A crypto payments app backed by global exchange Binance has launched in Nigeria, kicking the contest to become Africa’s chief digital asset provider into high gear.
Binance said in a press release Thursday its social payments app Bundle would provide users across Africa with a fee-free means to store and transact in both cash and cryptocurrencies, through a new digital wallet that can be downloaded on their phones.
The payments app went live initially in Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy, with support for its national currency, the naira. Other supported assets will include bitcoin, binance coin and BUSD, the exchange’s dollar stablecoin.
Bundle was the brainchild of Binance Labs’ former director, Yele Bademosi, who grew up in a town just north of Lagos, the Nigerian capital. The app received $450,000 in seed funding from Binance in late 2019 and, while part of the exchange’s ecosystem, will run as an independent entity.
Although Binance’s press release mentions that Bundle is backed by “other African investors,” it doesn’t give specifics.
Binance already has a presence in Nigeria. The exchange’s local director told CoinDesk earlier this year it had received “thousands” of new signups soon after launching a fiat on-ramp in the country in October 2019.
Using Nigeria as a launchpad, Binance said Bundle will be fully operational in as many as 30 other African countries by the end of 2020.
The race for Africa is heating up: As well as local competitors such as Luno and BitPesa, rival exchange Huobi also has a presence through its Middle East and Africa subsidiary.
The Binance announcement also comes days after rapper-turned-entrepreneur Akon said his own Stellar-based cryptocurrency project, Akoin, was in good position for becoming the region’s primary payments solution.
Akon said a deal for Akoin to be used as the chief payments processor for Kenya’s Mwale Medical and Technology City (MMTC), a city of 35,000 residents, gives “Akoin a dominant position to control the market of 400 million people in eastern and central Africa, many of who rely on mobile digital transactions for their financial services.”
Akon added the company be able to scale-up throughput for Akoin – which is set to launch at some point this year – so it can handle upwards of 100 million transactions, in Kenya’s MMTC alone, within five years’ time.
Binance has long had a presence in neighboring Uganda, and entered Kenya at the same time it launched its fiat onramp for the naira. The exchange has also dipped its toes into South Africa, which is Africa’s second-largest economy.
A Binance spokesperson told CoinDesk the exchange’s sole objective in Africa is to promote cryptocurrency adoption: “We are happy to see more players providing crypto payment services in Africa,” the person said. “In the long run, this helps to grow the industry and drive crypto adoption.”
Earlier this year, Jack Dorsey, Twitter founder and CEO of crypto-friendly payments provider Square, said Africa would play a major role in determining bitcoin’s future.