El Salvador’s crypto-loving president is hosting the Davos for Bitcoin with more than 40 countries represented

May 16, 2022, 9:57 PM UTC

El Salvador’s president is hosting representatives of central banks and financial authorities from at least 40 countries on Monday at a conference that may best be described as the Davos for Bitcoin.

President Nayib Bukele, a long-time Bitcoin supporter, took a step toward Bitcoin evangelist Monday as he reportedly assembled a group of financial leaders mostly from developing countries “to discuss financial inclusion, digital economy, banking the unbanked, the #Bitcoin rollout and its benefits in our country,” Bukele said in a tweet on Sunday night.

Although it wasn’t immediately clear how much of the meeting would revolve around the cryptocurrency, it is significant for such a big group of countries to gather to discuss Bitcoin.

Central bank representatives and bankers were set to attend the conference from Egypt, Ecuador, and Nigeria, among other nations. 

Only two countries, including El Salvador, have adopted Bitcoin as legal tender. The Central American country was the first to do so last September, and was followed earlier this year by the Central African Republic. El Salvador’s central American neighbor Panama may also follow suit soon.

El Salvador has steadily added Bitcoin to its coffers since making it legal tender. Last week, amid a crypto crash that saw Bitcoin fall to lows not seen since December 2020, Bukele said in a tweet that his country had bought 500 Bitcoins at an average price of about $30,744—its largest purchase since September

Since El Salvador adopted the cryptocurrency as legal tender it has labeled the experiment a success. In February, the country’s minister of tourism, Morena Valdez, said that tourism jumped 30% since the country passed the Bitcoin law. Bukele also kicked off the year by boasting of a double-digit increase in the country’s GDP for 2021. It’s unclear whether any of the gains are  tied to the country’s embrace of Bitcoin. 

Furthermore, Bukele and El Salvador’s bet on Bitcoin may have already yielded some $40 million in losses, according to a Bloomberg estimate.   

Apart from losses from the current crypto crash, some of the country’s citizens have complained that they don’t trust Bitcoin and that they don’t want to receive remittances from family members abroad in the cryptocurrency because of the high transaction fees.

Because of these obstacles, adoption for Bitcoin in El Salvador could be waning, although all vendors in El Salvador are legally required to accept it. A survey by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research said only 20% of adults in El Salvador are using the state-sponsored crypto wallet app, Chivo. Initially downloads for the app were high as the government doled out U.S. $30 in Bitcoin to citizens who downloaded it.

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