Africa, the world’s second largest continent, with a population of over 1.6 billion, is still evolving in terms of technology adoption. In most cases, people in Western countries become more familiar with technological advances faster than those in Africa.
However, cryptocurrency is not a stranger to Africa. Ever since Bitcoin gained attention in the limelight, many of the younger African generations have turned to cryptocurrency as an alternative source of income. Although many still struggle to understand the technology it runs on, the fact that it provides an avenue where they can quickly turn around for profit has made it widely popular.
It is on the same trend that NFTs gained widespread adoption, especially in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa. Despite this, NFT adoption in Africa is still fraught with many issues that affect the speed of adoption and ease of use on the continent.
The rise of NFTs in Africa
The rise of NFTs in Africa can be linked to the rapid rate at which Africans adopted cryptocurrencies. In 2021 reportchain analysis estimated that the use of cryptocurrency in Africa grew by 1200% between July 2020 and June 2021, making it the fastest adoption rate globally.
Coincidentally, this was during the same period when NFTs were gaining mainstream attention. In December, digital artist Mike Winkelmann had made a record NFT sale, which successfully drew more attention to crypto art. The fact that one person could earn as much as $69 million from the sale of digital art caught the attention of the world, especially in Africa.
However, Africans did not immediately turn their attention to digital art as it was on other continents. This was because many still did not understand underlying technology behind NFTs or how they can benefit from it. When cryptocurrency activities were massive, NFTs still lagged behind. However, the continent caught up with prominent NFT gatherings such as the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) and recorded high prices in short periods.
For a youthful population without enough employment opportunities or money to make money, the popularity of NFTs grew rapidly, but many who dove into the space did so for speculative reasons. They traded in the belief that they could realize more money in the next month or within a short period of time than they bought the NFT.
Today, Africans are delving deeper into NFTs and doing so for reasons other than just flipping for profit. As blockchain technology penetrated more into Africa, it became clear to many that you don’t need to be tech-savvy to be able to benefit from the decentralized economy.
Similarly, people realized minting NFTs was not as complicated as they had thought. Thus, when one recently examination of Finder ranked Nigeria as the 6th and South Africa as the 12th largest user of NFTs worldwide, it was not hard to see why the countries ranked so highly.
In April 2022, a group of Ghanaian pallbearers who went viral in 2020 as an internet meme cashed in on their fame. The group’s leader, Benjamin Aidoo, sold the viral coffin dance as an NFT for 372 ETH ($1.046 million then). The NFT sale to date remains the most expensive in Africa.
Days before, in neighboring Nigeria, on April 1, Adisa Olashile, a phone photographer who creates and sells his works as NFTs, posted photos of an old drummer he took on Twitter. He so he planned to make and sell the images as NFTs and give the old drummer 50% of the money.
Soon after, the photographer revealed that he had sold the photos on OpenSea, each of which went for 0.3 ETH, equivalent to over a million naira. He followed this up with shared videos by him give the man 50% of the money, which the old drummer took with surprise and awe. As expected, the friendly gesture created a lot of buzz on social media.
While many appreciated the photographer for his selflessness, several others wanted to know how to jump on the NFT train. Since then, NFT conversations have jumped astronomically on Nigerian social media as many seek to profit from the space.
African digital artists
Since the rise of NFTs, a wave of digital artists has risen across the continent, many of whom hope to offer their art for sale to the rest of the world. While digital artists have been around for a long time in Africa, the use of NFTs as a medium is still a relatively new and growing area.
For the most part, only artists who are technologically inclined and understand how to imprint their works have been able to benefit. As a result, only a few artists delve into crypto art to gain value for their works, while the rest still rely on traditional art galleries to sell.
In 2021, one of the foremost digital artists in Africa, Osinachi Igwegained media attention after he sold $75,000 worth of NFTs in just ten days. Before achieving this feat, the Nigerian visual and digital artist has, as far back as 2017, embossed his works in NFTs after traditional galleries refused to take his work due to their nature. Instead of conventional artistry, Osinachi uses Microsoft Word to design his art.
Osinachi’s success story adds to a growing list of African artists who have found success in NFTs. Across Africa there are now several digital artist communities for African digital artists. Citable examples include the African NFT Community, Black NFT Art, Network of African NFT Artists, Afro Future DAO, Kenyan NFT Club and Nigeria NFT Community. These communities help raise awareness of digital art, foster collaboration, share resources and host events.
Despite the revolutionary nature of NFTs and how it makes the world a borderless, African digital artists still face certain problems. One, there is still a market problem. While more digital artists are in the space, there are not enough African NFT collectors. To a significant extent, it is non-existent. This is exacerbated by the fact that African NFT artists receive low protection compared to artists from other places. Thus, African artists are left with the only choice of offering their art with the hope that an international collector will buy their creations.
Along with the market problem is also an economic challenge. Often exorbitant gas fees are required for minting in most NFT marketplaces. This is a challenge considering the widespread economic problems in most African countries and the large difference between local currencies and the dollar. Thus, this discourages many budding artists from taking an interest in NFTs.
Regulations in the room
As in several other countries, African countries have not turned kindly to the use of cryptocurrency within their jurisdiction. Those that have not restricted trading activities have warned their citizens against investing in crypto. So far, Crypto trading is prohibited in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, while countries such as Nigeria, Cameroon and Gabon have some form of prohibition regarding crypto trading.
Since NFTs are traded using native currencies from the blockchain they are hosted on, the restrictions have made it difficult for NFT enthusiasts in restricted or banned countries to trade with ease. In Nigeria, for example, there are financial institutions limited from conducting crypto-related transactions and is mandated to close accounts operated on this basis. This made the users to use Peer-2-Peer platforms to carry out their trading activities.
The future of NFTs in Africa
Despite government restrictions that have affected NFT use and trading in Africa, NFTs continue to flourish on the continent. Apart from offering African artists a platform where they can offer their art for sale, it has also served as a means of livelihood for thousands on the continent.
But NFTs can do more for the continent than just create opportunities for the continent. In a part of the world where property ownership is still manually validated, the use of NFTs can go a long way in ensuring transparency and authentication of ownership. By their nature, NFTs are unique and traceable. Thus, not only will ownership status be preserved, but a curious person hoping to find a property owner will quickly locate the person.
Similarly, the projects coming out of Africa show that NFT adoption will gain more traction in the coming years. Projects such as NFTfi, Ubuntuland and AJE: The Afriverse are pacesetters when it comes to NFT use in Africa. As time goes on, more projects will emerge with the prospect of revolutionizing Africa and its people.
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*All investment/financial opinions expressed by NFT Plazas are from personal research and experience of our site moderators and are intended as educational material only. Individuals are required to research all products before making any type of investment.
A blockchain maximalist who believes that technology is necessary for the future we are heading towards. An avid researcher and writer who uses his writings to inform the outlook in the blockchain space.