Nigerians Are Using Bitcoin to Bypass Trade Hurdles With China

Chukwuemeka Ezike sends thousands of dollars worth of bitcoin a month in order to trade with Chinese exporting companies.

In return, he receives spare auto parts, construction equipment, and juices for a family business his father started more than 30 years ago. Ezike works full-time at Singapore-based crypto exchange Huobi as its community manager but helps with his family’s business on the side.

He says bitcoin is faster than exchanging currencies the old-fashioned way. And he can use it to leapfrog bank limits of $10,000 a day, which he often needs to do.

Ezike doesn’t pay the manufacturer directly. Over WeChat, he works with a middleman named “Allen” who exchanges Ezike’s bitcoin for renminbi, China’s national currency, and then passes it on to the manufacturer. Ezike couldn’t divulge which companies he deals with, saying, “The Chinese are sensitive with the data that’s shared.”

He’s one of several Nigerians using bitcoin for this purpose. Ezike even helps other Nigerian companies make similar cross-border transactions with bitcoin.

Using bitcoin for global trade

In several ways, bitcoin makes sense for global trade. The currency jumps borders with ease, where other currencies encounter friction. If the counterparty is willing to receive bitcoin on the other end, it’s often faster and cheaper than legacy payments. But this can be a big “if,” since bitcoin is a newer way of transferring money and people aren’t exactly used to it quite yet.

While bitcoin has these nimble properties, it hasn’t disrupted international trade and value transfer just yet, especially given the currency’s current limitations. If more people use bitcoin at once, the network becomes congested and payments slow down.

Behind the scenes, developers around the world are working on the Lightning Network to fix these problems, so that more people, maybe one day even millions, can all use bitcoin regularly without seeing a spike in fees and sluggish…

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