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The State of Bitcoin in Nigeria

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Bitcoin in Nigeria

Without a doubt, the rise of bitcoin and its underlying technology blockchain represent a historical technological disruption. While the technology has already found success in economically developed countries, bitcoin is just starting to gain momentum here in Africa. Over the past 2-3 years, we’ve seen growing interest in bitcoin and the technology behind its increase in African countries such as Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, and in Nigeria.

In this article you will be introduced to the state of bitcoin in Nigeria, the people’s perception of this new technology and how it is being used.

Nigeria’s Bitcoin Ecosystem

The bitcoin ecosystem in Nigeria has been experiencing tremendous growth over the past two years. This is evidenced by the growing number of bitcoin related queries on Google Trends charts as well as increasing bitcoin trading volumes in the West African nation.

bitcoin in nigeria

Nigeria is already witnessing the birth of new startups, initiatives, local meet-ups and social groups with the aim of educating interested parties about the fundamentals of bitcoin and blockchain technology as well as promoting its benefits. Some of this startups and initiatives include CDIN, PEX Bank, Cryptogene, Cryptomart, NGExchanger, and Nairaex. Additionally, top bitcoin companies such as Luno and ICE3X are already exploring the Nigeria market.

Cryptographic Development Initiative Nigeria (CDIN)

The Cryptographic Development Initiative in Nigeria (CDIN) is one of the blockchain focused groups that has successfully positioned itself as a pacesetter in this new industry.

The CDIN is a non-governmental organisation and platform that encourages the learning and practice of cryptography amongst relevant stakeholders from both the public and private sectors. It is subdivided into three groups: Crypto Nigeria, Blockchain Nigeria, and Nigeria Blockchain Alliance (NBA).

The CDIN has been able to deliver on some of its promises from educating the masses on the cryptocurrency. Through its Crypto-Nigeria arm, local meet ups have been arranged in order to tackle criminal activities by collaborating with government agencies and relevant bodies in fighting against crypto-related crimes, such as HYIP and Ponzi schemes that use bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for payment.

Recently, the CDIN announced that the Nigeria government is willing to offer its support to the initiative. The organisation has announced a partnership with the National Electronic Fraud Forum (NEFF) for the Blockchain Nigeria 2017 conference. NEFF’s chairman, who’s also the director of banking and payment system of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dipo Fatokun said:

“Please be informed that NEFF is willing to collaborate with CDIN and will assist with technical advice and/or speakers at the […] 2017 conference on Blockchain. Also note that as the collaboration progresses, Neff will also, count on your support.”

The Central Bank of Nigeria’s Stance on Bitcoin

The Central Bank of Nigeria seems to understand the potential that comes from bitcoin and blockchain technology. However, the CBN is concerned about the financial losses that traditional banks will incur as well the growth of bitcoin-related crimes, such as ransomware and pyramid schemes if the technology becomes widely accepted.

Factors slowing down the adoption of digital currency

The CBN issued a circular to banks, similar to a statement released by the Nigeria Securities and Exchange Commission to the public, on January 12, 2017. Both regulatory bodies warned against the usage of digital currencies like bitcoin as it is not a legal tender in the country and any bank or business that would deal or invest in such would do so at their own risk.

Furthermore, in a March 2017 meeting focused on digital currencies organised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Nigeria, the CBN through its Deputy Director for Banking and Payment Musa Itopa Jimoh reiterated the central bank’s view of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

“The Central bank cannot control or regulate blockchain. Just the same way no one is going to control or regulate the Internet. We don’t own it.”

Mr. Itopa Jimoh further clarifies the CBN’s previous warning that he believed was misunderstood by the public.

“A lot of people misinterpreted it that we wanted to stop bitcoin. We can’t stop bitcoin. Bitcoin is not an invention of 2015 or 2012; it’s not even an invention of 2010. So, how can the Central Bank of Nigeria, not central bank of the world, stop the running and implementation of bitcoin?”

In spite the warnings from the government, the growing interest in bitcoin has refused to slow down. A key reason behind it is the persistent depreciation of the country’s local currency, the naira. Many people are beginning to see bitcoin as a good alternative to hedge their wealth against currency losses.

The remittance market is another major area driving the usage of digital currency. As a cost-effective and borderless payment network, bitcoin and other digital currencies are offering a long-term solution to Nigeria’s large remittance markets’ challenges.

Nigeria’s Bitcoin Startups

NairaExNigeria is also the home to several bitcoin startups with the largest being the country’s leading bitcoin exchange NairaEx.

NairaEx offers a quick and easy way of for Nigerians to purchase the digital currency using credit cards, debit cards, or bank deposits using local currency. There is also BTC.ng, which is a NairaEx run bitcoin publication that aims to close the big gap by educating newbies in Nigeria on everything happening in the bitcoin ecosystem.

Cryptogene is another Nigerian startup, which launched in late 2016 to focus on educating African on the benefits of bitcoin and blockchain technology.

Cryptomart and NGExchanger are two further startups in Nigeria’s bitcoin community while leading African bitcoin exchanges Luno and ICE3X are also exploring the Nigerian market. ICE3X, for example, enables Nigerians to buy bitcoin, litecoin, and ether with the naira.

How Nigerians Are Using Bitcoin

A recent study conducted by leading bitcoin wallet provider Luno reveals a great deal of faith in the future of the digital currency in Nigeria.

57 percent of the respondents believe bitcoin to be the future of money. When asked to state their main reason for buying bitcoin, 28.8 percent used it for investing while 20.3 percent used it for remittance purposes while others used it for trading and speculation purposes. Interestingly, a majority of Nigerians, 45.3 percent, would rather own bitcoin than gold. This is a large number in comparison to the 10.3 percent figure for gold ownership.

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Ghana’s Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) Warns Public About Investing in Crypto

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In a recent statement, the SEC of Ghana has warned the populace against investing in cryptocurrency and crypto-related investment schemes. This warning comes amidst a growing concern of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) about how Ghanaians are diving head first into the cryptocurrency market.

SEC Warns About Crypto

The Director General of the SEC, Rev. Daniel Ogbarmey Tetteh, signed an official statement released by the Commission that cautions the general public about cryptocurrency trading and all crypto-related activities as these are not regulated by the Securities Exchange Commission reports News Ghana

“[Cryptocurrency investments] offered by unregistered and unlicensed entities on digital online trading platforms with promises of high returns on investment are not sanctioned nor registered by the SEC”, the statement read.

The Commission’s statement further read:

Ghana SEC“The SEC wishes to inform the general and investing public that none of these cryptocurrencies is recognised as currency or legal tender in Ghana. The platform on which they are traded are not also licensed nor regulated by the SEC. The SEC would like to make it clear that it does not currently regulate these types of products offerings and their accompanying online trading platforms or Exchanges. Members of the general public who are investing or intend to invest in such currencies or assets may be doing so at their own risk and can in no way be protected under the Securities law regime in Ghana.”

Currently, digital asset trading remains a regulatory and legal grey area in the West African nation. Whereas the SEC has stated that it is presently not in support of or regulating cryptocurrencies, it also has not stated that cryptocurrency trading is illegal.

The regulator only mentions that they are “unregistered, unlicensed, and unregulated under the Securities Law of Ghana“. Thus, this can be very much regarded as a “disclaimer” on the part of the regulatory body to the public to sensitise them that trading in cryptocurrencies in the country presently is only done at one’s own risk.

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Botswana Receives its First Bitcoin ATM

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Botswana Bitcoin ATM

A startup in Botswana recently launched the country’s first bitcoin ATM in a shopping mall in the country’s capital Gaborone.

Botswana’s First Bitcoin ATM

Botswana Bitcoin ATMAccording to a report by Business Times, the new bitcoin teller machine, which is Africa’s tenth bitcoin ATM, is located in Gaborone’s city centre in a large shopping mall.

The company hopes that its bitcoin ATM will gradually increase the use of cryptocurrency in the city. Also, given the many negative stories surrounding cryptocurrencies, transactions without human interactions could be an attractive option to potential customers.

“We have been working tirelessly to make it easier for Batswana [people of Botswana] to buy cryptocurrencies and now we are bringing simplicity, convenience, and trust to the cryptocurrency purchasing experience,” said Express Minds’ Director Brose Watlala.

Mr. Watlala further states that the machine has a maximum daily transaction limit of around $5,000 and is the fastest, most convenient way to currently buy bitcoin in Botswana. Since there are no local cryptocurrency exchanges in the country, the local bitcoin community will likely benefit from the new bitcoin ATM.

The Future of Bitcoin ATMs

Botswana‘s government has paid negligible attention to digital currencies with its central bank not having made any official comments on cryptoassets or the blockchain. Currently, there are no clear rules and regulations around the legality of bitcoin and other crypoassets in the African nation. That means that the new bitcoin ATM may or may not last a long time should the country’s regulatory position towards bitcoin change.

As for now though, Express Minds use their newly launched bitcoin ATM to teach more people about bitcoin and the crypto world, which could go a long way in helping the country’s progress in crypto adoption.

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Kenya’s Regulatory Sandbox Will Not Accommodate Cryptocurrency Firms Says CMA

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Regulatory Sandbox in Kenya

Kenya’s financial regulator, the Capital Markets Authority (CMA), announced that the new regulatory sandbox will not accommodate blockchain firms dealing in cryptocurrencies.

The Regulatory Sandbox in Kenya

“[…] Blockchain firms will be considered so long as they are not dealing with cryptocurrencies since the CMA’s mandate does not extend to currency. The CMA regulatory sandbox can only serve financial innovations that are directly within the regulatory perimeter of the CMA.” said the Capital Markets Authority’s chief executive Paul Muthaura, according to a report by BusinessDailyAfrica.

CMA

The new regulatory sandbox aims to offer a controlled environment for fintech firms to innovate and create financial products that protect the interests of consumers.

The regulatory sandbox has so far received interest from 70 firms that want to join. Most of these firms are in the payments sector while others are crowdfunding platforms in the real estate and health sectors. In addition, some of these firms are from outside Kenya.

The CMA recently held a validation exercise with the 70 firms of the opinions received from the public regarding the new laws guiding the sandbox. Before this, the regulator had requested for public feedback regarding the sandbox’s regulations.

In April, the Authority will issue the final guidance notice to anchor the regulations into law before officially launching the sandbox in May.

An Anti-Crypto Regulatory Space

In the past, the Capital Markets Authority and the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) have warned Kenyans to avoid participating in initial coin offerings (ICOs) and trading in cryptocurrencies respectively. These warnings were issued because investing in ICOs and cryptocurrencies poses a high risk to consumers.

“There are risks associated with cryptocurrency particularly on consumer protection, fraud, hacking and loss of data and they are prone to be used as pyramid schemes,” the CBK governor, Dr. Patrick Njoroge asserted in 2018

In one of its 2018 soundness reports, the CMA recommended that a special body be created to oversee cryptocurrencies and ICOs. The report stated: “There is a need for regulators to devise a common approach towards handling issues revolving around cryptocurrencies and ICOs. A joint workgroup by financial sector regulators could be put in place to tackle issues around cryptocurrencies and ICOs.”

In light of the upcoming regulatory sandbox, Kenyans could benefit from the platform since the market is currently flooded with fintech solutions, especially those in the mobile lending sector, which are high-risk.

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