A book on the evolution of money and currencies is now available in isiZulu. 

Two South Africans graduates have made literature on cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, more accessible, through the isiZulu translation of Nik Bhatia’s book, Layered Money: from gold and dollars to Bitcoin and the central digital currencies. The translated edition was published on July 8, 2021.    

Through Exonumia, founded by BSc computer science graduate Kgothatso Ngako, literature on Bitcoin is translated and published in African languages. Ngako started the platform as a means to educate older members of his family who do not consume media in English.  

He was also inspired by Theory and History, a book by Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, which interrogates how foreign languages adopted as a medium of instruction, often disadvantage those who do not speak the language.  

In South Africa, anyone who wants to participate in mainstream economic activity needs to understand English or Afrikaans. Exonumia is an attempt to bridge that gap by providing financial education on the basics of handling money and cryptocurrency in vernacular.  

Ngako teamed up with Happy Mahlangu, editor and founder of TXT editors to translate Layered Money into isiZulu. 

“Striking a balance between retaining the meaning of these words and explaining them in a sensical way in Zulu was quite an exciting challenge,” says Mahlungu, who is currently working on the Ndebele version of the book. 

Layered Money also covers the evolution of monetary systems and the future of money. In its eight chapters, the book tracks the history of money, from the trading of gold as a currency to the emergence of cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin has already captured 6% of the global gold market value despite gold’s two-thousand-year head start. 

Bitcoin, owned by 7.8 million of the world’s population, is a peer-to-peer version of electronic cash. It is a digital currency that allows the buying and transferring of goods or services without relying on a middleman, like a bank. 

The influence of Bitcoin in Africa came to light last year during Nigeria’s #EndSARS protests. In response to the protest action, the government destabilized the financial muscle of the activist organizations, like the Feminist Coalition. Who then set up their own Bitcoin payment processor (BTCPaysever) and could accept donations that went towards their #EndSARS activities.  

According to the New York TimesEl Salvador (a Spanish speaking nation) has approved Bitcoin as a legal tender and now projects to translate Bitcoin resources into Spanish are underway.  

As Bitcoin grows in popularity, more nations may follow suit. Translations into local languages across the world will become increasingly necessary, whether governments embrace it like El Salvador’s government or reject its use like the Nigerian government.

FEATURED IMAGE: Book cover of Layered Money now available in isiZulu. Photo: Supplied