Africa, the world’s second largest continent with a population of over 1.6 billion, continues to grow in technology adoption. In most cases, people in Western countries become more familiar with technological advances than those in Africa.
However, cryptocurrency is no stranger to Africa. Since bitcoin caught the eye, many younger generations in Africa 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 they could quickly return to for profit has made it very popular.
It is on this same trend that NFTs have been widely adopted, especially in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa. Despite this, the adoption of NFT in Africa is still riddled with many issues that affect the rate of adoption and ease of use in the continent.
The Rise of NFTs in Africa
The rise of NFTs in Africa can be linked to the rapid rate at which Africans have embraced cryptocurrencies. In a 2021 reportChainanalysis estimated that cryptocurrency adoption in Africa increased by 1200% between July 2020 and June 2021, making it the fastest adoption rate in the world.
Coincidentally, this was around the same time that NFTs were gaining mainstream attention. By December, digital artist Mike Winkelmann had achieved record sales of NFTs, the buzz of which managed to draw more attention to crypto arts. The fact that one person can earn up to $69 million from the sale of digital art has caught the attention of the world, especially in Africa.
However, Africans did not immediately turn to digital art as was the case on other continents. It was because many still didn’t understand underlying technology behind NFTs or how they might profit from it. So when cryptocurrency activities continued massively, NFTs were still lagging behind. The continent, however, has been catching up after major NFT collections such as the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) and seeing price spikes in short periods.
For a young population without enough job opportunities or ways to earn money, the popularity of NFTs grew rapidly, but many who dove into the space did so for speculative reasons. They traded on the belief that they could make more money in the next month or in a short period of time than they bought the NFT.
Today, Africans are diving deeper into NFTs and doing so for different reasons than just flipping for profit. As blockchain technology seeped more into Africa, it became apparent to many that you don’t have to be tech-savvy before you can benefit from the decentralized economy.
Likewise, people have realized that minting NFTs isn’t as complicated as they thought. Thus, when a recent investigation by Finder ranked Nigeria 6th and South Africa 12th in the world for NFT users, it wasn’t hard to see why the countries ranked so high.
In April 2022, a group of Ghanaian porters who went viral in 2020 as an internet meme cashed in on their fame. The leader of the group, Benjamin Aidoo, sold viral coffin dance as an NFT for 372 ETH ($1.046 million at the time). The NFT sale to date is still the most expensive in Africa.
A few days earlier, in neighboring Nigeria on April 1, Adisa Olashile, a phone photographer who monetizes and sells his works as NFTs, posted photos of an old drummer he took on Twitter. He said he planned to mint and sell the footage as NFT and give the elderly drummer 50% of the money.
Shortly after, the photographer revealed that he had sold the photos on OpenSea, each for 0.3 ETH, or more than a million naira. He followed that up with shared videos from him give the man 50% of the money, which the old drummer took with surprise and admiration. Predictably, the kind gesture generated 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 bandwagon. Since then, NFT conversations have taken an astronomical leap across Nigerian social media spaces as many seek to cash in on 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 works 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 have a penchant for technology and know how to hit their works have been able to take advantage of it. As a result, only a few artists are delving into crypto arts to gain value from their works, while the rest still depend on traditional art galleries to make sales.
In 2021, one of Africa’s hottest digital artists, Osinachi Igwecame to the attention of the media after sold NFTs worth $75,000 in just ten days. Prior to achieving this feat, the Nigerian visual and digital artist as early as 2017 minted his works in NFTs after mainstream galleries refused to take his work due to its nature. Rather than conventional art, 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 now, there are several digital artist communities for African digital artists. Citable examples include 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 arts, promote collaborations, share resources and organize events.
Despite the revolutionary nature of NFTs and the way they make the world borderless, African digital artists still face some challenges. First, there is always a market problem. While several digital artists are in the space, there are not enough African NFT collectors. To a large extent, it is non-existent. This is compounded by the fact that African NFT Artists Get Low Patronage compared to artists elsewhere. Thus, African artists have no choice but to offer their works in the hope that an international collector will buy their creations.
Coupled with the market problem, there is also an economic challenge. Often, exorbitant gas fees are demanded for minting on most NFT markets. This is a challenge given the widespread financial problems in most African countries and the great disparity between local currencies and the dollar. Thus, it discourages a lot of budding artists from getting into NFTs.
Regulation in space
As in several other countries, African countries have not kindly embraced the use of cryptocurrency in their jurisdiction. Those who have not restricted their business activities have warned their citizens against investing in crypto. So far, crypto trading is prohibited in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia, while countries like Nigeria, Cameroon, and Gabon have some form of prohibition regarding crypto trading.
Since NFTs are traded using the native currencies of the blockchain they are hosted on, the restrictions have made it difficult for NFT enthusiasts in countries where there are restrictions or prohibitions to transact easily. In Nigeria, for example, financial institutions are limit to perform crypto-related transactions and are mandated to close accounts operated on this basis. This has effectively pushed 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 the use and trade of NFTs in Africa, NFTs continue to thrive on the continent. Apart from providing African artists with a platform where they could offer their arts for sale, it has also served as a livelihood for thousands of people on the continent.
But NFTs could do more for the continent than just create opportunities for the continent. In a part of the world where ownership of properties is still validated through manual means, the use of NFTs could go a long way to providing transparency and authenticating ownership. By their very nature, NFTs are unique and traceable. So not only will the owner status be preserved, but a curious person hoping to find a local owner will quickly locate the person.
Similarly, projects from Africa show that the adoption of NFT will gain popularity in the coming years. Projects such as NFTfi, Ubuntuland and AJE: The Afriverse are pioneers in the use of NFT in Africa. Over time, other projects will surface with the prospect of revolutionizing Africa and its people.
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* All investment/financial opinions expressed by NFT Plazas are derived from the personal research and experience of our site moderators and are intended for use as educational material only. Individuals are required to thoroughly research any product before making any type of investment.
A blockchain maximalist who believes technology is necessary for the future we are heading towards. An ardent researcher and writer who uses his writings to inform about the prospects of the blockchain space.