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What’s the Current State of Crypto Adoption in Africa?

How is the adoption of cryptocurrency progressing in Africa’s emerging markets? Globally, we are seeing that Bitcoin is proving to be a hedge against the modern monetary system and that other cryptocurrencies are providing promising solutions to antiquated industries. But will these solutions penetrate into Africa?

Emerging markets are well-positioned to benefit from cryptocurrency. This article explores why Africa is an example of an emerging economy that is eager to adopt new technologies and that requires the solutions that blockchain technology is designed to provide.

Let us start with Africa’s history as a technology early adopter, then cover sectors that are ready for reform, and exciting cryptocurrency projects to follow that are taking place in Africa.

Is Africa ready for crypto?

Africa’s History of Tech Adoption

Africa has a history of economic and political instability. Despite many African countries being rich in resources, instability continues to hinder African nations from gaining a foothold. While the rest of the world moves on, Africa seems to get left behind.

Take landline telephones for example. According to an “Our World in Data” technology adoption chart, landline telephones required a level of infrastructure development that Africa never quite reached.

Scroll down however, and you’ll see charts that show the success of mobile subscription adoption in Africa. Measured as the number of mobile subscriptions per 100 people, a handful of African nations were on par with Canada. Another handful were on par with the U.S.A, Australia, and Europe. Botswana and South Africa even surpassed all the aforementioned economies.

This phenomenon is known as leapfrogging. Leapfrogging is a term used to describe when a developing nation skips the path taken by developed nations. By adopting mobile technology, many African countries, like Kenya and Botswana, bypassed landlines altogether.

Remittances and Africa

The World Bank stated that in 2020, the global remittances to low and middle income countries reached $540 billion.

Africa is one of the regions of the world that relies on international remittances. However, remittances are costly. Fees to send money abroad are at a global average of 6.38% of the amount sent. For the many families in developing nations that rely heavily on remittances, after income tax, 6.38% can represent a significant loss.

This is why companies like M-Pesa, Digital Wallet Corporation, and PayPal Holdings have stepped in. The global digital remittance market is projected to grow from about USD $14.5 billion in 2019 to USD $38.8 billion by 2026. That equates to a compounded annual growth rate of 13.8%.

However, companies like PayPal still rely on fees and commissions for revenue. Fees or commissions are less relevant for cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrencies function irrespective of international boundaries and transaction costs can be near zero. In short, cryptocurrencies can eliminate the time and cost of remittances.

Land Ownership

A functioning society relies on a public registry for proof of land ownership. A consequence of political instability is that public registries can become untrustworthy. This can be caused by poor infrastructure or perpetual government restructuring.

This is a common problem in Africa. Citizens may have a deed to their home, but a new government could render their deed obsolete, as was seen in Zimbabwe. Or, with a non-functioning public land ownership registry, someone could claim ownership of your home and the government may not be able to prove otherwise.

Blockchain technology has the ability to change all that because information on the blockchain cannot be altered. A dictator may come into power but they can’t change what’s on the blockchain. That translates into more Africans who can gain security over the ownership of a home and more stability for real estate markets.

Mobile Banking

Another Our World in Data chart illustrates the rate of global mobile money account adoption. What is evident is that sub-saharan Africa comprises nearly half of the global population of mobile money account users.

Mobile money accounts proliferated in Africa. The case of M-Pesa in Kenya is most apparent. M-Pesa is a service that Safaricom started providing in Kenya in 2007. It allows users to store money on their mobile phone and transfer that money via SMS messages. As of 2011, 70% of the Kenyan population adopted M-Pesa and that year Kenya’s GDP growth reached a high of 11%. In 2013, total transaction volume through M-Pesa was equivalent to 40% of Kenya’s GDP.

But how did Kenyans adopt such a novel technology so quickly? It may be due to the age of the average Kenyan being 20.1 years. Consider the fact that the average African is 19.7 years of age. M-Pesa in Kenya may represent a microcosm of what continent-wide, cryptocurrency enabled, mobile banking adoption may look like in Africa.

Projects to Watch


BitPesa is not a cryptocurrency but they offer a service whereby Bitcoin is used as a medium of exchange between African currencies. Before BitPesa, transactions often needed to be routed through entities outside of Africa for currency conversion. BitPesa accelerates transactions and keeps more money in Africa.


Cardano is a top 10 cryptocurrency project with their sights set on Africa. Cardano is creating a global financial operating system aimed at including the near 4 billion un-banked people in the world. Thus far, they have worked closely with Ethiopia to provide a supply chain system for coffee shipments, and an identification system for their education sector.

World Mobile Token

World Mobile Token (WMT) is a project native to the Cardano ecosystem with a goal to provide mobile service access for the remaining population of Africa. This project utilizes the efficiency of blockchain to connect communities that previous telecommunications companies could not afford to service.

Africa Into the Future

Cryptocurrencies represent the next step of innovation in telecommunication technology.

What M-Pesa was able to do for domestic trade in Kenya, cryptocurrencies are designed to do at scale across borders. Africa is a continent in need of solutions with a young population leading the world in the adoption of mobile technology. If cryptocurrency adoption continues in accordance with mobile banking trends, we may just see a rapid boost to the $2.6 trillion market represented by Africa.

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Gerrit van Sittert

About the Author

Gerrit van Sittert

Gerrit van Sittert is a cryptocurrency investor keenly interested in the ramifications of blockchain technology. Since graduating from a commerce and entrepreneurship degree, he has specialized his knowledge of how cryptocurrencies are set to impact the global supply chain and emerging markets. He started his crypto journey in 2017 while hosting an entrepreneurial focussed meetup group in Victoria, BC.

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