From mining to spending, emerging markets are leading the way on cryptocurrencies

From Colombia to Kenya to Ukraine, emerging markets are leading the way in the mining, trading, and spending of cryptocurrencies.

Excluding the U.S., a new report by Bank of America has found that the top 10 countries across most crypto metrics—highest adoption rate, highest trading volume, and highest level of mining—are all emerging market countries.

The leaders include China, Colombia, India, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Ukraine, and Vietnam.

When looking more specifically at Bitcoin, emerging markets still featured among the highest in Bitcoin trading volumes, which placed Russia, Nigeria, and China behind the U.S. but still before the U.K. and EU.

Because of their popularity in small-scale trading use and transfers to and from workers abroad, digital currencies have risen in popularity in emerging markets, Bank of America analysts said.

When it comes to mining, China takes the lion’s share, mining two-thirds of all cryptocurrencies in the coal-dependent region of Xinjiang. In hashrate, China is followed by Russia, then the U.S., and then Kazakhstan, Malaysia, and Iran.

Given the strong adoption of cryptocurrencies in emerging economies, the report found, these markets will also be likely leaders in the adoption of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), which, according to Bank of America, increase financial inclusion and the efficiency of payments.

In places where there are transfers to the poor and improved transparency is very much needed, many central banks, including those of Kazakhstan, Kenya, and Ukraine, are introducing their own digital currencies to replace cryptocurrencies.

According to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), it is likely that a fifth of central banks will issue digital currencies in the next three years and that the most advanced of these will be hosted by emerging markets. BIS also noted that the most advanced projects are currently being run out of China and Korea.

But Bank of America warns investors to tread carefully, arguing that the rise of digital currencies could also undermine a country’s physical currency through dollarization and inflation.

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