The last few years have seen strong crypto adoption among young sub-Saharans Africans, primarily driven by the bleak economic realities in many countries in the region.
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However, crypto development and adoption in Africa appears to be entering a new age, with a growing number of African governments seeking ways to integrate crypto into their respective economies.
In April, the TON Foundation announced that it was in conversation with three Central African countries to launch regionalized stablecoins. The Central African Republic also recently announced that it would make bitcoin a legal tender in the country.
MARA, a new pan-African crypto exchange, is looking to sit at the intersection of the emerging government- and retail-led crypto adoption in Africa. The company has announced the raise of $23 million in equity and token sale from investors including Coinbase Ventures, Alameda Research (FTX), Distributed Global, TQ Ventures, DIGITAL, Nexo, Huobi Ventures, Day One Ventures, Infinite Capital, DAO Jones and about 100 other crypto investors.
MARA plans to launch a suite of products, including a custodial retail crypto wallet, a pro-exchange for professional traders and a layer-one blockchain that aims to become the go-to network for developers to build Africa-focused crypto and blockchain products.
The retail app will launch in July, with the exchange coming after that, the company said. The MARA chain is scheduled to go live in the fourth quarter. Also, the startup will first launch in Kenya and Nigeria before expanding to other African countries.
The company also announced that it is working with the CAR in its bid to make bitcoin a legal tender.
“We’re coming in to advise them [CAR] on crypto adoption. There’re core things that need to be done in the country, as it would be in many countries in Africa, it’s to bring widespread crypto adoption,” he said. “We’re recommending a national ID drive so that they can [perform] KYC/AML on folks before they get into Web 3. [They need to] increase internet penetration as well so that people would be able to access crypto and the global crypto economy.”
Before starting MARA, Nnadi had built a non-profit called Sustainability International. Building on his parents’ work as environmental engineers dedicated to bringing environmental sustainability to the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, Chi Nnadi sort to use the blockchain technology to incentivize a community-driven clean-up of oil spillages financially.
His non-profit built a smart contract in partnership with ConsenSys that used a combination of a computer vision algorithm that analyzes satellite imagery and pictures taken by local farmers to tell when a pond being cleaned has changed color and gotten cleaner. Upon confirmation of successful clean-up, the smart contract then pays participants in Stelar Lumens.
The smart contract project aimed to solve the problem of accountability and transparency that saw the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the region yield little results in terms of actual oil clean-ups.