A study conducted by the United Nations (UN) determined that 8.5% of Kenya’s population own digital assets, which makes up around 4.25 million people. This makes the country a leader in cryptocurrency adoption across Africa, while globally, Ukraine ranks first, with 12.7% of its residents being HODLers.
Kenyans’ Surging Appetite for Crypto
Kenya – an African nation considered a tech and innovation hub on the continent – has been tied to the cryptocurrency industry for years now. In 2020, amid the COVID-19 crisis, struggling citizens of the country turned to local digital assets (such as Sarafu) to aid their monetary issues.
According to a recent UN study, Kenyans’ interest in crypto has increased in the following years, and currently, it is the leading African nation in terms of HODLers. The report stated that 8.5% of the domestic population, or over 4.2 million people own digital assets. In comparison, 7.1% of the South African residents and 6.3% of Nigerians have bitcoin or alternative coins.
It is worth noting that Kenya’s crypto adoption rate surpasses top economies, including the United States (8.3%). However, it is hard to establish the value of digital currencies held by Kenyans due to the lack of supervision in the sector:
“The returns from cryptocurrency trading and holding are, as with other speculative trades, highly individual. On balance, they are overshadowed by the risks and costs they pose in developing countries. The sector is not regulated in the country and remains largely unregulated even in the developed world.”
The UN’s research found Ukraine is the global leader, with 12.7% of its residents having exposure to crypto, while Russia is second with 11.9%. Venezuela and Singapore round up the top 4 with respectively 10.3% and 9.4%.
The national currency of the country (shilling) has lost a significant chunk of its value against the US dollar over the past years. On that note, last year, Central Bank Governor Patrick Njoroge opined that switching to bitcoin could ease some of Kenya’s economic troubles:
“Our decision to shift to Bitcoin is both tactical and logical. Our currency has always been the punching bag for the IMF, which always claims that the Kenya Shilling is overvalued… We are losing too much simply because someone at IMF woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Bitcoin will put an end to this.”
Earlier this year, the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) argued that a potential CBDC could bring certain benefits to the domestic banking infrastructure and enhance cross-border payments. The institution even released a discussion paper to examine whether locals support such a product.
It is worth mentioning, though, that bitcoin and CBDCs are very different assets. While the primary cryptocurrency is decentralized, CBDCs would be fully monitored and issued by governments and central banks, leaving less privacy to consumers.