African banks embracing digital currencies

In view of remarkable developments in the crypto sector worldwide, the question is, which African banks are gaining first mover advantage in the crypto space?

Like in other sectors of the economy, institutions that gain early entry into the digital asset market space will have a competitive advantage.

As the saying goes, “early birds catch the fattest worms,” the same may apply to banks that adopt cryptocurrency in their operations in these early stages.

Interesting developments 

There are several developments taking place relating to the adoption of cryptocurrencies in different countries, which show the direction we are going.

Marshall Islands’ national digital currency: Marshall Islands has introduced a national currency (cryptocurrency), the Marshallese sovereign (SOV). It built the SOV token on the Algorand blockchain. Marshall Islands intends to use SOV alongside the United States dollar.

Russia’s Sberbank: This bank launched its stable coin.

Basler Kantonal Bank, Switzerland’s state run bank, launched its cryptocurrency services. It aims to offer clients a solution for trading cryptocurrencies, among others.

African banks incorporating cryptocurrency services

One promising thing is that several banks in African are offering cryptocurrency services to their clients. Examples of such banks are KUDA, Providus Bank, Rubies Bank and ALAT. However, all these banks are in Nigeria.

Standard Bank: In South Africa, this is the only bank now offering banking services to cryptocurrency businesses, for example, exchanges such as Luno, iCE3, Valr, and AltCoinTrader.

Kuda: This is the first digital only bank in Nigeria with diversified services. People can deposit and withdraw cryptocurrencies as well as messaging one another. Apart from enabling bank transfers, it issues out cards to its clients. The bank also allows its clients to transfer their funds from wallets to bank accounts and vice versa. 

 Amusingly, all these services are for free. However, all its clients should verify their accounts using government-issued identity cards.  

Providus bank: Its clients can deposit and withdrawal vast sums of funds. In order to open an account an individual needs N100 000, but there are no limits on withdrawals. Several exchanges like Pursa, BuyCoins, BitstampNairaEx, Cryptofully, Quidax and YellowCard interface with Providus Bank.

Rubies: This is another digital bank with unique services and features such as customizable account number, proximity transfer and free customizable debit cards. The bank is reputable for its high customer service and referral system. It is connected to several exchanges such as NairaEx, Paxful, and Cryptofully. 

ALAT: Users should download and install ALAT’s application. ALAT offers many services which include payment of bills, savings, investments as well as sending and receiving funds. Its clients can also use debit cards to make payments to exchanges such as NairaEx, Paxful, and Cryptofully.

What benefits accrue to banks that adopt cryptocurrencies in their operations?

There are several benefits banks can get.

  • Banks can gain first-mover advantages in the financial sector. Therefore, the banks that offer crypto services become more competitive than those which do not.
  • This helps to prevent their clients from migrating to other banks or financial institutions that transact using cryptocurrencies.
  • Such banks can help crypto start-up ventures to bypass the crypto capital market. For example, they can enable start-ups to raise capital through banks rather than carrying out ICOs.
  • Their clients can use banking platforms to trade in cryptocurrencies.
  • Large investors may acquire and dispose crypto-based growth assets through banks.
  • Banks can also integrate fiat payment systems with cryptocurrency systems. This leads not only to greater adoption of cryptocurrency but also to huge financial inflow into banks. 

Banks that fear that their clients may participate in illegal activities such as illicit trade or extortion payments, can use know your transaction (KYT), structured regulatory compliance (SRC), and custodian services to reduce incidences of such nature. 

Conclusion

The interesting thing is that many banks worldwide including Africa are adopting cryptocurrencies. However, first movers will have advantages that endure.

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