UAE, Saudi not in top global crypto cities: Who is and why?

August 3, 2018 10:00 am


Saudi and the UAE may one day become leading countries in the adoption of crypto currencies for purchases, but today they are not.

Despite embracing blockchain, buying using cryptos like Bitcoin (BTC) is still far from being adopted by these GCC countries, compared to some of their US, European and even Asian counterparts.

Which countries made the top 10?

Forbes reports that as BTC, and other currencies like Ethereum or Litecoin, begin to take off some parts of the world are embracing crypto more than others.

Prague, the Czech Republic boasts the most Bitcoin-accepting vendors in the world followed by Buenos Aires in Argentina, and third on the list of best bitcoin cities was San Francisco with over 100 BTC-accepting businesses.

Rounding out the top five was Madrid, Spain and New York City, the United States. Amsterdam, the Netherlands claimed the sixth spot, while Bogotá, Colombia trailed at number seven. Vancouver, Canada came in eighth, followed by London, the United Kingdom and then Paris, France.

“Regions like the Middle East, Africa, and Asia were noticeably absent from the top ten,” said Forbes.

Read: Cryptos get their own TV show, starring Blockchain & Bitcoin

The Rise of Crypto Business Hubs

International business hubs like Switzerland and Singapore have opened their arms to crypto, but where the local government is unsupportive, it follows that there are fewer BTC-vendors.

China which initially embraced cryptocurrency later launched an all-out war on currency exchanges.

“Gulf countries like the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia have been hesitant about adopting crypto and are noticeably absent from the world map,” said Forbes.

Read: Iran goes crypto to evade US sanctions despite $5.77m Bitcoin bust

Inflation beater and tool for unbanked

One of the most interesting trends in international Bitcoin use is how the currency is used globally to shore up inflation. Citizens in countries like Argentina, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe are adopting Bitcoin as the currency offers more protection against inflation then fiat.

Ethereumworldnews said unconfirmed statistics show that Venezuela accounts for 8% of global Bitcoin transactions, despite the country not close to accounting for 8% of the worldwide population.

“This is a testament to BTC’s efficacy as an alternative to fiat currency. With the Bolivar becoming increasingly devalued, Venezuelans are turning to BTC,” said Ethereumworldnews.

In 2017, the World Bank announced that there were two billion unbanked people in the world.

“BTC offers disenfranchised people access to financial services, opening new vistas of opportunities for them,” said Forbes.

Read: Cryptocurrency buyers: You are at risk

BTC transactions down

The volume of Bitcoin (BTC) used in commerce has declined significantly over the course of the last year, Bloomberg reports Aug. 1, reports the Cointelegraph.

Citing market research firm Chainalysis, Bloomberg reported that the volume of Bitcoin received by the largest 17 crypto merchant-processing services hit a low of $60 million in May 2018, after reaching a peak of $411 million in September 2017.

“The use of Bitcoin for payments has declined in tandem with its price, which peaked at almost $20,000 in December 2017 before its subsequent drop of over 50%,” said the Cointelegraph.

While the amount received by services such as BitPay, Coinify, and GoCoin saw a slight rebound to $69 million in June, it bears a stark contrast to the $270 million received exactly a year before.

BTC fell 4.22% on Thursday, trading at $7,602, down $160 in a 24-hour period.

Ethereum lost 2.615 to trade at $425.75, while Litecoin fell 0.81% to trade for $78.

Read: Bitcoin prices sliding, miners stop mining: Is this crypto at a dead end?

Full crypto cities

Brink, an industry site, brings us the news that coming soon to Slovenia is a brand new city that runs completely on cryptocurrency.

“BTC City will rise from the ashes of a former commercial shopping district in the country’s capital of Ljubljana, offering wallet-less shoppers and wide-eyed tech enthusiasts a chance to engage in a more modern brand of conspicuous consumption,” said Brink.

“Every store in the 1.5 million-square-foot plot will stop accepting cash and start accepting crypto.”

The list of cities experimenting with cryptocurrencies is diverse, and so are their goals.

“Dubai launched emCash in 2017 to flex its high-tech prowess as a smart city. Berkeley, California, is exploring a city-branded cryptocurrency effort to fund municipal bonds, making up for inadequate outside investment. Cities in Venezuela are bartering with Petros in a desperate—and questionable—attempt to raise funds amid the country’s economic crisis. And Seoul’s mayor has floated the idea of creating S-coins to fund social welfare programs for the sake of efficiency and advancing technology,” said Brink.

Survey: 78% of investors see crypto market gaining 30% in value in 3 years

Why Go Crypto?

The first thing to understand is that there’s a major distinction between government-backed cryptocurrency and things like Bitcoin or Ripple.

Cryptos are determined by how much people are willing to pay for them while when a city launches its own cryptocurrency, the digital tokens are likely backed by some sort of city asset, and are aimed at opening up more avenues for citizens to invest in their cities and buy goods.

Any commodity, asset or charitable contribution can be tokenized allowing any financial size entry for banked or unbanked alike.

Brink said Fouad Khan, an associate editor at Springer Nature, imagines in his vision of an “NYCToken.” Each digital token could be worth the market value of 1 sqcm of New York real estate. At a current cost per square foot of around $1,500, that’s about $1.60 per token.

“Dubai’s emCash is a different animal altogether. The city’s goal is to transition into a cashless society, giving residents the ability to buy goods with emCash just as easily as they’d use cash or, say, Apple Pay.”

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Hadi Khatib
By Hadi Khatib
Hadi Khatib is a business editor with more than 15 years' experience delivering news and copy of relevance to a wide range of audiences. If newsworthy and actionable, you will find this editor interested in hearing about your sector developments and writing about it.



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