Bitcoin is the undisputed global crypto king. Its dominance on exchanges stands at just over 50 percent, and it’s the standard by which all other cryptocurrencies are measured.
However, in Nigeria, a dedicated group is carefully scripting a different narrative.
Dash Nigeria is a non-profit educational and promotional organization that pushes for the adoption of Dash… in Nigeria and beyond. Its vision is to enhance the West African country’s economic growth through the use of Dash. The organization engages with youth, the women, rural communities, media and other stakeholders to help explore the opportunities that digital currencies present.
For Dash Nigeria, it’s not about the digital currency hitting all-time highs again. It’s not about holding the currency and waiting for the next bull run.
Instead, it’s about solving the challenges that the continent faces. In a recent chat with the organization’s business development lead, I got to learn about the tireless efforts the group has been putting into seeing Dash get a wider user base in Africa. And the results have been encouraging, Nathaniel Luz told me.
Why Dash In Nigeria, And Not Bitcoin?
Bitcoin should have been the most logical crypto to push in Nigeria, given its popularity over all the other cryptos. But according to Luz, the exhaustive list of advantages that Dash has over bitcoin, and the other cryptos as well, made it a logical choice.
Firstly, Dash transactions only take a few seconds at most, compared to bitcoin which averages ten minutes. It therefore makes more sense to push for the retail adoption of Dash, especially for day-to-day transactions.
Dash transactions also cost a few cents, and have been consistently cheap throughout. This further makes it ideal for retail transactions.
The organization’s efforts have been quite fruitful, Luz told me. The number of businesses accepting Dash in Nigeria has been steadily increasing, even during the bear market. One can enjoy a delicious serving of jollof rice at Tarzan Delicacies; shop for the latest fashion at Dorlees Fashion Empire; or grab electronic accessories at Ritech Digital.
There are over 100 stores that currently accept Dash in Nigeria. While most of these stores are located in the city of Lagos, other cities are coming up too including Ife and the capital, Abuja.
Dash has also integrated with Yellow Cards, a startup that enables users to purchase vouchers offline, which they can redeem online. Users can purchase Dash vouchers offline for as low as $1 using Yellow Cards, and then proceed to redeem the voucher for Dash when they get on the internet. This further boosts Dash in places where internet connection isn’t exactly – well, stellar.
Cryptocurrency Adoption Beyond Nigeria
Despite the name, Dash Nigeria has ventured beyond Nigeria’s borders, spreading awareness to neighboring African countries. Ghana has been the obvious first target, as Nigeria’s most technologically-advanced neighbor. Luz has been involved in several outreach projects including seminars and conferences spreading the gospel of Dash.
The organization has also ventured in Kenya in the last few months. Here, it has held a few events, most notably in partnership with Andela, a Zuckerberg-backed startup that identifies and develops African software developers, helping them find opportunities with global tech giants such as Google, Microsoft and IBM.
It has managed to enlist a few merchants in Kenya as well. One of the most renowned is Betty’s Place, a restaurant that shot into the limelight after getting global coverage for pioneering crypto payments in Kenya. Uganda is its next target, with the country becoming a crypto hub in the past year.
The Challenges and Opportunities Facing Dash Nigeria
One of the biggest challenges for crypto businesses in Africa is the lack of regulations. This keeps many potential clients at bay, fearing that they may find themselves on the wrong side of the law. This is especially true for merchants who stand to lose much more should the government enact anti-crypto laws.
Luz explained: “It’s very funny in Africa because there are no regulations in most countries. The government is not saying yes, and neither is it saying no. It’s just like when you go to a bank and see a sign ‘Park your car at your own risk.’ That’s what the government is saying; invest in cryptos at your own risk, everybody.”
But compared to getting people to trust in cryptos again, that’s small potatoes. During the 2017 crypto hype-cycle, a lot of people invested their money… and a few months later, their investment had lost over half of its value. For others, they lost their entire investment after backing scam projects which were plentiful at the time.
Getting these people on board has been a great challenge, Luz shared. Sometimes, his organization has to sacrifice some of their own tokens just to get the people to believe again.
“In fact, in many of our events, we have to tell the doubters, ‘You know what, just give us your Dash wallet address, I’ll send you some Dash tokens myself. I’ll then teach you how to spend it on basic tasks like buying airtime.’ And they are very happy to see that Dash works, unlike some fraudulent cryptos they have encountered in the past.”
Limited internet connection has also been a factor. In Nigeria, only 92 million people are connected to the internet according to latest statistics. This represents just 48 percent of the 190 million citizens. This population is also concentrated on the major cities.
Luz and his team have been working to integrate Dash Text in Nigeria. This is a service that uses text messages and USSD codes to send and receive Dash. It has received widespread adoption in Venezuela, a country in which Dash is loved (and needed) by many.
The lack of internet and electricity in many parts of Venezuela has meant that Dash Text has been a beacon of hope for the citizens. Luz hopes that the service will be just as big a hit in his home country.
In their selfless efforts to bring Dash to the masses, the team also helps people install Dash wallets on their phones during events. For those whose phones have a hard time downloading the wallets, the team uses Bluetooth and other file sharing programs to send them the wallets.
A Bright Crypto Future Ahead for Nigeria
Luz believes that the future is bright and full of promise for Nigeria’s crypto industry. And the numbers are there to show it, he told me.
Towards the end of last year, P2P crypto marketplace Paxful revealed that Nigeria contributes the biggest chunk of its volume and revenue. Over the year, Nigeria’s crypto trading volume had gone up by over 60 percent. Other exchanges including LocalBitcoins and Luno have also spoken highly of the opportunities that lie in Africa’s biggest economy.
And it’s not just Naija, as Nigeria is commonly referred to, that will be revolutionized by cryptos. Other African countries are just as in need, Luz believes. In his travels across the continent, he has seen countries in which remittance services like Western Union and MoneyGram open even on Sundays. This is because the remittance market in these countries is extremely lucrative.
“Just imagine the kind of market that cryptos have in such countries,” he told me. “Instead of our people having to rely on expensive remittance channels and the very complicated banking systems, we can introduce them to the low cost and very fast cryptos like Dash. And in a few years’ time, they won’t even have to exchange the Dash for local currencies as merchants will be accepting cryptos all across Africa. Just imagine such a time.”
And indeed, this will be a transformative ride for the 1.2 billion citizens in Africa.
The author is not invested in any cryptocurrency mentioned here. Photos courtesy Dash Nigeria.