“Everyone should have all eyes on Africa right now,” said Ray Youssef, CEO of peer-to-peer lending platform Paxful during CoinDesk TV’s “First Mover” show on Friday. 

Youssef said the number of transactions on Paxful in Africa, combined with Google searches primarily from Nigeria, reflect the “tremendous momentum” around cryptocurrency adoption.

“Africa’s leading [in] global cryptocurrency adoption,” he said. 

According to data shared with CoinDesk, Nigeria is Paxful’s biggest market to date, with around 1.5 million users and $1.5 billion in trade volume. Thanks to Nigeria’s tricky exchange rate policy, inflation and large number of unbanked adults, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are increasingly used as an alternative store-of-value. 

Earlier this year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) ordered local banking institutions to identify and shut down any accounts tied to crypto platforms. The order was met with a swift backlash and the CBN has somewhat eased its position since then. However, Nigerian users quickly switched to trading on peer-to-peer platforms like Paxful to avoid interacting with local banks.  

“This is just the harbinger of things to come. We’re only starting to see what Africa is capable of,” Youssef said, referring to how young Nigerians have built their own alternative financial networks. 

Youssef added that in addition to leading markets like Nigeria, new markets are “blowing up” every day. He expects Cameroon and Ethiopia to be strong contenders for emerging crypto markets in the next few years. 

A representative for Paxful told CoinDesk that, in Kenya, the platform expects to see 120% growth in users and 142% growth in trading volumes this year based on linear projections from 2020. The company also expects to see 72% growth in users and 84% growth in trading volumes in Ghana. 

“People ask me why I am so crazy about Africa,” Youssef said. “Well, the reason is, I’ve been there, I’ve met the people, I’ve seen the problems that they have. It makes perfect sense once you’re there.” 

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