Binance’s Changpeng Zhao describes the Philippines as “one of the most active crypto communities in Asia” and it’s the perfect way to sum up the country’s blend of high adoption amid relatively low affluence.
With GDP spending power of less than $10,000 per head each year, this nation of 7,100 islands is far from a major contributor to worldwide exchange volumes. But in terms of day to day use and enthusiasm, a significant proportion of Filipinos appear to be leapfrogging directly from a cash-based economy to the future of fintech.
The country boasts 17 licensed digital currency exchanges, and tens of thousands of pawn shops and convenience stores happily accept cash deposits and withdrawals for various crypto exchanges and apps. You can buy Bitcoin with cash at any of the 3,000 7/Elevens in the land via Abra, and one in seven adults use the blockchain-based crypto and digital payments app Coins.ph. That’s a level of market penetration comparable to some of the most well-known payments apps in the world.
Crypto regulations are clearly defined and broadly favorable, and special economic zones such as the ‘Crypto Valley of Asia’ in Cagayan, and the Clark Freeport Zone, compete to attract international blockchain projects. In fact, the International Monetary Fund named the Philippines one of the ten best countries in the world in which to develop a blockchain or cryptocurrency project. Widespread high-level English language skills and relatively low wages have also seen Filipino workers become a favored choice as remote staff for blockchain projects.
Swapping cash for crypto
The growing embrace of fintech and blockchain comes as much from a pressing need to modernize as anything else. It’s still a cash-based society where 71% of adults don’t have a bank account. Even before the pandemic, one in five people lived below the poverty line, with many relying on cash in hand jobs and living from day to day.
But with more active cell phone connections than…