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Interview

Cassava Fintech new COO projects an 80% online usage for its company´s payment platform

A Nairametrics conversation with Femi Oshinlaja of Cassava Fintech.

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In 2020, payment companies raised the bar with bold innovations and products to help bridge financial inclusion and the bottlenecks in payment across developing countries. This is an indication that there are more potentials and opportunities in the space.

In this interview with Nairametrics, Femi Oshinlaja COO, Cassava Fintech, disclosed that the company is also open to embracing digital currencies as long as there’s a use case that benefits people and businesses across the continent.

READ: Accelerex Holdings secures $20m investment from ACA

Oshinlaja, who is formerly a member of Airtel Africa Group Limited where he oversaw the entire operations of Western Nigeria, also observed that traditional brick and mortar channels of sending money still remain as the dominant or preferred way of remitting money home. Excerpts:

What is Cassava Fintech and the services it provides in the market?

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Cassava is a diversified and integrated pan-African Fintech Group that partners mostly with Telcos, Banks and Merchants to enable digital financial services for Africa’s mobile consumers. Our Services include Mobile Money, Mobile Micro Insurance, Digital Banking, Remittances and Payments with a presence in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Burundi, Lesotho and UK and partnerships in other African countries.

We envision a socially and financially inclusive future that leaves no African behind.

READ: NNPC cultivates 2,675 hectares of cassava for Ethanol production

With financial inclusion in South Africa, and other countries in southern Africa skewed to high income earners, what role will you be playing in deepening financial inclusion among households in the lower income gap?

Strategically, we have made migrants our primary target market. Most are in the lower group, marginalised and excluded from the mainstream financial services market due to various factors such as documentation, accessibility and affordability. Cassava seeks to provide the migrants with financial use cases such as cross border and domestic remittances; digital wallets and mobile micro insurance services.

READ: How Crypto can curb Nigeria’s high unemployment rate

How well has Cassava Fintech fared with online money transfers – transaction volume and value?

The traditional brick and mortar channels of sending money still remains as the dominant or preferred way of remitting money home. This is undergirded by the confidence, trust and limited risk the customers associate with walk-in outlets to send money. Customer behaviour and habits take time to change and educating them on the value of the online channels is key.

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However, with the growth in smartphone penetration and greater pervasiveness of the internet we see the convergence of the online channels with more consumers opting to use digital channels to send money home as they see the convenience of doing so from the comfort of their homes and not having to queue to make the transaction in addition to the affordability of the online option.

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Cassava Fintech is amongst the few cross border money operators which has adopted a hybrid model or approach for sending money home, providing access via the walk-in channels as well as online via the mobile app. Some of our source markets e.g. UK and EU are 100% online and others like South Africa are still predominantly offline but with online growing significantly. We project as a business that in the next three to four years more than 80% of our money transfers will be done through online.

How do you intend to position Cassava Fintech in the Digital Banking industry considering the presence of competitors who are majorly startups and traditional banks?

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Cassava is primarily focused on providing solutions that solve customer needs as opposed to finding niche segments of the Fintech value chain to play in. Our integrated value proposition is focused on bringing financial inclusion to all and in the process redefining the concept of banking for all Africans. Our approach and position is one of co-opetition with our competitors and as the African proverb says, “if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together.” Consistent with our “integrated platform play”, we are bringing all the players together on one platform.

READ: African banks perfectly poised to benefit from chat commerce – Clickatell

There are other applications like Chippercash that provide similar services with Cassava Fintech, what stands Cassava Fintech out in terms of its unique value proposition to its end users?

While we have seen a plethora of Fintech companies in Africa launching various services in the past 1-2 years, most of these have positioned themselves within specific segments of the market, playing to their key strengths. So from a competition perspective, it is turning out to be a congested space, with most players focusing on their specific area of strength, for example, remittances, online payments, insurance, digital banking solutions, and so forth. While Cassava plays across most of these individual areas, what truly sets us apart is our integrated model, that has allowed us to uniquely combine all these services, and to deliver unified value propositions offering unparalleled customer value.

Share more about this and your long term plans as you drive the financial inclusion agenda?

You will be aware of our recently launched integrated social payments platform, branded Sasai, which is really the pivot of our strategy going forward. Through the Sasai super-app, we are able to offer users the ability to pay, chat and consume a diverse range of online services, all within a seamless digital environment.

What are the plans for Cassava Fintech to expand to other African countries aside Zimbabwe and South Africa?

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Firstly, l would like to point out that as we speak, we already have presence in at least 10 African markets. These include our key markets where we have a significant in-country presence, namely Zimbabwe, South Africa, Burundi, Lesotho and the UK, while in the rest we have maintained indirect presence through strategic partners. Going forward, we will maintain this hybrid-model, but placing a lot more emphasis on establishing direct presence in a number of key targeted markets. In this regard, our focus over the past year has been on building the necessary rails that would see us spread our tentacles across Africa. Over time, we plan to have significant presence in most of Africa’s largest and fast-growing markets, but more immediately, our focus is on markets such as Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia, Botswana, Rwanda and Uganda.

With cassava Fintech indicating strength and presence in vast segments or sectors of the digital economy such as Mobile money, social payments services, Digital Banking, international remittances, mobile micro insurance, social networking and digital media services, where do you see Sasai in five years, and what role do you see the company playing in the global digital economy?

Our view is that Sasai is Africa’s beacon of hope for creating true value designed by Africans for Africa. Our hope is to help facilitate payments and commerce for small to medium sized businesses, provide a platform for African content creators to tell African stories, and be the overall one stop shop for the ambitious African entrepreneur and business person looking to make impactful lasting change in their communities. Being a platform that facilitates financial liberation for all Africans is key to achieving this. However, we have been guided and informed by consumer insights which says that in the course of conducting business people feel the need to combine this with the social aspects of day to day life and this is an important aspect of Sasai.

Sasai has over 100k+ downloads on play store, and it’s number 24 on the rank of the top social networking app on apple store, how do you intend to add value to the Social Payment and the Chat aspects of Sasai leveraging your expertise and the uniqueness of the app which uses a peer to peer network?

 Despite the 100k downloads reflected on the app stores, we are cognizant of the fact that there remains an established phenomenon across Africa were, to avoid the cost associated with downloading Apps from the different app stores, users will prefer to use the APK files and these represent a significant number of customers on the App which are not recorded on the stores and therefore the actual app downloads and usage is significantly higher. Today Sasai has been downloaded in more than 180 unique countries, and is being used in more than 25 different languages on the app.

Sasai is more than a social networking app, the social elements were to address the needs of the attention economy and mine data to enable development of RIGHT products and merchants sell RIGHT services informed by big data, this also creates VAS such as customer profiling based on non-traditional financial data sources such as payments history and more flexible credit support.

With the demand for video conference service at all time high, and with the huge prospect for growth projected into the future, how do you intend to grow the user/customer base of Sasai teamtalk, given it was launched this year?

One of the biggest opportunity for Sasai TeamTalk (voice and video calling, including conferencing) in terms of growing the client base is based on building the enabling rails, digital and social inclusion is key, especially in Africa where data costs is average 8% of income (compared to developed countries under 2%), we are building these rails through Sasai Wi-Fi Finder (affordable and accessible) and believe this will make TeamTalk more attractive that competitors such as Zoom.

What other products and services are in the pipeline from Cassava Fintech from 2021 and beyond?

We will continue to leverage our main delivery channel, which is the Sasai social payments platform, to offer innovative, relevant and accessible digital solutions across Africa. To our customers, this means a bigger, better and feature-rich Sasai super-app, and they can look out for enhanced digital payments and financial use cases, e-commerce, remittances, and so forth, as well as integrated value-added services with a special mention of digital media. Furthermore, we are aware of the data requirements associated with digital apps nowadays, made worse by the high cost of mobile data in Africa. For this reason, we will continue to focus on our WiFi offerings (Sasai WiFi Finder), extending it to many new markets as a way of addressing these issues. We call this initiative the “Africa Missing Network”, which is a partnership between Cassava Fintech and Liquid Telecom, one of the largest providers of fixed broadband connectivity in Africa.

What role do you think cryptocurrency will play in transactional exchange in Africa – Is Cassava Fintech looking to adopt digital currencies?

Cassava is absolutely open to embracing digital currencies. As long as there’s a use case that benefits people and businesses across the continent, Cassava will be there. We have some exciting partnerships and we are working on this space and look forward to introducing these into our key markets in due course.

Abiola has spent about 14 years in journalism. His career has covered some top local print media like TELL Magazine, Broad Street Journal, The Point Newspaper.The Bloomberg MEI alumni has interviewed some of the most influential figures of the IMF, G-20 Summit, Pre-G20 Central Bank Governors and Finance Ministers, Critical Communication World Conference.The multiple award winner is variously trained in business and markets journalism at Lagos Business School, and Pan-Atlantic University. You may contact him via email - [email protected]

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Exclusives

China Harbour Engineering Company latest equity infusion into Lekki Port is $221million – CEO, Lekki Port

CEO, Lekki Port LFTZ, discusses how Lekki Port will create an immense macro and catalytic economic impact on Lagos State and Nigeria in general.

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China Harbour Engineering Company latest equity infusion into Lekki Port is $221million - CEO, Lekki Port

Contrary to allegations that lack of fund has been the major source of delay of the Lekki Deep Sea port project, the management of the port has cleared that such claim is false and that it recently got an equity infusion worth $221 million from China Harbour Engineering Company, its major shareholder.

In an interview with Nairametrics, the Chief Executive Officer, Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited, Mr. Du Ruogang, talked on the catalytic economic impact on Lagos State and Nigeria, which include the creation of about 170,000 jobs and approximately $201 billion in revenue to State and Federal agencies from taxes, royalties and duties. Excerpts:

It appears the completion date has been shifted several times for a while now. Specifically, when will the facility be ready for business? Is the deadline realistic and how prepared are you?

Personally, as the CEO of Lekki Port, with full responsibility for delivering this project, I am fully committed to ensuring the project completion by the end of 2022. My team and I, in conjunction with the EPC Contractor, are working very hard to meet this deadline, and we are doing our best to anticipate any unforeseen circumstances that can derail this goal, so we can eliminate them and stay focused. We are very committed to honouring our pledge to the Honourable Minister of Transport, Rt. Honourable Rotimi Amaechi for a 2022 completion date. This was in November 2020 when he visited the port site.

READ: Lekki Deep Sea Port must be operational by 2022 – Amaechi

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What would be the impact of Lekki Port on the Nigerian economy after completion?

Lekki Port, when operational, will help to ease the congestion in existing ports and generally upgrade the continued development of the maritime and port facilities in Nigeria. With full collaboration from all port users and the regulatory authorities, we hope to cut down the operating costs and improve efficiency of doing business in Lagos, Nigeria.

What are the pressing challenges faced by the management, are there any funding issues?

There are no funding issues. All the equity partners have fully funded the project, with the latest equity infusion being the $221million received from China Harbour Engineering Company.

READ: Tolaram to spend $1.1 billion on West Africa’s biggest port 

There are 4 beneficiary owners of The Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited, the sole operators of Lekki Seaport i.e. Four China Harbour Engineering Company, Tolaram Group, Lagos State Government and the Federal Government through the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). Which of these entities is the majority shareholder of the company and what percentage shareholding does each of these entities have?

China Harbour Engineering Company and Tolaram Group jointly hold 75% of the project through Lekki Port Investment Holding Inc. The other shareholders are Lagos State Government (20%) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (5%).

Do you have any plan to list the company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange?

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Yes, at the right time Lekki Port intends to list the company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

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READ: China Development Bank, Sanwo-Olu sign $629m facility to complete Lekki Deep Seaport 

What is the financial benefit of the port (after completion) to the Nigerian economy?

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When completed, Lekki Port will create an immense macro and catalytic economic impact on Lagos State and Nigeria in general. This includes the creation of about 170,000 jobs and approximately $201 billion in revenue to State and Federal agencies from taxes, royalties and duties. Also, over the term of concession, there will be direct and induced business revenue impact of $158 billion as well as qualitative impact on manufacturing, trade and commercial services sector.

In summary, Lekki Port will have an aggregate impact of approximately US$ 361 billion on the Nigerian economy.

READ: Lekki Port to commence operations by 2022

Five years into your operation, where do you see the Lekki seaport?

Lekki Port when operational will help to ease the congestion in existing ports and generally upgrade the continued development of the maritime/port system in Nigeria. Within five years of operation, we hope to have become the transhipment hub for the West African region.

Essentially, we hope to be doing our own part in increasing commercial operations in Nigeria and indeed, across the entire West African region.

READ: Dangote makes about N2.47bn from cement sales every day

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In terms of marine infrastructure, we are aiming for global standards. Vessels will approach through a 9 km long and 19 m deep navigation channel reaching the 600 m wide turning basin. The port is protected against the ocean waves and currents by a main breakwater of 1,900 m long and a secondary breakwater of 300 m, providing a controlled environment for the handling of vessels alongside the 1,500m quay at a water depth of 16.5 m, and 3 Liquid Bulk Jetties with 19m water depth. For safe and secure handling of shipping, berthing facilities for marine services (tugboats, pilots’ boats) are provided as well.

READ: Dangote Cement, MTN, Nigerian Breweries, 9 others raise N478.4 billion from commercial papers

The Container Terminal will have a 1,200m long quay for 3 container berths and a storage yard with over 15,000 ground slots. The terminal is designed to support a throughput of 2.7 million TEUs annually. The Dry Bulk Terminal will have an available quay length of about 300m which will be sufficient to accommodate 1 berth for a Panamax size vessel (75,000 DWT).

The Liquid Berths will be capable of servicing vessels up to the size of 45,000 DWT initially, with design flexibility for expansions, catering to an increase to a capacity of 160,000 DWT. The berth will be equipped with loading arms and connected by pipelines running along the breakwater to carry cargoes between tank farms and the vessels. Finally, there will be in-built technology that allows for screening and processing which will promote efficient movement of goods within 48 hours.

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Business Half Hour

How PR can transform the future and profitability of a business – CEO, Mosron Communications

Tolulope Olorundero, a PR expert and Strategic & Communication Consultant highlights how businesses can profit from public relations.

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Critical things for value proposition in public relations – with CEO Mosron Communications

Public Relations is one of the most effective ways to build on marketing strategies and create a solid online reputation. Companies that have caught onto this are investing a tremendous amount of time and effort into staying on top of their PR strategies, and they are seeing even larger returns with better ROI.

Public relations is about sending the right messages to the right place and the right people, creating a stronger brand reputation. PR agencies work alongside their clients to help them achieve this and promote them within their client’s industries. PR is an area that can transform the future and profitability of a business. Used properly, PR can give a company the ability to overcome almost any obstacle it may face. This is some of what makes PR so essential.

Seating on the hot seat of Nairametrics’ Business Half Hour, Tolulope Olorundero, a PR expert and Strategic & Communication Consultant highlights how businesses can profit from public relations. Olorundero has exceptional skills in Crisis Management and Digital Communication. She is the Founder & Principal Consultant at Mosron Communications and the Chairperson of the Association of Nigerian Women in Public Relations.

I have always loved to read books, so I started as an editor while I was in secondary school. My father was a journalist and he usually comes home with newspapers, so the first thing I would do is to pick up the newspaper and check out some errors. It was just not working well for me that all I can see were errors. So that was what conditioned me to know what to look out for when something is not written well in a book. Bottomline is that it inspired my interest to become an editor. So, when I got to the university, I was editing materials for my course mates, I was also head of publicity for my local church in school and apparently, I decided to do things around public relations. So Mosron communications started as an editorial company,” she said.

Mosron Communications is a public relations consulting firm that provides public relations & communication services to businesses, organizations, and service brands across sub-Saharan Africa. According to Olorundero, Mosron communications started full-time in January 2019, though she had it as a side hustle as an editorial company since 2016.  She later steered the company to a public relations company in 2019, as both are interwoven as there is no way one can say he or she is a public relations person, and not be able to write or edit content.

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Speaking about funding as it relates to her business, she said when she started, there was no funding, and it was completely a bootstrap.  Though her business started as a side hustle, during this period she had a full-time job, and she was able to save up part of her salary. Also, when she started her PR firm full-time, she had to convert a room in her house to an office to enable her to save the cost of renting an office space.

Speaking further on public relations, she said what motivated her to follow the path of PR was that people are digitally connected in today’s world, and PR helps companies to create a strong online presence that is highly visible to their target audience. Therefore, PR agencies provide businesses with support and guidance to help them market themselves online while being constantly ready to step in when a disaster occurs, or something threatens to damage the image of the company.

During the session, Olorundero mentioned that some people have this misconception that public relation is media relations.  She made it clear that there is a need to let the business public and even the public know that there is more to public relations than media relations.  Speaking further, she stated that there are four cultural things in terms of value propositions from a communications PR perspective. And they are.

  1. Corporate communications.
  2. Stakeholder management.
  3. Corporate event management.
  4. Reputation management

She explained that the role of Corporate Communication from a PR perspective has to do with building relationships with customers and responding to inquiries from the public. She emphasised that the duties in this area include producing newsletters, brochures, and other printed materials designed for the public. Corporate communicators manage a company’s website and social media presence, which includes monitoring what customers and clients are saying about the company on social networking websites and responding to inaccurate posts or requests for information.

Also, she said communication professionals are responsible for responding directly to calls and emails from customers with questions about a company’s plans or activities.

For Stakeholder Management, she said effective management of relationships with stakeholders is crucial to resolving issues facing organizations. She stated that stakeholders hold the key to the business and social environment in which organization operates and therefore its subsequent financial and operating performance. Thus, the effective management of stakeholder relations should be an essential focus of PR and organizational activity.

Speaking further on the third value proposition from a communications PR perspective which is Corporate Event Management, she asserted that while a company will most likely have an events manager, the function usually comes under public relations as conferences, exhibitions, and events are designed to generate publicity as well as generate sales leads.

The company may sponsor sports, arts, media, education, science and social projects and institutions, and TV programmes. Events are often linked to sponsorship. A company can sponsor an event or organise its own events, for example, for its sales team, its clients and prospects, its personnel, its distribution network, etc.

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Lastly, for Reputation Management, she indicated that it is their incorporating efforts and campaigns to bury negative reviews, information, or search results and promote content that positively accentuates the desired image.

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In addition, she advised business owners, corporate organizations & entrepreneurs on the importance of public relations, saying it aids businesses when it comes to online visibility and brand management. She said in this part of the world everybody thinks they can handle their PR themselves and some might end up diminishing their brand at the course of doing so.

However, it is crucial for you to hire an experienced hand to manage the Public Relations of your company as PR is an area that can transform the future and profitability of your business.

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Interview

The presence of institutional investors will help Africa’s crypto market mature – Luno

Luno Exchange talks to Nairametrics on Bitcoin, Institutional Investors in Africa, trading XRP and its presence in Nigeria, amongst others.

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The world’s most popular crypto, Bitcoin, in recent weeks has been on price levels not seen since the era of this financially dynamic market.

Investments from leading global business brands like MicroStrategy, Square, Paul Tudor Jones, MassMutual, and SkyBridge Capital are further indisputable evidence of such investors in the flagship crypto market.

Also, playing into the hands of Bitcoin bulls are macros showing majority Bitcoins in circulation are illiquid and therefore hardly accessible for buying, which points to a bullish investor sentiment as large amounts of BTC are being hoarded – which reduces sell pressure.

READ: Why companies/firms need to pay staff in Bitcoin: using Patricia as a case study

Although recent price actions reveal that as Bitcoin makes a new high, traders’ significant amount of profit-taking usually takes place in form of a market correction, and that’s why there is a significant amount of market volatility as sellers and buyers try to take hold.

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Marius Reitz, General Manager for Africa, Luno, talks to Nairametrics on Bitcoin, Institutional Investors in Africa, trading XRP and its presence in Nigeria, amongst others.

What is your take on the news of U.S banks using Stablecoins as a settlement infrastructure?

This is a huge win for crypto and stablecoins as it adds credibility for mainstream adoption. In theory, stablecoins are meant to be less volatile than the completely decentralised cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin that many people are familiar with. One of the primary reasons people are drawn to stablecoins is to hedge against volatility during market dips – either in cryptocurrency or your own local currency. Another is that when selling crypto, you may want to keep your funds on the platform, ready for your next move.

READ: Over $20 billion pumped into crypto market by big investors

How would you rate the presence of institutional investors in Africa, if low, why?

2020 was a record year for institutional investment, with MicroStrategy, Mode, Square and more moving huge percentages of their cash reserves into bitcoin in a bid to move away from fiat currency. However, the numbers in Africa are still small. The presence of institutional investors in Africa’s crypto market will help the industry mature and become more efficient, however, there needs to be a better understanding of crypto’s use cases and regulation to attract this level of investor.

In recent months, there have been some strides made towards enforcing regulation by African countries. In July 2020, legislators in South Africa enforced rules for a national framework with FATF anti-money laundering standards, including but not limited to cryptocurrency. Countries such as Kenya, Ghana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe have advised discretion regarding cryptocurrency usage while not actively banning them. Whilst regulation is beginning to pick up across Africa, further regulation throughout the continent is necessary in order to attain higher institutional investment in the region.

READ: 4 cryptos gain over 400% in a month, far outperforming Bitcoin

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Is Luno still going to be trading XRP amid regulators’ legal tussle?

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Whilst we do not have any customers in the USA, we are aware of the SEC’s lawsuit against Ripple and are monitoring proceedings very closely. However, with the case still in its infancy, it is too early to draw any conclusions. In the event of XRP being classified as a security, we’ll reassess listing it on our platform to ensure we remain compliant with regulatory obligations in all our regions. For the time being, until there is more clarity on this issue, we don’t intend to remove XRP from Luno.

READ: World richest man, Jeff Bezos holds 5% of his wealth in cash

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Nigeria is one of your biggest markets, why haven’t you established a strong physical presence here?

Nigeria is our fastest-growing market and we have a growing on-the-ground team in Lagos. Last year, we grew from 4million customers in May to 6million customers in December and thousands of these new users came from Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Uganda, resulting in a 100% increase in trading volumes during this period.

Hence, we are continuing to monitor the growth and are committed to providing the resources necessary for servicing the Nigerian market adequately. Ultimately, we promote open and equal access to cryptocurrency for everyone globally.

READ: Bitcoin jumpstarts strongly, daily trading volume hits $25 billion

Why has Luno Exchange not broken into the top 20 exchanges in terms of trading volume?

It depends on which rankings you are looking at and which metric you are using. At the moment, we are currently ranked 14th on Crypto Compare’s list of the top 287 exchanges, which factors in security processes, the quality of crypto assets listed on the platform and the strength of the company’s team. Ranking aside, we recently hit the 6 million customers’ milestone, with an expansive global reach, spanning across over 40 countries. To date, we have processed more than USD$14 billion in transactions.

READ:  Crypto investors lose $530 million within a day

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Will Bitcoin fall to zero and why?

There has been no shortage of predictions of when Bitcoin is going to ‘die’. According to 99Bitcoins’ Bitcoin Obituary, which documents every instance a major press publication calls Bitcoin or cryptocurrency ‘dead’, Bitcoin has now died 395 times since 2010. Yet, it’s still here. In 2020 alone, there were at least 13 predictions that Bitcoin would die and 3 of such already this year.

Our advice is that people should obtain independent and verifiable advice before making a decision on how to engage with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. It’s also important to be aware that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are volatile. Price fluctuations can be violent and it’s important that consumers don’t risk inappropriate amounts of money (never invest more than you can afford to lose).

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