4 Initial Takeaways from the 2022 Global Crypto Adoption Index
The highest adoption rates continue to take place in countries with high inflation, increased capital controls, and where economic instability is the norm.
This week, Chainalysis released some of its preliminary findings from its annual Global Crypto Adoption Index report. It is perhaps the most extensive report each year that attempts to measure what jurisdictions around the world are seeing the highest volumes of cryptocurrency adoption. Overall, cryptocurrency adoption has slowed slightly from last year, which is to be expected given the recent price action. But the most adoption continues to take place in countries where inflation is raging, capital controls are the norm, and economic instability reigns. After reading through the Chainalysis blog post that summarized the findings, I thought there were some interesting insights that could be gleaned from the data that I’d like to share with you.
First off — a quick overview of what the Global Crypto Adoption Index is exactly.
The Global Crypto Adoption Index calculates the adoption rate of 146 countries through a combination of five measurements:
On-chain value received at centralized exchanges, weighted by purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita
On-chain retail value received at centralized exchanges, weighted by PPP per capita
Peer-to-peer (P2P) exchange trade volume, weighted by PPP per capita and number of internet users
On-chain value received from DeFi protocols, weighted by PPP per capita
On-chain retail value received from DeFi protocols, weighted by PPP per capita
The methodology used to calculate the adoption scores in the Global Crypto Adoption Index means that it should be taken with a grain of salt regarding Bitcoin’s adoption. This index includes broader cryptocurrency usage, which obviously includes tokens outside of Bitcoin. Having said that, a large percentage of global cryptocurrency usage, specifically in Emerging Market economies happens with Bitcoin and with USD-backed stablecoins. Therefore, this index remains one of the best resources available for us today to better understand global Bitcoin adoption rates, and where Bitcoin adoption is taking place geographically.
First, let’s take a look at last year’s results. Below are the top 20 jurisdictions from the 2021 Global Crypto Adoption Index.
And here are the updated top 20 jurisdictions from the 2022 Global Crypto Adoption Index.
As you can see, there has been some reshuffling in the top 20 countries in 2022 compared to last year.
Here are my four initial takeaways from the Chainalysis report…
1.) China has actually moved up in the rankings even after the CCP banned cryptocurrency usage in 2021
In my opinion, this signals how difficult it is to ban Bitcoin. It speaks to the censorship resistance and permissionless nature of the technology.
Despite the threat of substantial fines and jail time (Individuals who sell cryptocurrencies can be sentenced to more than 10 years in prison), Chinese citizens are still defying their government by transacting with cryptocurrencies.
This news comes as a substantial percentage of Bitcoin’s hash rate is still estimated to be located in China despite the ban. According to data from the Cambridge Digital Assets Programme (CDAP), as of May 2022, China still accounts for roughly 20% of the total Bitcoin hash rate, second to only the United States.
These two data points should give critics pause who frequently say, “Governments will just ban Bitcoin!” It is further evidence of the resiliency of open source protocols. Like the Tor Project before it, open source software like Bitcoin is proving once again how difficult they are to stop.
2.) Turkey enters the top 20 for the first time amidst record-high inflation
One difference between the 2021 index and this year’s index, was the inclusion of Turkey in the top 20. Turkey rose to the 17th country in the world in terms of crypto adoption according to this data.
This is notable because the citizens of Turkey are currently suffering from one of the highest inflation rates in the world. Last month, the annual CPI inflation rate in Turkey hit +79.6%.
The citizens of Turkey are watching their savings evaporate at an increasingly rapid pace.
This Chainalysis data is evidence that the people of Turkey are beginning to turn more toward this technology as a way to protect themselves against their failing local currency.
This corroborates reports from earlier in the year that showed signs of increased adoption as the cost of living soared in Turkey.
Back in March, an Istanbul-based research company, Aksoy Research, took a poll and asked the people of Turkey, “If you had an extra 10,000 liras, which one would you invest in?”
14.3% of respondents said they would hold cryptocurrencies, the third highest asset class reported in the survey after dollars and gold.
A report from the Wall Street Journal earlier this year found that the dollar value of cryptocurrency trading volumes is up, and so too are online searches for “Bitcoin”. Turks are beginning to embrace Bitcoin and stablecoins, such as Tether, as hedges against inflation in their time of need. Bitcoin is offering some people hope as they search for places to store their wealth outside the faltering Turkish banking system.
It was always the case that Bitcoin adoption would occur in jurisdictions with the weakest fiat currencies, and that is exactly what appears to be happening in Turkey today.
3.) Russia enters the top 10, up 9 spots from a year ago, during a time of sanctions and capital controls
Russia is a new entry in the top 10 this year. I probably don’t need to rehash everything that is going on in Russia right now, but in case you have been living under a rock, Russia invaded Ukraine and G7 nations responded with severe economic sanctions.
This led to traditional payment services like VISA and Mastercard blocking Russian financial services and banks from using their platforms. This suspension of their operations in Russia hurts the Russian banks, but it also harms everyday Russian civilians who can’t transact outside their borders. The civilians are collateral damage in this era of economic warfare.
On top of that, in February, the Russian government banned Russian residents from transacting abroad in an effort to prevent capital flight from the country. Russian authorities also have prohibited its citizens from leaving the country with more than $10,000 in foreign currency.
Of course, these actions only serve to hurt ordinary Russian citizens. Because of this, it is encouraging to see that Russians appear to be turning more and more to cryptocurrencies as a way to transact value across borders without middlemen or permission from government authorities or financial regulators.
One can infer from this data that these technologies are being used as lifelines by the people impacted by war to help them move funds in and out of the country, to help them afford essentials, and to help them flee the country with a greater portion of their wealth. Given their digital nature, these assets are much easier to travel with, and are much more resistant to seizure at the border compared to say physical cash or a bar of gold.
I feel obliged to note that these dynamics apply equally to the people of Ukraine who have also faced similar struggles throughout this conflict. Bitcoin is neutral, apolitical technology that individuals can turn to on both sides of war when all other means of payment fail, and when other methods to store their wealth are taken from them. Ukraine wasn’t the focus here only because they were already high on the Index in 2021 (from 4th in 2021 to 3rd in 2022).
4.) The United Kingdom finds a place on the list for the first time
The United Kingdom made its debut on the list this year, sitting at 17th in overall adoption.
This is a sign that another powerful G7 nation is seeing increased signs of adoption even during a bear market where Bitcoin’s price is down ~70% from its all-time high.
This comes after a recent Coinbase survey found that 33% of people in the UK own cryptocurrency assets, which is up from 29% in October 2021. Furthermore, among those UK holders, 61% are planning to expand their portfolios in the next 12 months.
This data arrives as a new UK Government takes office, one that has signaled that it wants to embrace the industry.
New Prime Minister Liz Truss has made positive comments about the industry in the past, and with a reshuffling of the cabinet, perhaps we are entering an era of a more welcoming UK when it comes to Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.
When asked in the House of Commons about his thoughts on the industry, the newly appointed Economic Secretary to the Treasury responded with,
Overall, it seems like the residents of the UK are fans, and with the right leadership in place, perhaps it can be a place of refuge for an industry that has faced opposition across Europe. This development speaks to the game theory of Bitcoin. As Bitcoin grows in relevance, some countries will choose to ban themselves from the technology, while others will seek to embrace it to help attract wealth, jobs, and innovation to their shores.
All in all, this data from Chainalysis only represents one study that uses one methodology to measure Bitcoin and cryptocurrency adoption at the nation-state level, but it does provide us with a better understanding of where adoption is happening around the world.
From this data, it appears that adoption is most prevalent in emerging markets where individuals are more likely to suffer from increased economic instability, currency devaluation, high rates of inflation, and increased capital controls. Most of this adoption can be attributed to Bitcoin and USD-backed stablecoins. Bitcoin adoption continues to grow from the bottom-up, finding product-market fit in countries where the local currencies are no longer serving the needs of the people who live there. This is an encouraging development to see, and it goes back to the reason why Satoshi Nakamoto created Bitcoin in the first place.
In addition, this data highlights how futile government bans are on decentralized, open-source technologies. Despite some form of a ban on cryptocurrency use in Indonesia, Colombia, Nepal, Turkey, Nigeria, and China, usage in those jurisdictions still remains some of the highest in the world.
Bitcoin was always meant to be a tool of economic empowerment and freedom. A technology that gives the power back to the individual and allows them to store their wealth and do with it what they please. For the people of Russia, Ukraine, China, Turkey, and more, this is not a fantasy but a reality. The citizens of these countries appear to be discovering the value proposition of this technology not out of interest, or as a hobby, but out of necessity.
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Sam Callahan is a Bitcoin Analyst and educator at Swan Bitcoin. He graduated from Indiana University with degrees in Biology and Physics before turning his attention towards the markets. He writes the popular “Running the Numbers” section in the monthly Swan Private Insight Report. Sam’s analysis is frequently shared across social media, and he’s been a guest on popular podcasts such as The Investor’s Podcast and the Stephan Livera Podcast.
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