As far as adoption goes, Bitcoin follows a familiar pattern. Populous, first world countries in North America, Europe and Asia were first to catch Bitcoin fever, the first to establish exchanges and the first to begin restricting them as well. While early Bitcoin trading in these countries was largely boundless, allowing for things like margin trading and high leverage, as more of each country’s fiat money moved into Bitcoin, governments and central banks began to draw lines.
The market witnessed a pointed example of such “no more nonsense” regulation as recently as a few days ago in South Korea. Following China’s example, the country decided to limit ICOs and no-fee exchanges, which had until that point been an enormously speculative influence in the altcoin markets. However, no matter the increasing rate of adoption and regulation around the world, Bitcoin always manages to find its “Wild West” somewhere new.
Bahrain wants to be known as more than a place of oil wealth. The country is moving quickly towards adopting Blockchain technology, which would naturally place it in an advantageous position regarding Bitcoin as well. The Chief Executive of the country’s Economic Development Board, Khalid Al Rumaihi, is working with Bahrain’s finance ministry to make it a “pioneer in the space.” They are even in process of proposing a joint venture with Saudi Arabia and other nearby countries to establish a healthy ecosystem for the area’s official exchanges and other infrastructure.
Sweden is progressive when it comes to their finances. Today, five of the six major banks in the country do not operate with cash, and the vast majority of Swedes use their bank cards for everything. This puts them close to their goal of becoming the first cashless civilization, and they’re looking to Bitcoin to bring them the rest of the way there. They recognize that one of the biggest problems of a digital financial system over a cash one is privacy. Bitcoin fits this need suitably and provides an additional measure of anonymity over alternative cashless solutions.
After the tragic collapse of all civilization in Venezuela, the value of one Bolivar, the country’s currency, dropped to the same value as one satoshi (or about $0.00004 at current BTC price). Thanks to a scarcity of physical Bolivars and a harried financial system, people are finding themselves handing over buckets of cash just to pay for lunch. Many merchants have taken to accepting Bitcoin and other digital payment methods only. Though it may be out of a frightening necessity rather than voluntary adoption, this may be the first “Bitcoinization” of a sovereign state.
Like Venezuela and Sweden, India is a ripe target for Bitcoin. The country went through a rapid demonetization last year, largely to curb counterfeit operations of their 500 and 1,000 rupee bills and rampant graft, which were funding other illicit activities. The shortage of cash that followed saw Indians react flexibly by depositing their money in bank accounts, though counterfeit versions of the new notes appeared not long after. Bitcoin is a perfect fit, and is beginning to find its niche. As many as 2,500 Indians invest in Bitcoin each day, and there are new partnerships being forged between international cryptocurrency players and Indian platforms like Unocoin.
The Singapore Fintech Consortium is a powerhouse devoted to forming a cryptocurrency network with countries in the Middle East and abroad. To “pave the way for increased interaction between startups in the Middle East and those in Asian markets via Singapore,” the fintech leader has been cutting deals with places like the UAE, Abu Dhabi, and Bahrain to establish a cooperative fintech environment.
Though Japan is a major world power, and can hardly be considered an emerging market, the country’s progress in the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency arenas must be praised. Not only has this small, influential island nation made Bitcoin legal tender, it has paved the way for Blockchain innovation more than any other country. Instead of outright bans, the government’s Financial Services Agency has instead created a strict yet fair environment for companies and individuals to trade, operate exchanges, and integrate Blockchain into Japan’s economy. Eleven exchanges, of the more than 50 who have thus far applied, are deemed compliant and are currently in operation.
Bitcoin Can’t Be Stopped
Though countries with major influence have thus far proven hesitant to allow Bitcoin and Blockchain to upset the status quo, smaller countries with more to gain recognize a unique opportunity. Those who understand the technology know that given time, and a favorable environment, the adopters will prove all the naysayers wrong.