On the international scene, Bitcoin is set to make great strides – but keeping up with all of the developments worldwide can be a tricky business. Here is a round-up of what is going on with Bitcoin worldwide:
As per our article yesterday on Bitcoin influencing the currency exchange scene in Argentina, several other countries are embracing the digital currency as a means of tackling their economic problems, both long and short term.
As Motherboard reports, certain developing economies currently under severe pressure not only appear much suited to widespread Bitcoin adoption, but are also displaying signs that this may be happening, albeit somewhat behind the scenes.
A notable example of particularly rapid advances in Bitcoin infrastructure is that of Kenya’s payment processing network. Data from the World Bank shows that 93% of Kenyans have a mobile phone, and this is a contributing factor to the ubiquity of mobile payments in the Kenyan market.
Out of a population of 44 million, there are currently around18 million users of the main processing company MPESA, compared with only 10 million bank account holders.
Bitcoin’s opportunity here lies in taking a share of the market from money transfer outfits, due to Kenya “being a hub of international remittances,” Motherboard reports. Due to the infiltration of mobile payments, companies like Kipochi and BitPesa are already allowing users to transfer BTC via MPesa’s network.
Inflation in India and Venezuela create opportunity
Likewise, India’s remittance culture makes it a logical candidate for widespread adoption of Bitcoin. BBC News reports that India topped the global list for remittance money destinations in 2012 with over US$70 billion entering the country from workers abroad.
And while mobile payment networks are not a specifically common feature of the Indian economic landscape, the recent weakening of the rupee will be causing many mid-range consumers to be seeking an alternative to money transfer companies in order to limit losses.
The rupee’s inflation rate is nothing to that of Venezuelan bolivar, however, which for 2013 was over 50% and created an urgent need for consumers to seek alternatives. The Venezuelan government even launched its own digital currency in 2010; intended for international trading with the country’s neighbours as an alternative to US dollar, the sucre was modestly successful with Ecuador exporting $737 million of goods to Venezuela in the first three quarters of last year.
However, for consumers, the development did not represent an alternative storage of value, which Bitcoin, despite recent volatility, is already offering elsewhere.
Ukraine conflict & luxury of choice
As a pertinent example for many in Europe, the role of digital currency in the aftermath of the Ukraine conflict cannot be underestimated.
Motherboard reports over $10,000 in BTC and other cryptocurrencies being donated in response to a developer’s cause to help fund the Maidan movement.
It is in the immediate future, however, that Bitcoin may well come into its own in the area, both Ukraine and Crimea. In February, Ukraine moved to regulate cryptocurrencies at a local level, but there can hardly be any doubt that regulation for the short term, while the country is destabilizing, will have less bite than otherwise planned.
“It is only cash or electronic money like Webmoney, Yandex Money, etc. [that people can use in Criema],” Michael Chobanian, the man behind the Kuna Bitcoin Agency, said in an interview with Cointelegraph, “These payment systems are centralized and controlled by Russian authorities hence they can be blocked at any time. Furthermore no Western companies accept them. So Bitcoin is the only solution.”