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Crypto firms ignore Africa at their peril as continent set for major adoption

Even though the digital asset market seems to be witnessing a bit of a lull at the moment, the adoption of crypto-centric tech has continued to move forward with a full head of steam globally. Africa, in particular, is a continent where a growing list of mainstream financial entities have continued to make their presence felt, as they have begun to realize that the economic opportunities presented by the region are immense.To put things into perspective, a recent report released by Singapore-based crypto data provider Triple A shows that the North African country of Morocco currently boasts one of the largest crypto populations in the region at nearly 2.5%. The kingdom currently leading many prominent countries in terms of daily Bitcoin (BTC) trades, trailing only behind Saudi Arabia across the entirety of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, an impressive feat, to say the least.What’s even more interesting is that Morocco’s existing legislative framework is largely anti-crypto, with the country’s Foreign Exchange Office giving no indication of softening its stance anytime in the near future. Despite these stringent regulations, people across the region have continued to find means such as peer-to-peer (P2P) and over-the-counter trading through which to make inroads into this rapidly-evolving ecosystem.Crypto firms entering Africa at unprecedented rateEmmanuel Babalola, the Africa director for cryptocurrency exchange Binance, told Cointelegraph that with each passing month, the number of cross-collaborations taking place between local blockchain/crypto firms and various mainstream entities has continued to grow. Babalola said that most forward-looking tech companies are vying to gain exposure within the region, all while trying to help people across the continent embrace and realize the true utility of blockchain. He further pointed out that Binance has recently partnered with the Confederation of African Football (AFCON) to sponsor the TotalEnergies African Cup of Nations tournament, a move which he sees as a small step toward a grander scheme, adding:“The AFCON sponsorship was a very exciting one. Football is the most popular sport in Africa, one that unites the entire continent and so, sponsoring the biggest football tournament in Africa was honestly a no-brainer. It corroborates our mission to take crypto mainstream across the continent.”Staying in line with his company’s ideal of widespread crypto adoption across the African landscape, he also pointed out that Binance recently collaborated with some of the stars participating in this year’s iteration of Big Brother Naija (Nigeria) — the biggest reality show on the continent — to help bring crypto education to a wider mainstream audience. “We are [even] sponsoring Nigerian Idol — the Nigerian version of a popular singing contest,” he added.Lastly, Babalola noted that in recent months, many unprecedented happenings have taken place across the global crypto ecosystem such as countries like El Salvador adopting Bitcoin as legal tender — something he believes was totally unfathomable just a few years ago — and thus it would not be surprising to see African nations follow suit:“I think this is only the beginning of things to come. In general, as institutional interest in cryptocurrencies continues to rise, more mainstream entities making their way into the region is inevitable.”Crypto can help redefine business across AfricaWhen asked about the continued growth of crypto across Africa, especially within the northern part of the continent, Adedayo Adebajo, Africa director for Jelurida, a blockchain software company that develops and maintains the Nxt and Ardor blockchains, told Cointelegraph that a vast majority of African countries like to consider themselves as one bloc, rather than being divided into regional categories.In this regard, he noted that one aspect that has united most people living in Africa is their lack of tangible business opportunities, as well as a clear lack of access to high-quality banking alternatives that they can use to send and receive funds from across the globe. Adebajo added:“African nations believed they were left out of the first three industrial revolutions. The 4IR (fourth industrial revolution) technology including blockchain and cryptocurrency has, for the first time in history, provided them with an opportunity to participate in making history. Most governments in the continent are now open to capacity building and localizing solution developments, among others. To do so, their doors remain wide open to foreign offers that will get them closer to their aim.”When asked about the challenges that may arise as a result of most nations in the continent (especially those located across North Africa) adhering to an Islamic way of life, Adebajo noted that the key issue preventing crypto-based banking services from reaching the masses is not religion but a clear lack of understanding of what the technology brings to the table. “As Muslims, we have learned from quotable religious scholars that we are not excluded from using crypto or participating in its offerings, although this stance may perhaps remain debatable,” he added.Related: Indonesia’s national Islamic council reportedly declares Bitcoin haramBlockchain-based banking solutionAfrica’s vast geographic size compounded by the presence of many small economies across the continent has led to many nations struggling with systematic infrastructure development, especially when it comes to financial services, something that has resulted in 57% of the continent’s population remaining unbanked. RJ Katunda, co-founder of African project World Mobile, a Cardano-based mobile network, told Cointelegraph that over the years, Africans have gradually become accustomed to using innovative payment systems such as Kenya’s M-Pesa.However, he pointed out that there are now newer blockchain-based alternatives beginning to emerge, setting the context for crypto and digital currencies that offer a more convenient and direct P2P channel for remittance payments, international commerce and savings. He added:“With many economies growing rapidly, crypto and blockchain-based projects will continue to enter Africa, where their proposition is relevant and where they can form partnerships with local entities. While many individuals use cryptocurrency in Africa, legislation in many countries lags. As in other jurisdictions, cryptocurrencies don’t fit within current regulatory frameworks.”In essence, Katunda believes that the core issue preventing widespread adoption of crypto-tech (especially from a financial standpoint) across the region is a lack of perceived central control from many governments, which creates difficulties for authorities to oversee and mitigate bad practices. “However, many governments have announced that they are working on regulatory frameworks to emerge in the near future,” he closed out by saying.Africa cannot be ignored any longerAkin Jones, a partner at Gluwa Capital, an Africa-based investment fund focused exclusively on fintech lenders using blockchain technology, told Cointelegraph that Africa’s growing population and adoption of cryptocurrency mean that companies ignoring the continent are either not serious about the technology in the long term or have failed to realize the massive financial proposition currently in front of them.In Jones’ view, Bitcoin could very well become legal tender across many African nations since most of these countries already find it quite hard to trade with each other because of constant currency fluctuations. Talking about North Africa in particular, he further opined that since the region serves as a bridge between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, it would make a lot of sense for fintech firms to consider making inroads there, adding:“Identity management, land ownership and insurance are three key areas that could be improved on across North Africa which could help change the perception in the region. CBDCs [central bank digital currencies] could also help ease the acceptance of cryptocurrency in this regard.”Thus, it will be interesting to see how things shape out for the continent from here on out, especially since many of the nations within the region are known to suffer from an extremely high level of red tape. With many governments fast realizing the potential that crypto and blockchain possess, however, it would not be surprising to see countries making way for more foreign investment from established firms operating within this rapidly maturing sector.

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Reuters: Binance was withholding information from regulators, repeatedly shunned own compliance department

In a report published on Friday, Reuters laid out the findings of its investigation into the regulatory compliance practices of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume.The authors suggest the existence of a recurring pattern whereby the company’s CEO Changpeng Zhao, while proclaiming its openness to government oversight, ran an organization that systematically denied regulators’ requests for financial and corporate structure information and shirked proper client background checks.The reported findings are based on the accounts of Binance’s former senior employees and advisers, as well as the review of documents such as internal correspondence and confidential messages between several national regulators and the company. According to the document, several high-ranking employees have repeatedly raised concerns of weak Know Your Customer/Anti-Money Laundering (KYC/AML) standards at the company but were ignored by the CEO.Additionally, the company reportedly acted against the recommendations of its own compliance department when it continued onboarding new customers from seven countries designated to be of extreme money-laundering risk.The big-picture takeaway that the authors of the report offered is that the described pattern of behavior allowed Binance to maintain ambiguous jurisdictional affiliation and opaque corporate structure while offering financial products that would normally require regulatory approval or licensing in many of its countries of operation.In response to Reuters’ inquiry, the company spokesperson said that the report’s findings were based on outdated or outright incorrect information. Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao later commented via Twitter saying:FUD. Journalists talking to people who were let go from Binance and partners that didn’t work out trying to smear us. We are focused on anti-money laundering, transparent and welcome regulation. Action speaks louder than words. Thank you for your unwavering support! — CZ Binance (@cz_binance) January 21, 2022As Cointelegraph reported, despite ongoing investigations into suspicious activity on its platform in several jurisdictions, Binance continues expanding into new markets, with the most recent move tied to a possible deployment in Thailand.

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Binance US officially launches trading services in Connecticut

United States cryptocurrency exchange Binance US, which operates separately from the global Binance platform, has officially opened its trading services to residents of Connecticut. Beginning Jan. 20, Connecticut residents can register to buy, sell and trade digital assets such as Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH) on the Binance US platform, the company announced Thursday. Residents will also have access to the Binance US mobile app on Android and Apple devices. Binance US launched in 2019 to provide regulated crypto trading services to residents of the United States. Currently, the trading platform is approved to operate in 44 U.S. states and intends to secure approvals across all 50 states and territories. Binance US CEO Brian Shroder said his firm’s expansion reflects the growing demand for digital assets in the country. A new survey of Americans conducted by crypto platform Voyager Digital seems to corroborate that view. According to the survey, nearly two-thirds, or 61%, of Americans may purchase digital assets this year. Fifty percent of the survey participants said they would invest more in cryptocurrencies if they understood the asset class better. Related: Crypto mainstream adoption: Is it here already? Experts answer, Part 3Meanwhile, separate data from Arcane Research shows that the United States is dominating the Bitcoin trading arena. So far this year, U.S. trading hours account for 43% of Bitcoin’s average 24-hour trading volumes.Binance US wants to go public on the US stock market. Amid a myriad of regulatory concerns across the globe, is this a good idea for the brand? https://t.co/sREkorqjUh— Cointelegraph (@Cointelegraph) July 25, 2021As Cointelegraph reported, Binance US is eyeing a “mega funding” deal through an initial public offering. Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao expressed confidence in the U.S. firm’s ability to raise the funds even after investors reportedly backed out a similar initiative last summer over regulatory concerns.

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Ad restrictions won’t impact crypto demand, Binance CEO says

Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, also known as “CZ,” claimed that the growing restrictions on crypto advertisement won’t impact the demand.During his interview with CNBC, CZ stressed that physical crypto advertisements and crypto ads, in general, have not had much impact on user growth, and it has only become common over the past few years. He said that the majority of crypto adoption comes from “word of mouth” marketing. Clampdown on crypto advertising is unlikely to have much of an effect on demand, says @binance CEO Changpeng Zhao pic.twitter.com/K5EtuWyxGz— CNBC International (@CNBCi) January 20, 2022He also added that primary advertising services such as Google and Facebook had not allowed crypto ads for the longest time. Thus, it’s clear advertisement doesn’t play a significant role in crypto adoption or demand. He went on to add that the series of regulatory clampdowns on crypto ads only shows the growing demand. CZ said:“Clampdown on crypto advertising is unlikely to have much of an effect on demand, as most of the crypto users come from word-of-mouth promotions anyway.”The CEO’s comments come amid the growing restrictions and slew of actions taken by various countries over the past few weeks. Singapore recently issued new guidelines for crypto companies, prohibiting crypto advertising in public spaces. The Monetary Authority of Singapore also barred crypto service providers from opening crypto ATMs. Following this ruling, several crypto ATMs in the country have shut down.United Kingdom advertisement watchdog Advertising Standards Authority also continued its crackdown on misleading crypto advertisements as it banned two ads from popular crypto trading platform Crypto.com. The Spanish government, on the other hand, is also looking to bring new regulations for crypto advertisements.Related: UK advertiser ASA continues crypto ad banning spreeRegulators have shared their concern over the misleading content of crypto advertisements, where most crypto firms are accused of highlighting big returns while downplaying the risks associated with crypto investments. Another major obstacle is the lack of clarity over the crypto regulations in the majority of the countries, which makes crypto advertisements an even bigger headache for regulators.

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NCFTA onboards crypto exchange Binance to fight against cybercrime

The National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance (NCFTA), an American non-profit, onboarded its first crypto firm Binance to aid their ongoing battle against cybercrimes. Founded in 2002, the NCFTA partners with law enforcement and various business and academic entities to source threat intelligence to identify and mitigate cybercrime threats. By partnering with Binance, the world’s biggest crypto exchange in terms of trading volume, the NCFTA aims to tackle international cybersecurity investigations. According to Binance’s VP of Global Intelligence and Investigations, Tigran Gambaryan, the exchange aims to be the leading contributor in the fight against cybercrime, ransomware, and terrorism financing:“Joining the NCFTA is an important step in our joint fight against cybercrime, securing the cryptocurrency ecosystem for the entire community.”Through this partnership, Binance will gain access to NCFTA’s dedicated team of analysts along with trends related to emerging and real-time threats. The crypto exchange has also set up an in-house team to tackle blockchain and cryptocurrency fraud, namely the Binance Investigations Group. According to the press release:“To date, Binance has cooperated with hundreds of criminal investigations, which have led to high-profile arrests, including a cybercriminal group laundering $500M in ransomware proceeds.”Gambaryan also believes that securing the crypto ecosystem against cyber threats requires strong cooperation between law enforcement, government agencies and players within the ecosystem.Related: Pakistan to investigate Binance for multi-million dollar crypto scamOn Jan. 9, Pakistan‘s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) issued a formal notice to Binance to identify links around a multi-million crypto scam in the region.KARACHI: Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has detected an online fraud of Rs100 billion using a cryptocurrency and issued notice to the local representative of Binance, @cz_binance @binance @BinanceHelpDesk @BinanceUS pic.twitter.com/3oukwzmDqh— Innocent Pashteen✌ (@FighterDawar) January 7, 2022As Cointelegraph reported, the Pakistani government received numerous complaints against an ongoing scam that involved misleading investors into sending funds from Binance wallets to unknown third-party wallets — sparking a criminal investigation. Speaking to Cointelegraph, a Binance spokesperson confirmed the exchange’s intent to cooperate with the local authorities:“User protection is a top priority for us at Binance. Our law enforcement team also works closely with agencies and governments around the world to help educate teams on tackling financial crimes.”

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Binance eyes Thailand for latest crypto exchange expansion

Binance is looking to re-establish crypto exchange services and possibly open a new branch in Thailand after signing an agreement with Gulf Energy Development PCL.Gulf Energy Development PCL is a Thai holding company run by billionaire Sarath Ratanavadi that focuses on the energy sector.Gulf Energy reportedly made the agreement with the world’s largest crypto exchange based on the strong assumption that Thailand’s digital economy infrastructure will see “rapid growth” in the next few years. The cooperative efforts between Gulf Energy, Binance, and the Thai government will be focused on exploring Binance’s options in the Thai market, which may include opening an exchange and related businesses in the Kingdom. A spokesperson for Binance told Reuters on Jan. 17, “Our goal is to work with government, regulators and innovative companies to develop the crypto and blockchain ecosystem in Thailand.”The Thai digital economy is poised to see greater regulatory clarity for digital asset traders. The director-general for the Thai government’s Revenue Department made regulatory transparency a top priority this month after announcing a planned 15% capital gains tax on crypto trades on Jan. 6.On Jan. 9, the Thai Digital Asset Association requested clarification on the specifics of the tax based on concerns from domestic traders that they may unintentionally violate the tax code.Despite the positive developments, Thailand’s central bank has repeatedly issued warnings to commercial banks and local businesses over accepting cryptocurrencies as payments.Related: Former Thai SEC chief lays out three critical issues with crypto taxationsBinance was on the receiving end of a criminal complaint from the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in July 2021. The complaint accused Binance of operating a digital asset business without a license and opened an investigation against the exchange. The SEC stated that Binance ignored warnings from as far back as April 2021, and had wrongfully granted Thai citizens access to crypto trading on its website by “matching orders or arranging for the counterparties or providing the system or facilitating entry into an agreement.”

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