The recent Google Trends, as of April 2019, shows that Lagos, Nigeria, is the number one city based on online search volumes for Bitcoin worldwide. Close behind are other African countries as shown below:
These latest stats say a lot about the high level of interest in cryptocurrencies across the African continent. While this many not equate to tangible adoption of blockchain technology, it is a clear sign that Africa, especially its young people, are getting frustrated with existing economic and payment infrustructure and are looking for alternatives.
Unemployment Could Be a Driver
With few opportunities for young graduates in Africa, the high unemployment rate in places like Nigeria could be a big driver in ‘alternative finance’ which would make Bitcoin very attractive.
Receiving payments and doing business outside of Africa is heavily limited by a lack of proper payment methods. A recent discussion with the CEO of Paxful, a Bitcoin exchange, which has its second largest number of clientelle coming from Nigeria, offered practical use cases on how Bitcoin is offering a new avenue for young people in the country to buy and sell products in and out of the country.
Banking the Unbanked
Another possible reason for the widespread interest in cryptocurrencies in Nigeria and Africa is the huge number of the unbanked on the continent. In Nigeria, only 31 million people have bank accounts with over 60 million classified as unbanked, according to the 2017 World Bank Global Findex Database Report. However, over 100 million Nigerians have active Internet subscriptions making access to mobile payment methods like Bitcoin becomes very attractive.
This scenario is not unique to Nigeria alone. In Kenya, for example, over 99.3% of all bank accounts have less than Kshs. 1 million (Approx. $10, 000). This situation is likely replicated across other African countries, making access to mobile financial services highly attractive.
Africa is no doubt poised to adopt emerging technologies like Bitcoin. With enough education to help people understand these newer technologies and the underlying blockchain technology, the interest and adoption of crypto is only going to rise on the continent.