Showing posts with label Bitcoin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bitcoin. Show all posts

Friday, March 1, 2024

Video - Nigeria detains Binance executives



Two senior executives of Binance flew to Nigeria following the country's decision to ban several cryptocurrency trading websites. But they were detained by the office of the country's national security adviser and their passports were seized following their arrival in the country.

CGTN

Related stories: Nigeria demands $10 billion from Binance in damages

Nigeria detains Binance executives in cryptocurrency crackdown

Nigeria plans clampdown on Binance, other crypto firms

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Nigeria detains Binance executives in cryptocurrency crackdown

Two senior executives at Binance have been detained in Nigeria as the country cracks down on cryptocurrency exchanges, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The executives flew to Nigeria following the country's decision to ban several cryptocurrency trading websites last week but they were detained by the office of the country's national security adviser and their passports seized.

Binance did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The crackdown follows a period after several cryptocurrency websites emerged as platforms of choice for trading the Nigerian currency, which has suffered chronic dollar shortages.

The naira's official exchange rate has been trading at levels close to the parallel market level after the currency was devalued last month, its second adjustment in less than a year.

Africa's largest economy has been experiencing crippling dollar shortages that have pushed its currency to record lows after foreign investors fled following a previous oil price collapse and introduction of capital controls in 2015.

Reuters

Related story: Nigeria plans clampdown on Binance, other crypto firms

 

 


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Nigeria plans clampdown on Binance, other crypto firms

The Nigerian government is considering blocking the online platforms of Binance and other crypto firms to avert what it considers continuous manipulation of the forex market and illicit movement of funds, officials with knowledge of the policy option have told PREMIUM TIMES.

The recent unprecedented weakening of the Nigerian currency has seen the naira falling to all-time low of N1,800 to a dollar in the parallel market.

Presidency and regulatory sources say the government decided to move against Binance and other crypto firms following reports that currency speculators and money launderers were using them to execute criminal activities. Authorities believe the ‘criminal activities’ going on on platforms are contributing significantly to the weakening of the naira.

Binance, a digital assets platform, serves as a window for peer to peer transaction allowing users to advertise interest to sell or buy currencies of their choice.

In September 2023, Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) placed a disclaimer on Binance Nigeria Limited, saying the platform was “neither registered nor regulated by the Commission and its operations in Nigeria are therefore illegal”.

Despite the warning by the regulatory agency, the firm continued its operation, attracting huge patronage especially among urban youths and suspected speculators and money launderers.

Aside suspicions of economic sabotage, officials also speak of national security concerns as the platforms are often patronised by other criminal groups including for payment of ransom.

Law enforcement sources say the digital asset platforms are also routinely deployed for manipulation of forex values through fake deals that serve to prop up values or cause a fall.

A source at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) involved in probing criminal complaint against digital asset platforms, who was however not authorised to speak to the press, described the process as a “sophisticated heist against the Nigerian economy”.


According to her, by allowing simultaneous opening of buy and sell windows for a single user, manipulators often fake interest to sell dollars which they then buy at a speculated rate to themselves through the buy window.


“This therefore gives the dollar a fake value against the naira which then sets a frenzy and mislead the market. This fake price is then often quoted by BDCs who raise their prices to meet the Binance benchmark even without any corresponding demand in that segment,” she said.

A senior executive at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) described as “troubling” the bearish downward trade of the naira against the dollar in the last 10 days, attributing it to artificial devaluation caused by the speculative sites.

“Through manipulative rent seeking, Binance’s global reach results in higher USD to NGN exchange rates often being used as a benchmark for currency trading, misleadingly devaluing the Naira in global markets.”

But he added that trading on the platform is encouraged by activities of money-launderers and terrorist financiers “who have no qualms with the arbitrage”.

“We started noticing this sharp trend from February 9, and since then it has caused significant devaluation of the naira against the USD. This is simply criminal,” he said.

Binance has had similar accusations of currency manipulation and unethical conduct leading to sanctions in many countries and an ongoing lawsuit in the United States.

If the government decides to invoke a ban on the digital asset trading site it would be treading the path of countries like Malaysia, France and Malta, among others.

The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) had announced Tuesday that it was joining forces with the Central Bank of Nigeria to clamp down on currency speculators and economic saboteurs.

The Head of Strategic Communication at ONSA, Zakari Mijinyawa, hinted in his Tuesday statement that individuals and organisations involved in wrongful activities in Nigeria’s Forex market would be identified, investigated and penalised.

Contacted on Thursday night on the planned clampdown on Binance and other crypto firms, Mr Mijinyawa said he was at an “important meeting”. He did not answer or return subsequent calls made to him.

Binance could not be reached Wednesday morning. Multiple calls to a customer service number listed for it rang out unanswered.

By Abdulrahman Abdulmalik, Premium Times

Related story: Video - Central Bank of Nigeria gives guidelines on cryptocurrency

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Video - Central Bank of Nigeria gives guidelines on cryptocurrency



The Central bank in Nigeria has released guidelines for banks opening cryptocurrency accounts after it lifted its ban on crypto assets. However, there are calls for the government to embark on crypto-awareness campaigns among young people as a way to boost the economy. 

CGTN

Related stories: Central Bank of Nigeria Lifts Ban on Crypto Transactions

Video - Nigeria continues to record surge in adoption of cryptocurrencies

 

 

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Central Bank of Nigeria Lifts Ban on Crypto Transactions

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has lifted a ban on transacting in cryptocurrencies.

At the same time, the bank said there is a need to regulate virtual asset service providers (VASPs), including cryptocurrencies and crypto assets, Reuters reported Wednesday (Dec. 27), citing a Friday (Dec. 22) circular issued by the bank.

The CBN imposed a ban on banks and financial institutions dealing in or facilitating transactions in crypto assets in February 2021 due to concerns over money laundering and terrorism financing, according to the report.

However, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Nigeria published regulations in May last year that aimed to find a middle ground between an outright ban and unregulated use of crypto assets, the report said.

In its circular dated Dec. 22, the CBN outlined guidelines for banks and financial institutions regarding the opening of accounts, designated settlement accounts, settlement services, and acting as channels for foreign exchange inflows and trade for firms transacting in crypto assets, per the report. The guidelines emphasize the need for VASPs to obtain licensing from the Nigerian SEC to engage in crypto business.

The circular also states that banks are still prohibited from trading, holding or transacting cryptocurrencies, according to the report.

Nigeria has witnessed a surge in cryptocurrency adoption, particularly among its young and tech-savvy population, the report said. Many individuals have turned to peer-to-peer trading offered by crypto exchanges as an alternative to traditional financial services.

The volume of crypto transactions in Nigeria grew by 9% year over year to $56.7 billion between July 2022 and June 2023, per the report, which cited data from blockchain research firm Chainalysis.

It was reported in October 2021 that despite the ban from their country’s central bank, people in Nigeria had turned to cryptocurrency to conduct business, send payments and guard their savings.

In November 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Nigeria said that it had no plans to make crypto part of its digital asset trading goals until regulators agree to standards that keep investors safe.

The commission said at the time that it would promote investment in “sensible digital assets,” with investment protection while also looking into blockchain technology to drive virtual and traditional investment products.

PYMNTS

Related stories: Crypto usage growing further in Nigeria

Video - Nigeria continues to record surge in adoption of cryptocurrencies

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Crypto usage growing further in Nigeria

Cryptocurrency usage is growing in Nigeria as Africa's largest economy grapples with a weakening currency and soaring inflation, New York-based blockchain research firm Chainalysis said in a report on Tuesday.


Nigeria's volume of crypto transactions grew 9% year-over-year to $56.7 billion between July 2022 and June 2023. In Uganda, crypto use is smaller but growing fast, rising 245% to $1.6 billion in the same period, while its use in Kenya fell more than a half to $8.4 billion, the report said.

In Nigeria, interest in bitcoin and stablecoins - crypto tokens whose monetary value is pegged to a stable asset to protect from wild volatility - increased when the naira's value plunged, particularly during the most extreme drops in June and July of 2023, Chainalysis said.

The currency weakened to record lows after President Bola Tinubu embarked on some of the boldest reforms that Nigeria has seen in years, including scrapping a popular but costly petrol subsidy and removing some exchange rate restrictions.

"People are constantly looking for opportunities to hedge against the devaluation of the naira and the persistent economic decline since COVID," Moyo Sodipo, co-founder of Nigeria-based cryptocurrency exchange Busha, said in a statement shared with the report.

Nigeria barred its banks and financial institutions from dealing in or facilitating transactions in cryptocurrencies in 2021.

Last year, the country's financial regulator published a set of regulations for digital assets, signalling Africa's most populous country was trying to find a middle ground between an outright ban on crypto assets and their unregulated use.

Nigeria's young, tech-savvy population has eagerly adopted cryptocurrencies, for example using peer-to-peer trading offered by crypto exchanges to avoid the financial sector ban. 

By Anait Miridzhanian, Reuters

Related stories: Video - Nigeria continues to record surge in adoption of cryptocurrencies

Nigeria Seeks to Boost E-Naira Users 10-Fold as Cryptos Grow

Nigerians Are Using Bitcoin to Bypass Trade Hurdles With China

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Video - Nigeria continues to record surge in adoption of cryptocurrencies



Africa's most populous country is still reporting a boom in the use of cryptocurrencies despite warnings from authorities. Nigerians say bottlenecks around banking transactions, a scarcity of foreign exchange, and the belief that cryptocurrencies are an easy and quick means to make money, contribute to crypto's popularity.

CGTN

Related stories: Nigeria’s crackdown on Bitcoin echoes global crypto conundrum

Video - Nigeria becomes first African nation to roll out digital currency

 

 

Monday, December 19, 2022

Nigeria to possibly make Bitcoin usage legal






 

 

 

 

A local Nigerian newspaper has reported that Babangida Ibrahim, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market and Institutions of Nigeria, claimed the country will soon pass a law making the usage of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies legal. The bill would amend the 2007 Investments and Securities Act and would recognize bitcoin as legal capital for investment.

Back in February of 2021, Nigeria effectively banned the usage of bitcoin with a letter prohibiting regulated financial businesses from “dealing” with cryptocurrencies. In the same year, Bitcoin Magazine reported Nigeria soaring to the largest volume of bitcoin peer-to-peer trading in the world, and Chainanalysis reports showed that Nigeria had greatly accelerated bitcoin adoption.


The newspaper report described how Ibrahim pointed to Nigeria being behind in regards to regulation of the industry, saying “Like I said earlier during the second reading, we need an efficient and vibrant capital market in Nigeria. For us to do that, we have to be up to date global practices.”

If the proposed regulation properly addresses the growing bitcoin usage within the country, it could be a major catalyst for the African continent’s most populated country.

Bitcoin has had a large presence in the country despite the current ban, including the construction of a Bitcoin village, Nigerian Bitcoiners participating in all sorts of development, philanthropic work from Bitcoin companies and mining being an active industry there. 

Bitcoin Magazine

Related stories: Thriving Under Pressure: Why Crypto Is Booming in Nigeria Despite the Banking Ban

Digital art thrives among crypto-curious Nigerian artists

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Nigeria To Establish Special Economic Zone for Bitcoin

Nigeria is seeking to create the first economic free zone for bitcoin and cryptocurrency in West Africa through the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), per a press release.


NEPZA is in discussions with Binance, one of the leading cryptocurrency exchanges, as well as Talent City which specializes in building special economic zones.

Our goal is to engender a flourishing virtual free zones to take advantage of a near trillion dollar virtual economy in blockchains and digital economy," said Adesoji Adesugba, NEPZA's managing director.

Furthermore, NEPZA explained that if a partnership is reached, the final product would mirror that of the Dubai Virtual Free Zone.

In fact, this past December, Binance entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Dubai World Trade Center. The memorandum intends to make Dubai a hub for bitcoin and cryptocurrency related products and services by creating a “new international virtual asset ecosystem.”

In February of last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria issued a letter banning regulated institutions from “dealing” with bitcoin or cryptocurrencies. Following the ban, Nigeria saw an uptick of 27% in peer-to-peer (P2P) bitcoin transactions across the country.

Indeed, just last year Africa as a whole became the largest country in P2P transactions in the world by volume. Around the same time, Chainalysis reported a global adoption index which showed Nigeria in the top 10 countries worldwide for its adoption of bitcoin.

Moreover, as Dubai and Nigeria look to establish special economic zones to benefit bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, we can take a look at existing economic zones. For instance, the free city of Próspera is an example of a customizable economic framework. 

By Shawn Amick

Bitcoin Magazine

Related stories: Nigerians Are Using Bitcoin to Bypass Trade Hurdles With China

Why Bitcoin has been so successful in Nigeria

Jack Dorsey Tweets Support For Nigerian Bitcoin Adoption

Friday, August 19, 2022

Nigeria Seeks to Boost E-Naira Users 10-Fold as Cryptos Grow

 Nigeria, which has attracted just 840,000 users for its digital currency since October, is seeking to boost adoption of the e-naira almost 10-fold in the next 12 months by luring people without bank accounts.

The Central Bank of Nigeria is targeting 8 million users in the “second phase” of the digital currency’s expansion, central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele said Thursday in Abuja, the capital.

“Just like the naira, the e-naira is expected to be available to all Nigerians and will provide more possibilities to bring the unbanked into the digital economy,” Emefiele said during the finals of a central bank-sponsored hackathon to build products around the e-naira.

The steady depreciation of the naira has seen many residents of Africa’s most populous nation pivot toward cryptocurrencies, even though the central bank ordered commercial lenders to stop transactions or operations in digital tokens. While there are 270,000 active users of e-naira, as many as 33.4 million Nigerians have either owned or traded cryptocurrencies, according to a report by KuCoin, a Seychelles-based crypto exchange.

The adoption of stable coins like USDT is on the rise in the West African nation, according to Paxful, a peer-to-peer exchange. The average monthly trade volumes increased 10-fold to $25 million in June 2022. Trade volumes for the first half of 2022 are nearly $400 million compared to $760m for last year on Paxful alone.

While the e-naira is an exciting project, accelerating inflation and a weakening currency have deterred its adoption, said Keturah Ovio, chief executive officer of book-keeping startup Dukka. “To drive adoption, the central bank has to take initiatives to drive down inflation and improve trust in the local currency.”

Africa’s most-populous nation has shown more interest in cryptocurrencies than any other country since the digital assets began to decline in April, according to a study by price tracker CoinGecko.

Meanwhile, from Monday, people without bank accounts will be able to download and open an active e-naira wallet by using the unstructured supplementary service data, or USSD, and dialing *997 from their mobile phones, said Emefiele.

Only about 45% of adults in the nation with more than 200 million people have bank accounts, according to the World Bank. That compares with an average of 70% in the BRICS economies. The e-naira has attracted slightly over 200,000 transactions valued at 4 billion naira ($9.4 million), just a fraction of the 54 trillion naira through the Nigeria Instant Payment System between January and February 2022.

The expansion of access to the e-naira platform will further deepen its integration with the existing national payment infrastructure, Emefiele said. Both merchants and consumers with bank accounts will now be able to use the nation’s existing payment mechanism to transfer and receive e-naira.

“We don’t have a choice but to live with the fact that we are now in a digital economy,” Emefiele said. “The use of cash will dissipate to zero and the use of digital currency will increase to become part of our lives.”

Anthony Osae-Brown

Bloomberg

Related story: Thriving Under Pressure: Why Crypto Is Booming in Nigeria Despite the Banking Ban

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Most Curious Nation About Crypto Is Nigeria, Study Shows

 Africa’s most-populous nation showed more interest in cryptocurrencies than any other country since the digital assets began to decline in April, according to a study by price tracker CoinGecko.

Nigeria scored 371 in the study that looked at Google Trends data for six searches such as “buy crypto” or “invest in crypto” that were then combined to give each English-speaking nation a total search ranking. The West African country was followed by the United Arab Emirates and Singapore.

“This study provides interesting insight into which countries remain most interested in cryptocurrency in spite of market pullbacks,” CoinGecko’s co-founder Bobby Ong said in an emailed statement. “The countries at the top of this list appear to be keenest to buy the dip, and highlight their long-term outlook for cryptocurrencies.”

The Nigerian stock exchange said in June it planned to start a blockchain-enabled platform next year to deepen trade and lure young investors to the market. That came after its central bank in early 2021 ordered commercial lenders to stop transactions or operations in cryptocurrencies, citing a threat to the financial system.

Singapore had the most searches on Ethereum, while Georgia sought information on Solana, according to CoinGecko. 

By Helen Nyambura

Bloomberg

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Jack Dorsey Tweets Support For Nigerian Bitcoin Adoption

Video - Nigerian returns bitcoins worth $80,000

Friday, October 29, 2021

Nigeria’s eNaira digital currency had an embarrassing first week

It is not time for adieu yet, but Nigeria’s central bank digital currency—the first such attempt in Africa—has not gotten off to a great start.

The eNaira, as the digital currency is called, was initially scheduled to launch on Oct. 1 this year. That was postponed with the excuse that the launch clashed with independence day celebrations. Nigerians became suspicious of their central bank’s readiness for a digital currency rollout; after all, independence day is a fixed event every year and so authorities should have planned better.

Shrugging off sceptics, president Muhammadu Buhari unveiled the eNaira wallet at an indoor, socially-distanced ceremony in Abuja three weeks later (on Oct. 25,) where only three media houses were invited and no questions were taken, according to Reuters. Buhari said the innovation could grow Nigeria’s economy by $29 billion in the coming decade, and further financial inclusion goals.

But on just the fourth day, the eNaira was looking dead on arrival.


eNaira app hasn’t worked well


In designing the eNaira, Nigeria hoped to follow the emerging blueprint for central bank digital currencies, especially China’s.

The eNaira is supposed to live within a mobile wallet (pdf), have the same value and be interchangeable with the physical naira for everyday transactions. Nigerians believe the eNaira, which is governed by a centralized blockchain, is part of the central bank’s drive to discourage cryptocurrencies’ popularity among Nigeria’s youth, just like China’s effort with the digital yuan.

And so this week, Nigeria’s central bank made two types of eNaira wallets available on Google and Apple stores: one for individuals, and another for merchants. But some users say parts of the wallet for individuals have not worked properly.

Fisayo Fosudo, a Nigerian YouTuber who reviews gadgets and apps, said he and three friends initially got error messages that the eNaira app could not match their emails to their bank verification numbers. He would later register successfully but found broken links that did not lead to helpful support pages on the central bank’s website. “Was really looking forward to reviewing the eNaira app but it’s been hard to get it to work seamlessly. We wait,” Fosudo said.

After many users left poor reviews for the Android version of the eNaira app for individuals, it was taken down. It had been downloaded 100,000 times before that. The Apple Store version remained available at press time.

Nigeria’s central bank is pre-empting eNaira scams

Central bank digital currencies are not immune to scams. Last October, Chinese authorities started seeing fake digital yuan wallets, especially because the government had chosen to give away $6.2 million worth of digital yuan for free to citizens to encourage adoption.

Nigeria’s eNaira may be struggling to take off but the central bank is already warning of potential scams. In a press release on Oct. 27, the bank clarified that it did not have a dedicated eNaira account, and that it was not distributing 50 billion naira in eNaira.


What of the other CBDC plan in Africa?

South Africa is the other large economy in Africa contemplating a central bank digital currency, but it’s not quite through the same process as Nigeria’s.

Instead of a rollout to citizens for intra-country transactions, South Africa’s CBDC trial is part of a project by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) which includes the central banks of Australia, Singapore, and Malaysia. They are teaming up to test the use of CBDCs for international settlements.

Project Dunbar, as it is called, will use CBDCs to create platforms for financial institutions to transact directly with each other using digital currencies issued by the central banks. The hope is to make transactions faster, cheaper, and without a need for intermediaries.

By Alexander Onukwue 

Quartz

Related story: Video - Nigeria becomes first African nation to roll out digital currency

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Video - Nigeria becomes first African nation to roll out digital currency

 

Nigeria has launched a digital currency. Called eNaira, it is hoped to foster economic growth. But there are challenges in its use. Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris reports from Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Thriving Under Pressure: Why Crypto Is Booming in Nigeria Despite the Banking Ban

 Nigeria’s regulators tried to crack down on cryptocurrency. Now, a few months later, it’s clear their efforts haven’t worked. The nation is a prime example of how people will turn to crypto to cope with a struggling economy despite the prohibitive stance of the state.

In February, the Central Bank of Nigeria ordered banks to “identify persons and/or entities” who were conducting transactions in crypto or running crypto exchanges and “ensure that such accounts are closed immediately.” But that ban didn’t stamp out bitcoin in Nigeria. Rather, the crypto community turned to peer-to-peer trades, or sending payments directly to each other.

According to the blockchain research firm Chainalysis, the dollar volume of crypto received by users in Nigeria has been consistently growing in 2020 and 2021, which may be partly related to this year’s bull market. In May, Nigeria received $2.4 billion worth of crypto, compared with $684 million last December, the analytics firm said.

While that kind of geographical data comes with caveats, it’s clear that crypto is alive and well in Nigeria.
 

Wealth without borders


According to a survey in March by Statista, 32% of respondents in Nigeria use crypto. Nigeria also ranked eighth in Chainalysis’ 2020 report on cryptocurrency adoption around the world.

The interest in crypto surged last fall, when activists with the “EndSARS” movement, protesting against police brutality in Nigeria, used bitcoin to raise funds.

Economic factors also appear to spur adoption.


“Recently, the devaluation of our local currency [encouraged] people [to start] saving in crypto assets like bitcoin and ethereum,” said Udeaja Kingsley, CEO of the BiTA crypto startup, adding that the crypto users are “mostly the youths that believe in it and are trading it via the means of P2P.”

So far in 2021, the Nigerian naira has been losing value with the country’s inflation rate at 18%. While U.S. dollars might be hard to obtain in Nigeria, bitcoin sometimes serves as a proxy for the dollar, allowing people to hedge against naira’s inflation. Because most of the goods Nigerians buy are imported, U.S. dollars are in high demand and there is often not enough of them available on the market.

However, some of Nigeria’s importers already switched to crypto as a payment method, says Keith Mali Chung, president and co-founder of Loopblock Network, an African blockchain firm. “Over 70% of all that is being consumed in Nigeria is imported, and with financial restrictions, bitcoin is gaining all the attention it deserves,” he said.


Chinese merchants selling clothing and electronics in Nigeria are using crypto as a means of exchange, Chung said. The pattern is similar to the one in Eastern Europe, where Chinese merchants might be sending tens of millions of dollars in crypto across the border daily.

It’s hard to estimate how much money is moving from Nigeria to China this way, Chung said, but he has some anecdotal evidence. “I know of individual [merchants] who transact over $2 million to $5 million daily, and they are countless, and the numbers are rapidly increasing,” he said.

According to Chung, some young Nigerians view bitcoin and smaller, newer cryptocurrencies as a way to make some money as the traditional economy lags because of the pandemic.

“A lot of people are taking advantage of the [decentralized finance] industry right now, it’s giving equal financial opportunities for all, irrespective of nationality or whatsoever,” Chung said. “A lot of people are jumping into different yield farming programs, I know quite a number of people who got DeFi loans to run their businesses,” he added.

Ray Youssef, CEO of Paxful, a service that enables users to buy and sell bitcoin in a peer-to-peer fashion, believes the biggest factor of crypto’s popularity in Nigeria has been “the intense drive and business aptitude of the Nigerian youth.”

“Entrepreneurship is baked into their DNA,” Youssef told CoinDesk via a spokesperson.

Frozen accounts

The Nigerian government, and the Central Bank of Nigeria in particular, haven’t been openly hostile to crypto. Commenting on the controversial banking ban during a public event in March, Adamu Lamtek, the central bank’s deputy governor, said the regulator had never banned cryptocurrency activity in Nigeria altogether; rather, it only prohibited banking services for crypto businesses.

For some crypto firms on the ground, however, Nigeria’s reality remains tough.

Luno, the crypto wallet owned by Digital Currency Group (also CoinDesk’s parent company), has had fiat deposits and withdrawal frozen since February, it said in a recent statement by the CEO Marcus Swanepoel.

Although the company managed to get its bank account in Nigeria unfrozen in June, users still can’t move their fiat funds to and from the platform, Swanepoel said, adding that the company “intensified regulatory lobbying” to get the issue sorted out.

“We are negotiating day and night with the relevant stakeholders in Nigeria to get them to collectively work with the government to find a solution that works for everyone,” he added. “This includes the CBN and other crypto platforms, and allowing people to withdraw is the main priority.”

Chike Okonkwo, sales and partnerships lead in Africa for an asset manager Thresh0ld, and also a member of the Stakeholders in Blockchain Technology Association of Nigeria (SiBAN), said the crypto community has been trying to talk with the central bank, but hasn’t heard back so far.

He says SiBAN, along with other two organizations, Blockchain Nigeria User Group and Cryptography Development Initiative of Nigeria, has been working to get on the same page with regulators for a while.

“We have been having meetings with the [Securities and Exchange Commission, the country’s securities regulator] before the CBN ban news but due to the fact that the CBN did what they did, the SEC had to pause their own plans,” Okonkwo said.

Nigeria’s SEC announced in February that it’s putting on hold its own plans to regulate crypto because of the CBN’s ban.

P2P boom

Crypto communities world-wide have found ways around government restrictions, and Nigeria is no exception.

According to Paxful’s Youssef, after the Central Bank of Nigeria banned crypto-related bank transfers in February Nigerians sent even more bank wires purchasing bitcoin than before. Paxful is “on pace” to have 23% more trades funded with bank transfers in Nigeria than last year, and 36% more in terms of volume, Youssef said.

Nigeria is the largest market for the company, with around 1.5 million users and over $1.5 billion trading volume, according to Paxful.

According to UsefulTulips, in the first half of 2021 the volumes of two major P2P platforms in Nigeria, Paxful and LocalBitcoins, were the largest in Africa, totaling over $200 million.

During the first five months of 2021, Nigerians traded 50% more than the same period last year on LocalBitcoins, said Jukka Blomberg, LocalBitcoins’ chief marketing officer, adding that new registrations have also increased this year.

That activity may be at least partly explained by the fact that P2P trades are not easy for government officials to trace. When people send money directly from one personal account to another, without channeling it through a third party, it’s hard to see how exactly individuals are using the money. It could be for bitcoin they purchased from someone, their apartment’s monthly rent or paying back a debt to a friend.

It would thus be difficult, if not impossible, for banks to “ensure that such accounts are closed immediately,” as the Central Bank of Nigeria ordered.

Turning to peer-to-peer transactions might actually make the crypto ecosystem in Nigeria healthier and more resilient, according to Yele Bademosi, CEO of the Africa-focused crypto app Bundle.

“In my opinion, we got too comfortable about the fact that we were relying on centralized rails and channels to on/off ramp crypto,” Bademosi told CoinDesk. “In the ethos of bitcoin, P2P methods are more resilient as they don’t have a central point of failure.”

Nigeria is part of a larger regional trend. Africa has seen a wild 386.93% increase in P2P trade volumes on Binance since January, according to Damilola Odufuwa, Binance’s spokeswoman in Africa. The user count across the continent grew 2,228.21% over those same four months, she added. The company declined to reveal specific data on Nigeria.

By Anna Baydakova

Coindesk

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Monday, June 14, 2021

Jack Dorsey Tweets Support For Nigerian Bitcoin Adoption

CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, has been signaling his support for Nigerian bitcoin adoption through a series of tweets over the weekend.

Dorse is one of the big celebrity names in the crypto community. As a result, his tweets on crypto pick up a lot of interest, no matter how cryptic or simple they are.

He began his series of tweets simply with a single Nigerian flag. This happened a day after the government announced it would ban Twitter in the country. The ban came into effect as a result of Twitter deleting tweets by President Buhari.
Nigerian Bitcoin tweets

Later the same day, Dorsey published another tweet showing the Nigerian flag “shaking hands” with bitcoin.

This was followed by him tweeting, “The people of Nigeria will lead #bitcoin.”

This was a quote tweet over an open letter by United States footaball player Russell Okung to the Nigerian President.

Okung published the open letter in Bitcoin Magazine. In it, he urged the Nigerian government to accept a national bitcoin standard. In the article he wrote:

“Soon every nation will be faced with this decision, but those who seize the present moment proactively as we have just witnessed in El Salvador, will enjoy significant advantages globally for generations to come."

Finally, Dorsey’s last tweet on the subject was a graphic showing Africa leading in peer-to-peer bitcoin trading volume growth for 2021.

This is not the first time the Square CEO has shown interest in crypto and Africa. In 2019, after visiting Ghana, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Nigeria, Dorsey said he planned to move to a country on the continent for a few months in 2020.

However, he reconsidered the move as the COVID-19 pandemic picked up.
Nigeria and cryptocurrency

In 2020, Nigeria became the second-biggest bitcoin trader in the world. However, the government’s relationship with cryptocurrencies has been unstable.

In September 2020, the Nigerian Securities and Exchanges Commission announced a historic regulatory framework recognizing crypto assets as securities. However, this doesn’t mean that crypto is fully recognized. This is due to the central bank’s positionbeing in direct opposition.

In early 2021, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) reaffirmed its order to all financial institutions. This warned them to stop providing on and off-ramp crypto services. This caused issues for centralized exchanges operating in the country.

By Leila Stein

Yahoo Finance

Related stories: Why Bitcoin has been so successful in Nigeria

Video - Nigeria's booming investment in cryptocurrency continues despite ban

Friday, May 28, 2021

Crypto will ‘come to life’ in Nigeria, central bank governor says

Emefiele said the Nigerian government will do its best to prevent crypto from being used to finance illicit activities.


At a 279th meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee in Abuja, Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Godwin Emefiele expressed confidence that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) will be legal in the country, Business Insider reports Wednesday.

Emefiele did not directly mention a decision to reverse the CBN’s February ban of institutions from buying and selling crypto, but noted that the bank has been investigating the industry:

“We are committed in the CBN, and I can assure everybody that digital currency will come to life even in Nigeria [...] Under cryptocurrency and Bitcoin, Nigeria comes 2nd, while on the global side of the economy, Nigeria comes 27th. We are still conducting our investigation, and we will make our data available.”

Emefiele also said the Nigerian government will do its best to prevent crypto from being used to finance illicit activities. “We found out that a substantial percentage of our people are getting involved in cryptocurrency, which is not the best. Don’t get me wrong, some may be legitimate, but most are illegitimate,” he said.

The banker also expressed concerns over the crypto market crash in mid-May, which has been largely attributed to Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s decision to suspend Bitcoin payments for cars and his further BTC criticism:

“We saw the market collapse. Initially, when Elon Musk tweeted around the time when we said our banking and payment facilities are no longer available for cryptocurrency transactions, and he tweeted that he will invest $1.5 billion, and the price went up. He now tweeted and raised a few concerns, and the thing plunged.”

The CBN did not immediately respond to Cointelegraph’s request for comment.

As previously reported, Nigeria has emerged as the biggest source of Bitcoin trading volume in Africa as of August 2020, also becoming one of the fastest-growing crypto markets in the world. According to data from Bitcoin P2P marketplace Paxful, Nigeria ranked second only to the United States in trading volume as of December 2020.

Amid the growing adoption of Bitcoin, Nigeria’s national currency, the naira, has been falling. “Bitcoin has made our currency almost useless or valueless,” Senator Sani Musa of the Niger East Senatorial District said in February. Following Emefiele’s latest remarks, the naira dropped 1.2% to near a three-and-half year low on the black market on Thursday.

By Helen Partz

Coin Telegraph

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Nigeria is quietly rewriting fintech’s rulebook

It all started with a tweet on New Year’s Day, 2016. Joshua Chibueze, a computer scientist and entrepreneur based in Lagos, Nigeria, floated the idea of digitising the kolo, a wooden box similar to a piggy bank, used in many Nigerian homes to save money.

Chibueze had heard that, with enough persistence, people could set aside significant sums, but when he started using a kolo himself he realised how easy it was for upwardly mobile young Nigerians like him to forget – or simply lack the discipline – to save every single day. Worse: as Nigeria’s economy was getting increasingly cashless, an old box did not sound like an effective saving device – and was a security liability.

Hence the idea of a digital kolo. Odunayo Eweniyi, a fellow entrepreneur (and Twitter friend of Chibueze’s), was the first to reply to his tweet on the subject. “The conversation progressed from digitising to automating the kolo,” Eweniyi recalls. The pair teamed up and – alongside a third co-founder, Somto Ifezue – built an online savings platform to help medium-to-low-earning Nigerians save small amounts daily, weekly, monthly, or annually. Launched as PiggyBank.ng in February 2016, today it is known as PiggyVest.

Marketing solely on social media for the first couple of years, PiggyVest was able to help Nigerians sign up easily using their smartphones, automate savings and earn interest, with rates between six and ten per cent. By the end of 2018, PiggyVest had helped over 53,000 users save close to a billion Nigerian naira (£2,000,000).

In 2015, two per cent of Nigerians controlled 90 per cent of banks’ total deposits, according to the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, a government-backed financial agency. One year later, Nigerian financial inclusion advocacy group EFInA found that only 36.9 million adult Nigerians – out of a population of over 195 million – had access to a bank account. Nigeria was grappling with a huge unbanked population and PiggyVest set to cater to this demographic blending technology and traditional saving methods.

“The thing about the unbanked is that they’re actually banked, they’re just not formally banked,” says Eweniyi. “Banking is necessary to them but the banks themselves haven’t proven to be.” She believes that Nigeria’s financial exclusion problem will be solved by working with people rather than offering top-down solutions.

That is why Piggy`vest has decided to borrow well-tested models from Africa’s financial history: after its debut as a digital kolo, in May 2018 the company launched a new feature – called Smart Target – modelled af

ter the traditional saving practice of ajo. First recorded in the 19th century, but rumoured to have been around for longer among the Yoruba ethnic group, an ajo consists of a group of colleagues, friends, or religious peers, each contributing the same amount of money at an agreed frequency to hit a financial target. At the end of each savings cycle – typically, a month – one member of the group receives the entire saving pot; the ajo goes on until everyone has received their payout.

“My mum belonged to at least four ajo groups, one of which was at the university where she was a lecturer,” says Eweniyi, whose parents were both academics. “My parents relied on ajo to pay their way through our education and this is how most middle-class families I know survived.”

PiggyVest’s take on ajo, however, tweaks the tradition to fit the times: Smart Target lets people save towards a common goal together as an online community, but unlike ajo, users are in control of how much they contribute and where the payout goes.

PiggyVest is just one of a new breed of Nigerian fintech companies. “Companies like PiggyVest have moved to push savings and budgeting consciousness, by gamifying the process and including a reward system for users who follow through,” says Modupe Odele, a lawyer and startup consultant based in Washington, DC. She predicts that in the near future, Nigeria’s fintech industry will start broadening its scope.

“We have payments, we have savings and these are great, but there's still a lot of financial technology that is ripe for exploration,” Odele says. 

By Kiki Mordi

Wired

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Video - Nigeria's booming investment in cryptocurrency continues despite ban

 

Global cryptocurrency trading platform Paxful recently announced that Nigeria had become the biggest market for bitcoin and cryptocurrency on its exchange despite the imposition of restrictions on trading in cryptocurrencies by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Kunle Lawal says he has made a fortune from the trade encouraging him to educate and train people in his community about how to go about it. He, however, cautions people to make informed decisions before getting involved in the trade, in addition to not committing all their money into one pot.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The NFT Craze Is Helping Nigerian Artists Go Global

In March, Oyindamola Oyekemi Oyewumi, a 24-year-old Nigerian artist who creates portraits using ballpoint pens, tweeted her drawing of Ethereum co-founder Charles Hoskinson.


Hoskinson noticed the tweet and put it up for sale as a non-fungible token (NFT), or one-of-a-kind digital item with its own digital signature. By the end of the month, the tweet sold for $6,300 and now it’s Hoskinson’s Twitter profile picture.

“Luckily for me, Hoskinson himself told me about NFTs. He gave me a link to read about NFTs and, after reading about it, I decided I want to try it out,” Oyewumi told CoinDesk. Last week Oyewumi sold the first NFT she minted by herself on Mintable, and a friend helped her convert her crypto earnings to the local naira currency.

NFTs are all the rage this year, especially after the artist Beeple sold a digital art collage for $69.3 million through the British auction house Christie’s in March. Christie’s also announced Thursday it will be selling nine NFT collectibles known as CryptoPunks. This month, American-Senegalese R&B singer Akon launched AkoinNFT, an NFT platform to “supercharge and empower” artists and brands.

Now the trend has spread to Nigeria, where local financial institutions are banned from servicing crypto firms. This means Nigerians cannot convert digital assets to naira through traditional crypto exchanges. But that hasn’t wiped out crypto in Africa’s largest economy, thanks in part to its young and tech-savvy population. Users began switching to peer-to-peer platforms to avoid using banks and the use of crypto continues, as evidenced by how local artists like Oyewumi are embracing NFTs.

Although more Nigerian artists are entering the NFT space, they do so wary of the hype. Some Nigerian artists told CoinDesk that although minting their artwork comes with a number of advantages, they have concerns about the impact of NFTs on the art world in general.

Only good for already-established artists

Oyewumi feels the NFT culture is only beneficial to those artists who already have a large fanbase.

“If I put my art up as NFTs, sure, lots of people will see it. But some people will still prefer to purchase work from artists they already know. People might end up just creating pieces and uploading but not be able to sell anything,” Oyewumi said.

For instance, NFT art collector Michael Ugwu typically likes to check out an artist’s online presence and work before purchasing his or her art. A London-based music executive and entrepreneur of Nigerian descent, Ugwu owns around 40 NFT pieces by artists from around the world, including Nigeria. Ugwu told CoinDesk he only buys art he loves, but there is also a business perspective to consider.

“I also want to know that there’s going to be a global marketplace for that piece, if I want to sell it on the secondary market. It’s much easier to sell a Fewocious, a Billelis or if you get lucky and get your hands on a Beeple. So based on those factors, from African artists I primarily acquire work that I feel has a global audience,” Ugwu said.

He added that for some African artists, minting their first pieces could be a challenge due to the Ethereum gas fees sometimes needed to sell an NFT.

“It’s not cheap. A typical African artist may or may not have the $100 or $200 it’s going to cost them per piece. So that’s a small barrier,” Ugwu said, adding there are some platforms that waive or subsidize the minting fee.

Oyewumi feels new artists may also struggle with pricing their pieces and end up selling their art for less than what it’s worth.


All about the money

One NFT art piece in Ugwu’s collection is by the acclaimed Nigerian digital artist Osinachi.

Osinachi, 29, has made a name for himself as a digital artist and produces most of his work using Microsoft Word. When he first started making art in the late 2000s, his primary goal was to see his work displayed in a traditional art gallery. Over the years Osinachi reached out to numerous galleries but received no response.

Then he discovered crypto art.

In 2017, Osinachi learned people were posting artwork as NFT collectibles. With some help from the community, Osinachi minted a few of his works. In 2018, his art was featured in the Etherealblockchain summit in New York.

The following year Osinachi’s dream came true when he was invited to show his work at a contemporary art gallery in Switzerland. In 2020, his art was featured in CoinDesk’s “The Most Influential People in Crypto” list. The same year, he quit his job as an academic librarian at the University of Nigeria Nsukka to focus on his art full time. A month ago he sold one of his digital paintings, “Am I pretty?,” for 13.2 ETH (+5.85%) (around $27,600 as of Friday).

“A single NFT sale can translate to my one-year salary when I was working at the University of Nigeria,” Osinachi said.

Now, he is helping other Nigerian digital artists mint their work. Osinachi told CoinDesk that thanks to the NFT gold rush, digital artists like him are getting the attention they deserve and (thanks in part to the Beeple sale) learning that digital art can be priced as high as or higher than traditional art.

But he is also concerned about aspects of the traditional art world flooding the NFT space.

“Now, you also see marketplaces paying attention to certain big names. They care about the big artists that would make huge sales, and not necessarily about the art that is being made,” Osinachi said.


Tricky

Oyewumi, who set up her NFTs by herself, found the process to be complicated and experienced a number of unfamiliar technical issues.

She also saw a colleague’s art minted without the artist’s knowledge or permission. As NFTs went viral, scammers took to minting other artists’ work. In early March, illustrator Derek Laufman lashed out at NFT platform Rarible when a Twitter user notified him his art was listed on the website for sale without his knowledge.

Anthony Azekwoh, a 21-year-old chemical engineering student and digital artist, minted his first NFTs last month but finds the NFT space quite “tricky.”

“It’s been very complicated for me as a Nigerian. I come from a place where you make money through years of hard work, but with the NFT space it’s a situation where in a single minute you’re making millions of naira. I feel like the relationship most Nigerians or most people from places like Nigeria would have with the NFT space is, ‘Wow, how does any of this work? How is it possible?’” Azekwoh told CoinDesk.

But it’s not all bad.

Like Osinachi, Azekwoh is wary of the focus on monetization in the NFT world and determined to help other Nigerian artists. With his NFT earnings, he has set up a fund that pledges 200,000 naira to young local artists between the ages of 15 and 25.

Ugwu believes that although the NFT space in Nigeria is still small, it has the potential to propel Nigerianartists to the global stage if local digital art curators emerge in the coming years.

There are “a lot of great artists out of Africa, and Nigeria, who are focused on physical work, and I’m all for them getting a better understanding of the opportunities of NFTs,” Ugwu said.

Despite the many complexities, younger artists like Oyewumi and Azekwoh, inspired by veterans like Osinachi, are slowly working out the kinks and establishing themselves as global artists of the digital era.

NFT newcomer Oshomah sold his first multimedia artwork two weeks ago and has minted his second. Oshomah said that at the moment he could probably only name 10 Nigerian NFT artists, but there are hundreds of talented artists who, with some help, can enter the space in the months and years to come.

“You will see a lot of artists come out of Africa [who] will give Beeple a run for his money,” Oshomah said.

By Sandali Handagama

Coindesk

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Nigeria’s crackdown on Bitcoin echoes global crypto conundrum

Lagos, Nigeria – When the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) issued a circular in early February warning banks and financial institutions that “facilitating payments for cryptocurrency exchanges is prohibited” and that they needed to identify and close accounts associated with them, it set the country’s crypto community alight.


“I was in a danfo [a yellow public transport bus that operates in Lagos] heading home when my phone started buzzing with WhatsApp notifications regarding the CBN ban on cryptocurrency transactions,” said David Akinwale, a 25-year-old financial analyst who trades in cryptocurrency. “It was really disappointing and sad. While other countries are embracing the use of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, Nigeria is doing the reverse.”

This week, a representative for Nigeria’s central bank chief Godwin Emefiele reportedly sought to clarify the February 5 directive, telling reporters that it was not aimed at discouraging people from trading in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but served to enforce orders in place since 2017 banning crypto transactions in the country’s banking sector.

But the 2017 directive did not prohibit crypto exchanges from using banking and payment channels. It simply required banks and financial institutions to ensure that their crypto-exchange customers have effective anti-money laundering and “anti-terrorism” financing controls in place.

The backlash and confusion echo a crypto-drama unfolding around the world as virtual currencies like Bitcoin grow in popularity and scale new heights during a time of unprecedented financial uncertainty stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as uniquely domestic challenges.

In the United States this week, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell raised concerns about the role cryptocurrencies play in facilitating criminal activity, as well as their infamous volatility, calling Bitcoin “more of an asset for speculation” than a substitute for the US dollar.

In Iran, officials recently targeted crypto exchanges and even pinned blamed for high levels of air pollution on Bitcoin mining.

The developments illustrate the regulatory conundrum governments face with crypto assets that by design are intended to be decentralised and beyond their reach, but which are part of a rapidly evolving sector of global finance that pivots on innovation.
 

Africa’s biggest Bitcoin market

Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, its most populous country, and home to one of the youngest populations in the world. Throw in a burgeoning tech sector and it’s easy to see how Nigeria has become the continent’s largest Bitcoin market by trading volume, according to UsefulTulips.org, which gathers data from crypto exchanges Paxful and LocalBitcoins.

That ascent to Bitcoin prominence is rooted in a sharp fall in remittances during the pandemic, as well as the country’s state coffers and local currency, the naira, being ravaged by the twin blows of COVID-19 restrictions and plummeting crude prices.

In an effort to keep increasingly scarce US dollars from leaving the country last year, some Nigerian banks reportedly placed curbs on offshore debit card transactions and limited cash withdrawals.

Against this backdrop, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies soared in popularity last year, as both a hedge against the eroding purchasing power of the naira, as well as a way to move money around more easily.

‘With Bitcoin, I could bypass the $100 limit on my naira debit card and do all my transactions seamlessly,” Bola Williams, a 33-year old software developer, told Al Jazeera. “But the ban on crypto has now made it even more stressful.”

But it does not appear to have curbed appetites for crypto. Bitcoin trading volumes on Paxful and LocalBitcoins topped $9m in the seven days ending March 8, according to UsefulTulips.org, compared to roughly $7.55m in the seven days ending February 8.

The data suggest that despite the CBN directive, Nigerians are determined to leverage cryptocurrencies to increase their earnings, especially with rising inflation and limited access to foreign exchange liquidity.

“The ban was never going to stop a ship that is far gone on sail,” Eric Annan, co-founder of cryptocurrency trading platform KuBitX, told Al Jazeera.

Annan said if anything, the CBN directive only served to amplify the popularity of Bitcoin and pique the curiosity of crypto sceptics.

“No single government can stop an idea whose time has come to a generation who have added to the GDP [gross domestic product] of the internet,” he said.
 

Political pushback

The CBN directive also met pushback from some Nigerian politicians.

After the order was released, the Nigerian Senate summoned CBN chief Emefiele to explain the opportunities and threats cryptocurrencies pose to the nation’s economy and security.

During the February 23 briefing before the Senate Committee on Banking, Emefiele highlighted the role cryptocurrencies play in money laundering, “terrorism” financing, illicit arms purchases, and tax evasion.

“Cryptocurrency is not legitimate money because it is not created or backed by any Central Bank,” Emefiele said. “It has no place in our monetary system at this time and cryptocurrency transactions should not be carried out through the Nigerian banking system.”

That assessment drew criticism from crypto proponents.

“Whatever reason that necessitated the move for the current restriction of banking services to crypto traders and exchanges by the CBN could have been resolved through dialogue and collaboration,” Chimezie Chuta, the founder/ coordinator of the Blockchain Nigeria User Group, told Al Jazeera.

“In saying that ‘cryptocurrencies are not legitimate money’ he obviously has forgotten the origin, what money is, and its purpose,” he added, noting that “cryptocurrency is a property or commodity and thus not an illegal asset class.”

Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has also called for a less heavy-handed official approach – one that would vigorously regulate cryptocurrency transactions to address serious concerns “without necessarily killing the goose that might lay the golden eggs”.

“We’ve seen in many other sectors disruption makes room for efficiency and progress,” he said.

Al Jazeera

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