Emerging market adoption of Bitcoin (BTC) was the focus of the first day of Istanbul’s blockchain economy event, calling for attention to case-by-case use of Bitcoin to maximize its reach.
The two-day summit brought together prominent speakers from the cryptocurrency ecosystem with the likes of MicroStrategy Bitcoin proponent Michael Saylor on the panel list for this year’s event.
Cointelegraph caught up with Ben Caselin, vice president of global markets and communications at cryptocurrency exchange AAX, to explore some concepts after his keynote on Satoshi standards and emerging markets.
Caselin argues that a logic-based focus on emerging markets is crucial, as it consists of some 6 billion people, or 85 percent of the global population. He also questioned the concept of mass adoption, mainly because different countries face very different realities:
“The people of Nigeria are dealing with a very complicated banking system that doesn’t actually help them. The government may have launched a CBDC project, but it’s not interesting. People care about Bitcoin, people care about non-government money.”
Caselin also highlighted another anecdotal example from Afghanistan, where Roya Mahboob made headlines by paying employees of Citadel Software in Afghanistan in bitcoin as a solution to the barriers women face in accessing bank accounts in the country.
Emerging markets also pose unique challenges, as cryptocurrency companies and service providers grapple with onboarding people unfamiliar with Bitcoin, stablecoins or decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols. Focusing on challenges unique to a country or group of people is often the main driver of adoption:
“Are you afraid of your government? Well, maybe bitcoin is good for you. If your challenge is that your local currency is of poor quality, then we can have a different conversation about bitcoin.”
Caselin believes that from 2009 to 2019, the cryptocurrency space has emerged from the emerging phase of its decade-long life cycle. He compared it to the early days of the internet, when Jeff Bezos was initially mocked for his online bookstore, which eventually became the now ubiquitous Amazon.
Caselin believes that entering the adoption phase requires the formation of the cryptocurrency industry. The recent market turmoil, exacerbated by the collapse of Terra (LUNA) – now renamed Terra Classic (LUNC) ecosystem and the failure of a handful of cryptocurrency lenders and hedge funds, has diminished the greater importance and utility of the space:
“Bitcoin wouldn’t be that interesting if it didn’t help women in Afghanistan, people in Cuba, or unbanked communities in Nigeria.”
Chainalysis data supports Caselin’s assertion that emerging markets are more focused on “traditional” cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, while institutional investors from major economies have driven recent investments in more complex assets and products powered by DeFi.