A year of uncertainty combined with a lack of opportunity and adequate effort by their various governments, led to an uptick in cryptocurrency adoption by Africa’s youth. You think it is hard to get young people to agree on something? Try pushing them to the wall and denying them access to their basic source of livelihood, especially when it is one they seemed to have carved out for themselves. The growing rate of use and adoption of crypto in many African countries, amidst growing scepticism, counter narratives, strong warnings and even outright ban in some countries, is all the indication you need to know that this train cannot be stopped.
And really, why should it be stopped? Because you are afraid it will give the people, young people true liberation? Because it will make them increasingly less reliant on established systems and institutions that have failed them so far? Pick any one reason and think deeply about it, you will surely come to see that there is indeed good reason for the average young African to be quite enthusiastic about cryptocurrency.
Their enthusiasm has been expressed in no small measure so far. As at Q1 of 2020, a CoinMarketCap report on cryptocurrency adoption worldwide put Africa as the second highest, with Nigeria accounting for a 210.6% growth in young crypto users.
The faith these young people have especially put in cryptocurrency is certainly not misplaced. One of first reasons for the quick adoption of crypto by Africa’s youth is the fact that many Africans remain unbanked, either because of a lack of income generating opportunities, or a general mistrust in the system. However, crypto provided a reason for trust and provided opportunities to earn an income to some.
In no unusual fashion, this development has met strong resistance by some African governments, particularly Nigeria where a ban on cryptocurrency exchanges operating locally is still in effect as at time of writing this article. Despite the resistance, the Nigerian youth and indeed all of Africa remains undeterred.
And there is reason to keep the faith. There are immense benefits (and risks) that come with cryptocurrency, especially in the times we live in. The world is progressively digital and has been further propelled towards full digital adoption by the Covid-19 pandemic. Offices are run remotely and digitally now, relationships are now forged and even managed digitally these days, education is administered digitally now, healthcare, entertainment and several basic human endeavours and needs are vastly enabled and, in some cases, fully delivered digitally. Why should money (how we make it, store it, and transact with it) be left out?
One of the most important benefits that cryptocurrencies provide is trust. Because every transaction is stored using blockchain technology, there is an increased level of guaranty that is necessary to fuel trade and business transactions in a market where trust remains a hindrance for many business activities (think e-Commerce and social commerce).
Another reason why cryptocurrency holds much promise for Africa is the fact that many African currencies are weak. Earning in cryptocurrency affords young people the opportunity to earn more and improve standard of living for themselves and their families. In the long run, increased earning could lead to increased spending, which could translate to increased local development that could in turn power manufacturing, production and export that could help raise the value and power of local African countries. I know the real flow and process of things is not as simple as I have outlined it here, but at least I am sure you get the picture I am trying to portray.
Just for a moment, think of Africa with all its myriad of challenges right now, from leadership to infrastructure to poverty ratio – and then pause for a moment and think of a future where Africa has explored the potential of cryptocurrency, what could that future look like? Imagine an Africa where you do not have to worry about ordering from a vendor because you know your transaction is saved on a blockchain? Imagine being able to afford healthcare needs and not run the risk of falling below the poverty line, simply because you earn in Bitcoin or Ethereum. Imagine an Africa with evolving technology and infrastructure needs, and systems that run smoothly because the human factor is removed from the process, where I do not need to know somebody at the ministry before my case is treated, but a blockchain system handles my request and treats all equally without prejudice or bias.
Perhaps it is in visualising this future, these possibilities that Akon decided to build the first crypto city in his home country of Senegal. A move that might just yet prove to be the spark we all need to realise Africa is indeed the new frontier for a cryptocurrency evolution (or revolution is you may). Think of the continent’s rapid adoption of mobile money and how that also spiralled to impact other sectors, from healthcare to entertainment, all the while grappling with low internet penetration.
Ultimately, the future looks sunny; the fog presented by crackdowns by a few African countries and governments has not deterred young Africans merely trying to survive and thrive. “You can’t kill the African spirit, they say”, and these African dreamers and doers, have surely refused to die of poverty, not when there is an abundance of opportunities and possibilities provided by blockchain and cryptocurrencies.