Now that 2019 is in full swing, onboarding to the Digitex Futures Beta exchange will soon begin. As you can probably imagine, our development team is working around the clock to bring commission-free futures trading to the masses! So, in the meantime, we check in with Digitex contributor Trekk, to find out what’s going on in the blockchain world–and the Latin American market in particular.
The Latin American Market
If you’ve only been listening to mainstream news or fell down the crypto rabbit hole, you may not know that the neighbors to the south of the US have been making some remarkable progress.
Adoption of cryptocurrencies and practical blockchain-based solutions are gaining traction in this part of the world. In fact, Digitex receives a ton of traffic from Latin America, with Brazil topping the list.
As we see it, the interest and development taking place in Central and South America are positive indicators that there’s a growing market with plenty of potential for traders interested in crypto-based futures.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the main developments here.
Shifting Tide in Governments
When it comes to cryptocurrency in the Latin American region, the welcome mat from regulators is somewhat hidden (or just gets thrown away depending on the country). For example, Bolivia was one of the first countries to publicly call for a “ban” on cryptocurrencies. On May 6, 2014, El Banco Central de Bolivia launched their ban with this statement:
“It is illegal to use any kind of currency that is not issued and controlled by a government or an authorized entity.”
Ecuador soon jumped on the bandwagon for similar reasons. Venezuela also declared a ban, but it was temporary (we’ll get into that later). But most importantly, of the 30+ countries that make up Latin America, they were the only three to go against cryptos officially.
Aside from that, the remaining governments to varying degrees have been working on ways to get more crypto and blockchain-based companies to take root within their borders.
The recently elected Colombian president Ivan Duque’s campaign included the message of making his country the new tech hub of Latin America. Part of his strategy is to provide tech-based companies a five-year tax exemption, provided they can sustain a certain number of jobs in the country.
Within the Latin American crypto community, this is seen as including blockchain technology-based companies, since it hasn’t been excluded explicitly by officials. This is a considerable shift from the previous administration.
Comparing the rhetoric from “back in the day” (in crypto years) to now, there’s no question, the tone of the governments and regulatory actions are changing. Any country that encourages innovation and new technologies is a place where Digitex would feel right at home.
Growing Crypto Exchanges
In the last few years, the growing number of exchanges and the trading volume has more than doubled. Looking at Coin.dance, the volume going by country for bitcoin has grown tremendously in the last years.
Just take a look at the figures from Argentina and Venezuela to see the massive increase in adoption of bitcoin in these countries.
Venezuelans appeared to enter later in the game, but the surge in bitcoin buying is remarkable.
Then there are exchanges like Brazilian-based BitInka that has expanded to open offices in Spain, Peru, and Italy. Their global footprint has even reached into China. Another big name and one of the oldest in the region is Bitso. Using Mexico City as its HQ, the exchange allows users to do instant withdrawals and deposits at local stores like 7-Eleven.
Currently, there are no exchanges trading futures contracts purely dedicated to this region. But with the growing interest in cryptocurrencies and use of exchanges, it’s only a matter of time. Digitex certainly plans to make our exchange available to customers in this region where crypto adoption is growing quickly.
Connecting Beyond Borders in the Latin American Market
In some ways, you could say the people of Latin America are like Europeans when it comes to crossing borders. It’s not uncommon to be in a city like Santiago, Chile, and come across someone from Panama or be in Brazil and meet someone from Argentina.
The founders of Panda.exchange are a perfect example of this. They were originally crypto miners from Venezuela but because of the economic instability moved to Bogota to start the exchange. Panda brings spot trading to people in Canada, Panama, and Portugal. The original story could read like a Hollywood movie, but this is as real as they come.
Another example going beyond country borders is Ripio. Based in Argentina, Ripio is a crypto lending platform primally focusing on the unbanked. With Brazil having about 30 percent and Colombia having 54 percent unbanked of their population, according to World Bank statistics from 2017, there is no shortage of potential customers.
Since doing more than 800 loans in beta testing with its own funds in 2016, it has grown to have institutional lending partners mainly from Asia and even worked with some notable blockchain platforms like RSK, Bitfinex, and ShapeShift.
Ground Level Education of Cryptos
At the ground level, La Betcoineta is as grassroots as it comes in the crypto space. Based in Argentina, the project is literally a van driving around South America providing local on-the-spot education to people about cryptos and blockchain.
If you know anything about Latin America, then you know driving from country to country is no simple task. The views of the landscape can be breathtaking but to drive it is something else. The non-profit even allows people to join and ride and help teach too.
Blockchain 4 Humanity (B4H) is a global not-for-profit that has been operating for fives year now. The primary mission is to support organizations using blockchain technology that develops projects helping humanity.
They’ve also been assisting formal businesses and governments in better understanding blockchain technology. Education is key to the mass adoption of blockchain and that was one of the main reasons Digitex decided to donate to the charitable foundation Code to Inspire.
Changing the Rules and Roles
The Latin American Bitcoin and Blockchain Conference (LABITCONF) is a conference that brings together the big names of the cryptos space like Andreas Antonopoulos, businesses from the industry, and regular people in the community to just talk, learn, and build with each other.
Since 2014 the LABITCONF has been hosted in a different country every year. This is a very different model for a blockchain conference compared to what we see in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Remember we mentioned Venezuela banned cryptos too? Well, here’s why: in February 2018, the state-backed cryptocurrency the Petro was launched by the Maduro administration. Agree or disagree on the politics but that genie can’t be put back in the bottle. The major point is that a sovereign country had made the first move to change the rules of what it will use as a medium of currency, locally and internationally.
Surmising the Change
As Digitex sees it, the people of Latin America are interested in cryptocurrencies and there’s ample potential for our commission-free futures exchange to do well here. Some governments are being more proactive than others to adjust to the new age of blockchain technology.
Practical solutions are being created and used by the people. Exchanges are expanding and opening offices across the region. Companies are helping the unbanked build a credit history. Latin America is on its own path to mass adoption of cryptocurrency and Digitex will be looking at this key market at the end of 2019.