IMF backs Nigeria crypto adoption amid local SEC crackdown

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recommended that Nigeria license global cryptocurrency exchanges as a part of its economic reformation measures.

According to a recent IMF report, the bid to integrate cryptocurrencies into its financial system aims to secure Nigeria’s position in the African cryptocurrency market. It recommends that “global crypto trading platforms be registered or licensed in Nigeria and subject to the same regulatory requirements applicable to financial intermediaries.”

“Authorities should ensure the application of AML/CFT preventive controls by crypto trading platforms and other virtual asset service providers through effective AML/CFT risk-based supervision.“

The report points out discrepancies in Nigeria’s balance of payments (BOP), particularly in Net Error and Omissions (NEO), which reflect unrecorded financial transactions. These discrepancies are attributed to several factors, including the “shift to using crypto assets for cross-border transactions,” often not recorded through traditional banking records.

Previously largely positive in 2020, the report portrays preliminary 2023 data that suggests “NEOs continue to be very large negative,” at close to $7.5 billion — 2% of Nigeria’s GDP.

Source: Central Bank of Nigeria, Haver, and IMF

The IMF suggests that, through regulation and licensing of cryptocurrency exchanges, Nigeria could attract international investment, support financial market stabilization, and potentially improve remittance mechanisms — significant due to the Nigerian diaspora.

The IMF endorsement for cryptocurrency adoption comes at a time when Nigeria faces worsening macroeconomic challenges, such as currency instability and inflation. Through the licensing of cryptocurrency exchanges, the IMF aims to utilize cryptocurrencies as a tool for more stable and efficient transactional processes.

This would potentially improve Nigeria’s governance over digital financial movement, decrease illegal financial flows, and mitigate fraud and money laundering risks associated with cryptocurrency transactions.

Recent evidence of this regulatory shift can be seen in the regulations posed by Nigeria’s SEC — set to ban peer-to-peer (P2P) cryptocurrency exchanges using Nigeria’s national currency, naira.

The Nigeria SEC Director General Emomotimi Agama indicated that the ban would aim to protect the naira from manipulation after “perceived impact on the exchange rate of the naira.“

However, a ban on P2P cryptocurrency payments is a task previously considered close to impossible by industry advocates.


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