Despite the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directive on February 5, 2021 that instructed banks to block crypto entities from the financial system, the demand for and usage of cryptocurrencies have continued to grow. Even the central bank’s subsequent crackdown on crypto entities it accused of defying the directive has failed to stifle demand for cryptocurrencies.
Africans need “access to the world of cryptocurrencies”
By contrast, Nigerians seem to have refused CBN’s digital currency: the e-naira. Despite the central bank’s attempts to present the e-naira as an alternative to cryptocurrencies, local residents apparently still prefer the latter. According to Benjamin Eseoghene, founder and CEO of a local crypto exchange roqqu.comthe reluctance of residents to use e-naira could be related to the CBN’s failure to fully sensitize the masses about it.
On the other hand, residents of Nigeria prefer cryptocurrencies because they have no borders, Eseoghene said. Meanwhile, the continued shortage of foreign exchange in Nigeria, as well as the drop in the local currency, are other factors pushing Nigerians towards cryptocurrencies.
Nigeria’s population of over 200 million people means that the country is one of the largest crypto markets in the world 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, can compete against some of his well-funded rivals. He also offered his thoughts on e-naira and the CBN leadership.
Below are Eseoghene’s responses to the questions.
Bitcoin.com News (BCN): You operate one of Nigeria’s locally established crypto exchanges competing with well-resourced global platforms for what is essentially one of the largest crypto markets in the world. Can you start by telling our readers why you launched Roqqu in 2019 and why it has held its own against much bigger rivals?
Benjamin Eseoghene (Belgium): We are a brand building the future of Africa using blockchain technology. Starting from the days of small beginnings, we evolved into a team of 60+ with a leading product with over 1.4 million users in the African blockchain space.
We are the best bet of all as the fastest and safest way to buy, sell, store and accept cryptocurrency. We know that our users want more than just a trading platform, we know that our clients want to build businesses, expand their brands and gain financial freedom; this constantly inspires us to keep improving our services, while we strive to offer more flexible features of our platform… We build with the best technology out there because we make it a must to see that not only all your in-app activities are perfect, you can trust the safety of all your assets in our wallets.
BCN: Can non-Nigerians use or trade cryptocurrencies on your platform?
BE: Not at the moment, but we are working around the clock to make it possible for Roqqu to be used in other parts of the world.
BCN: It is said that Roqqu.com has 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 have chosen this path?
BE: It’s true, many of our users have asked us to make Roqqu available to their friends and family living and studying abroad. As you know many companies around the world do business directly with Africa and getting paid is a huge hassle in Africa what better way than to use the vehicle of cryptocurrency to help solve that fundamental problem that is why we have spent many months. working to make Roqqu globally accessible.
BCN: In February 2021, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) instructed banks to essentially cut crypto entities out of the banking system. How did this impact your operations and how did you overcome the challenges brought by this directive?
BE: CBN’s love and heartbreak letter in 2021 was a lot for the brand to handle as it had a major impact on the product and the crypto industry as a whole.
Let’s face it: Nigerians are very interested in cryptocurrencies. The country’s cryptocurrency trade has grown astronomically over the past few years. Nigeria is the largest cryptocurrency market in Africa, with the second-highest bitcoin trading volume globally, after the United States. According to data from QZ Africa, $400 million worth of cryptocurrency was exchanged in the nation last year. Additionally, Nigerians were the most likely to admit to using or owning cryptocurrency in a recent Statista Global Consumer Survey study of 74 countries.
However, to overcome the directives, we changed our operations by implementing the first P2P model on our platform to connect merchants directly in an effort to lessen the effects. P2P transactions often take place directly between the parties, without the use of intermediaries or third parties. Using this solution, we function as an escrow for these P2P transactions. It’s simple, easier and safer with Roqqu.
BCN: While CBN has generally discouraged the use of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, it has been trying to convince Nigerians to use their central bank digital currency (CBDC). However, the opposite seems to be true, Nigerians seem to prefer cryptocurrencies to e-naira. What do you think could be the reason for this?
BE: Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are borderless, making global trade easy and practicable, however CBDC comes with limitations so it makes sense that people would continue to gravitate towards the borderless option. I think another reason why people resist CBDC is that there hasn’t been an adoption drive, there hasn’t been a general awareness of why people should use CBDC, how to acquire it, how to store it, its use and everything. what worries you.
People can resist change, especially when they don’t see that change as necessary.
BCN: A Nigerian presidential hopeful reportedly praised fintechs while another has exalted the chain of blocks and the potential it has. What is your reaction to such positive comments about the technology from national leaders?
It’s great to see that they are opening up to the possibilities of blockchain and technology in general. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years in the industry, it’s that it’s much easier to prosper and succeed when the government is on your side.
If they turn this positive feedback into actual work to support the tech ecosystem, there is a 100% chance that growth will skyrocket. I’m sure of this because I think some existing policies that stifle the activities of tech companies would be reviewed to begin with and founders wouldn’t spend as much time trying to innovate around the policies. Instead, they would spend that time innovating to compete in global markets. There is so much we still have to do in the tech space and having a government that believes in the future of technology would be all the boost we need.
BCN: Does this in any way point to a possible change in Nigeria’s policy towards the crypto industry?
BE: We think so. It is obvious that they see all or at least a glimpse of what can be born of cryptocurrency and the blockchain industry in general, so it makes sense that they would improve existing policies or perhaps even create new ones that will encourage the growth and spread of cryptocurrency in the nation.
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