It was a shocker to all when the CBN released the circular to all banks and financial institutions to stop facilitating payments for cryptocurrency exchanges, and to close all bank accounts tied to these actions. Nigeria represents the 3rd largest cryptocurrency trading country on a global scale, with a lot of blockchain projects either being pushed out or about to be pushed. The circular has not only attracted a lot of criticisms from business folks and investors both locally and international, but it has also gathered a momentum stagnation for a lot of plans in development, as most fintech payment service providers halted all supports for crypto payment processing.
Prior to this sudden release of the circular, there have been a number of dialogues with the likes of Securities and Exchange Commission, the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation and even the Central Bank of Nigeria, on creating innovative ways to regulate cryptocurrency. This seemed to be yielding results, as cryptocurrencies were broadly classed as “securities” along the journey.
Cryptocurrency has, by far, become a means of sustaining the economy of the country, providing an edge against inflation on the local currency for investors, and creating a means of livelihood for a lot of others in a country with high rate of unemployment. This new action of the CBN will, in so many ways, deteriorate the economy of the nation which is currently unstable.
Looking closely into the situation, what they were able to achieve, giving the absolute power in their possession, is to mandate financial institutions to avoid processing any cryptocurrency-related transactions. Ever since, a lot of individuals have kickstarted the process of creating alternatives. Imagine this; a nation with over 200 million population, a higher percentage of which are youths involved in cryptocurrency, now gradually removing themselves from depending on the banking sector. Blockchain technology has the potential to provide banking services for the unbanked settlements. Gradually, we approach a future where the banks become less relevant and are replaced by blockchain innovations such as DeFi solutions. Alas, the required push to get to a destination originally planned by Satoshi Nakamoto was influenced for Nigerians by the CBN.
Jelurida Africa recently expanded its borders of operation into other African countries, asides Nigeria. What a coincidence! Offering blockchain services to Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania, with more expansion plans for regions more open to highly scalable and decentralized innovations. Nigeria is well endowed with experienced techpreneurs, versatile blockchain developers and of course, funding opportunities from private sectors and wealthy individuals. The only major challenge ever faced in the country, as regards innovative development, has now emanated from the supposed enablers of innovations— the government. We can only hope that this is a nightmare we will soon wake up from. Must we learn the hard way from the pandemic, only to move backward when it is the perfect time to embrace innovation?