Cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies have sky rocketed in popularity across the world in the last few years, catalysed by the pandemic. It has moved on from a technical niche to becoming something accessible to all. People living close to the poverty line are starting to see a possibility in escaping this through crypto.
Emmanuel Babalola is the director for Africa at Binance and the interim CEO of Bundle, the Africa-focused social payments app for cash and crypto, driving crypto adoption on the continent. Babalola implemented and drove take-up of the Binance Masterclass in Africa, free crypto classes for over 400,000 Africans on topics ranging from user protection to building a career in blockchain.
Speaking to The Fintech Times Babalola explains how and why the crypto uptake in Africa is such a good thing:
While much hyperbole has been made of the future of cryptocurrency, the number of global users has been steadily growing over the past few years and has proved a lifeline for many in the wake of the pandemic. Indeed, on the continent of Africa crypto trading has been taken up by millions of people and it now boasts one of the largest crypto trader user numbers anywhere in the world.
Akin to the other big users like Southeast Asia and Latin America the key driver is socioeconomic. Many millions of people live below the poverty line, and many more suffered as a result of pandemic-enforced lockdowns. Across Africa – and particularly in Nigeria – currency devaluation, low uptake of traditional bank accounts and high unemployment are forcing people to find inventive, non-traditional ways of making money.
With the youngest population globally, the African workforce is predicted to be the world’s largest by 2045. There are around 226 million people aged between 15-24, a vast generation of young people and graduates trying to break into the world of work. Because of huge unemployment, the youth of Africa are driven towards entrepreneurialism to build businesses and generate wealth.
Enter crypto trading. A major benefit of the decentralised model of cryptocurrency is putting power back in the hands of users. Cryptocurrencies were designed as an alternative to traditional finance and therefore don’t have a single point of failure, making them more resilient, efficient and democratic. Meanwhile, through blockchain, people can build and access systems not previously available to them, for example, micro-lending platforms that can help new businesses to establish themselves.
Central to its appeal is the ability to transact on an immutable, censorship-resistant and permissionless blockchain that cannot be affected by the hyperinflation seen so often in African economies. This is a huge step towards achieving self-sovereignty over finances. Indeed, the crypto and blockchain system allows users to gain access without prerequisites or qualifications. There has never been another system of finance as open or inclusive as this and the prospects are undeniably exciting.
With an almost ubiquitous usage of mobile phones across the continent, accessing crypto trading platforms has proved easy. And because the cost to access crypto platforms is low, many users have been using them to transfer money because of the lower cost compared to traditional banks. Access to blockchain and cryptocurrency platforms has also meant that the remote workforce has been able to work for start-ups in the crypto and blockchain space that are out of the country or continent.
A great example of using crypto trading to supplement income is a teacher who lived just outside Lagos. During the pandemic the school he worked at closed and ceased to give him a salary. He had a family to support, and employment prospects were nil in the area. He researched crypto trading and was able to make enough each week to support his family and get him through the bleak time.
While there are many great examples of user experience, there has been a huge need for education. Making sure people have access to basic insights has been – and continues to be – a crucial element to gaining trust, developing skills and arming users against fraudsters. Unfortunately, criminals were quick to capitalise on naïve traders and people began to associate crypto with scams or pyramid schemes. Action was needed quickly to make sure users and potential users were properly educated in order to build a stable userbase and sustainable future for blockchain and cryptocurrency.
As the world’s leading blockchain ecosystem and cryptocurrency infrastructure provider, Binance recognised its role in educating users – both existing and potential – to ensure safe practice and maximum benefit for everyone. In 2020 it rolled out the Binance Masterclass programmes across the continent to teach Africans the fundamentals of cryptocurrencies; how to trade and how to identify scams to safeguard their crypto journey. The lessons were free to join and open to everyone.
In its first year, the Masterclass helped educate over 70,000 people. Efforts have since doubled, providing educational resources to over 177,000 Africans in Q1 2021 and over 179,500 in Q2 2021- creating some great introductory educational infrastructure to help Africans find financial freedom and to stay informed.
These education programmes have seen huge take up and by virtue of “educate one and pass it on” the knowledge gleaned by one person at the academy is shared with friends and family, spreading best practice far and wide.
In addition to training crypto users, Binance wanted to equip blockchain developers with the necessary skills to build solutions. As such, it hosted an eight-week masterclass where 1000 blockchain developers in Africa were trained in the key skills. The participants also took part in a live demo showcasing newly built blockchain-based products in action, including staking and farming projects, algorithm-based stablecoins, automated market makers, insurance projects amongst other things.
As the number of users grows and grows, there is little doubt the future of crypto trading and blockchain development in Africa is set to be a prosperous one. Certainly, the lifeline blockchain and cryptocurrency offers is without border or limit. Whether supplementing incomes or helping build lifelines, both have delivered financial freedom and inclusion for millions.