It goes without saying that cryptocurrencies are quite popular in Africa’s largest country. This popularity exists quite pervasively amongst a demographic of the young, internet surfing section of Nigeria’s population. Obviously, access to information and particularly the internet are key to the penetration of any cryptocurrency in any society, and this informational access isn’t particularly lacking in Nigeria.
Nigeria has an internet penetration of about 50% amounting to around 104 million people with internet access according to DATAREPORTAL. 15.8% or 33 million people use social media in Nigeria with 61.4% of that figure using the micro-blogging platform, Twitter. Therefore, there are around 20 million twitter users in Nigeria, almost a tenth of the country’s population. While this may not seem like a lot compared with the rest of the nation, Twitter has been instrumental in Nigeria in formulating public opinion, having conversations as well as being a site for various campaigns. The power of Twitter in the hands of Nigerians became very apparent in October 2020 as it was the platform of choice for the organization of the now infamous #ENDSARS protests.
Quite a lot of reasons make twitter as popular as it is especially amongst Nigeria’s young people. The ease at which posts on twitter could travel far and wide compared to many other social media platforms means it is a solid tool for advertisement for large and small entrepreneurial ventures alike, the latter of which many Nigerians are participants of. Secondly, Nigerians have grown weary and distrustful of traditional media outlets and often times get their information through social media, thereby, turning Twitter into a place where views can be aired quite easily. The fast nature of information transfer on twitter allows it to be the platform of choice for activities such as crowdfunding, organization of protests and in some cases, crime watch.
Bitcoin serves as the umbrella term for cryptocurrencies, especially in Nigeria, much like “Indomie” does for noodles. Nevertheless, as Africa’s Bitcoin Nation, cryptocurrencies have seen tremendous growth in Nigeria over the last few years. This growth is largely driven by the same demographic that dominates social media use. 32% of Nigerians surveyed online by Statista said they owned at least one cryptocurrency asset. And, in the first quarter of 2021, Nigeria’s peer to peer BTC trade volume was in excess of $99 million, nearly 3 times the volume of the next highest nation, Kenya. In 2020, Nigeria generated $400 million worth of bitcoin transactions, ranking third place worldwide behind the US and Russia.
So why are bitcoin and/or other crypto assets so popular? Well for one, it highlights the dire state in which Nigeria’s economic scene finds itself. Nigeria’s unemployment rate stands at 33.3%, which is what one would describe as dangerously high. Also, the local currency, the Naira, has been constantly fraught with increasing inflation. Hence, the naira has been largely unstable and it’s purchasing power has fluctuated a lot recently. In response, a lot of people have turned to cryptocurrencies to act as a buffer against the volatile economic scene. Furthermore, the decentralized and peer-to-peer nature of cryptocurrencies give a lot of people a preferred alternative to traditional banking institutions.
The benefits afforded by cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and social media platforms like Twitter were put on full display during the #ENDSARS protests. Twitter was the mobilization platform of choice for its ease in information dissemination while bitcoin was the value exchange system of choice for crowdfunding and financing the protests due to the inability of regulatory authorities to pin down cash flow. All in all, both platforms underscore a discontent and distrust of the populace toward traditional methods of communication or wealth creation.