“I was able to use bitcoin to do just one transaction and then I got hooked,” Egedegbe tells Quartz.

Over the past 18 months, due to reasons ranging from needing to make international payments, like Egedegbe, or simply wanting a slice of the next big thing, bitcoin adoption in Nigeria has spiked. This year, peer-to-peer bitcoin trading in Nigeria has increased by nearly 1,500%—surpassed only by China. Data from LocalBitcoin, a popular bitcoin exchange available in around 200 countries, shows weekly bitcoin trade volume in Nigeria crossed 1 billion naira ($2 million) in August. “Seeing the price skyrocket” has drawn a lot of Nigerians “who want a piece of the action,” Egedegbe says.

The situation in Nigeria is not too dissimilar from Zimbabwe, whose unstable economy and depleted foreign exchange markets saw locals turn to bitcoin as a storage of value this year. At one point Zimbabwe had the highest bitcoin prices in the world.

New markets

A new crop of local bitcoin exchanges are proving central to the growing local adoption. Timi Ajiboye co-founded Bitkoin Africa in October after experiencing some difficulty trying to buy the cryptocurrency on foreign exchanges. The inability to pay with a Nigerian bank account or card drove Ajiboye’s decision to start Bitkoin Africa to make it much easier for local trading.

For his part, Tim Akinbo, co-founder of Tanjalo, also an exchange founded in October, says the potential local applications of cryptocurrencies and the enabling technology was the motivation for starting the exchange. There are also some older players in the space like NairaEX, a bitcoin exchange founded in Nov. 2015.

Bitkoin Africa’s trade volume is rapidly increasing: nearly half of its total trade volume since inception happened in the first ten days of December. Meanwhile, Tanjalo has done close to $1 million in trade volume with “very little marketing,” according to Akinbo.

The big picture

Much of the bitcoin craze is down to big-ticket predictions about its future potential. In Africa, possibilities discussed range from easing payments, particularly for international services to enhancing remittances—a boon for many local economies. But the most basic of these, Akinbo says, is the possibility of having a system “where everyone is permitted to participate” without discrimination of geographical location or origin.

For Ajiboye, who plans to expand Bitkoin Africa into other African countries from next year, making it easier to trade across Africa is a real possibility. “It’s easier to send money from America to Nigeria than to send money from Nigeria to Gambia but the technology can power these things,” he says.

Article culled from qz.com

 

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