In the first ten years of the expansion of blockchain technology, it was utterly dominated by developed (or more precisely western) nations. But emerging markets like Africa are adopting crypto faster than their global counterparts. This growth is even more impressive when one considers that there has been very little institutional support for blockchain technology in these nations.
The growth in blockchain adoption has been concentrated in. Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tanzania, which are some of the most densely populated nations on the continent, which have been banned from crypto trading. In the first ten years of the expansion of blockchain technology, it was utterly dominated by developed (or more precisely western) nations. Almost all the Bitcoin Miners were located in America and Europe, and only rising mining costs moved those operations abroad.
Asides from that, many of the earliest Bitcoin/blockchain innovators were either westerners or living in western countries. For example, Vitalik Buterin, while being Russian-born himself, had been in Canada for the better part of two decades before creating Ethereum. However, as blockchain technology is moving into the next phase of its development, it appears that emerging markets like Africa are adopting crypto faster than their global counterparts. While no one knows the reason for this, it’s very difficult to deny that it’s happening. The numbers are simply undeniable.
For example, cryptocurrency adoption grew in Africa by 1200% between the 12 months between July 2020 and June 2021. Regardless of whether this was brought on by the financial uncertainty of the pandemic or other clusters of reasons, the effect of this growth can hardly be ignored. This growth in blockchain adoption has been concentrated in countries Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tanzania, which are some of the most densely populated nations on the continent. Peer-to-peer trading, which is a huge part of blockchain technology, is so big in Kenya that the country led the world in P2P transactions in 2022.
All this points to an exciting future for blockchain technology in these markets. This growth is even more impressive when one considers that there has been very little institutional support for blockchain technology in these nations. Many of the regulators in these countries have banned crypto trading, which has slowed down adoption. Despite that, the rate of adoption is still incredible. All this points to one thing; blockchain technology adoption might already have plateaued in the West, but this is just the beginning in emerging markets like Africa.
The Opportunities are Limitless
The blockchain ecosystem of emerging markets might not be as huge as that of developed nations, but it’s rather apparent that blockchain technology solves more structural problems in these markets than elsewhere. For example, in nations where inflation is rampant — like Zimbabwe — citizens can safeguard their wealth with stablecoins. Interestingly, I addressed the structural problems of P2E economies here and recommended the need for a dedicated stablecoin to fix these structural problems.
Blockchain technology also gives a level of autonomy to citizens in nations with oppressive and dictatorial governments. In countries where governments can unilaterally freeze bank accounts of dissidents, digital stores of value like cryptocurrency can be a real vehicle of social change.This is indeed already happening. In 2020, there was at least one case of a popular protest funded in part by Bitcoin. Bitcoin was rather useful for the protest because of the anonymity and decentralization built into the coin’s infrastructure on the blockchain.
Asides from the monetary use of blockchain, it also has administrative uses as well. By applying blockchain technology to supply chain management, countries can greatly improve asset recording, tracking, assigning, linking and sharing; developing nations can build resilient supply chains without using an overinflated bureaucracy. This can be especially useful for developing nations that are battling supply chain issues. Blockchain can be useful in the entertainment industry as well. It can be used to prevent privacy in the industry, protect digital content, and facilitate the distribution of digital collectibles.
There are opportunities in gaming too. While Play-to-Earn games with NFT characters have gotten a bad rep because of how expensive it is to purchase a character, companies like Rainmaker Games are solving this problem. Rainmaker Games, for example, is one of the most exciting companies revolutionizing games for the future. Within just a few months, Rainmaker Games has found a way to vet the identity of players who are joining guilds, figure out a way players can play hundreds of P2E games for free, and also incorporate an NFT marketplace on all of that.
With startups like Rainmaker Games lowering the barrier of entry for P2E gamers from emerging markets, it’s only a matter of time before these players stand toe to toe with the rest of the world. Asides from the structural shakeup a startup like Rainmaker Games can cause with its technology; there’s also the matter of the financial freedom these P2E games can give to players from emerging markets.
The NFT Goldmine
Despite the opportunities on the blockchain, it’s obvious that the same enthusiasm for crypto in emerging markets has been missing. One reason that has been brought up is the unfriendly technical nature of NFTs. And that could be a good point. After all, the more technical using a technology is, the fewer people use it.
Perhaps that’s why players in Web3 are already working on the important infrastructure that will help builders scale technical barriers to entry and build products faster and cheaper in the ecosystem. Ankr is one of those stakeholders, and the company provides fast, reliable infrastructure at community first pricing. It isn’t just infrastructure either — the company does everything from helping enterprises integrate with Web3 to allowing DeFi users to stake their coins and earn higher yields.
Right now, NFTs have taken on a lot of different forms, but there’s one that remains elusive; representation from emerging markets.While developing nations seem quite capable of holding their own and accelerating their development when it comes to crypto, the markedly lukewarm attitude toward NFTs has continued unabated. We know that the reason isn’t because of lack of utility. NFTs have proven that they can solve the problem of monetization for content creators and solve the problem of piracy for artists.
This means that NFTs have a huge future in these emerging markets — even if adoption isn’t on the up and up as it is with crypto. The problem, it seems, is with the complexities of releasing a token and a much higher tech barrier to entry. Cryptocurrency has largely avoided these problems due to a friendlier technical environment. For example, there are centralized exchanges for crypto where people with limited technical knowledge can just open an account and buy their cryptocurrency.
While there is also something like that for NFTs — Opensea is a great example — it isn’t targeted at or built for content creators in emerging markets.Thankfully, some NFT companies are also already solving the problem of higher technical barriers to entry. Ayoken Labs, for example, is building an NFT platform where artists and content creators from these emerging markets can release their social tokens, and essentially monetize their content efficiently.
This platform not only monetizes content for creators but also rewards fans and users in general with its native token for use. In a way, it’s like a play-to-earn game but without the gaming aspect.It’s clear that there are limitless opportunities in the blockchain space in emerging markets. It’s almost inevitable that more startups will come into the space and create solutions that are tailor-made for these markets. It is now a matter of when — not if. Today, the developed world is the capital of blockchain innovation. But it might not be for long.