The crypto industry in Latin America has seen significant growth despite the little coverage it receives in the mainstream media. Although we are bombarded with crypto news coming from the United States, Europe, Australasia, and even Africa, not so much is covered when it comes to the Latam region, South America.
In general, Latin America is a region that includes countries from South America, Central America, the Caribbean islands and Mexico. The region is estimated to have some 664 million residents, according to population statistics on WorldoMeters.
The State of Crypto in Latin America
This section considers some crypto adoption efforts in specific Latin American regions such as Brazil, Paraguary, El Salvador, and others.
Recently, I’ve been traveling across Brazil and checked out the situation to understand what stage of adoption the country is experiencing and the result was frankly disappointing.
Even the recently elected President Jair Bolsonaro informed the world a few days ago that he does not even know what Bitcoin is. Unfortunately, the statement comes with bad news for the indigenous people of Brazil who now face the termination of a project worth 44.9 million Brazilian reals ($11.5 million) between the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) and the Federal Fluminense University (UFF).
The project was supposed to promote the creation of a cryptocurrency for indigenous people to use but went through controversy as it was apparently being funded by taxpayers’ money. Also, was being delivered with very superficial technical and financial analysis. These, apparently, are the reasons behind the rejection by the government.
In the crypto world, this shows how poor investment is currently even being considered by Brazilian authorities but also reflects how little is known about digital currencies or blockchain throughout the country. I had this feeling during my investigation in the South American country. The people I asked, if they knew or owned any crypto, had only heard about it on the news but knew nothing about them.
Argentina, Venezuela and Paraguay
Argentina seems to be offering more action. Just a few days ago Bitcoin reached ATH against the pesos national currency, due to uncertainty related to the October 2019 presidential election. Moreover, the news that Argentina settled agricultural chemicals export deal worth $7,100 with Paraguay, accepting payment in Bitcoin.
Venezuelans are also said to store Bitcoin against the terrible hyperinflationary situation of their national currency, the Bolivar, which recently reached a record rate of 150.000%. In my opinion, though, the crypto world has always been very optimistic about Bitcoin usage by the Venezuelans as reports from the region are usually very uncertain and vague that can never be totally reliable.
In light of the situation, a desirable awakening seems to be approaching the region with some institutions finally starting to look into the crypto world and take some action.
Liun WU, co-chairman of Carrier Blockchain Study Group (CBSG), identified Latin America as an area full of potential for the technology, prompting the organization to launch a campaign for recruitment and promotion in the region. He reckons it has the potential and could benefit massively from blockchain, especially in international mobile financial transactions and in terms of secure identity verification.
The Dubai-based organization currently has wide operations in the US, Asia, Middle East, and Africa but has been missing opportunities in the Latam region and now suggests they are looking at including an area that is often forgotten in terms of focus and investments.
Located in Central America, El Salvador is one of the few countries in the Latam region where cryptocurrency adoption has taken off. In 2021, El Salvador became the first country in the world to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender.
The move was led by President Nayib Bukele and has since been followed by other efforts to make the country home to Bitcoin and cryptocurrency-related companies. For instance, the country is planning to build a so-called “Bitcoin City” powered by Bitcoin bonds.
Top Cryptocurrency Companies in Latin America
- Mercado Bitcoin (Brazil)
- Bitso (Mexico)
- Ripio (Argentina)
- Lemo Cash (Argentina)
- Beunbit (Argentina)
A recent report released by the Association for Private Capital Investment in Latin America (LAVCA) confirmed that crypto companies in Latin America attracted around $653 million worth of investments in 2021. This is a significant improvement on the $68 million raised in 2020.
Sure, something is moving in the right direction, but there is still a lot to do to promote crypto adoption in Latin America and beyond.
Note: This article was first published on June 8, 2019, and was updated on April 12, 2022 to include more information about the state of crypto in Latin America.
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