By Adesina Wahab
Internationally, it is said a person is poor if he lives below $2 a day and Nigeria has been ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world going by the huge number of people living below the poverty line. In fact, some reports dubbed the country the poverty capital of the world. The unenviable record is because of the huge number of people that are unemployed or underemployed in the country.
Unemployment in Nigeria recorded 27.1 per cent growth in the second quarter of 2020 compared to 23 per cent in the third quarter of 2018, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed. Youth unemployment makes up a huge chunk of that number.
According to the United Nations, nearly 14 million young Nigerians are jobless and the country has one of the world’s largest youth populations, with more than a third of its 200 million people aged 24 or under. Nigeria slipped into its worst recession in over three decades last year and now faces a record sixth straight year of declining average incomes, with most forecasts pointing at less than two per cent growth in 2021. With the negative impact of COVID-19 on the global economy, including that of Nigeria, experts forecast that the rate of unemployment may rise further to 30 per cent as a result of job losses.
While all these are happening, the cryptocurrency industry, which started to become popular in the country a few years ago, began to gain more momentum.
Job opportunities in the cryptocurrency market have continued to grow on a yearly basis as more investors pour into the market bringing funds and new companies along. And this is not peculiar to Nigeria, as a report by Glassdoor showed a growing demand for talent in the cryptocurrency industry, with job openings in the United States, for instance, rising by 300 per cent year-on-year. Another report by Indeed.com showed that between December 2016 and December 2017, there was a 207 per cent increase in job postings for blockchain positions.
With Nigerian youths contending with scarce job opportunities, the cryptocurrency market has become the way out of joblessness for many. Moreover, Nigerians are chief executive officers (CEOs), chief technology officers (CTOs), country directors, marketing managers, community managers, legal and compliance officers, etc, in a number of global and local brands, according to the Blockchain Industry Coordinating Committee of Nigeria (BICCoN).
A lawyer, Tope Dele, even noted that law firms should be exploring the blockchain and cryptocurrency spaces now, adding, “a lot of opportunities abound for young lawyers and students of law who are looking for career opportunities in that industry. ”
As more people show interest in the industry, cryptocurrency companies like Binance, Bundle, BuyCoins, Luno, and Quidax have come up with programmes that would enable them to deepen their knowledge of the market and become professionals.
Binance hosted over 400 free events in 2020, with the first Binance Masterclass holding on January 24, 2020, in Benin, Edo State. The event was attended by 222 people. In the wake of that the Binance Africa team on February 4, 2020, launched the Campus Ambassador programme with seven ambassadors in seven universities. They hosted 30 campus webinars and over 100 Ask Me Anything events (AMAs) in 2020. Luno, Buy coins and others also held a series of webinars to popularise cryptocurrency in the country.
The exchanges too are not left out. For instance, in 2020, BuyCoins partnered with Lambda School, a highly reputable online coding academy, to sponsor over 50 students throughout their six months training programme. The students were provided a co-working space, paid monthly Internet subscriptions, and any additional support that they needed. “Because we understand that it’s not enough to create opportunities without paving the paths for young people to access them,” a spokesperson for the company who spoke under anonymity said.
The bundle also hosts a monthly AMA (Ask Me Anything) featuring a variety of crypto experts from around the world who field questions from its community members. Past guests include Nischal Shetty, founder of top Indian crypto exchange WazirX, and the co-founders of the Ethereum Push Notification Service – Richa Joshi and Harsh Rajat.
Though some critics of cryptocurrency are quick to point to its seemingly unregulated nature, those in the trade say it can be regulated and suggested that since some countries like Australia are doing that, Nigeria can take a cue. To them, the hammer by the Central Bank of Nigeria some days ago, banning trading in it, could, in the end, be counter-productive, as it could be better to regulate it than driving the practitioners underground. Before the ban, some exchanges in the industry operated in the open, now such and others could slip out of sight.