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Expert Roundup: How Does Bitcoin Fit Into The African Fintech Ecosystem

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Bitcoin has integrated seamlessly (perhaps surprisingly to many) with emerging African economies. Africa is way ahead of Western countries when it comes to leveraging the power of P2P finance using bitcoin as an intermediary. 

Several bitcoin businesses have emerged, Remittances have become quicker, and finally the underbanked are slowly starting to make way into the African financial ecosystem. 

Seeing such fast adoption from what many would have considered least likeliest of places, we wanted to dig deeper and ask some of the big names of the industry the following question:

How Does Bitcoin Fit Into The African Fintech Ecosystem?

Below are their responses: 

Nick Spanos – Bitcoin Center NYC

Nick Spanos

Cryptocurrencies allow the people of Africa to easily take part in the fin-tech revolution with very basic access to the internet, which is all that is needed to send and receive Bitcoin. And for some, the internet is not even required since paper wallets are an option.

The original idea of Bitcoin banking the unbanked can thrive since two-thirds of the continent still does not have a bank account; and if they do, it might be hard to trust the bank if you have a relatively big sum of cash since corruption is rampant.

By using Blockchain, they are using a technology that is common in the future, this allows innovation to happen, this allows them to have control of their money and assets if pegged. Cryptoeconomic systems will be the new wheels that turn the economy and progress them technologically.

Bitcoin incentivizes new innovation and utilizes the untapped potential in Africa to do that innovation.

Exchanges can be built, faster means of transacting through cryptocurrencies and smart contracts, as well as a self-sufficient economy through peer-to-peer trading.

People will have more trust in a currency that is not inflationary, which the South African rand, for example, has a history of.

And Bitcoin is borderless, meaning it can be used in every continent in the world and is not able to be manipulated by a corrupt government or bank. As well, they can exchange it for USD if they wish.

Crystal Stranger – PeaCounts

Crystal Stranger

Many African countries have had periods of hyperinflation of local currencies, leaving individuals with little trust in their national financial systems.

This makes Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies very appealing as a store of money due to the value being sovereign and not attached to the fates of any country.

At PeaCounts we are going one step further and using blockchain tools to allow individuals in Africa to pay one another in Bitcoin for work during our beta testing phase.

In Africa, there is an employment trust problem. Businesses do not know if the workers they hire will complete work, and employees do not know if they will get paid when they do work for a new employer.

We use a blockchain tool called smart contracts to create an escrow account that automates payment to workers once the work completed has been verified using AI tools.

These payments in the beta will be structured to be made in cryptocurrencies using peer-to-peer transfers, thus eliminating any need for trust in financial systems.

Much like how the gig economy has revolutionized ride and house sharing, the immutability of blockchain will allow people to have trust in the system when they would not necessarily trust the individuals, creating a more liquid employment market.

Stefan Ateljevic – Btxchange

Stefan Ateljevic

I believe Bitcoin is going to take the African fintec system by storm. In 2017 alone, 15 cryptocurrency related services opened up in Africa and there are signs that more are coming.

While various governments are expressing their concerns about not having the jurisdiction to regulate digital currencies, they can’t discount the fact that cryptocurrency has made the lives of many Africans a whole lot easier.

First off, since Bitcoin is digital, it is internet based and not bound by geography. This makes it a lot more accessible – anyone who has a smartphone and internet connection can access their Bitcoins even if they are in a rural area.

Furthermore, blockchain technology is much faster and cheaper than traditional money transfer services which a lot of Africans use. Last, cryptocurrency is easier to monitor than funds in a bank account.

Dr. Prash P – Caleb and Brown

Dr Prash P.

While much of the frequent discourse surrounding Cryptocurrencies has been focused on its utility within the developed world, the greatest potential for technologies such as Bitcoin lies firmly within developing world economies, and the African financial system is the perfect example of this for several reasons.

Hyperinflation has plagued many African nation economies and led to a loss of confidence in national currencies.

The rise of M-Pesa as a viable alternative currency is a perfect example of this search for a non-state-bound medium of value exchange, and Bitcoin is perfectly poised as a decentralized, technologically superior alternative.

The African economy like many developing world economies is very dependent on an influx of funds from workers abroad sending funds back home. The likes of Western Union and other remittance agencies have benefited from this, charging exorbitant fees as high as 10% at the expense of the using populace.

This is largely because the vast majority of the African population does not have access to banking, let alone financial services via a combination of geography, lack of infrastructure and political circumstances.

A technology such as Bitcoin, which only requires access to a mobile phone (the most abundant technological asset on the African continent), affords every individual the capacity to store monetary value.

With this, they can make transactions instantaneously, internationally and with low fees – clearly such technology has the potential to revolutionize personal finance in all of Africa.

At first, I expect there to be some form of resistance from certain nation-states, mostly due to the potential for this to undermine totalitarian control. Ultimately, these nations will also see the most benefit, including general economic ease and loss of attrition to corruption, fees, and hyperinflation.

In time, however, Bitcoin will likely prevail as user adoption starts to cause a bottom-up mass effect and a monumental shift in the balance of fiscal power.

Apollo Eric – æternity

Bitcoin fits perfectly in the fintech ecosystem. Mpesa is a perfect example of how our generation is fearlessly embracing the use of electronic cash systems for all sorts of transactions: paying utility bills like electricity, water, internet, Rent, Salaries. Merchants across Kenya are accepting mobile payments. Even as expensive as these services are, they still have almost 100% penetration and adoption rate.

Bitcoin takes it a few steps further by enabling cheaper, faster, secure cross border money transfers. One no longer need to rely on expensive TT charges by banks to buy or sell goods across the Continent. No more loosing up to 5% when you convert money from one currency to another.

I run a retail OTC Bitcoin desk and we seeing transactions volumes of up to $100000 in 24 hours just in Kenya alone. This trend will only continue as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency become more stable in value and mature in terms of security and scalability of blockchain technology. I think the question is how much more disruption of the current fiat financial system are we going to witness in our lifetime.

Susanna Williams – Pelicoin

For some time, African banks have been viewed as being behind the times with fintech. However, ever since these banks allowed telecom companies to take over the role of financial service providers throughout parts of Africa, the financial system has looked to invest in more digital currencies like Bitcoin.

Africa is known to be a growth market for international currency transfers via Bitcoin. Though Bitcoin gives many investors the opportunity to make large profits, it is also well suited to meet the needs of people in countries that do not have access to financial services.

Banks are required to work under strict guidelines, and many people in parts of Africa are unable to meet their onboarding requirements, especially those dealing with political turmoil.

This is where Bitcoin comes in handy. Bitcoin allows people in African nations access to financial services without having to go through established institutions. All that is required is access to a smartphone and the internet.

In some areas of Africa, people are able to use Bitcoin to purchase items online that they would otherwise not have been able to get.

Bitcoin is also helping people take control of their finances. With Bitcoin, there is no central authority that claims control over the money, so people in Africa can feel more confident when it comes to storing money.

Bitcoin allows people in parts of Africa to have access to the global financial system when they were unable to use traditional services before. This gives people the ability to participate on a global level while also growing their net worth.

Justin Hartzman – Coin Smart

Justin Hartzman

Cryptocurrency or digital assets will likely be the universal banker to the world over the next 10 years. Bitcoin is currently well positioned to be the first cryptocurrency to deeply integrate into traditional financial systems and lead the way to mass adoption.

There are currently upwards of 1.7 billion unbanked in the world with 600+ million of those being in Africa. The volatility of traditional currencies and instability across the African economy has led many Africans to seek alternatives to the current banking system. The uprising of cryptocurrency and the mobile phone will also allow anyone to control their capital and purchase in ways that have been nearly impossible previously.

As these new technologies become more accessible, no longer in rural sub Saharan Africa will there be a need to partner X for Y. Bitcoin will allow individuals to transact directly and immediately with no need for a middleman or expensive service provider. Bitcoin also provides added safeguards by securing all transactions through blockchain technology.

As the world becomes flatter and a true global economy is established, the need for an efficient, low-cost transactional medium is apparent. Digital assets, like Bitcoin, will act as a universal equalizer and allow new members to participate in ways they never could before.

Jen Nash – Fresh Wealth

Africa is a massive continent so to answer this question in depth would take way too many words, so I’ll focus on Ghana because what’s going on there is inspiring.

Did you know that one industry, mobile money services, is responsible for 75% of Ghana’s GDP? Mobile money is used all over the world and just like cryptocurrencies, mobile payments are sent and received in digital wallets. These wallets also support rewards points, membership cards, and credit cards.

Ghana’s mobile money usage stands out from other countries in West Africas because it’s unmatched in the number of registered mobile transactors. Mobile money is particularly convenient in Ghana, for example, you might send someone money via text message or you can pay for your dinner by calling a toll-free number.

You don’t need a smartphone or a computer, you can use mobile money with any phone. It’s seamless, secure, and accessible to those unable to use traditional financial tools.

In January of 2019, the security and exchange commission in Ghana announced they were considering licensing cryptocurrency as legal tender. Because of how integrated mobile money is already into their society, Ghana has the infrastructure and technology to implement and integrate bitcoin or other cryptocurrency efficiently. Adaption would be intuitive and achievable for the whole country.

People are used to getting, sending and spending money in a digital format. Cryptocurrency integrated directly into their existing mobile wallets would give everyone access to safer and more efficient transactions. And of course exposure to investments in the crypto space is another aspect of this adaption that could be harnessed by users to build wealth.

Ghana is currently reviewing and finalizing its policies regarding cryptocurrencies and their use. If digital assets are given the regulatory standing of legal tender, it could be the next catalyst in Ghana’s blockchain journey and given Ghana’s enormous mobile money userbase, cryptocurrencies could become the driver behind the nation’s everyday spending.

Alexander Kuzin – Even Found

Alexander Kuzin

At the beginning of 2018 bitcoin savings in Nigeria, Kenia and SAR per capita were 2 – 3% of GDP, one of the highest share of cryptocurrency in the country’s financial system. Despite low economical and infrastructural indicators, the African region is among the leaders of bitcoin penetration which is due to the following factors.

· High (above 100% in some cases) inflation level for domestic currencies leading to a loss of trust in central banks. Decentralized principles of cryptocurrency offer African people a welcomed alternative to disastrous policies of their central financial authorities

A growing number of households with Internet access (more than 40% in some African countries but still 22% in average for the region)

A high percentage of unbanked people hence mobile and online payments being the only way of transactions available. According to the GSM Association by 2020, there will be 725 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa. This is a perfect match for virtual currency to flourish in a politically unstable, bank-lacking environment.

High criminality level (one of the problems with cryptocurrencies is their popularity in the criminal environment).

Lucas Tesler – Goodbit

Lucas Tesler

Bitcoin was designed to be peer to peer without the need for banks or other financial institutions as intermediaries

This is important because there are currently 2 Billion adults globally that are “Unbanked” or having no access to banking or other financial services. They have been left out of the finance world and miss out on lots of opportunities that other parts of the world have with access to banking.

However Bitcoin isn’t here to “Fit In” with the financial system, it is here to provide an alternative to the traditional banking system.

New technologies have a way of leapfrogging or jumping over older technologies. A great example is that many parts of Africa never got wired / landline telephones. However today, most parts of Africa have Mobile Phones with internet access, so they “Skipped Over” the telephone and went straight to the mobile phone.

And this is what I see happening with Fintech / Financial systems in Africa. Currently, many Africans do not have access to banks, BUT… they do have a mobile phone with internet access. This means that they have a bank in their hands already. Using Bitcoin they can enter the global financial markets, without ever having access to the traditional finance models.

This will be revolutionary and will bring the 2 bil adults without access to banking into the global financial system and help bring them opportunities to get out of poverty.

Bitcoin was designed to be peer to peer without the need for banks or other financial institutions as intermediaries

This is important because there are currently 2 Billion adults globally that are “Unbanked” or having no access to banking or other financial services. They have been left out of the finance world and miss out on lots of opportunities that other parts of the world have with access to banking.

However Bitcoin isn’t here to “Fit In” with the financial system, it is here to provide an alternative to the traditional banking system.

New technologies have a way of leapfrogging or jumping over older technologies. A great example is that many parts of Africa never got wired / landline telephones. However today, most parts of Africa have Mobile Phones with internet access, so they “Skipped Over” the telephone and went straight to the mobile phone.

And this is what I see happening with Fintech / Financial systems in Africa. Currently, many Africans do not have access to banks, BUT… they do have a mobile phone with internet access. This means that they have a bank in their hands already. Using Bitcoin they can enter the global financial markets, without ever having access to the traditional finance models.

This will be revolutionary and will bring the 2 bil adults without access to banking into the global financial system and help bring them opportunities to get out of poverty.

Lum Hongye – Raisin

Lum Hongye

Cryptocurrencies allow for financial security and accessibility to African citizens who may not have as much, or any, access to banks. In addition, Africa’s local currencies have high inflation and are also rather volatile.

For instance, in 2017, South Sudan struggled with hyperinflation, with a 280% rate due to domestic conflict, and Nigeria had an inflation rate of 15%.

Cryptocurrencies help to ease that by providing a cross-border digital currency which is secure regardless of authorities. Adoption of cryptocurrencies and digital banking also creates a credit history and digital financial footprint which are important for loan assessment and investments.

With cryptocurrency, cross-border payment is much easier, which allows businesses in the region to trade more directly and effectively.

However, blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrency, is still very nascent. However, with technology, sudden mainstream adoption can happen literally overnight due to specific regulations or viral marketing.

PayTM from India is a very good example of how regulation can bring a turnaround in adoption. India’s demonetization in 2016 resulted in a currency shortage.

Hence, many people in India turned to using electronic wallets, giving rise to PayTM’s rise in India. As such, I do see an immense potential of mass adoption of cryptocurrency.

Blockchain technologies are very adoption-driven. High adoption gives the platform credibility and in turn drives further usage and growth.

Stefano Covolan – Korporatio

Stefano Covolan


Blockchain is a perfect match for countries in Africa, as the financial development there went not in the same way as in the US or Europe. Africa in the early ’00 had already systems to send micro-transactions via GSM lines. Transferring bitcoin works on the user side basically in the same way, so you have already 18 years of education that has been done.

There are a lot of companies that are trying to create new cryptos specific only for Africa, not sure they will actually succeed, but, the blockchain ecosystem is growing very fast. Seychelles, for example, is one of the biggest hubs for a number of ICOs and people are not even aware of it.

There is the possibility to see a very huge adoption of BTC in Africa but this is more related to the geo-politic strategy that the continent wants to take. As the majority of the currencies are backed in US dollars but investments and development are coming from China.

However, I do believe at the moment Africa is still a sleeping lion that will probably start to play a central role in the crypto space in the following 3-5 years.

Joel Camacho – Decipher Capital

Joel Camacho

Africa’s informal economy is in the tens of billions of dollars, and the current financial system has not been able to serve it. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are filling this void.

Participants in the informal economy can trade using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies without the need for physical cash or financial intermediaries like banks to facilitate transactions.

Furthermore, a significant percentage of those trading within informal economies usually rely on remittances to supplement their earnings. Unfortunately, banks and other intermediaries charge a hefty fee for remittances services.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will significantly reduce the cost for international remittances into Africa, and thus more individuals will prefer to receive cryptocurrencies instead of cash through, say, Western Union.

Therefore, this will lead to large communities buying and selling mostly through bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and not in government-backed currencies.

More broadly, blockchain, which is the technology that powers bitcoin, will make it more efficient for other parts of the economy to function more efficiently.

Let’s take the energy sector as an example. The current model depends on a few large coal, gas, and nuclear plants to generate the majority of electricity consumed.

However, there are more and more houses and buildings that are generating their own energy through renewable resources. This means that electricity is moving away from being stored in large national grids to hyper-localized ones called microgrids.

Blockchain technology can connect networks of electricity microgrids, and bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can facilitate micro-transactions between the connected microgrids – something that has not been possible before.

Andy LaPointe – Bitcoin Learning Centers

Andy LaPointe

African nations are embracing Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. The reason is simple. The citizens have experienced decades of issues regarding fiat currencies. Bitcoin solves these issues and provides the ability of these individuals to maintain full control of their money.

Microloans, micropayments, etc. are now able to be enjoyed by apps on a mobile phone. In addition, cryptocurrencies greatly reduce the cost of cross-border payments.

Bitcoin and blockchain can also help verify land and property ownership. All records can be instantly checked online via the blockchain for accuracy and true ownership.

Finally, it solves the problems of low float or restrictions of dollars in the African nations.

Calvin Weight – Coinbook

Calvin Weight

In my opinion, Africa is the perfect application for bitcoin in their economy. In many ways, they skipped the brick and mortar stages of national development and can now conduct business using cell phones and mobile solutions.

Many developments in the bitcoin and cryptocurrency ecosystem can support a mobile banking system in a country with very little physical infrastructure.

Also, think about this, most humanitarian efforts are conducted by a top-down approach in countries like Africa.

The problem is that the middlemen in charge of distributing support are in a position to siphon these resources.

In an economy where everyone has their own public key, wealth and support can be transferred directly to those in need instead of using middlemen. Assisting the people who need help the most is made easier using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Tom Meredith – BitMInutes

Tom Meredith

Bitcoin, in particular, has issues that may preclude it from becoming an “argent franca” of African financial and economic systems. It is highly volatile, which makes it hard to serve as a currency of exchange.

It is expensive to mine, which constrains the supply (one of the same problems that ultimately made the gold standard obsolete last century.)

It has no institutional support or transparency, which makes it a magnet for speculation and black economy activity.

Cryptocurrencies more generally have potential, if they address the issues inherent in bitcoin. In my view, the successful cryptos that truly unlock the economic potential of African economies will be tied to real-world assets, like our crypto, the BitMinute (BMT).

We have tied it to prepaid airtime minutes, which give the BMTs an anchor in the real world. This also offers widespread acceptance as a means of exchange, because the prepaid minute is already a well-known commodity in Africa.

And the prepaid minute is already used to settle debts and deals beyond its main purpose of buying airtime. The BMT simply makes prepaid minutes exchangeable between any phone, not just the phones within a mobile operator’s own system.

Cryptos that are built to last will also incorporate transparency, using the blockchain structure but adding full know-your-customer and anti-money-laundering features.

Unlike a bitcoin, asset-based cryptos should provide a less volatile, dependable cryptocurrency that financial institutions can rely on to offer digital banking services through phone apps, and make microloans through those apps supported by local agents.

Matt Peperman – Cryptocurrency Complete

Matt Pepe

Introduction

Even when the banking systems in many African countries are operating at their best, they are still very outdated and frustrate their many clients. Problems faced by African bank users include the following:

Poor availability of banking access

Antiqued banking technologies

Low confidence in the banking system

High remittance costs.

The current situation in Africa

So far, bitcoin technology in Africa has picked up most among the young tech-savvy in urban centers, but it is slowly spreading to everyone else – even farmers and cattle herders. Additionally, African banks have also started warming up to usage of Bitcoin.

16% of Africans currently use mobile payment. However, it is not favorable for Africans living in outside their home country due to the enormous fees involved to send money abroad. Mobile money also fails to address issues such as inflation and scarcity of cash which makes Bitcoin an appealing option as it deals with all factors that affect the economy. Many African countries have lived through hyperinflation when the money supply was printed out of control. Africans who use bitcoin realize that that can never happen to that currency.

Let us take a closer look at the major countries of Africa and the progress that they have made in their cryptocurrency infrastructure.

South Africa.

The bitcoin is growing in popularity with the highest number of bitcoin searches in the world occurring in South Africa. About 50% of South Africans plan to invest in crypto in the near future. South Africa is also a home to several digital currency exchanges. A good example being the exchange Luno, which is operating in over 40 countries and allowing people to buy and sell digital coins in the local Rand currency.

Nigeria

Nigerians are the world’s third largest holdings of bitcoin as a percentage of the GDP after Russia and New Zealand. Many start-up businesses opt to issue new digital coins to the public as a way to raise money. Bitcoin seems to be in the Nigerian economy for the long haul.

Kenya

The Kenyan government is yet to decide whether to regulate the Bitcoin or not. Though the central bank thinks of Bitcoin as a pyramid scheme, many Kenyans have still invested in Bitcoin, and even the president is considering to use Blockchain to eliminate inaccuracies in the land registry.

Conclusion

Even with the outlaw of cryptocurrencies in African Islamic countries, such as Egypt, Morocco, and Algeria, interest in cryptocurrency is growing steadily in all of Africa. Given all the drawbacks of African banking systems, bitcoin will most likely continue to increase in adoption by both individuals and businesses in order to circumvent the traditional fiat currency systems.

Roderick Warren – Coin Market Alert

Roderick Warren
Bitcoin and blockchain technology has turned out to be multi-billion dollar virtue currency startup that has transformed the financial sector and has captured the core of the hearts of many people globally. Being a global currency that is not tied to any central bank, Bitcoin has enhanced and made transactions easy and more convenient.

Being a digital currency, it is highly convenient especially in Africa where it is approximated that about 300 million people lack access to basic banking services. However, mobile banking is well spread in Africa and about 20% of the Africans use these services.

M-pesa is one of the major service providers among others but these services are not much reliable especially when sending money from the countries that do not support mobile banking because one has to use intermediaries like Western Union and PayPal which charge onerous fees.

The mobile-based transaction services have not yet fully addressed the bigger woes in the financial sector such as scarcity and inflation and many Crpto advocates believe that Bitcoin will help in solving these challenges.

Many Africa based companies like Bitpesa have already started using Bitcoin for their remittances and this has increased the awareness of the general public about Bitcoin. For one to enjoy Bitcoin transactions, good internet connection is needed which is a challenge to a few remote parts of Africa.

So far, Bitcoin activity in Africa has been well embraced especially by the tech-savvy young people especially in urban areas and Bitcoin enhanced exchanges have increased among family members, friends, and business partners.

To many Africans, the challenge remains that their no good system to cash out Bitcoin for government currency like a dollar and one cannot hold bitcoin in their hands and this is a challenge, especially when making transactions with local merchants. Some African countries have also been hesitant for fear of money laundering and the long run sustainability of the Bitcoin-based transactions.

Bitcoin has become an appealing option to the majority of the Africans and Bitcoin-based transactions have increased immensely in the past few years throughout the continent of Africa.

However, convincing people to rely on a new system of transactions requires a significant amount of effort but if well embraced, Bitcoin can transform the African financial sector.

Kyle White – Element Zero Network

Kyle White
There are a plethora of reasons that the time has come for blockchain and cryptocurrency to become part of the African financial landscape. Bitcoin’s volatility lends itself more to a long-term investment due to the volatility and potential gains.

Currency volatility has contributed to Africa’s struggles and while Bitcoin can realize gains down the road, it does not improve infrastructure and the turmoil associated with volatile currency, now. Financial systems need a stable store of value for marketplaces to thrive and grow.

Therefore, for daily trading and a strong marketplace of African country currencies, I see stablecoins being most beneficial to the African financial system, which is currently very volatile.

In addition, many of the banks and financial organizations in Africa are local institutions, controlled by the government.

Cryptocurrencies are not bound by geographical restraints.

We must make sure these currencies are not merely native country fiat backed stablecoins because that will only perpetuate the long-term hold centralized powers can have on the people.

The currency of Africa’s future must be decentralized and interoperable allowing all to participate in the marketplace.

What digital currencies offer is a true opportunity to propel the African economy forward, and that can be done through decentralization. It removes the centralized banking from the institutions and puts control in the hands of the people utilizing the currency.
Furthermore, these currencies offer protection from corruption and can aid both individuals and small businesses in managing investments.

Stan Stalnaker – Ven

Stan Stalnaker
Digital assets, such as bitcoin are set to advance the African financial system, but a number of interconnected factors determine the impact this will have on Africans themselves.

From a technical point of view, the open community around bitcoin provides an army of innovators thinking about how to engage payment and financial services capability to Africans across the continent. The efficiency of these currencies in enabling transactions on a peer to peer basis (through a person’s phone or email address) without incremental costs is a useful model.

Despite the technical advances of the technology it is still hampered by two basic ‘upstream’ challenges – connectivity and availability. On the connectivity side, over half of Africa still does not have reliable mobile or internet access. Until this is solved, digital assets and the payment systems they bring to life will have limited reach.

The good news is that mobile and internet penetration is growing rapidly, with over a billion new connections expected in Africa alone. Especially via mobile phones, the capability to build and maintain large pan-African financial services operations finally looks possible. Early attempts at bitcoin-related payments, such as Bitpesa, have met with some success, but not on a large scale due to these challenges.

However availability is not reliant solely on connectivity – it is very much connected to regulatory approval and victim to the fragmented nature of governance in Africa. With dozens of countries, competing incumbents and institutionalized monopolies, its likely that only decentralized, non-political systems will be able to endure.

When communication providers like telecom companies control the access to applications or services or governments can shut off access to services at will, the legacy players, seeking to maintain their structures, are less required to shift to new technologies that could open the playing field for others.

That does not mean that bitcoin and other digital assets will not play an important role in African financial services – they are in fact almost certain to become default services because they are more efficient and less expensive.

To be successful, however, it’s likely that the technologies will drift toward two extremes – either so decentralized they can’t be easily corralled by legacy interests or presented as incremental upgrades to the existing systems on a country by country basis.

Either way, the steady growth it’s of inclusion is likely to bring over 500 million Africans into the global financial system by 2025, with crypto assets providing the frameworks for their arrival.

Bob Mason – Fxempire

Bob Mason

According to the World Bank, as many as 2bn continue to be excluded from the financial system. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 17% of the world’s unbanked, equivalent to approximately 350 million adults.

There are a number of reasons for the global number of unbanked. In sub-Saharan Africa, however, distance to financial institutions is cited as a major factor.

In recent years, Bitcoin has provided the unbanked and businesses with an alternative to the banking system. For the likes of Bitcoin, Bitcoin’s digital nature means that the issue of distance is addressed.

Around 27% of sub-Saharan Africans have said that distance is the main reason for not having a bank account, Bitcoin and Bitcoin wallets can go a long way in improving financial conditions in the region.

Family members working abroad are able to remit funds by way of Bitcoin wallet to wallet transfers to family members. Not only does this provide support for basic needs but also provides support for domestic economies. This can come from two avenues.

Firstly, the unbanked are able to tap into financial resources previously unavailable.

Secondly, Bitcoin facilitates the use of e-commerce. Businesses are able to buy and sell goods in exchange for Bitcoin.

Companies such as Western Union have provided an avenue for sending and receiving funds. The fees, however, tend to be large. The fee structure alone makes it all the more challenging in poorer nations and for businesses with tight margins.

Bitcoin may not be able to support smaller payments. Bitcoin would support businesses that are looking to move away from fiat money, however. Hyperinflation and currency instability are key issues that businesses face in the 3 rd world.

Using Bitcoin removes the effect of unstable governments and the influence of central banks on income prospects for businesses that may usually thrive.

Mark Grabowski

Mark Grabowski
Africa is rarely mentioned when discussing Bitcoin, but it is the next frontier for massive adoption.

Hundreds of millions of Africans lack adequate access to banking services. Many of those who do have access actively shun banks on the grounds of distrust.

Meanwhile, several African currencies suffer from excessive inflation. And African governments are only loosely regulating cryptocurrency, if at all. All this combines to make Africa primed for massive Bitcoin adoption.

Bitcoin could not only provide banking access to those with internet access yet no banking facilities, but also provide an alternative to the traditional fiat pushed by their often-corrupt national governments in favor of something that’s deflationary by design and resistant to corruption.

Tyler Gallagher – Regal Assets

Bitcoin ATMs are already in at least three African countries, including Zimbabwe and South Africa. Young entrepreneurs in Kenya are also already involved in crypto mining as they settle for alternative crowdsourcing methods to raise funds for their start-ups.

In Nigeria, Bitcoin sales soared throughout 2018. In reality, Bitcoin is already a part of Africa’s larger financial system, perhaps as much as in any other continent.

African countries facing currency and forex problems such as volatile money markets will find investment in digital payment cryptocurrency platforms useful.

This won’t just benefit businesses, but also citizens of African states as those states take a “technology-first” solution to problems, which we’ve seen as Africa, in general, has leapfrogged the usual infrastructure of the internet we know with fiber, etc., and have instead gone straight to wireless connectivity and heavy use of cellphones for day-to-day monetary transactions.

Africa may leapfrog again with an even more direct integration of cryptocurrency, sooner than much of the rest of the world. It’s very exciting.

Eric Brown – Aliant Payment

Casey

I see Bitcoin, as well as other cryptocurrencies, fitting in well with the African fintec/financial system.

The continent has faced a crisis with outdated banking technologies, a low rate of financial inclusion, poor confidence in the banking system, and high remittance costs, making it the perfect candidate for blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Africa is fertile ground for crypto adoption, as investors are already increasingly embracing cryptocurrencies to enjoy the many benefits that it offers.

One of the main reasons cryptocurrency will thrive in Africa is because it’s a highly accessible means of payment. All a person needs to create an account and acquire cryptocurrency is access to a smart phone or the Internet.

This levels the playing field for the approximately 2 billion people worldwide who lack a bank account but do have Internet access or a smart phone- some of whom are located in Africa.

Consider Africa’s booming technological advancement, with the rapid growth of mobile phone use as an example. Smartphone use has boomed throughout the continent in recent years, being used as both as a means of payment and as a bank account.

With more than 100 million active users of mobile money, transacting about $2.1 billion each year, according to McKinsey & Company, Africa is a global leader in mobile-based financial settlements.

The interest in blockchain and cryptocurrencies in Africa is spreading, Bitcoin ATMs are popping up, and entrepreneurs in Kenya are looking to crypto as an alternative crowdsourcing method when raising funds. I expect all of this to only continue growing and increasing

Because of the blockchain technology, the ability to have a verified ledger and an algorithmic approach to money supply prevents both hyperinflation as well as suspicions of government corruption.

Aari Lotfipour – Jalapen

AARI LOTFIPOUR

Fintech in Africa will be one of the first places distributed financial systems will be implemented, due to its disparate financial system connection, and the lack of stable governments and their currencies.

Existing financial systems will likely be quickly obsoleted, and I see this leading to more unified governance structures and strengthening the ability of African nations to become truly global players.

African communities will be able to bootstrap the development of their local systems, first by having access to the global cryptocurrency markets, and second by being able to crowdfund micro-economic projects from the global economy, pay back those investors, and retain continued economic empowerment from their newly create micro-economic structures.

Damien Martin – Shufti Pro

Majority of Africa is still new to the concept of Cryptocurrency and BitCoin despite all the negative impression and PR attributed to it by Western regulators and financial institutions.

It is the responsibility of the new players that are entering Fintech and African Financial System to not only protect their potential clientele from the much-hyped negative impression of Bitcoin and help their users to understand the value of Bitcoin.

Defending the volatility of Bitcoin is also important for crypto-enthusiasts in order to make general populace understand the true potential of BitCoin beyond a means of earning a quick buck. Practical utilization and benefits are required to be explained.

But there are still some countries where Bitcoin has gained a lot of fan following in past few months such as Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. In Nigeria alone, the demand for bitcoin increased by 1,500 percent in 2017, making it the second after China.

This aggressive adoption of the currency resulted in the establishment of several cryptocurrency market services, which are now enjoying incredibly high annual turnover.

There is also an emerging generation of Africans buying crypto as investment vehicles into promising blockchain start-ups. Two main factors will determine the further growth of bitcoin in Africa in the coming years.

First is the regulatory roadblocks that will push bitcoin-based ventures to open up at locations where there are least hurdles in operating a bitcoin-based or crypto-based platform.

Africa, thus, seems to be an excellent destination, given that the regulators opt to remain optimistic about the future of bitcoin and not be misled by Big Banks and Big Finance Companies.

Secondly, a large number of remittances are received from abroad, which can also promise a great surge in the use of bitcoin as the preferred medium by overseas Africans.

Marouane Garcon – Amulet

Many Africans in their native countries, as well as those in the diaspora, have unwavering faith in their home countries, but time and time again are let down by the corruption and instability of their governments.

I say that to say this, Crypto and Bitcoin’s future in Africa is completely dependent on the governments of those countries. Nigeria’s institutional banks have already spoken out against Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency related investments with contempt.

This is the type of pessimism you have to have stored in the back of your mind when thinking about Bitcoin and Africa’s relationship.

To be optimistic, there will be an African country that will emerge as the leader in the space. Most likely Kenya and Rwanda as they are also the leaders of the FinTech race currently taking place inside of Africa.

So if I had to draw a correlation I would say that the countries in Africa that are keen on FinTech and its capabilities are also going to be the ones to embrace Bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies and their underlying technology.

It’s hard to see it now, but I staunchly believe that the two biggest areas of impact will be on the Agritech and Infrastructure sectors.

Those two spaces are the backbone of most African countries. Improving upon those sectors will synchronously improve the lives of the people in those African countries. It’s a tall task, but an infinitely rewarding one.

Alex Sovpel – Monfex

Alex Sovpel

Africa is actually one of the pioneers of digital currency transfers. In East Africa alone, there are 28.5 million users on just one of the mobile banking services, M-Pesa. Orange and others have similar userbases and thus similar growth. Africans are probably more comfortable with digital transactions than many Europeans or Americans.

But most of these transactions are done with simple ‘dumb’ phones and transacted over SMS. This is a big obstacle for crypto adoption in Africa. Due to unreliable mobile internet, relying on smartphone apps is a non-starter.

There is definitely a place for bitcoin in Africa, for example, to supplement volatile or inflationary local currencies, but unless a system is set up that can work on old-style phones, it will never be as popular as the current mobile banking services.

Alex Wilson – The Giving Block

Alex Wilson

I ultimately see bitcoin as a tool for freedom. Bitcoin isn’t currently helping people living in New York City in their daily life. Bitcoin is helping people living under oppressed regimes like in Venezuela. Why is it so popular in Venezuela? The reasons are simple.
 
Bitcoin cannot be controlled or limited by the government. It is truly peer to peer and allows citizens to escape the hyperinflated government controlled currencies that can become worthless overnight. These same reasons apply to many countries in Africa like we’ve already seen in Zimbabwe.
 
Not only does it help people escape inflation, but it also keeps people’s money secure and away from corrupt governments. The government cannot confiscate or freeze your funds like they can with a bank account.
 
This also makes it easier for people to move funds across borders and send money to family anywhere in the world for close to nothing when compared to traditional remittances.
 
That brings up the last piece: price volatility. Some worry about the sometimes extreme price fluctuations of cryptocurrencies.
 
A current solution to this problem can be stablecoins that are pegged to $1 USD. This also gives people access to the US Dollar that they previously could not have access to in many cases.
 
People can now easily convert their bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies into USD if they need to lock in the value and not worry about day to day price changes.

It is amazing how bitcoin is growing and how Africa is pioneering the P2P revolution. Africans are showing the rest of the world to use bitcoin as the way it was meant to be when Satoshi Nakamoto envisioned it. People keep on talking about the bitcoin “killer app”, which will come due time but achievements like these go unnoticed. Fintech in Africa is changing for better and bitcoin is there to stay for the Africans. 

Minuca Elena

I am a freelance writer specialized in creating expert roundups. My expert roundup posts provide quality content, bring huge traffic and get backlinks. I also help bloggers connect with influencers. You can find out more about my work on my website, MinucaElena.com.

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