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Fintech CEO: Instability in Afghanistan Offers Real-World Test for Bitcoin, Cryptocurrencies

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 As the Taliban seized control of the structures of power throughout Afghanistan, inflation has begun to skyrocket, and there has been a run on the banks, many of which were forced to close when they ran out of cash. The country is without payment processors like Paypal, and Western Union has stopped operating in the country.

“The Afghan economy is still largely a cash economy, and, while its unlikely that many will be able to immediately exchange their cash into cryptocurrency, there are signs that some in the country began to use digital assets before the government fell. Seeing the conditions on the ground, it was easy to see the allure of a decentralized digital currency as a way to protect the value of assets,” said Richard Gardner, CEO of Modulus, a US-based developer of ultra-high-performance trading and surveillance technology that powers global equities, derivatives, and digital asset exchanges.

“Obviously the current geopolitical situation is a mess, but, economically, Afghanistan is an extreme case of inflation and instability. In principle, the same theory of storing value, which applies in places like Nigeria, would apply to Afghanistan. The difference is in the technological infrastructure, which, of course, is more abundant in Nigeria,” said Gardner. “Even still, there are reasons to believe that, for some, it could provide a safe haven.”

Earlier this year, the Fantom Foundation, in conjunction with the Afghanistan Ministry of Health, announced that a trial run of the National Medical Importation Security Initiative was successful. The initiative used blockchain-based technologies to stop the counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals sold throughout the country.

“Not unlike other developing countries, education is the best way to expand access to technology. Of course, those with access to technology are going to be more interested in digital assets. There have been reports of students in universities in Afghanistan who learned about such things as opening a digital wallet,” Gardner explained. Anecdotal surveys also show that interest in Afghanistan has increased significantly over the past year, and, according to CNBC, Google Trends data shows that searches for cryptocurrency-related terms rose significantly in July.

Modulus is known throughout the financial technology segment as a leader in the development of ultra-high frequency trading systems and blockchain technologies. Over the past twenty years, the company has built technology for the world’s most notable exchanges, with a client list which includes NASA, NASDAQ, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Barclays, Siemens, Shell, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago.

“When you look at what’s happened in Afghanistan, and when you realize that the citizenry of the country is likely to see significantly more financial hardships before the situation normalizes, it is easy to see the allure of cryptocurrencies. It will be interesting to see how the CBDC race bears out. In the future, will citizens of countries like Afghanistan look around to neighboring countries, identify a CBDC which they believe to be stable, and invest their savings there to prevent against inflation? If there aren’t regulations against it, that’s a significant possibility — and another reason why all central banks should want to move to develop their own CBDC with vigor,” said Gardner.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Bitcoin, Other Cryptocurrencies Rebound on Thursday

Bitcoin, the world’s most dominant cryptocurrency, appreciated by 4.53% in the last 24 hours to take its gains to 12.64% in the last 7 days.

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The cryptocurrency space came alive in the last 24 hours to extend its gains for the week despite growing global uncertainties amid recession fears.

Bitcoin, the world’s most dominant cryptocurrency, appreciated by 4.53% in the last 24 hours to take its gains to 12.64% in the last 7 days.

In the last 7 days, Eth, the token of the Ethereum protocol, has gained 21.36% from about $1000 a coin it traded a week ago to $1,235.67 on Thursday.

Similarly, BNB extended its gains to $242.45, an increase of 1.40% in 24 hours and 14.33% in the last 7 days to underscore a possible shift in the financial markets towards cryptocurrency, especially with global assets, both traditional haven assets like gold and even risk assets like stocks, commodities, etc, trading at a record-low.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies crashed after Luna stablecoin plunged from over $40 billion market value or $90 a coin to about $800,000 in market value or $0.00004 a coin. The huge decline and the speed in which it happens, three days, sent a shocking wave to the investment world and alerted people to the danger of investing in an unproven and regulated space like cryptocurrency.

However, seasoned traders have said it is not unique and newbies would have to learn that in cryptocurrency investing, there are bearish and bullish seasons. This, they attributed to the Bitcoin Halving, a process in which Bitcoin reward for miners is halved after every 210,000 blocks or four years.

Still, experts like Changpeng Zhao, the Chief Executive Officer of Binance and the richest cryptocurrency investor alive, had called on people to only invest in cryptocurrency projects with real-world use cases.

Popularly known as CZ and estimated by Bloomberg to have a net worth of $96 billion, had repeatedly said the cryptocurrency space is here to stay and encourages inventors and innovators to focus on solving real-life problems.

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The Media Hasn’t Been Entirely Fair to Bukele’s Bitcoin Gambit

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Most members of the media have considered the negative components of President Nayib Bukele’s Bitcoin Gambit in El Salvador. It is true that the value of Bitcoin has tumbled since the president first bet big on the cryptocurrency. It is true that the IMF and lenders look at the country’s economic policy with extreme distrust, and agencies have dropped the country’s credit rating. It is true that the country has over a billion dollars in debt payments due over the next twelve months. If you look at how things have played out this far, you could say that it hasn’t quite gone as Bukele has hoped. In fact, many have said that.

But, let’s be pragmatic. Estimates show that the country has spent $374 on the Bitcoin gambit, in totality. A $50 million unrealized loss on Bitcoin holdings, in a country with a $29 billion economy, is less than a half percent of the national budget. But that unrealized loss is unrealized for a reason. President Bukele is doubling down on Bitcoin. He’s even bought the dip. He understands that this drawback is due to macroeconomic conditions, not the least of which being staggering inflation due to massive pandemic-related spending packages. Then, there’s an unpredictable war in Eastern Europe, not to mention the ongoing supply chain issues, still lingering from Covid shutdowns.

Those things have rained hellfire onto the digital assets space, but so, too, have they affected the traditional markets. The Dow Jones lost 1100 points in a single day of trading last month. Bukele knows that Bitcoin will bounce back. His investment in Bitcoin is one which is long-term. That said, he’s up for re-election in 2024 and continues to boast high approval ratings, thanks, in part, to his tough-on-crime stances.

The truth is that the economy in El Salvador has long been plagued by unfavorable conditions. The country has long paid a premium for its debt. In the country’s most recent credit downgrade, Fitch maligned the country’s “uncertain access to multilateral funding and external market financing given high borrowing costs,” in addition to its “limited scope for additional local market financing.”

But, let’s consider that. El Salvador has long had precious few major opportunities. Through the Bukele’s Bitcoin Gambit, the country has re-emerged on the global scene. While the move to Bitcoin was aimed at bringing the majority unbanked population into the modern financial scene, that takes time and consumer education. What the country has seen, immediately, is external interest. That, in and of itself, is significant, considering that, not long ago, El Salvador was more dangerous than Afghanistan.

Gambit — a term that many may only be familiar with from the recent Netflix hit, The Queen’s Gambit. But the definition, in part, says: an “opening remark, typically one entailing a degree of risk, that is calculated to gain an advantage.” Bukele put his country on the map again. Sure, there are real risks. Significant risks. It may well be the final nail in the country’s bid for a billion-plus dollar loan from the IMF. However, he has propelled El Salvador into the spotlight, creating a culture of innovation which is tech friendly and forward focused. Unfortunately, Bukele’s gambit launched right before a massive downturn in the markets, driven by investor fear. However, the cause doesn’t matter. Whether Bukele will be regarded as a forward-thinking leader is entirely dependent on Bitcoin’s turnaround.

There’s little doubt that Bitcoin will, indeed, turn around. But, timing is everything. Until then, there’s much to be said for the tourism boost that the tiny Central American country has received. Tourism is up 30% since Bitcoin became legal tender. The administration has planned a Bitcoin City, complete with mining powered by a volcano. Granted, the project is on hold due to market conditions, but El Salvador has a number of irons in the fire that they didn’t have three years ago.

In their cryptocurrency wallet rollout, only 20% of users continued to use the wallet after they spent their $30 in Bitcoin given to them by the government, but many argue that was due in large part to a poor user experience within the wallet. There’s a great deal that the country must work on, even within the master Bitcoin plan. Beyond it, it must find a way to begin to balance their budgets and continue to lower crime rates. However, if Bitcoin bounces back, and if the country can bring in significant external investments, many may look back at this gambit in a positive light. There are many opportunities to exploit, once the market begins to correct. In addition to the tourism angle and the mining apparatus, if the country continues to work on its economic fundamentals and infrastructure, it could see interest as a jurisdiction which is friendly to fintech and other cutting-edge innovations.

Sure, there’s a lot of risk here. And President Bukele has suffered the consequences of pretty poor timing. However, the gambit isn’t over until his political shelf-life wears out. And, right now, it doesn’t appear that will be in the near-term.

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80,000 Bitcoin Owners Lost Millionaire Status In 2022 Crypto Crash

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Data from BitInfoCharts revealed that a total of 108,886 Bitcoin (BTC) addresses owned over $1 million worth of bitcoin during its all-time high of  $68,789.63 on November 10, 2021. However, following the bearish market trend in the crypto space over 80,000 BTC addresses have lost their millionaire status with bitcoin hovering around $19,000.

The report revealed that only 26,284 BTC addresses hold over $1 million worth of bitcoin, this implies that the downward trend in the crypto market has significantly reduced the number of bitcoin millionaires by more than 75 percent in the last nine months.

The crypto bearish trend also saw the number of whales with more than $10 million worth of bitcoin decline from 10,587 BTC Addresses to 4,342 BTC Addresses.

Despite the decline in the net worth of former BTC millionaires, the bear market has seen more than 13,000 new “wholecoiners” — a wallet that contains one or more BTC — added to the market, bringing the total number of wholecoiners to just over 860,000. This significant spike in the number of whole coiners would suggest that retail investors are accumulating large amounts of BTC while prices tank.

Adding further credibility to the retail accumulation narrative, more than 250,000 addresses have added 0.1 BTC, or $2,000 or more to their holdings over the past 20 days, according to data from Glassnode.

Bitcoin and the rest of the digital asset market have been negatively impacted by a number of different issues, including increased regulatory scrutiny, sustained geopolitical unrest, rising inflation and interest rate hikes.

Due to the increasing uncertainty around the stability of global markets, commentators seem to agree that the price of risk assets like Bitcoin could continue to suffer over a longer time frame.

At the time of writing, Bitcoin is trading at $19,143.45 down 4.74 percent in the last 24 trading hours.

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