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Kenya’s interest in cryptocurrency on the rise

By , Kenya-based correspondent
Kenya , Africa , 11 Jul 2022

Over four million Kenyans own cryptocurrency, making it the one of the largest – if not largest share in Africa, according to a new report released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The report says 4.25 million people or about 8.5% of the country’s population own cryptocurrencies.

A closer look at the UN organisation’s ranking of countries based on the level of digital currency ownership as share of population in 2021 shows that war-torn Ukraine is at the top of the list with 12.7%, Russia is at 11.9%, Venezuela at 10.3% and Singapore at 9.4%.

South Africa is placed in eighth position (7.1%) and Nigeria in ninth place (6.3%).

As to the situation in Kenya, UNCTAD linked the increase interest in cryptocurrency to low fees charged in its exchanges, the speed in which remittances are sent, and also to increasing access to the internet.

“During the pandemic, the already high costs of traditional remittance services rose even higher during lockdown periods due to related disruptions,” the report stated.

As global media outlets reported, the cryptocurrency market as a whole has lost half its value since November 2021, with investors concerned over risk linked to inflation and rising interest rates.

John Karanja, founder and consulting lead at Nairobi-based blockchain business accelerator BitHub Africa, said this isn’t cause for concern, the situation is normal and cryptocurrency will always bounce back.

“Cryptocurrency crash is something that is normalised and it will always pick up again,” he said.

Karanja is also skeptical of the numbers in Kenya, saying that most people who invest in cryptocurrency - especially Bitcoin - have more than one wallet for crypto.

“People have multiple wallets, and if you checked it again, you will find that the number is much lower than the four million they quoted,” he added.

UNCTAD said the industry needs more regulation. It suggested that advertisement be closely scrutinised.

The report added: "This new type of virtual, and often disguised, advertisement requires policymakers to expand the scope of regulation beyond traditional media. This is an urgent need in terms of consumer protection in countries with low levels of financial literacy, as even limited exposure to cryptocurrencies may lead to significant losses.”

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