It’s been in developing nations that crypto adoption has been accelerating the most in the past year, and some of the reasons for this are clear to see. For one thing, people in these places are searching for ways to preserve the value of their savings against brutal inflation. For another, when locals leave town to work elsewhere, they tend to send remittances home in large volumes, and crypto is a quick, cheap way of doing this.
Chainalysis report that the last year has not been good for grassroots crypto adoption around the world, and this has a lot to do with the FTX meltdown and associated scandals. Lower Middle Income (LMI) countries (the second lowest of four World Bank rankings), however, have held up comparatively well in this regard. This could be a crypto-friendly trend, considering the fact that 40% of the world’s population lives in LMI countries, and also the fact that these “are often countries on the rise, with dynamic, growing industries and populations”, write the research group.
Southern Asia, Africa, and Latin America are all strongly represented on Chainalysis’s recently released Global Crypto Adoption Index, which, rather than measuring sheer trading volume, takes into account the average incomes in locations around the globe, so that the significance of crypto adoption can be gauged from the perspective of the local user. The list of top 20 nations on their index reads as follows:
Whether you’re planning on doing any CFD trading with cryptos on the iFOREX Europe platform, or whether your interest is academic, join us now as we journey into a couple of LMI countries that are bucking the universal trend and grabbing ahold of digital assets with both hands.
While Brazil’s real has held fairly steady in the past year, the same cannot be said of the Argentinian peso, which lost an enormous 51.6% of its value between mid-2022 and mid-2023. To be sure, this is nothing new and has occurred frequently in that country over the past few decades. The point of interest for us is that, within that year, Argentina dominated Brazil in terms of crypto transaction volume. This is despite the fact that Brazil boasts a comparatively sophisticated crypto market. That country owes its high place in the Chainalysis index to institutional crypto trading, which has actually been declining.
In Argentina, though, where the value of local money is withering fast, “lots of people will now get their paycheck and immediately put it into [the stablecoins] USDT or USDC”, says Martel Seward of Lemon Cash (an Argentinian crypto exchange). There’s steady and strong demand for the US dollar in the country, and these stablecoins provide a convenient way of accessing it. Unsurprisingly, demand for USDT in Argentina easily beats that in Brazil. “This is almost certainly due to the currency devaluation Argentina has faced of late”, concludes Chainalysis. By contrast, Bitcoin and the altcoins are more popular in Brazil, apparently owing to the fact that these are the digital assets usually used for financial speculation.
Moving money around in Africa can be painfully difficult. Many African nations enforce strict capital controls to make sure money doesn’t leave the country. “If someone wants to move money to the country next door”, says Ray Youssef of Paxful (a peer-to-peer crypto marketplace), “normally you’d have to fill up a suitcase full of cash and move it over the border”. Another problem Africans face is that four out of five international payments coming out of Africa are processed in other continents like Europe and North America, which can extend processing times to several weeks, and also bump up costs.
Nigeria’s particular draw factors for crypto adoption are inflation and a plunging currency. “People are constantly looking for opportunities to hedge against the devaluation of the naira and the persistent economic decline since COVID”, explains Moyo Sodipo of Busha (a Nigerian crypto exchange). Especially in June and July 2023, when local currency lost a big chunk of its value, there was a surge in the popularity of Bitcoin and the stablecoins. Although the government banned banks from dealing in crypto in 2021, they seemed to soften their stance the following year, releasing a set of rules under which cryptos could be traded.
Ukraine and Russia are normally considered leaders on the global stage of crypto adoption but the war they are waging is interfering with this trend. In the year coming up to July 2023, Ukraine’s crypto transaction volume dropped by as much as $35.8 billion. The economic hardships emanating from the war are largely responsible in Ukraine’s case. But the National Bank of Ukraine didn’t help matters by banning the purchasing of crypto with the Ukrainian hryvnia, which they did in order protect local currency from devaluation.
As to the Ukrainians who have fled the battle area and settled in other European countries, they “are using financial instruments they weren’t using before”, including cryptos, says Anna Voievodina of the Kuna Exchange. And their use cases are of the daily type, for instance, sending remittances back home or saving money. Crypto, then, is proving itself useful to those displaced by the unfortunate battle.
Wrapping Things Up
“If LMI countries are the future,” concludes Chainalysis, “then the data indicates that crypto is going to be a big part of that future”. With factors like hyperinflation still very much active in many developing nations, their citizens are going to need a way to preserve the value of their money. Cryptocurrencies have what it takes to fill their need, so watch out for new and innovative ways digital currencies are being used to solve problems in the developing world.
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