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Why CBN’s Bitcoin Ban And Naira4Dollar Are Yet To Boost Naira

It is now about three months since the Central Bank of Nigeria cut-off Bitcoin and broad cryptocurrency from its banking networks. The adoption of Bitcoin had earned Nigeria the Bitcoin Nation within the African continent. But instead of the crypto market cooling as a result of the bank, the thing has ramped up significantly: “Data retrieved from Usefultulips (a Bitcoin analytic data provider) shows that the usage of Bitcoin’s peer to peer trading in Nigeria surged by 27% since the CBN directive took effect about 85 days ago, as Nigerians moved about $103 million worth of Bitcoins on just Paxful and LocalBitcoins channels alone.”

Nigeria’s apex bank had effected two huge policies: (1) ban of cryptocurrency exchanges in Nigeria (2) introduction of Naira4Dollar where people get N5 for every dollar wired from outside Nigeria. But besides these two, there is another one: you cannot receive $10,000 within your domiciliary account in any Nigerian bank account in a month, provided that payment is initiated within Nigeria, teller deposit or bank transfer.

Yes, despite these changes, Naira has not found its moments. Why? It has to do with market frictions. The use of cryptocurrency “override the political complications of official channels. The global reach of cryptocurrencies avoids the inflation risk inherent to official currencies, especially in politically unstable countries reliant on fickle foreign investors” as Association of Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON) noted.

Yet, you can do everything but people will continue to find the path to least friction. If you live in the US and want to wire $10,000 to Nigeria, good luck. The official channel will ask for a social security number, employer name, etc. But with Bitcoin, no one asks for those. That complicates the whole system as Bitcoin can indeed make money laundering possible since the transactions are out of the official channels.

Nigeria’s Own-Goal

Nigeria’s biggest mistake is to make everything more non-official by pushing the cryptocurrency exchanges to peer-to-peer where they become more opaque to the government’s high voltage searchlights. Ideally, the government could have embraced the new crypto startups and use regulations to shape them. Your dollar-for-dollar remittance is not doing it. Your Naira4Dollar has not helped. What could help is bringing the banned channels to come under your regulatory domain so that the participants can enjoy whatever that system gives them, while you exert more controls. Unless we do that, we will continue to struggle on this.

And CBN does not need to listen to the Association of Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON) which has has asked the “Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to introduce measures that willneutralize the positive effects of cryptocurrencies as a channel for diaspora remittances”. The fact is this: CBN does not have the power or capacity to do just that. The ABCON industry is being disrupted and they need to advance to be relevant.

All Together

No matter what the government does via financial engineering to help the Naira, there is only one thing that will boost the Naira: economic diversification, and that will likely come via improved productivity. Unfortunately, productivity will not happen without fiscal federalism. In other words, Nigeria needs to produce and make things, and unlock comparative advantages within states. It is only when we can do that would we see the Naira ramp up. Anything less will be gimmicks which will fade over time.

source: tekedia


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