Hooked on the Blockchain
Bitcoin is a seductive beast. First it flummoxes you. Then it beckons to you. Then it extends its digital embrace and pulls you in. Before you know it, you’re seeking answers on subreddits to the best computer paper for printing private keys and are conversant in esoteric cacography-based memes (yes, HODL).
Once you go bitcoin, you never go back.
Bitcoin trading volume by currency.
Two countries that have welcomed this new world order are South Korea and Japan. The Japanese are buying – as well as actually spending – bitcoin and the South Koreans are trading it. Around 70% of the world’s bitcoin trading takes place in yen or won. The neighboring nations are leading the pack, but other countries are starting to stir. And while many nations have gotten the hots for bitcoin, the following four look likeliest to develop crypto mania next.
For identifying emerging markets, Google Trends is your friend. Its data should not be read as absolute, but it indicates pockets of interest around the globe. For the term “pay with bitcoin”, South Africa proves to be an extremely large pocket whose populace are intrigued by all things crypto. It also ranks fourth globally for “buy bitcoin” within the last 90 days.
Two of the countries that rank above SA on that list also hail from Africa – Nigeria and Ghana. Many of the world’s unbanked reside in these countries, and many more Africans in lands such as Zimbabwe are reliant on money remittance from family overseas. Bitcoin is ideal.
For bitcoin to flourish in any country it needs two things: public interest and a favorable regulatory environment. South Africa passes both tests with flying colors. Its government has spoken of taking a “balanced approach” to cryptocurrency regulation, and its second largest supermarket chain is currently trialing bitcoin payments.
90-day global search trends for “buy bitcoin”.
Australia’s already caught the bitcoin bug, but there are signs that it could develop into a fever as virulent as that sweeping its Japanese counterpart to the north. Australia ranks second for “buy bitcoin” and “pay with bitcoin” on Google Trends in the last 90 days. One Australian utilities firm is processing US $750,000 of bill payments a week in cryptocurrency. That’s just the tip of the iceberg though, and if Australia goes Full Bitcoin – its Reserve Bank sees the potential in blockchain technology – the AUD could soon start creeping onto the fiat/bitcoin volume chart.
Slovenia – home to the cryptocurrency powerhouse that is Bitstamp – could just as easily have made this list. Instead, that spot goes its European cousin, Estonia. The tech-loving land, which bills itself a New Digital Nation, has its own e-Residency passport for “global citizens”. It’s also embracing blockchain technology and has floated plans for its own national cryptocurrency.
For all its progressiveness, the Northern European country has issued mixed messages regarding the status of bitcoin exchanges. Still, the appetite for crypto is strong in Estonia, which has spawned an impressive number of fintech startups in the token economy this year. If its government was to formally welcome bitcoin, Estonia would be primely positioned to become a market leader in fintech, blockchain, and digital ledger solutions.
Venezuela is the dark horse for cryptocurrency adoption. You won’t see it topping any Google Trends lists, but the appetite for an alternative payment and savings mechanism is there alright. While the country hasn’t tried to ban bitcoin, its police have clamped down hard on anyone caught mining cryptocurrency. It’s not so much the mining that’s the issue as the energy theft that often occurs. Then again, in a country that’s endured 700% inflation this year – a figure that’s tipped to top 2,300% next year – who can blame 100,000 Venezuelans for trying to mine their own money.
Unfortunately, for bitcoin to get bigger in Venezuela, living standards may need to drop further, forcing its impoverished people to take action. If a full-blown revolution were to topple the country’s weakened government, anything’s possible – yes, even a state whose new national currency is bitcoin.
There are other states that could have made this list including Singapore and any number of African nations. Everywhere you look in the world – developed nations and developing ones; stable countries and unstable ones – interest in bitcoin is piquing. Just as the global balance of power ebbs and flows between nations, so it is with cryptocurrency adoption. Japan and South Korea are leading the charge, but that is likely to change.