Nigerian art dealer Ebuka Joseph started using cryptocurrencies last year when business ground to a halt due to COVID-19. Now he is hooked even though the financial authorities disapprove.
“Crypto just allows me to transact freely and within minutes we are done with our transactions,” the 28-year-old told Reuters from a friend’s studio in Lagos where he displays his works.
Nigeria’s Central Bank barred local banks from working with cryptocurrencies in February, warning of “severe regulatory sanctions” and freezing accounts of firms it says are using them.
But Joseph’s appetite for crypto, like many in Nigeria, has only increased.
For people like him, the clampdown has highlighted the benefits of using currencies outside the central bank’s control, and Nigeria remains the largest market for cryptocurrency trading platforms like Paxful.
Nigerians are turning to crypto for business, to protect their savings as the naira loses value, and to send payments abroad because it is often hard to obtain U.S. dollars, experts and users told Reuters.
In March, just after the central bank ban, the dollar volume of cryptocurrencies sent from Nigeria rose to $132 million, up 17 percent from the previous month, research firm Chainalysis said. Transactions in June were 25 percent above the same month last year.
Sly Megida, another artist using crypto to sell his works, said his buyers worldwide readily accept the use of digital currencies and they have also protected his finances.
“The naira is digressing and we are trying to keep the value of the art,” he said, calling crypto “the currency where people don’t think that I am paying too much or too less.”