East Africa is set to welcome a new cryptocurrency exchange, backed by a slew of industry giants looking to tap into a continent full of potential users.
Coinbase Ventures, Alameda Research, Huobi Ventures and other prominent venture capital firms and angel investors contributed $23 million to the launch of MARA. The exchange will initially operate in Kenya and Nigeria, providing new users with a basic trading platform to acquire, trade and withdraw cryptocurrencies.
The platform will provide more experienced traders with a professional exchange with a wide range of trading options and technical analysis tools. Plans have been drawn up to develop the MARA Chain, a layer 1 blockchain that will allow developers to build decentralized applications in the future MARA ecosystem.
The MARA team also confirmed a partnership with the Central African Republic. This African country follows in the footsteps of pro-Bitcoin (bitcoin) country El Salvador Legalize Bitcoin as fiat currency April 2022. MARA will serve as the country’s official crypto partner and will advise the government on best practices, strategies and planning as it looks to adopt cryptocurrencies on a wider scale.
Cointelegraph spoke with MARA CEO and co-founder Chi Nnadi to find out about the exchange’s launch and the prospects Africa has to offer for the newly formed platform. After spending most of the past decade in Nigeria, Chi recently moved to Kenya before the basic idea for MARA took shape.
The status of Nigeria and Kenya as the continent’s cryptocurrency adoption hotspots was the driving factor behind MARA’s decision to launch its product in these two countries. according to For Chainalysis, Kenya leads the rest of the world peer to peer (P2P) transaction volume, while 35% of Nigerian adults Hold or trade Bitcoin.
While African countries continue to consider new cryptocurrency users, Nnadi acknowledged that there are still considerable hurdles on the way for sub-Saharan Africa’s young and tech-native population to make crypto a part of their daily lives:
“Many existing global exchanges cannot operate in the region due to regulatory challenges and the difficulty of reaching African consumers in a real way. These barriers to access greatly limit the number of people who can participate in the crypto economy and the potential uses of digital currencies in the region. “
Despite regulatory challenges and the nascent state of the cryptocurrency space, Nnadi believes the next generation of Africans will drive the digital transformation of the continent. Pointing out that Africa has the youngest population in the world, Nnadi said that more and more young people are building transformative structures and solutions to adapt new technologies to their societies:
“This puts Africa at a critical inflection point: younger generations are beginning to reach adulthood and be influential. This transition represents a unique opportunity to fully and rapidly transform the region into a new paradigm of digital ownership.”
As for MARA’s role as a crypto partner in the Central African Republic, Nnadi said the company will take on an advisory role as the country looks to embrace the crypto economy. This will include guidance on how to set up the necessary Know Your Customer (KYC) Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) infrastructure, including standardised personal identification documents, to ensure protection for the country and its five million citizen.