Pakistan is currently the seventh most populous country in the world with approximately 202 million residents. Today, the country exhibits many traits ripe for accelerated bitcoin adoption. Bitcoin.com discussed bitcoin trends in Pakistan with Danyal Manzar, the co-founder of Pakistan’s first and largest bitcoin trading platform, Urdubit.
Huge Freelance Market, but Payment Solutions Lacking
Despite having no access to Paypal, Pakistan still ranks among the top countries for freelance outsource workers. In fact, “Pakistan is ranked 3rd on freelance websites,” Manzar told Bitcoin.com. According to the New York Times, 10,000 IT graduates in Pakistan are estimated to enter the Pakistan job market every year.
Remittances are also a “very big market” in Pakistan, Manzar described. “We see about 20 billion USD coming in annually,” he said of his country. “Since there are not enough jobs, the major remittance is seen from the UAE and Saudi Arabia followed by western countries.”
Despite the lack of jobs, however, life in Pakistan has been modernizing in recent years. Rapid lifestyle change, technological innovations, and increasing broadband access in Pakistan have all accelerated the number of Pakistani freelancers. However, “the payments are always a problem,” Manzar said, adding that:
Since the job market is also limited we see many freelancers turning to bitcoin, there is no Paypal in the country and no proper payment processor which could aid payments.
High Broadband Subscription Growth
Mobile broadband use is growing very fast in the country. The World Bank describes Pakistan as “leading the way in South Asia in digital finance” with 6% of adults having mobile accounts, compared to South Asia’s average of less than 2.6%.
Last June, the number of 3G/4G subscribers in the country had reached 29.53 million, up from 14.6 million in July 2015. Total broadband subscribers grew 92% to 32.41 million from 16.88 million, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
The World Bank also notes that about 100 million adults in Pakistan are unbanked, without access to formal and regulated financial services. Only 13 percent of adults there have a formal account and 27.5 million adults said the distance to a financial institution is a barrier to opening a financial account.
With so many unbanked, no access to Paypal, a huge freelancing industry, a major remittance destination, and so many subscribed to a high-speed mobile account, Bitcoin could find a huge home market in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Bitcoin Market
Admittedly, the bitcoin market in Pakistan “is still very new,” but it is fast growing, Manzar said. Citing low banking penetration and “very limited POS terminals in the country,” he explained:
Bitcoin provides a cross-board payments system, as well as local payment solution at a much cheaper cost.
Manzar’s Urdubit is a real-time bitcoin exchange using the blinktrade engine. According to Coinhills, Urdubit’s trading volume has been growing steadily in the last few weeks, and the exchange has the largest bitcoin trading volume in the country, twice that of Localbitcoins in a 24-hour period. “I would say our market share is 1/3 of the total market,” he explained. If he’s correct, that indicates Pakistan trades around 40 bitcoins each day, putting it somewhere around 27th place among all currencies in volume rankings.
However, he also admitted that there are still not many shops accepting bitcoin. Online, the situation is a bit better, since many websites in the country have started accepting bitcoin as a payment “due to quicker payment times and no charge backs.” Manzar noted:
We believe it’s only a matter of time before we see Pakistan follow India and become a major user of bitcoin.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan government “hasn’t taken any stance on bitcoin as of yet,” Manzar added. His company has been approved by the State Bank Of Pakistan. “They believe that bitcoin is a commodity and not a currency,” he noted.
Do you think Pakistan is ripe for bitcoin adoption? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Techpoint.ng, Urdubit
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