bitcoin
(Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images)
  • SA crypto exchange Luno added a million customers in a little over a month, as bitcoin went crazy.
  • South Africans piled in – but not as fast as Nigerians.
  • Luno reported a nearly 40% jump in crypto wallets set up by Nigerians in a matter of weeks.
  • Nigerian regulators have a number of concerns about crypto tokens.
  • Bitcoin remains the flagship currency, but Luno's numbers show a strong interest in ethereum too.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

As bitcoin wobbled around the $50,000 price mark – and got a big publicity boost thanks to Elon Musk putting Tesla's money where his mouth is – South Africans piled into the currency in huge numbers, data from one platform shows.

Over a seven-week period it added a million new wallets to a base of six million, reported Luno, the exchange started in South Africa, in early March. 

Luno operates in more than 40 countries, but the big jump in customers was almost entirely concentrated in four of them, including South Africa. 

Over the course of just over a month, the number of wallets registered for South Africans increased by just a hair under 24%, according to data Luno provided to Business Insider South Africa.

But on a percentage basis, that was dwarfed by growth in Nigeria, which came in at not much under 40%.

Some Nigerians consider bitcoin a safe-haven investment – including safety from regulators that may freeze or seize bank accounts – and by some estimates it may have more small retail traders active in bitcoin than any other country, with the exception of the United States.

Nigerian regulators have expressed deep concern about the potential losses investors in bitcoin face, considering it to be highly speculative at best.

READ | Financial watchdog proposes big shake-up for crypto in SA

Luno offers the option of ripple and litecoin investments too, but few of its users are interested in those. While it has more than seven million active bitcoin wallets, it counts ripple and litecoin wallets in the hundreds of thousands instead.

Ethereum, on the other hand, has something of a following; about a fifth of Luno users open ethereum wallets, while a tenth opt for ripple, and about 7% for litecoin.

"Bitcoin’s strong rally in 2021 has fuelled greater interest in cryptocurrencies, which has translated into greater customer activity and many new app installs," said Luno.

The platform does not offer less mainstream tokens, such as dogecoin, which have also surged in popularity since late 2020.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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