For the most part, “Lagosians” who are aware of the existence of Bitcoin see the top-ranked cryptocurrency as a substitute for the United States dollar. BTC exists for them on a spectrum that lends itself as a viable substitute for foreign currency.
Payment companies like PayPal do not allow Nigerians to receive money transfers from abroad, thanks to the notoriety of internet fraudsters in the country — and the companies that offer such services usually charge high fees.
Thus, it is common to see the city’s growing freelancing community beginning to pivot toward cryptocurrency payments. Many of the youth in the city, having battled with underemployment or unemployment, have sought to try their hands outside the traditional working environment.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports that Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose to above 23 percent in 2018. In a city like Lagos, many young university graduates can be seen making a living as freelancers, offering services from copywriting to website design and even computer programming.
Given that many of their clients are based abroad, there can be issues with receiving payment for the work done. However, with a BTC wallet and a plethora of local exchange services, these freelancers can receive payments easily from clients spread across the globe.
Apart from freelancers, business owners are also using Bitcoin, as well as other crypto-focused platforms, as substitutes for foreign currency and banks. Companies like BitPesa offer easy access to liquidity, which can be a hassle to businesses in frontier markets like Lagos, especially in the context of foreign trade.
In a private message to Cryptonews9ja, Vincent Oklewu, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Blockchain Strategist at Middlegate, an energy startup looking to leverage blockchain technology in boosting renewable energy adoption across Africa, said:
“I see crypto taking up a strong position in the remittances space. It’s often cheaper, less stressful (in terms of documentation) and faster to send and receive crypto. Many younger folks in the diaspora are now leveraging crypto to send money back home. Some techies working remotely are also getting paid in crypto.”
In 2001, the government at the time introduced mobile telecommunications technology to the country. In the 18 years since that landmark event, mobile telecoms have become a significant sector in the nation’s economy, contributing 10.5 percent of its gross domestic product as of mid-2018.
Nigeria has over 100 million active internet subscriptions, mostly on mobile platforms. Bitcoin as a payment technology leverages on this access to the web, allowing tech-savvy Nigerians to participate in the growing cryptocurrency trend.