The adoption of crypto in Africa is on the rise. High inflation rates, volatile currencies and the unavailability of banking infrastructure, are just some of the reasons why crypto is easily gaining ground on the continent. This might be why Chris Maurice, CEO of one of the fastest growing crypto exchange platforms in Africa, said: “There is no better place for bitcoin to thrive than in Africa”.
Chris’ belief in Africa’s crypto growth is unprecedented, jumping on a plane headed to Africa to start a company that will help solve Africa’s financial problem without any prior knowledge of the continent, is, according to him, “either dumb or genius”. With the speed at which cryptocurrencies are being adopted in Africa, Chris’ move can be said to be a genius one.
Handling more than $25 million a month in transactions, Yellow Card might just be the company which would ease and accelerate the crypto adoption process in Africa.
While I spoke with Chris, I felt his enthusiasm, not just towards crypto adoption in Africa, but also towards the development it will bring to Africa.
Explaining to me why he feels bitcoin will go mainstream in Africa before any other continent, Chris said: “Bitcoin will go mainstream, that’s the reality of what we see every day”. He explained that there are more practical use cases in Africa, people actually use bitcoin in Africa because it solves their financial problems.
One of these problems is what Chris encountered at a bank in the U.S. At the bank, Chris met a man who was trying to send $200 to Nigeria, and was charged $90. Just like that, Chris was on his way to Lagos to create the startup that will someday overhaul the African financial market. “It was the first time I had ever left the United States and came to Lagos to stay with Munachi”, he said. Munachi, who is now the Chief Business Officer at Yellow Card, convinced Chris to start a company in Africa’s most populous nation.
Chris told Decentralize Africa that Yellow Card users are not only residents of “Lekki”, a part of Lagos known to be inhabited by mostly high income earners. This suggests that crypto users in Africa aren’t only high income earners. They are basically people who are frustrated with the problems that often come with the fiat currency, and as such, want a way out.
Chris emphasized the “practical” usage of bitcoin in Africa for savings and payment, mentioning that you do not really see such usage in the West.
“Most of them are hodlers” he said, mainly hoping for prices to go up so they can sell.
Though Chris has high hopes for crypto in Africa, he admitted that there are challenges that still stand in the way of running a crypto exchange on the continent. “Each country has its own unique challenges but there is a general challenge of basic infrastructure.” Electricity and a stable internet connection are some of the basic challenges that not only affects crypto exchange on the continent, but also other economic activities.
“[Those challenges] can’t stop crypto from going mainstream, if I’ve learnt anything from my time here, it’s that people are too persistent.” Africans are more persistent than the challenges they face. Poor internet and electricity has not stopped Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria from sitting at the top positions in crypto adoption ranking alongside the United States, Russia and China.
Chris met with Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, during his time in Africa. “Jack Dorsey has plans for the continent”, Chris told Decentralize Africa. But COVID-19 is putting a pause to things at the moment. Like Chris, Jack, who is also a bitcoin enthusiast, sees Africa’s crypto potential.
Crypto isn’t just going to help Africa solve its financial problems, it will also attract the right kind of people. According to Chris, “having people like Jack excited about Africa is good…”. He added that Africa needs more jobs coming in to help get it to a point where it is creating enough jobs on its own.
“Where do you see Yellow Card in 10 years?”, I asked Chris. He laughed and replied: “I’m still trying to plan out 2021. Hopefully, in 10 years, we’d love to see anyone in the continent access the technology, regardless of where you are…swap local currency and bitcoin in perfect harmony”.
For Chris, the development which crypto can bring to Africa, and the persistence and perseverance of Africans, is what drives his belief in the continent. Yellow Card could bring that development sooner than later.
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