Mara Raises $23M From Coinbase, Alameda to Spread Crypto Adoption Across Africa

The exchange is holding Web 3 hackathons and launching products in a pan-African campaign.

AccessTimeIconMay 11, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. UTC
Updated May 16, 2022 at 8:32 p.m. UTC
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Cam Thompson is a news reporter at CoinDesk.

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Pan-African centralized crypto exchange Mara said Wednesday it raised $23 million. The funding round was led by Coinbase Ventures, Alameda Research, Distributed Global, Day One Ventures, TQ Ventures and more, according to a press release.

Mara plans to invest in a suite of products targeting Nigeria and Kenya, Africa’s two largest countries, before expanding to East Africa and Francophone countries, said CEO Chi Nnandi.

Mara is trying to crack a burgeoning crypto scene: According to the World Economic Forum, estimates show crypto adoption had grown by $106 billion in Africa in the year ending June 2021; Mara wants to grow it more.

Crypto in Africa

In an interview, Nnandi said he’s trying to change the narrative expressed by Yuval Noah Harari in "Homo Deus": that poor countries get left behind when new technologies arrive. That notion “lit a fire underneath him,” he said.

He’s trying to do it by creating products that will allow users to not only trade crypto (such as Mara’s upcoming Android app and an advanced trading platform) but develop Web 3 products of their own.

Nnandi said Mara plans to host hackathons after its launch to inspire developers to “build Web 3 engineering communities.”

Mara is also launching a layer 1 chain fueled by its native MARA token and will launch its testnet in the fourth quarter.

Expanding cryptocurrency products into new regions comes with new regulatory challenges. According to Nnandi, this stems from a lack of understanding of digital currencies and their role in the global economy.

This is one of the reasons Mara plans to offer guidance to the Central African Republic on its new bitcoin law.


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Cam Thompson is a news reporter at CoinDesk.