Looking to right historical wrongs and build a global digital community with real-world impact, Web3 collective Afropolitan announced that it had raised $2.1 million in pre-seed funding to advance its vision of a digital nation for the African Diaspora.
Participants in the raise include #Hashed, Cultur3 Capital, and ex-Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan, who in 2021 wrote what would become the basis for Afropolitan’s plans for a digital nation.
Afropolitan was founded in 2016 by Eche Emole and Chika Uwazie as a “community as a service for the African Diaspora,” featuring events and travel geared toward people of color. This year, the group moved into Web3, becoming a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) and digital nation based on Balaji Srinivasan’s concept of the Network State and Afrofuturism.
“I remember there was a particular quote in the article where [Srinivasan] says, ‘Because the brand new is unthinkable, we fight over the old,’ and it put me in a depression for the rest of the year—I felt like he was trying to tell us something,” Emole recalls.
“Come December, we’re in Nairobi, Kenya, and I wake up at 5 a.m. and I am pacing the room… Chika says I was in a trance, and asked what was wrong,” he continues. “I’m like, ‘Look, this may sound crazy, but I think we need to start a new country.’”
For Emole and Uwazie, establishing a digital nation for the African Diaspora is about choice. “Black people have never chosen a country out of reflection and trust,” Emole tells Decrypt. “It has always been by accident and force, either through colonialism or the slave trade.”
Emole says Afropolitan gives a chance for black people to come together and decide what type of nation they want, calling Afropolitan “the greatest experiment, even in the Web3 space.”
“We’re looking to reimagine what it looks like to have a choice, to opt-in to a nation that is powered by Web3 and the ability to easily send payments, get a loan, [or] be paid directly for creative efforts,” Uwazie says, echoing Emole’s sentiment.
According to Uwazie, Afropolitan will function as a DAO, where the community will have governance rights and vote on proposals. Uwazie says that Afropolitan will also include smaller “sub-DAOs” for different projects that contribute to the larger collective.
A DAO is a business structure where control is distributed rather than hierarchical. DAOs use smart contracts and governance tokens to vote on topics and proposals.
For Emole, starting a new digital country is the best way to deal with years of systemic racism around the globe.
“We’ve tried everything else—we’ve tried negotiating, we’ve tried protests, we’ve tried war, we’ve tried revolution. It’s not working, no one is listening to us,” he says.
According to Uwazie, Afropolitan will use a collection of NFTs minted on Ethereum to act as a passport to the new digital nation and also give members access to events and future services. The NFTs will be revealed during an event at NFT NYC, now underway.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are cryptographically unique tokens linked to digital (and sometimes physical) content, showing proof of ownership or membership to an exclusive group.
“The beautiful thing about NFTs is you can make them non-transferable,” Uwazie explains. “So once you have the passport, it is your unique identity in our digital nation.”
Uwazie says that the Afropolitan NFT collection of 10,000 NFTs is based on an Afrofuturism aesthetic. “We are working with an artist known in the NFT space, and he has been drawing on Afrofuturism, a style of art no different than anime that needs to be brought into the forefront of the NFT space and creative space in general.”
Even though the Afropolitan NFT collection is minted on Ethereum, Uwazie says Afropolitan will be a multi-chain ecosystem. The group used Ethereum because it is the most well-used and recognizable blockchain in Africa and the U.S., she explained, but added that the group does not want to be locked into a specific blockchain and that each blockchain has something to offer.
But for Uwazie, the most crucial aspect of Afropolitan is educating the black community about the importance of technology and being a part of a digital nation.
“I believe Web3 is going to be one of the great generational wealth transfers of our time, and we want to make sure our communities are onboarding,” she says.“It’s important that they see people like us representative in the community that can speak to what is Web3, NFTs, blockchains, Ethereum, and Polygon.”
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