Trinity Morphy recently caught up with Adaeze Okafor (Aida), founder of Afri_Learn and co-founder of ReFi Lagos. In this interview, Aida talks regenerative agriculture, the ReFi Lagos community, and the future of ReFi in Nigeria.

Trinity: Welcome, Aida. You have established yourself as a ReFi authority in Nigeria and beyond. Can you tell us how you got into Web3/ReFi and how the journey has been so far?

Aida: Getting into the ReFi space around the end of 2022 started with my first job. As a content writer, I was tasked with writing a Twitter thread from a Twitter Space discussion. It was during this time that I first encountered ReFi. Also, having this passion for climate adaptation and raising awareness about climate change during my time in school made me understand that this could be a system that seeks to address financial and environmental challenges through decentralised solutions.

However, the journey hasn't been without its challenges. ReFi is a new concept. Success in this space not only requires acquiring knowledge and learning but also finding and engaging with the right communities to foster growth and understanding. It's an ongoing journey marked by continuous learning and adaptation, but one that promises great opportunities for innovation and positive impact at the intersection of finance, technology, and sustainability.

Trinity: These days, it’s rare to see young people passionate about agriculture talk less about its regenerative aspect. What fueled your passion?

Aida: As a child, I was fortunate to experience the joy of getting my hands dirty in the soil while assisting my parents on our family farm. Planting maize, cassava, and various vegetables was not only a source of enjoyment but also a firsthand lesson in the wonders of nature. However, it wasn't until I became more aware of the environmental challenges facing our world that my passion took on a more purposeful direction. I came to understand that conventional agricultural practices, when practiced well, offer a powerful avenue for addressing pressing environmental issues like soil degradation and biodiversity loss.

Trinity: The fluidity of the ReFi concept allows us the luxury of molding it to our understanding. My understanding of ReFi may differ from yours. What is ReFi is to you?

Aida: ReFi is about reimagining finance in a way that puts people and the planet first. We can't talk about ReFi without talking about eco-regeneration. It's about creating systems that are not just sustainable but regenerative and replenish what we take from nature.

Trinity: You're a committed member of ReFi Lagos, a local node of the ReFi DAO network society. It’s a popular myth that what works in other countries doesn’t work in Nigeria. What are your thoughts on the DAO's goals? So far, how has ReFi Lagos contributed to achieving the DAO’s goal?

Aida: ReFi DAO's primary objective of incubating and supporting local nodes worldwide has been remarkably successful in empowering voices and nurturing leaders dedicated to implementing ReFi solutions to address pressing global issues. In ReFi Lagos, we've organised numerous climate events both online and offline, engaging communities in education about climate adaptation and mitigation strategies. At the conclusion of each event, we facilitate tree planting activities as a tangible means of mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Trinity: Can you tell us more about the community’s impact in Lagos and the problems encountered?

Aida: Our community's impact in Lagos has been significant, but we encounter challenges like anywhere else. The major challenge has always been information dissemination. Providing awareness to residents in remote communities has proven difficult because most people do not have access to technology. Because of this, we always have to do things the old-school way, such as carrying placards to these communities and hosting discussion sessions to teach them about ReFi. These methods are usually cost-intensive.

Trinity: To a certain extent, I followed up on the climate event ReFi Lagos organised. I must commend the efforts it took to plan something so impactful. How was the event? We all want to hear about the fun we missed.

Aida: The climate event was fantastic! We held it at Mopo Akinlade, a community facing coastal erosion due to climate change. The event served as a medium to enlighten the residents about issues driving coastal erosion and the urgent need for climate action. After the lecture and discussion session, we launched ProjectOlókun. It is an on-chain beach tree planting project where we planted treelings to help stabilise the soil and prevent coastal erosion.

Trinity: Recently, I wrote an article about the potential of ReFi in Nigeria. I emphasised ineffective governance and its role in Nigeria’s woe. Do you feel ineffective governance has contributed to the need for ReFi startups in the country?

Aida: Yes! Ineffective governance has definitely played a role in Nigeria's challenges. The current system has failed countless times to address the people's needs, leaving gaps that innovative solutions like ReFi startups can fill. For example, if the government established stringent policies against deforestation, we'd still have large forest cover. Instead of needing reforestation, we would have been planting new trees in addition to existing ones.

Trinity: While I was writing the article, a particular problem kept coming to mind: loan repayments. Most ReFi microfinance startups operate on a debt/interest structure. Considering Nigeria’s poverty level, do you agree that loan defaults are a challenge or am I just being paranoid?

Aida: You're not being paranoid at all. Loan defaults are a genuine concern, especially considering Nigeria's economic realities. That's why ReFi startups must implement robust risk management strategies. Loans should only be given when the borrower has a recognised guarantor. A recognised guarantor could be someone who has staked assets on the lending protocol so that when the borrower defaults on the loan, the money can be taken from the staked assets of the guarantor.

Trinity: Who might these guarantors be and how can we get them connected to borrowers?

Aida: A good example is EthicHub. They've leveraged incentives to create a global network of loan guarantors. The way it works is that people can stake EthicHub's native ETHIX token to become a guarantor. In exchange, they get a return on their investment. A similar model could definitely work in Nigeria.

Trinity: Apart from loan defaults, what other limitations do you think ReFi startups may encounter in the country?

Aida: Without a clear understanding of Web3 technology and its potential applications in the financial sector, potential users may be hesitant to adopt ReFi solutions. There's also a general lack of awareness about the benefits of Web3-based platforms.

Trinity: The concept of ReFi is foreign to most of the Nigerian population. Based on your experience with ReFi Lagos, can you share with us the best way to enlighten Nigerians about its benefits?

Aida: From my experience with ReFi Lagos, I've found that the best way to enlighten Nigerians about the benefits of ReFi is through practical, relatable examples and experiences, such as hosting events, both online and offline, writing educational articles and blog posts, involving in physical activities of regenerative practices such as beach or plastic cleanups, tree planting and proper waste management.

Trinity: Can you tell us about Afri_Learn, its mission, and its impact so far?

Aida: Afri_Learn is doing amazing work promoting climate education, especially among young people. Its mission is to equip Africans with the knowledge and skills to navigate the ReFi landscape effectively.

Trinity: Here comes the fun question, Aida. It’s natural to dream about something we believe in. Whenever you think of ReFi and Nigeria, what’s your big dream?

Aida: Ah, my big dream for ReFi in Nigeria? I envision a future where every Nigerian can access fair and sustainable financial services; communities thrive, our ecosystem flourishes, and our economic systems nourish rather than exploit. The good news is that we might not know that what we are doing now is creating a more sustainable world for future generations to come.

The answers in this article are the personal opinions of Adaeze Okafor (Aida) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Afri_Learn or ReFi Lagos.