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Official Chinese Currency Renminbi to Become Cryptocurrency, Expert Says

Donald Tapscott, executive chairman of the Blockchain Research Institute, has said that Chinese renminbi will become a crypto.

Donald Tapscott, executive chairman of the Blockchain Research Institute,  stated that the official Chinese currency, the renminbi (RMB), will become a cryptocurrency, in an interview with Bloomberg on April 17.

In the interview, Tapscott revealed that he had recently been at a meeting with the vice-chairman of the Communist Party in China, who recalled that President Xi Jinping thinks that blockchain is one of the most important technologies for the future of the country.

Speaking about the government’s ban on cryptocurrency exchanges, Tapscott outlined that China is considering to ban cryptocurrency mining as well, and added:

“It’s not really necessary to do that [to ban exchanges and mining] because in 20 years we are not going to be using bitcoin in China. Chinese people will use the RMB, only the RMB will become a cryptocurrency. The central bank of China will turn it into a digital currency.”

When asked if decentralized exchanges can operate in China —  which has previously banned initial coin offerings (ICOs) — Tapscott said that they could, although the government has a serious stance towards curtailing digital currencies.

Tapscott suggested that decentralized exchanges will eventually dominate centralized ones thanks to their purported ability to transparency and identify “bad behavior.” All assets, including traditional ones like securities, will purportedly be on decentralized exchanges, said Tapscott.

Chinese authorities have long been discussing possible ban of cryptocurrency mining. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has reportedly included crypto mining as part of its draft for a revised list of industrial activities the agency intends to shut down because they “lacked safe production conditions, seriously wasted resources, polluted the environment,” among other issues.

However the country remains a major player in the bitcoin market, with most of the largest bitcoin mining pools controlled by local organizations. By mid-2018, crypto mining operator Bitmain reportedly operated as many as 11 mining farms in China, and hence would be largely affected by the NDRC’s reported plans.

As for blockchain, China is reportedly leading the world in the number of blockchain projects currently underway in the country. There are 263 blockchain-related projects in China, accounting for 25% of the global total.

Last month, a multi-year project called the “Implementation Plan for the Promotion of Transportation Infrastructure Development” was unveiled in Jiangsu Province. Per the plan, blockchain will be one of the technologies local authorities use in overhauling local transport infrastructure.

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Forbes Releases List of Billion Dollar Companies Using Blockchain

Finance publication Forbes has released a list of 50 $1 billion firms that are implementing blockchain technology.

Financial news outlet Forbes has released a list of “Blockchain’s Billion Dollar Babies,” or companies implementing blockchain technology that have minimum revenues or valuations of $1 billion, on April 16.

The list includes companies in the cryptocurrency and blockchain development spaces, in addition to traditional financial firms like banks and clearing houses, food companies, supply chain management firms and others.

Most of the companies listed are household names like Amazon, Walmart, Facebook, ING, Mastercard, Microsoft and Nestle.

Cryptocurrency-related companies featured on the list include United States-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, European mining and hardware firm Bitfury, and blockchain-based financial services network and XRP token creator Ripple.

In addition to noting major firms that are dabbling or full-on adopting blockchain technology, the list also includes which blockchain protocols are being adopted and by whom. Various Hyperledger protocols, blockchain consortium R3’s Corda protocol and the Ethereum network are prominently featured at a number of firms across various industries.

Forbes notes the potential for blockchain technology to simplify various business process per the example of Depository Trust & Clearing Corp (DTCC), which keeps records of 90 million transactions a day, or most of the world’s $48 trillion dollars in securities.

Per Forbes, the firm will begin switching its 50,000 accounts to a blockchain-based system, which will help eliminate duplicate procedures and reconciliations that are still prone to happen on traditional electronic clearing networks.

In mid-March, DTCC published a white paper outlining guiding principles for the post-trade processing of tokenized securities. The paper notes the unique characteristics of the nascent market for tokenized securities and proposes that global policy standards for traditional markets are often applicable, and useful for stakeholders to identify the legal responsibilities pertaining to security token platforms.

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Largest Travel Management Firm in UK Accepts Bitcoin

A major travel management firm in the United Kingdom has partnered with BitPay, which will allow it to accept bitcoins as payment.

Corporate Traveller, the largest travel management firm in the United Kingdom, is now accepting Bitcoin (BTC) for payments, according to a press release on April 15.

A newly announced partnership with crypto payments company BitPay will allow Corporate Traveller — which provides business travel management services to SME companies — to accept bitcoins. Andy Hegley, U.K. General Manager at Corporate Traveller said:

“We identified an increasing demand from our clients for the option to pay in bitcoin for business travel bookings made by our travel consultants. We chose BitPay to manage our merchant processing because they make it easy and handle the entire process of getting the Bitcoin or Bitcoin Cash from the customer and depositing cash into our account.”

According to the press release, Corporate Traveller is unconcerned with price volatility in crypto markets, as the bitcoins will be converted directly into British pounds. BitPay purportedly charges a 1% commission to convert the funds, which Corporate Traveller says is cheaper than credit card processing.

Other firms and organizations in the tourism and travel industries have begun accepting cryptocurrencies, citing customer demand. In March 2018, the German National Tourist Board announced that it takes bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies as payment for its services.

In August of the same year, the state government of the Australian province of Queensland issued a grant to the TravelbyBit digital currency payments platform, which aimed to boost tourism in Central Queensland through selling travel offers with cryptocurrencies.

BitPay, for its part, recently reported that it saw over $1 billion in transactions last year. According to a January press release, the firm set a new record in terms of transaction fee revenue, having expanded its services to major customers like Dish Networks, HackerOne, and the State of Ohio.

On Jan. 30, BitPay partnered with the Wikimedia Foundation — the non-profit organization that runs Wikipedia — so that it could broaden the number of cryptocurrencies that are acceptable by donation.

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Young Africa Looks to Crypto for Payment

Lagos has an interest in crypto, but adoption is slow, with many only considering Bitcoin as an alternative means of receiving foreign payments.

Data from Google Trends shows that Lagos, Nigeria ranks as the number one city based on the volume of online searches for Bitcoin (BTC). While this data may indicate a high level of interest among the city’s approximately 21 million people, it has yet to equate to tangible adoption of the emerging trend of technology.

But that is changing, as a growing movement among young people frustrated with existing payment systems looks for alternatives.

Bitcoin as a dollar substitute

For the most part, “Lagosians” who are aware of the existence of Bitcoin see the top-ranked cryptocurrency as a substitute for the United States dollar. BTC exists for them on a spectrum that lends itself as a viable substitute for foreign currency.

Payment companies like PayPal do not allow Nigerians to receive money transfers from abroad, thanks to the notoriety of internet fraudsters in the country — and the companies that offer such services usually charge high fees.

Thus, it is common to see the city’s growing freelancing community beginning to pivot toward cryptocurrency payments. Many of the youth in the city, having battled with underemployment or unemployment, have sought to try their hands outside the traditional working environment.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports that Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose to above 23 percent in 2018. In a city like Lagos, many young university graduates can be seen making a living as freelancers, offering services from copywriting to website design and even computer programming.

Given that many of their clients are based abroad, there can be issues with receiving payment for the work done. However, with a BTC wallet and a plethora of local exchange services, these freelancers can receive payments easily from clients spread across the globe.

Apart from freelancers, business owners are also using Bitcoin, as well as other crypto-focused platforms, as substitutes for foreign currency and banks. Companies like BitPesa offer easy access to liquidity, which can be a hassle to businesses in frontier markets like Lagos, especially in the context of foreign trade.

In a private message to Cointelegraph, Victor Alagbe, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Blockchain Strategist at OneWattSolar, an energy startup looking to leverage blockchain technology in boosting renewable energy adoption across Africa, said:

“I see crypto taking up a strong position in the remittances space. It’s often cheaper, less stressful (in terms of documentation) and faster to send and receive crypto. Many younger folks in the diaspora are now leveraging crypto to send money back home. Some techies working remotely are also getting paid in crypto.”

In 2001, the government at the time introduced mobile telecommunications technology to the country. In the 18 years since that landmark event, mobile telecoms have become a significant sector in the nation’s economy, contributing 10.5 percent of its gross domestic product as of mid-2018.

Nigeria has over 100 million active internet subscriptions, mostly on mobile platforms. Bitcoin as a payment technology leverages on this access to the web, allowing tech-savvy Nigerians to participate in the growing cryptocurrency trend.

Bitcoin underutilization

While the peer-to-peer (p2p) trading aspect of the emerging BTC narrative continues to take shape in Lagos, there is a massive underutilization of the technology itself. Even with the potentially paradigm-shifting aura attached to cryptocurrency, Lagos — and, by extension, Nigerians — seem content to focus only on BTC as a dollar substitute without diving deeper into the technological ramifications of broader Bitcoin adoption.

Data from Bitnodes, which tracks the global Bitcoin nodes distribution, shows that there are virtually no nodes in the country. Yes, Lagos leads the way in online BTC searches. But only a handful of people run actual Bitcoin nodes.

This reticence for a broad-based adoption isn’t entirely down to apathy toward the technology itself, but is, instead, a representation of the lack of proper infrastructure on which to support a vibrant digital economy. In a city that lacks constant electricity supply, the fact that people aren’t running Bitcoin nodes hardly comes as a surprise.

Concerning Bitcoin underutilization, Alagbe opined:

“There’s still a whole of lot education that needs to go into helping people understand the relationships between Bitcoin (crypto) and its underlying Blockchain technology. However, the Nigerian market is likely to focus on crypto to the exclusion of other applications of Blockchain inasmuch for as long as there’s profit to be made in the speculative side of cryptocurrency.”

Another startling indicator of Bitcoin underutilization in the city comes from the lack of retail acceptance of the cryptocurrency. While metropolitan areas in the United States, Europe and parts of Asia have increasingly seen more retail adoption of BTC as a payment means, Lagos rarely registers on the map, as indicated by Coinmap.

The OneWattSolar COO highlights this same trend, declaring:

“In my opinion, Bitcoin (and cryptocurrency in general) is still seen as a speculative play to make quick gains. You can see people trading huge sums of Bitcoin on platforms such as Remitano but you’ll be hard pressed to find a business that accepts crypto as payment for products or services.”

At the time of writing this article, Coinmap reports that there are more than 14,600 venues that accept Bitcoin payments across the globe. Only South Africa registers any significant BTC adoption in the retail scene as far as Africa is concerned.

Once again, Nigeria risks falling behind the rest of the world in the race to embrace the emerging digital landscape. While other megacities obtain first-mover advantages in being at the forefront of the emerging digital revolution, either by ignorance or the absence of requisite basic infrastructure, Lagos continues only to associate with the basic aspects of BTC adoption.

Bitcoin and the allure of get-rich-quick schemes

Over the last decade-and-a-half, Nigeria has gained notoriety for being home to internet fraud. While this image continues to be inimical to the aspirations of honest and hardworking Nigerians, it has also contributed to many people casting a jaundiced glance in the direction of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general.

This situation hasn’t been aided by the fact that BTC began to come into public consciousness after the debacle of the Russian Mavrodi Mondial Moneybox (MMM) scam. For the most part of 2016 and 2017, many characterized BTC as the “new MMM.”

In a private chat with Cointelegraph, Joseph Samuel, a blockchain analyst, web designer, and team leader at “Humane Love,” a Lagos-based charity project on the EOS blockchain spoke about how some Lagosians tend to conflate and confuse Bitcoin and MMM, saying:

“Many Nigerians got to know about Bitcoin during the MMM Ponzi scam. As a result, they tend to see Bitcoin as another fraudulent investment scheme. However, with proper education, this misinformation can become a thing of the past.”

In so doing, they missed out on the massive profits gained by early adopters during the late 2017 bull rally. With BTC almost eclipsing the $20,000 mark in late 2017, having begun the year trading below $1,000, the usual opportunists came out of hiding to evince designs of fraudulent schemes centered around Bitcoin.

For Samuel, the city still has time to catch up to the rest of the world, declaring:

“Lagos is a mega city filled with some of the smartest people in the world. Unfortunately, the fear of the unknown prevents many from adopting newer technological breakthroughs. Once they become more amenable to change and realize what Bitcoin represents, Lagos will become a major hub in the developing digital economy.”

Organizations like the Cryptography Development Initiative of Nigeria (CDIN) and the Nigerian Blockchain Alliance (NBA) have been at the forefront of combating cryptocurrency scams in Lagos and other parts of the country. Together, these institutions collaborate with agencies like the Nigeria Electronic Fraud Forum (NeFF) to prevent the proliferation of Bitcoin-related criminal activity.

Bitcoin and the 2016 recession

Historical charts from Coin Dance shows a massive increase from 2016 in Bitcoin trading volume on Localbitcoins — a p2p BTC trading platform. This marked increase was no coincidence, as 2016 saw the country’s economy go into its worst recession since 1987.

Around that time, many local digital payment companies in the city also began to pivot to Bitcoin. New businesses also sprang up, offering avenues to purchase the cryptocurrency. Cointelegraph spoke with Adekemi Bitire, a marketing executive at IBIC Exchange, an over-the-counter (OTC) Bitcoin exchange in the Yaba area of Lagos, about the BTC adoption trend in the city. Bitire explained:

“Over the course of my involvement in the Bitcoin OTC scene here in Lagos, I have observed an exponential increase in the number of people adopting BTC trading. More people are getting into the business, earning steady commissions, and improving their standard of living.”

Bitire elaborated on the expanding demographic of BTC adoption in the city:

“Apart from university students and out-of-college freelancers, we are also seeing mid-level employees of companies in the city using Bitcoin as a way of creating another revenue stream to augment their monthly salaries.”

Bitcoin as an avenue of escaping weaponized poverty

The present-day reality in Nigeria is one many believe is firmly entrenched in the weaponization of ignorance and poverty for the sole purpose of disenfranchising the majority. The ruling oligarchy, while enjoying the commonwealth of the people, propagates a message of “living within one’s means,” a euphemism, some say, for the glorification of poverty that simultaneously casts aspersions on the desire to achieve economic and financial emancipation.

Within that alleged construct of this tyrannical state-sponsored weaponization of poverty lies a veritable tipping point for greater Bitcoin adoption in Lagos and other places in Nigeria. The core principle of BTC lies in libertarian ideals that are at odds with the socialist politics of mass economic disenfranchisement.

Data from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) shows that about 31 million of the country’s population own bank accounts. Figures from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) show 83 million registered voters. The fact that the total addressable market for business in Nigeria is 63 percent less than the total number of eligible voters paints an alarming picture.

Bitcoin is a multi-billion-dollar market that encompasses more than a cross-border payment system. It represents the ability to build a decentralized global market infrastructure free from censorship. Thus, there exist a myriad opportunities for greater BTC adoption in a mega city like Lagos.

With such a high percentage of unbanked and underbanked people, especially in rural areas, increased BTC adoption presents a viable alternative to traditional banking services. Places in Southeast Asia that suffer from the same problem are already showing a considerable increase in cryptocurrency adoption.

Greater emphasis on creating more user-friendly methods of making BTC payments could see the technology spread to rural areas where the people might not be as tech-savvy as their urban counterparts. The bulk of unbanked and underbanked people live in these impoverished, rural settlements, as it is in most other places in the world.

Increased BTC adoption can help to create an expanded set of “means” within which ambitious and upwardly mobile people who pursue legitimate livelihoods can improve their standard of living. This outcome will, however, remain unattainable if the allure of BTC remains firmly rooted in the realms of being a “side hustle.”

Victor Alagbe of OneWattSolar encapsulates the need for a more broad-based approach to Bitcoin and blockchain technology in Lagos, Nigeria, and Africa as a whole, declaring:

“I think the fact that the Nigerian market is interested in crypto is good for the eventual mainstream adoption of Blockchain technology. Blockchain introduces trust in inherently trustless environments such as ours; hence, when Blockchain-powered projects (DApps) that are not overly bundled with crypto hits the mass-market, they’ll probably be quick to gain traction.”

There are far larger social and economic implications at play than Bitcoin as a dollar substitute. By creating useful technological and financial products and services centered on Bitcoin, the top-ranked cryptocurrency could potentially create far greater utility for Lagos — and Nigeria as a whole.

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VR Firm Magic Leap Seeks Blockchain Engineers for User Data

VR startup Magic Leap is seeking blockchain engineers for its Lifestream business function.

Virtual reality (VR) startup Magic Leap is seeking blockchain engineers according to recent listings on employment website Greenhouse. The firm is looking for a senior blockchain architect and blockchain engineers.

Among the duties listed for the senior blockchain architect position, the individual will be “planning and execution of a portfolio of blockchain, smart contract, and Ricardian contract technologies in support of the implementation of our Lifestream business function.”

In a recent interview with VR industry publication UploadVR, Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz said that Lifestream is: “all the data that you experience and the data of the world around you and how that needs to be protected…” At a conference last October, he noted the importance of protecting the data set, which he characterized as critical.

The job listing seeks an individual with experience in the Red Belly and Hyperledger blockchain frameworks and experience with Java, Node,js, Python or Go. Magic Leap also prefers that the engineer has experience writing smart contracts for blockchain networks like Hyperledger Fabric, Hyperledger  Sawtooth, Ethereum and Corda.

Magic Leap has grown significantly since its inception in 2010. Crunchbase reported last year that the firm is the top-funded VR startup on the market, having aggregated 41% of VC funding in the VR market worldwide in 2018.  

Earlier this month, Ethereum-based digital asset tokenization startup Enjin announced that it will launch a Software Development Kit for the Unity game engine, which supports VR and augmented reality app development.