current and future crypto education goals for the masses

0:35:07: Paxful’s affiliate program

0:36:33: Discussion on why Paxful hasn’t exploded in Western economies as in emerging economies as well as the exchange’s expansion plans going into 2021 and beyond

0:41:46: A look into Paxful’s India experience and the country’s age-old ‘Hawala’ peer-to-peer exchange concept

0.46:33: Delving into what a day is like for a trader on Paxful

0:53:11: How Ray runs Paxful and anecdotes on various companies’ approach to management

0.57:33: Ray’s experience as a serial entrepreneur and his leadership values

1:03:08: How people can engage with Paxful, final comments, and where to find Brad’s and Ray’s socials

Podcast Mentions

Hawala peer-to-peer system

Chaincode Labs residency

Paxful Affiliate Program

India’s crypto ban and subsequent lifting

Social Media Links

Find Ray Youssef on:

Ray Youssef Twitter

Ray Youssef Instagram

Find Brad Mills and Magic Internet Money on:

Brad Mills Twitter

Magic Internet Money Twitter

Magic Internet Money Facebook
Magic Internet Money Instagram



Brad Mills

Bitcoin evangelist since 2011, sans labels I’m a value maximalist. If it’s anti-bitcoin, I fight against it | bradmills.ca | Magic Internet Money podcast