Bitcoin in Emerging Markets: The Middle East


It is a truth universally acknowledged by pundits on Crypto Twitter that emerging markets are more likely to see revolutionary bitcoin usage, at least in the near future, than Silicon Valley. However, the term “emerging markets” encompasses most of the planet, excluding a handful of wealthy nations. For instance, even if fiat-denominated volumes are dwarfed by Asian whales or U.S. institutions, scrappy crypto traders in Turkey have a disproportionate impact on the global bitcoin economy. Register: Leigh Cuen Hosts “Crypto Across Emerging Markets” on May 11 at Consensus: Distributed Generally speaking, regions with weak states and educated diasporas see more grassroots adoption. For example, Lebanese entrepreneur Michel Haber said most of the 26 remote workers involved with his web services startup, cNepho Global, now prefer bitcoin paychecks. Haber has already been paying some developers this way – with bitcoin from Beirut's grassroots trading networks – for two years. Now that most workers would rather receive bitcoin, he encourages colleagues to get mobile wallets. This is no longer a fringe outlook. The Arab Weekly ran a column in April about how the collapsed banking system is destabilizing Lebanon. Protests surrounded the central bank in April, and protests around bank branches even turned deadly. The situation continues to simmer. “The peer-to-peer bitcoin market is very robust because the Lebanese banking system has failed and people have more cash than the banks do,” Haber said. “Because of coronavirus, you can't really wait at the bank anymore. … They're not sure the Lebanese bank will actually give them the money.” This doesn’t mean bitcoin will easily replace local currencies, however. As witnessed in Iran, once home to a thriving bitcoin mining industry and retail usage, authorities curtailed usability once mainstream adoption grew. Around the world, from the Middle East to Washington, D.C., Beltway, blockchain is proving its value. In the Middle East, citizens hampered by weak governments, unstable currencies and fraught political environments are turning to crypto to store their wealth and transact on a daily basis. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate is considering blockchain voting as a way to legislate through the COVID-19 crisis.