Emmanuel Babalola is a pioneer in the African blockchain landscape. He has been playing a major role in the growth of crypto adoption on the continent for years. Babz, as he is fondly called, is the erstwhile Director of Binance in Africa and the current CEO of Bundle – an Africa-focused social payments app for cash and crypto. Technext spoke to him and he shares his experience in the cryptoverse.
According to him, the first time he heard about crypto was in 2016 through an MLM program. The ‘money of the internet and future of finance’ concept caught his interest and aligned with his life goal of improving the African experience through technology.
“In 2017, I quit my job and entered into crypto fully. I attended and organised almost 300 events in the years that came after which also led to us setting up SIBAN; Nigeria’s Blockchain Association. I joined Binance to further this effort and I am currently transitioning into Bundle as its CEO to continue pushing this goal.”
Bundle for Africa
Bundle is built in a way that a layman can navigate without issues. They also have a Telegram Community where experts help traders get accustomed to the app and cryptocurrency generally.
“At the end of every week, we run a newbie walkthrough for our new users, to ease their journey through crypto by running them through the essentials that they need to know as a crypto trader.”
One of the challenges faced by Emmanuel Babalola in the crypto world is the notion some people have about crypto. Many Africans lack appropriate information so they conclude cryptocurrency is a scam. However, he helps to change that narrative by pushing crypto education through different platforms.
“For the crypto ban, we have been able to solve this through p2p, while with regulations we are engaging with them and seeing ways that we can comply.”
Crypto in Nigeria and Africa
Babz believes despite the hurdles, cryptocurrency has fared well in Nigeria. Nigeria is one of the fastest growing crypto ecosystems in the world. According to Triple A, at least 6.3% of Nigerians own cryptocurrency. Another report from Binance last year ranked Nigeria as the country with the highest crypto adoption on the planet.
Emmanuel Babalola is of the opinion that Africa has the most profound use cases for crypto. Some of them being a hedge against devaluation, remittance or cross border payments.
“Popular hotel called George residence in 2021 converted 50% of its balance sheet to BTC and now receives payment in BTC. BBC has also reported that an estimate carried out in 2020 ranked Nigeria with the 3rd highest trading volume in cryptocurrency after Russia and America.”
Babz believes there is nothing wrong with regulation ‘as long as it protects the rights of the users’.
During his tenure as the Director of Binance in Africa, he released a document titled 10 rights of a crypto trader.
His standpoint is that crypto as a new innovation gaining momentum is expected to face some resistance. He also believes innovation cannot exist without regulation, however the regulation should not stifle innovation and progress.
“Many crypto stakeholders, including Binance and Bundle, were self-regulating through KYC/AML policies when there was little clarity from regulators. Now, as regulators have shown an interest in the space, I believe regulatory collaboration with key stakeholders in the blockchain ecosystem is essential. Together we can find the optimal way to set a fair playing field as consumer protection is important to all of us.”
He adds that “Blockchain and Cryptocurrency are only going to enhance our economies and bring Africa to the global stage, we must ensure that we are not left behind in this new industrial revolution as we have always been in the past.”
Blocking of Crypto accounts
In January 2022, Binance – the largest crypto exchange in the world restricted 281 Nigerian accounts without explanation. The development resulted in an outrage on social media platforms, especially Twitter.
Nigerian users that lost access to their accounts and funds used hashtags such as #BinanceStopScamming, and #BinanceStealingCrypto and called for a boycott of the exchange, with many expressing frustration for allegedly failing to get customer care support from Binance.
“On this, I can’t really say why these accounts are being banned. However, I would believe that most major exchanges prioritise user protection. They are starting to prioritise KYC and AML processes to ensure that users are who they say they are and also to prevent fraud.”
Going forward, 2022 is a big year for Emmanuel Babalola and Bundle as they gear towards their 2nd anniversary. They continue to build and take into account the evolution of Web3.
“We are also looking at the pain points of crypto enthusiasts in Africa and emerging countries and we are trying to ensure we embody our mission of making crypto accessible in Africa. We are embracing Social Finance and seeing how we can embody this to enable crypto adoption. If you follow up on our social media, you would notice we are teasing for #ABundleforX, I don’t want to reveal too much, but you should stay tuned.
Do not forget to keep tabs on Babz and Bundle!
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