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What Binance’s Exit From Nigeria Means for P2P Bitcoin

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What Binance’s Exit From Nigeria Means for P2P Bitcoin

Some Nigerians were shocked when crypto exchange Binance announced they would discontinue all services in Nigeria by March 8. Despite facing scrutiny from regulators before the announcement, many people still asked how the biggest exchange in crypto could just disappear from the world’s fastest growing market for bitcoin adoption. I wasn’t shocked because I’ve been predicting this for years. Entrepreneurs in the Global South are under attack and the frontline is a currency war being played out right before our eyes.

This feature is part of CoinDesk’s “Future of Bitcoin” package published to coincide with the 4th Bitcoin “halving” in April 2024. Ray Youssef CEO of NoOnes.

I founded NoOnes, a peer-to-peer bitcoin trading platform based in the Global South, because I foresaw the problems facing the crypto industry. Three years ago, I saw this day coming. I knew it was coming because I was the CEO of a Bitcoin company based in the United States, and I saw the financial apartheid and all the regulatory problems up close. American regulators hold Africans in such low regard they make rules to suit Westerners and don’t care too much about anyone else. I knew it would be more and more difficult to serve Africans and the rest of the Global South if my company was based in the U.S.

My only option was to turn my back on my previous business, which I had built into a Bitcoin P2P platform with over 10 million users. The problems I saw back then are exploding right now, but blaming governments alone is not the path forward. We must understand the pressures our leaders are under because only when we do that can we come to the table with them to forge a new path ahead. Right now, all we have is a bunch of people cursing each other and that is not the way forward.

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This war is about the financial system and the power to control the levers that decide whose money is good and whose money is bad. Entrepreneurs in the Global South are trapped in their own markets, so that even making payments or doing business with countries next door is difficult. For the average African entrepreneur to scale any business by expanding outside the African continent, it is basically impossible. And now that Binance has left Nigeria, some businesses based here are wondering what’s next.

To be able to truly unlock the potential for Global South entrepreneurs to create value, we have to nurture them and create an environment that allows them to flourish. That’s only possible if we do what I’ve been advocating for years: ensure there is free trade by having a free-flowing money system. Making it happen is not going to be easy.

Binance was forced to leave Nigeria, and I’m sure it will happen to other crypto companies in other countries. It’s almost impossible to run a crypto business or a bitcoin marketplace serving Africa from another continent because you have to be on the ground to see the problems and find the solutions. I knew we couldn’t achieve our mission to help the unbanked if we didn’t have boots on the ground in the Global South, and that’s why we based NoOnes here right from the start.

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I’m not some mad guy who gave eight years of my life to a company and then left on a whim. I know Nigeria and I know the Global South because my businesses have been active here for years. We live and work here now, and we listen to what people on the ground tell us. We hired local employees to handle moderation for Africans, for example, and that’s partly what “boots on the ground” means.

We are not looking at Africa — or any of the Global South where we operate — as a quick win. It’s about establishing long-term collaboration based on respect and equity. I’ve met thousands of tech-savvy Nigerian entrepreneurs and I know there is a reason for the high-level of bitcoin adoption here. For too long they have been stunted by an unfair global financial system, by financial apartheid that creates money prisons and stifles economic growth.

Bitcoin gives those entrepreneurs the opportunity to show what they can do when markets are free and money is allowed to flow. All they need to grow is a level playing field. They just need a shot, a path towards success, a window of opportunity. Our next step is to make it easier for other entrepreneurs to take their business to the next level. Despite the withdrawal of Binance Nigeria, tons of opportunities remain. The battles we have to fight might be tough, but the opportunities on the fastest growing continent on the planet are worth it.

See also: Lorraine Marcel: Bringing Bitcoin to African Women