The Nigerian government has held a preliminary meeting with crypto exchange Binance to potentially establish a special economic zone aimed at supporting crypto and blockchain-related businesses.
According to a Friday post from the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), the authority has held preliminary talks with Binance and technology infrastructure company Talent City to discuss the proposed digital city, referred to as a “Virtual Free Zone.”
NEPZA managing director Adesoji Adesugba said the proposed zone will be a first in West Africa and act similar to Dubai’s virtual zones, which are designed to provide crypto-friendly laws, regulations and tax incentives for crypto businesses.
Speaking to Cointelegraph, a Binance spokeperson said the motive behind the plan was to drive long-term economic growth through digital innovation:
“As we continue to support blockchain adoption across the African continent, Binance is keen to collaborate with The Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority to establish a virtual free zone with the aim of generating long-term economic growth through digital innovation."
"We look forward to sharing key details when plans have been finalized”, the Binance spokesperson added.
Nigeria has one of the highest rates of cryptocurrency adoption worldwide, with over 22 million crypto owners, according to Triple A.
Adesugba said the zone would help develop Nigeria’s digital economy and “widen employment opportunities” for Nigerian citizens, stating:
“Our goal is to engender a flourishing virtual free zone to take advantage of a near trillion dollar virtual economy in blockchains and digital economy.”
The early-stage plans were discussed on Friday during a meeting between Adesugba, Binance executive director Nadeem Ladki, Talent City CEO Luqman Edu and NEPZA director Sikiru Lawal in Dubai.
Adesugba added that the move would be part of Nigeria’s economic development agenda, with the vision to further drive crypto adoption in the West African region.
“We seek to break new grounds to widen economic opportunities for our citizens in line with the mandate of the Authority, the directive of the Honorable Minister and the economic development agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari,” he said.
Related: Safe Space: A Guide to Special Economic Zones for Crypto, From China to Switzerland
Fueled by an inadequate financial system and unstable government policies and inflation, crypto adoption across Africa has continued to rise over the last few years.
A recent CoinGecko survey found Nigerian residents to be the most crypto-obsessed nation, having searched the terms “cryptocurrency” and “buy crypto” more than any of the other 14 countries surveyed.
Nigeria also launched eNaira in Oct. 2021 — the nation’s first central bank digital currency (CBDC) — which is currently in its second phase and is aimed to drive financial inclusion by onboarding the unbanked citizens of Nigeria.
Cointelegraph has reached out to Binance for more details about the discussions but did not receive an immediate reply.