While interest in Bitcoin across China may be picking up again, the last 12 months have been dominated by Africa when it comes to Bitcoin fever. According to Google Trends, Nigeria and South Africa take the number one, and two, spot for searching the term Bitcoin in the last year.In fact, Ghana comes in at number five with Austria and Switzerland rounding out the top five in searching for Bitcoin. While surprising that these African nations are showing such interest, it cannot be deemed unexpected as the potential that blockchain and cryptocurrency has for African nations is immense. Interestingly, a deeper delve into the related queries for the two topping countries shows very different reasons for the searches. In Nigeria, ‘Mr. Benson Bitcoin’ is breaking out – this refers to a song by a local artist called ‘Bitcoin.’ Additionally, another related query is ‘can Bitcoin be traced.’ In South Africa, the related searches center around ‘Ladysmith Bitcoin,’ and ‘Sgumza Bitcoin,’ which centers around an alleged Bitcoin scam in the rural town of Ladysmith called ‘Bitcoin Wallets,’ run by Sphelele’ Sgumza’ Mbatha, who is on the run from the police.
More Than Bitcoin Scams and Hit SongsWhile the interest attributed through the related searches in Nigeria and South Africa paints a picture of missed opportunities for their citizens, there is, of course, the massive potential for Bitcoin and Blockchain to affect the African nations. Part of the potential that Bitcoin offers is its ability to be an option for those who find themselves unbanked. Due to the vast rural population in these countries, and the limited access to banks, many citizens miss out on the opportunity to use banking services. This is where Bitcoin can be a viable alternative. More so, blockchain technology has also been looked at as a way in which to boost financial inclusion through creating a digital identity – another aspect that stops many South Africans and Nigerians from being able to open a bank account. It is estimated that 80 percent of the whole Sub-Saharan Africa is currently unbanked.
Advancements in AfricaThe potential and possibility for cryptocurrency and blockchain advancement in Africa appears to be maturing and evolving. The likes of the UN has even published pieces on how the continent is ripe to be the next frontier for digital currencies, but with individual interest now also piquing, things could be ready for a big boost. If there interest and education around Bitcoin and Blockchain can continue to grow at a similar rate to the advancements of the space in Africa, there is significant potential that several vital issues dogging these lower GDP countries can be addressed. However, as the related searches on Google show, there is still a lot of bad actors and illicit uses for the technology at play.
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