Higher prices since the start of the year have been restoring popular interest in cryptocurrencies. Google searches for “bitcoin” have increased since December to about half of those registered in June last year. There’s one country that sticks out as a benchmark for the indicator. Nigeria has consistently topped the chart in the past 12 months. Only a couple of other African nations, Ghana and South Africa, come close.
Socio-Economic Hardships Pave the Way for Crypto Adoption in Nigeria
Although it’s the continent’s largest economy, Nigeria is facing numerous economic and social challenges. Last year it overtook India as the country with the largest population living in extreme poverty, almost 87 million of its 200 million people. In the past two years, the Nigerian economy has returned to growth but since last summer inflation has been rising too, with the annual inflation rate almost touching 12% in December 2019.
Scams taking advantage of the desperate and warnings issued by the central bank against Bitcoin have not deterred Nigerians from trying to learn more about cryptocurrencies, buying coins and using them in everyday life. For example, after a decrease last fall, trading volumes on the peer-to-peer exchange Localbitcoins are picking up again, reaching over 600 million Nigerian naira a week, or $1.65 million, according to data compiled by Coin Dance.
Being a country with so many people struggling to meet ends, Nigeria is quite reliant on remittances from migrants who live and work abroad. Between January and November 2019 it received $17.57 billion from the diaspora, the Central Bank of Nigeria announced in January. The total represents an increase of 56.4% over the same period in 2018. Like other African nations, however, Nigeria pays very high fees for cross-border transfers that can reach almost 10%, as news.Bitcoin.com reported.
Nigerians Have Many Options to Trade and Use Bitcoin
Cryptocurrencies provide an economical alternative to the fiat system, but in order to be a viable option a functioning trading and exchange infrastructure is needed. Luckily, Nigeria has a number of local platforms that support purchases and sales of digital coins with the national currency, the naira. Options include Nairaex, which is the largest local crypto exchange supporting several payment methods to buy and sell BTC including bank transfers, and bitcoin remittance platform Bitpesa. The latter works with M-Pesa, a popular mobile phone-based money transfer service initially launched in Kenya and Tanzania. Nigerians can use Bitpesa to buy bitcoin with debit cards. They can also take advantage of the services offered by Wallet.ng, Busha, Tradefada, Bitfxt, and many more.
Nigerians now also have plenty of options to use cryptocurrencies. Paychant is a payment processor that offers a cryptocurrency gateway for businesses to accept digital coins through instant conversion to local fiat, NGN in this case, helping them to protect their revenues from crypto price volatility. The platform currently supports BTC and ETH. Merchants who want to accept crypto directly can download and install the Bitcoin Cash Register app. The point of sale software will allow them to process BCH payments.
A growing number of Nigerian companies already accept payments in cryptocurrency, the Buy Bitcoin Worldwide website reveals. One of them is the mobile airtime and SMS packages provider Gsm2me. The Nigerian platforms works with over 500 networks in 135 countries. Lagos-based online boutique shop and leather atelier Minku is another example. Its store sells fashion items and accessories in over a dozen other countries beside Nigeria.
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