Despite the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directive dated February 5, 2021 instructing banks to block crypto-entities from the financial system, the demand and use of cryptocurrencies has continued to grow. Not even the central bank’s subsequent crackdown on crypto-entities it accused of flouting the directive managed to stifle demand for cryptocurrencies.
Africans need ‘access to the world of cryptocurrencies’
In contrast, Nigerians seem to have shunned the CBN’s digital currency – the e-naira. Despite the central bank’s efforts to present the e-naira as an alternative to cryptocurrencies, locals still seem to prefer the latter. According to Benjamin Eseoghene, the founder and chief executive officer of a local crypto exchange, the residents’ reluctance to use the e-naira can be linked to the CBN’s failure to fully sensitize the masses about it.
Eseoghene, whose company Roqqu.com recently received approval to operate in Europe, told Bitcoin.com News that Nigerian residents prefer cryptocurrencies because they are borderless. Meanwhile, Nigeria’s ongoing shortage of foreign exchange, as well as the local currency’s decline, are other factors pushing Nigerian residents towards cryptocurrencies.
Nigeria’s population of over 200 million people means the country is one of the world’s largest crypto markets and this naturally attracts global crypto giants. However, the presence of such large companies has not deterred local entrepreneurs like Eseoghene. In his written responses to questions from Bitcoin.com News, Eseoghene explained how his company, founded in 2018, is able to compete against some of its well-funded competitors. He also gave his thoughts on the e-naira and the CBN’s mandate.
Below are Eseoghene’s answers to the questions.
Bitcoin.com News (BCN): You operate one of Nigeria’s locally based crypto exchanges that competes with well-resourced global platforms for what is essentially one of the world’s largest crypto markets. Can you start by telling our readers about the reasons that prompted you to launch Roqqu in 2019, and why it has held its own against its much larger rivals?
Benjamin Eseoghene (BE): We are a brand building the future of Africa using blockchain technology. From the days of small beginnings, we have evolved into a team of 60+ with a leading product with over 1.4 million+ users in the African blockchain space.
We are everyone’s best bet as the fastest and safest way to buy, sell, store and accept cryptocurrencies. We know our users want more than just a trading platform, we know our customers want to build businesses, expand their brands and achieve financial freedom; it constantly inspires us to keep improving our services, as we strive to offer more flexible features of our platform… We build with the best technology out there, because we make it a point of duty to see that not only are all your activities on the application seamless, you can trust the safety of all your assets in our wallets.
BCN: Can non-Nigerians use or trade cryptocurrencies on your platform?
BE: At the moment no, but we are working 24 hours a day to make it possible for Roqqu to be used in other parts of the world.
BCN: Roqqu.com is believed to have recently obtained a license or approval to operate in a European country. Is this true and if so, can you tell our readers why you chose this path?
BE: It’s true, many of our users have asked us to make Roqqu available to their friends and family members living and studying abroad. As you already know, many businesses around the world do business directly with Africa and receiving payment is a big hassle in Africa, what better way than to use the vehicle of crypto to solve that fundamental problem, that’s why we have spent many months working on making Roqqu accessible worldwide.
BCN: In February 2021, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) instructed banks to essentially cut off crypto entities from the banking system. How has it affected your operations and how have you overcome the challenges brought by this directive?
BE: The love letter of grief by the CBN in 2021 was a lot for the brand to handle as it had a huge impact on the product and the crypto industry in general.
Let’s face it: Nigerians are very interested in cryptocurrencies. The country’s cryptocurrency trade has grown astronomically in recent years. Nigeria is the largest cryptocurrency market in Africa, with the second largest volume of bitcoin transactions worldwide, after the United States. According to data from QZ Africa, a reported $400 million worth of cryptocurrencies were exchanged in the country last year. Nigerians were also the most likely to admit to using or owning cryptocurrencies in a recent Statista Global Consumer Survey study of 74 countries.
However, to overcome the regulations, we changed our operations by implementing the very first P2P model on our platform to connect merchants directly in an effort to reduce the consequences. P2P transactions are often conducted directly between parties, without the use of middlemen or third parties. Using this solution, we act as a sponsor for these P2P transactions. It’s simple, easier and safer with Roqqu.
BCN: While the CBN has generally discouraged the use of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, it has tried to convince Nigerians to use its central bank digital currency (CBDC). However, the opposite appears to be true, Nigerians seem to prefer cryptocurrencies over the e-naira. What do you think could be the reason for this?
BE: Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are borderless, they make global trade easy and doable, but the CBDC comes with limitations, so it makes sense that people will still gravitate towards the borderless option. I think that another reason why people resist the CBDC is that there has not been an adoption campaign, there has been no widespread sensitization on why people should use the CBDC, how to obtain it, how to store it, the its use and everything related to it.
People can be resistant to change, especially when they don’t see that change as necessary.
BCN: One Nigerian presidential aspirant reportedly praised fintechs while another extolled blockchain and the potential it holds. What is your reaction to such positive comments about the technology from national leaders?
It’s great to see them opening up to the possibilities of blockchain and technology as a whole. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years in the industry, it’s that it’s much easier to thrive and succeed when the government is on your side.
If they do turn these positive comments into real work to support the tech ecosystem, there is a 100% chance that growth will skyrocket. I am sure of this because I believe that to begin with, some existing policies that stifle the activities of tech companies will be revised and founders will not spend so much time innovating around policy. Instead, they would spend that time innovating to compete in global markets. There is so much we still need to do in the technology space and having a government that believes in the future of technology will be all the push we need.
BCN: Does this in any way indicate a possible shift in Nigeria’s policy towards the crypto industry?
BE: We believe it does. It’s clear that they see everything or at least a glimpse of what can be born from cryptocurrency and the blockchain industry in general, so it only makes sense that they would improve the policies already in place or maybe even create new ones that support the growth and spread of cryptocurrency in the country.
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