Afghans increasingly embrace Bitcoin as an economic crisis looms

Afghanistan has recorded significant Bitcoin adoption this year. A report unveiled this news, citing the Google Trend monitoring service and Chainalysis’ 2021 Global Crypto Adoption Index. Reportedly, the country began shifting to crypto after the Taliban started taking over the country earlier this year.

According to the report, the Google Trends monitoring service shows that web searches for Bitcoin (BTC) and crypto peaked in July before the Kabul coup. However, this tool only measures interest regardless of the number of searches. As such, it cannot accurately describe the crypto adoption scene in Afghanistan. 

Nonetheless, data from the Chainalysis 2021 Global Crypto Adoption Index shows that the crypto economy is growing. According to Chainalysis, Afghanistan’s peer-to-peer (P2P) crypto network has expanded rapidly over the past 12 months. The blockchain data firm evaluated crypto adoption in 154 countries and placed Afghanistan in the 20th position.

This growth is significant, considering Chainalysis excluded Afghanistan from its 2020 crypto adoption index due to the virtually non-existent crypto activity in the country. With an index score of 0.13, Afghanistan competes against the UK. Additionally, the country’s rate of crypto adoption exceeds that of every country in Europe except Ukraine, which has an index score of 0.29.

Afghanistan citizens are not vocal about embracing crypto

Despite Chainalysis’ detailed information, experts estimate that crypto adoption in Afghanistan might be higher. For instance, Boaz Sobrado, a London-based data analyst, claims that sanctioned countries like Afghanistan do not have clear data on P2P markets. This is because citizens use VPN services to hide their IP addresses while trying to access global services.

It is also worth pointing out that two Afghan sisters and entrepreneurs Elaha and Roya founded the Digital Citizen Fund almost a decade ago, a non-profit that helps women and girls in developing countries gain access to technology. Over the years, the organization established 11 women-only IT centers in Herat and two in Kabul. The sisters taught over 16,000 women basic computers skills before advancing to blockchain technology.

Before the organization suspended classes after the Taliban took control over Kabul, it had also started teaching about developing crypto wallets. Per Elaha, some of the students had secured their funds in crypto, with others investing in BTC and Ethereum (ETH) to achieve their long-term financial goals. 

Defying the odds

While Afghanistan has become one of the most notable crypto adopters this year, the country has multiple barriers that prevent mass adoption. Among these is unreliable electricity, with the power going out for several hours each day. Internet access is also an issue, with internet penetration into the country standing at 22%. 

Additionally, 85% of the Afghan population lacks access to banking services, which means they cannot purchase crypto. Moreover, those who get to access crypto have to exercise caution to avoid scammers that offer false trading tips.

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