As a cryptocurrency fanatic, you’ve probably always tracked the legalities of Bitcoin as certain countries have declared it illegal, while others have taken steps to integrate it into society. Well you may be surprised to find out, the first country striving for full blockchain technology integration has actually been recently announced as the country of Nigeria.
The History of Nigeria and Blockchain
Unlike a number of other African countries, Nigeria has never fully been opposed to cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. Rather, they were slow adopters at first, but since the year 2019 (and especially since the COVID-19 pandemic) they have been in a rush to catch up with China to benefit as much as they can from the implications of this new technology. Africa has always been plagued by infrastructure issues and population distrust in banks, so it should be no surprise that this society was quick to accept the idea of a decentralized technology. In the early days, Nigeria was mostly using blockchain technology to run their nation's lotteries or for gambling/gaming purposes. But now, their leader, Mr. Kashifu Inuwa is looking to change that, and in the process, making Nigeria one of the stronger financial powers of the world.
How Will Nigeria Use Blockchain?
In an interview with Vanguard on November 5th, 2020, Mr. Inuwa listed nearly a hundred ways the Nigerian society would be using blockchain. Their plans for the technology are massive, but mostly inspired by the recent global pandemic. Thus, they are looking to implicate blockchain technology in the areas of payment processing, the transportation of goods, and identity protection services. While this all sounds amazing, Inuwa recognizes that his people are far from the technology behemoth known as China, but he hopes by innovating quickly they will be able to capture much of the unrecognized value found in blockchain technology in Africa.
Interestingly enough, Nigeria is well positioned on the continent of Africa to overtake much of the continent's digital trade routes. Nigeria conveniently houses the FinTech center in Africa and already processes much of the digital payment processing which occurs on the continent. That and the fact that there isn’t much competition from nearby countries means Inuwa believes they will accomplish their goal, and with it, enormous amounts of money.
Not only are they looking to improve their standing on a global level, but Nigeria is also aiming to become the first all-digital society with everything from money, to transportation, to healthcare being controlled digitally rather than manually. And they’re going to use blockchain to help them do it. Now, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know Ponzi scheme scams having to do with cryptocurrency are the common place in many under developed countries. Inuwa is hoping to curb these illegalities by completely legalizing the currency, which will allow it to be highly regulated.
The Pros and Cons
Of course any major technological innovation has its pros and cons. The adoption of blockchain technology in Nigeria will be great for job creation as well as pave the way for other neighboring African countries to do the same. Africa has long lagged behind in the development of technology as the continent is still plagued by frequent wars between countries (and insurgents) to this day. Which brings up a con, Nigeria is already plagued by instability within their own government. Will blockchain technology integration bring it to an end? Or is there a possibility that the protests and civil unrest will grow to be even larger? It’s hard to know for sure. And there’s certainly a possibility that much of this discussed technology remains in the hands of the government—centralizing it in a way cryptocurrencies aren’t meant to do—and this could lead to an all-out political attack by large political groups or the governments of neighboring countries. Not only that, but many of the current protests against the government in Nigeria are in response to the country’s group of elite police known as SARS. And Inuwa has already placed Bitcoin in a bad light as he suggested using Bitcoin to host a fund raiser to fund this elite police force. It’s unknown how the average citizen feels about Bitcoin, as Vanguard only interviewed Mr. Inuwa. It could therefore be possible that widespread adoption could be met with massive resistance and not happen at all.
Another con is that Africa has long held some of the most traditional societies on earth, most notably the Masai tribe which lives on the plains in the southern part of Kenya and northern part of Tanzania. These tribes rely heavily on a simple way of living, most of them still relying on hunting and gathering, as well as limited farming, for food. And it’s hard to imagine that blockchain technology would fit into a society which doesn’t even accept technology such as the cell phone. It’s not that adoption would be impossible, it’s just that is won’t be as cut and dry as Inuwa would like to believe.
Another aspect to consider, is that if Nigeria truly establishes the payment processing capabilities they are bragging about, a lot of money to be made from blockchain will be redirected to within its borders. The US and EU are already in place to make billions themselves, but how are they going to feel sharing the pie with the country of Nigeria? On the pro side, this could lead to a wider adoption of cryptocurrency worldwide, but it also could lead to embargoes or restrictions being placed on Nigerian’s interactions with these more developed countries (basically boils down to if the US and EU will “trust” the Nigerian technology).
In conclusion, it will be interesting to see in the coming weeks and months if Nigeria is able to follow through with its promises. Crypto enthusiasts can only hope the announcement of adoption from a country such as Nigeria will lead to a more widespread acceptance of the currency in the more developed countries. Otherwise those of us in the EU and USA might find Nigeria and China quickly surpassing us in the ways of technology and innovation.