By: Gerelyn Terzo of Sharemoney
Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency, has seen its value balloon by more than 100% year-to-date, soaring to an all-time high of more than USD 60,000.
Nigerians, many of whom are battling poverty, would be hard-pressed to miss out on those gains. This is especially true considering that the unemployment rate in the most populous African nation was 33.3% as of last quarter, with more than 23 million Nigerians out of work.
Enter bitcoin, which has been a safe-haven investment as well as a faster and cheaper payment method for the growing segment of the population that is catching on.
In fact, Nigeria last year rose to the top of the heap for bitcoin trading at $400 million in volume, surpassing transactional volume in nearly every other jurisdiction — with the exception of the United States and Russia — as traditional asset classes lose their appeal in comparison and the local currency, the naira, remains under pressure.
Nearly one-third of Nigerians who participated in a Statista poll said that they used or owned cryptocurrencies, more than any other country represented in the survey.
Nigeria also stands out in all of Africa, as the top peer-to-peer bitcoin trading nation on the continent based on bitcoin trading volume.
Nigeria’s P2P BTC trading volume surpassed USD 99 million in the first quarter of 2021. Kenya is a distant second at $34.8 million followed by Ghana and South Africa at $27.4 million and $25.8 million, respectively.
Source: Business Insider/Useful Tulips
The robust bitcoin trading activity in Nigeria has earned the country the title of Africa’s Bitcoin Nation. A 27-year-old Nigerian office worker who was spotlighted by the AFP, Chigoziri Okeke, described how he first invested in cryptocurrencies five years ago with the intention of just making a payment.
When his crypto wallet’s value increased by 10% in a few short days, however, he was hooked and started directing a percentage of his salary toward the market. Today, this investor’s crypto portfolio is worth USD 50,000, comprising various digital assets.
In addition, Google searches of bitcoin in Nigeria surpass that of any other jurisdiction, according to Nairametrics.com. Bitcoin appeals especially to the West African nation’s millennial generation, who are looking to the flagship cryptocurrency as a store-of-value asset as well as a way to circumvent the hoops they must jump through to open a traditional investment account.
With the bitcoin price most recently hovering at USD 60,000, Nigerians have reason to be excited. At this price, one bitcoin could reportedly buy someone a three-bedroom apartment in Lagos’ Ajah neighbourhood.
Unstable Fiat Currency
A big part of bitcoin’s popularity is due to Nigeria’s unstable naira. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has drawn a line in the sand, stating that Nigeria’s fiat currency is “overvalued” by more than 18%. The IMF wants Nigeria to devalue its fiat currency, but the African nation’s government has said no way.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari blames “global outflows” triggered by COVID-19 for the unstable naira and believes that devaluing it further after doing so twice in 2020 would only exacerbate the already sky-high inflation rate, which is currently in the double-digits at more than 17%. This would weaken Nigerians’ purchasing power even more. Nigeria’s central bank slashed the naira’s value by close to one-quarter last year.
Meanwhile, not only has bitcoin been generating returns hand over fist, but it has also been thrust into the global spotlight amid the SARS-related protests in Nigeria.
According to reports, Nigeria thwarted financial payments toward police brutality protests, which only led the supporters to donate bitcoin instead. Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey backed this movement, which only brought more attention to the country and cryptocurrencies.
Nigeria’s central bank has been highly critical of bitcoin, warning as recently as February that “cryptocurrencies are largely speculative, anonymous and untraceable.”
Nonetheless, the Central Bank of Nigeria can’t stop the population from accessing the flagship cryptocurrency, thanks to the peer-to-peer nature of bitcoin, which was inherently designed to circumvent third-party service providers like banks.
Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, whose real identity remains a mystery, defined the first cryptocurrency in the whitepaper, which was published in 2008, saying:
“A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.”
The Central Bank of Nigeria has since backtracked from its remarks slightly, maintaining that it has not placed a blanket ban on cryptocurrency trading. It is a tangled web, however. The central bank instead said that it is doubling down on a 2017 law that bans institutions supporting cryptocurrency transactions.
Even though institutions might be banned from supporting cryptocurrency trading, individuals are still free to trade them. The central bank is sending mixed signals, to say the least, as local banks were instructed by the central bank to refrain from doing business with customers who transact in cryptocurrencies.
“The CBN did not place restrictions from use of…cryptocurrencies and we are not discouraging people from trading in it. What we have just done was to prohibit transactions on cryptocurrencies in the banking sector,” stated Adamu Lamtek, according to Decrypt, citing Today NG.
Since the restrictions were imposed on Nigeria’s crypto trading industry, rather than disappearing, the industry has flexed its muscle for its nimble nature. In a few short months, they have been quick to build P2P exchanges that circumvent the crypto ban on financial institutions.
The restrictions have funnelled more activity to over-the-counter (OTC) venues while a makeshift P2P market is similarly expanding. Danny Oyekan, the founder of global social payments application Coins App, is cited by Decrypt as saying,
“So basically, the ban only forced the fiat channels underground.”
In Nigeria, cryptocurrencies are regulated by the country’s own Securities and Exchange Commission, which last year stated that it would classify cryptocurrencies as securities unless they are proven otherwise by the asset’s issuer or sponsor. In February, Nigeria’s SEC said that crypto regulation was going to be placed on the back-burner amid the central bank’s crypto crackdown.
Despite the uncertainty, Nigerians are showing no signs of relenting in their pursuit to own bitcoin and are increasingly relying on P2P trading platforms to do just that.
Unlisted Securities Depreciate by 0.41% Friday
By Adedapo Adesanya
The NASD Over-the-Counter (OTC) Securities Exchange returned to the bearish zone on Friday, January 21 after back-to-back stalemates as it depreciated by 0.41 per cent, driven by the negative price movement in Central Securities Clearing Systems (CSCS) Plc.
CSCS Plc closed at N19.38 per unit after moving down by 57 kobo or 2.7 per cent from its previous day’s value of N19.90.
The depreciation in this stock weakened the market capitalisation by N2.6 billion to N630.46 billion from N633.06 billion and slowed the NASD Unlisted Securities Index (NSI) by 3.07 points to wrap the session at 744.54 points compared with 747.61 points of the previous session.
However, there was a surge in the volume of securities traded at the bourse as investors exchanged 4.1 million units, 103,160 per cent higher than the 4,000 units of securities transacted a day earlier.
Likewise, the value of shares traded at the session swelled to N86.9 million, which by evaluation is 11,227.6 per cent higher than N767,100 posted on Thursday.
These transactions were carried out in eight deals, 300 per cent higher than the two deals carried out at the preceding trading session.
Business Post reports that the unlisted securities market wrapped the day without a price gainer.
At the close of trading, the most traded stock by volume on a year-to-date basis was CSCS Plc with 653.6 million units worth N13.7 billion, VFD Group Plc followed with 916,161 units valued at N331.5 million, while Friesland Campina WAMCO Nigeria Plc has traded 205,566 units of its stocks valued at N24.3 million.
Also, CSCS ended the trading session as the most traded stock by value on a year-to-date basis with the sale of 653.6 million units of its securities valued at N13.7 billion, followed by VFD Group Plc with a turnover of 916,161 units worth N331.5 million, while Friesland Campina WAMCO Nigeria Plc has transacted 205,566 units of its stocks valued at N24.3 million.
Naira Falls at I&E as Bears Wipe $1trn from Crypto Market
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Naira recorded a 37 kobo or 0.09 per cent loss against the US Dollar at the Investors and Exporters (I&E) segment of the foreign exchange (forex) market as it traded at N415.10/$1 compared with N414.73/$1 it was traded on Thursday.
It was observed that the Naira came under pressure during the trading session with the value of transactions rising by 56.2 per cent or $60.7 million at the market window to $168.62 million from the preceding day’s $107.92 million.
In the same vein, the local currency depreciated against the American currency at the interbank segment of the market yesterday by 5 kobo or 0.1 per cent to N411.95/$1 from the previous day’s N411.90/$1.
However, the local currency lost 60 kobo against the Pound Sterling to trade at N552.75/£1 in contrast to N553.35/£1 it closed on Thursday and against the Euro, it depreciated by N2.64 to N448.79/€1 from N446.15/€1.
In a related development, the crypto market bled yesterday, with the Federal Reserve intending to withdraw stimulus from the market, riskier assets in the world such as the assets have suffered from over $1 trillion lost in market capitalisation so far.
Russia also added to the fear that seems to be gripping cryptocurrencies as the country’s central bank issued a harsh report on cryptocurrencies, including a potential ban on mining and trading.
Bitcoin (BTC), the largest digital asset, lost more than 9 per cent on Friday and dropped below $36,000, its lowest level since July.
Since its peak in November, it has lost over 45 per cent of its value as it traded at the Naira equivalent of N20,376,819.45.
Other digital currencies have suffered just as much, if not more, with Dash (DASH) plunging 19.7 per cent to trade at N57,825.35, Litecoin (LTC) moved down by 15.9 per cent to trade at N61,392.61, while Binance Coin (BNB) recorded a 15.6 per cent to trade at N152,054.69.
Cardano (ADA) went south by 13.1 per cent to trade at N650, Ripple (XRP) fell by 13.0 per cent to trade at N350.32, Dogecoin (DOGE) declined by 11.3 per cent to sell at N84.80, Tron (TRX) depreciated by 5.9 per cent to N35.99, Ethereum (ETH) made a 5.0 per cent loss to sell at N1,699,900.00, while the US Dollar Tether (USDT) made a 0.2 per cent depreciation to sell for N575.01.
Oil Again Falls Under Pressure of US Inventories Rise, Profit Taking
By Adedapo Adesanya
Oil prices closed in the bearish territory on Friday, falling for another session pressured by an unexpected rise in US crude and fuel inventories after investors took profits after the benchmarks touched seven-year highs earlier in the week.
Brent crude dropped 49 cents or 0.55 per cent to trade at $87.89 per barrel while the US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) lost 41 cents or 0.48 per cent to settle at $85.14 per barrel.
However, both crude benchmarks rose for a fifth week in a row, gaining around 2 per cent this week, showing that prices were up more than 10 per cent so far this year on concerns over tightening supplies.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported the first US crude build since November in the week just as fuel inventories hit an 11-month high in the world’s largest oil consumer.
Crude inventories rose by 515,000 barrels in the week to January 14 to 413.8 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations of a 938,000-barrel drop.
Earlier in the week, both Brent and WTI rose to their highest levels since October 2014.
But the latest pullback happened due to a combination of pre-weekend profit-taking and the absence of fresh bullish catalysts.
Analysts also said they expect the current pressure on prices to be limited owing to supply concerns and rising demand.
Tensions in Eastern Europe and the Middle East are also heightening fears of supply disruption as top US and Russian diplomats made no major breakthrough at talks on Ukraine on Friday.
There was, however, an agreement to keep talking to try to resolve a crisis that has stoked fears of a military conflict.
Amid these, there are forecasts that prices will perform their best in recent times this year due to low spare OPEC+ capacity, low inventories and geopolitical tensions rising.
Analysts at Bank of America said they expect to see Brent at around $120 a barrel in mid-2022.
UBS expects crude oil demand to reach record highs this year and for Brent to trade in a range of $80-$90 a barrel for now.
Morgan Stanley has raised its Brent price forecast to $100 a barrel in the third quarter, up from its previous projection of $90.
Meanwhile, in the United States, energy firms cut oil rigs this week for the first time in 13 weeks.
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