Madeira ’embraces’ Bitcoin, and how its president met Michael Saylor

The small Portuguese archipelago of Madeira has “adopted” Bitcoin (BTC) – but what does that mean? The announcement, made during the Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami, dismissed confusion and misinformation.

Miguel Albuquerque, President of the Regional Government of Madeira, took the stage in April to announce: “I believe in the future and I believe in Bitcoin”. He also said that he would work to “create a fantastic environment in Madeira for Bitcoin”. However, the details remained unclear.

Cointelegraph spoke with André Loja, a Madeiran entrepreneur who spearheaded the plan to bring BTC to the archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, to find out how Bitcoin is shaping the islands’ development.

Madeira exploded onto the Bitcoin world map on April 7 when JAN3 CEO Samson Mow proudly announced that he “will adopt Bitcoin”.

Following the announcement, news outlets around the world reported that Madeira has adopted Bitcoin as its legal tender; however, this was not the case. Loja explained to Cointelegraph that prior to the announcement, he preferred to use the phrase “Madeira is embracing Bitcoin”.

“We embrace, we support. We are not ‘adopting’ Bitcoin because adoption feels like we are making it legal tender when it is already legal. ”

In fact, in Madeira and Portugal – which is about 620 miles northeast – there is zero tax on Bitcoin capital gains. This means that whenever a resident of Madeira sells, spends or uses BTC, it does not need to be declared to the tax authorities.

Loja made a pile of oranges for the president of Madeira just weeks before the conference, sharing his vision of Bitcoin not only as a means to attract foreign investment, but to “protect my island from the fiat system”.

By chance, Albuquerque came to visit Loja’s coworking space — one of the few places to accept BTC in Madeira — and Loja took the opportunity to share his passion for Bitcoin. Madeira was crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic when critical tourism revenues fell off a cliff. The Loja thus presented the president with a future Bitcoin as a way to diversify and restructure the Madeiran economy, among other advantages.

Albuquerque would be open to the idea, so Loja quickly sought help from Bitcoiners around the world, including Daniel Prince, a renowned Bitcoin podcaster; Jeff Booth, author of Tomorrow’s price; and even Michael Saylor, CEO of MicroStrategy.

Within weeks, Bitcoiner’s all-star team contacted Bitcoin 2022 organizers to arrange for the president’s appearance on stage. Ultimately, having the head of state of an autonomous region endorse Bitcoin was too big an opportunity to miss.

Upon landing in Miami, Loja and Albuquerque were invited to the gaudy Miami villa of Saylor, “with the yachts and all,” Loja joked. While Loja had already graced the president, the conversation with Saylor took another level:

“Michael Saylor sat with President Albuquerque, and well, […] it was more like he sat with his head!”

Saylor told Albuquerque that “you need to focus on Bitcoin. Everything else is garbage.” A conversation the president will hardly forget, the seminar was enough preparation for him to take the stage in front of 25,000 Bitcoin enthusiasts.

Loja explained that the announcement that Madeira is adopting Bitcoin would “start an intention” for Madeira to become an island where Bitcoin thrives alongside the people. For Loja, who has translated popular Bitcoin-related books into Portuguese, “it starts with education – the most important thing.”

Loja (far right), Presidente Albuquerque (centre with book) and Knut Svanholm (far left) in Madeira in May 2022. Source: Loja

In fact, Loja stood out during the 2018 bear market. A passionate educator, Loja works closely with other space educators such as Knut Svanholm, author of Bitcoin: all divided by 21 million, teach the principles of solid money:

“I have a lot of ideas, from kindergarten to adult schools and workshops – and bringing in people from outside the island. The association will have the best people as consultants.”

To this end, Loja is founding the Sound Money Foundation, a Bitcoin education center in Madeira. The center has support from Mow and Booth, among others, and seeks to help residents better understand cryptocurrency from an early age.

Along with the educational push and focus on improving “financial literacy”, Loja’s hometown also attracts Bitcoin companies with attractive tax breaks. At the International Business Center, companies pay only 5% trade tax, a highly competitive rate. Portugal was already a rising hub for individual Bitcoiners, but companies can now reap the benefits.

Related: Bitcoin, Bukele and a Band of Central Bankers Gather in El Salvador

Going forward, Loja plans to have Madeira’s self-government mine Bitcoin with leftover renewable energy — as the island has abundant wind and sunlight — and even utilize “a multi-signature wallet for the government to work with Bitcoin financially.”

Madeira International Business Center. Source: IBC

As a result, the government would take full custody of the Bitcoin it mines, taking control of the private keys. Loja highlighted that the electric power grid is an autonomous “public enterprise”, so any Bitcoin mined by the grid would go into government multisig wallets.

In essence, Madeira’s approach to Bitcoin goes beyond its lauded legal tender status. From public sector BTC mining and education to state multisig wallets and having Saylor on speed dial, the island is slowly heading towards a Bitcoin future.

Unsurprisingly, Loja’s holistic approach to the island “embracing” Bitcoin has a low time preference.