A global survey conducted in January on attitudes to bitcoin shows South Africans were more positive than most about the world’s largest cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin: Knowledge and Perception, a recently published Block, Inc. report, surveyed 9 500 people in 14 countries to better understand attitudes towards bitcoin (BTC) and why people would buy it.
The countries most optimistic about BTC were Nigeria, India, Vietnam, Argentina and South Africa.
These are countries that, for the most part, have suffered a serious crisis of confidence in their national fiat currencies. The Nigerian naira is down more than 60% over the last decade. Earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the naira loses 10.6% of its value annually.
The survey was carried out in January, before the collapse of Terra/Luna and the drawdown in crypto prices generally, so the optimism may have cooled since then.
Be that as it may, a few key lessons emerge, foremost among them that people have different reasons for owning BTC. In weak currency nations like Argentina and Nigeria, bitcoin is regarded as a hedge against inflation.
The Argentine peso, on par with the US dollar two decades ago, is now worth less than $0.01, according to Reuters.
There is a brisk black market for foreign currency, where exchange rates are even lower than the official rate.
The Indian rupee has lost 21% of its value against the US dollar since 2017, and the rand is down nearly half against the US dollar since June 2012.
Bitcoin was designed to protect against this kind of currency debasement, and residents in high inflation countries are learning to trust its deflationary protection (only 21 million coins will ever be minted).
The chart below shows the percentage of people in different countries who would use BTC to protect against inflation, with Argentina, Nigeria, India and South Africa out in front in this respect.
“People who have knowledge about cryptocurrencies overwhelmingly have a positive outlook about bitcoin’s future,” says the report. That optimism varies a bit by age, but not drastically, with millennials being more optimistic than baby boomers.
Those in the higher income brackets see it as a way of making money through investment. Lower income earners see its utility for remittances and making payments.
Higher-income earners are more optimistic about BTC than lower-income people (46% vs 37%), and this is true in every region. A standout finding from the survey is that those who profess to have knowledge of cryptocurrencies overwhelmingly have a positive attitude about BTC.
The power of word of mouth plays a key role in attitudes to BTC. “When we look at non-bitcoin owners who personally know someone who owns bitcoin, 73% say they are somewhat or very likely to buy bitcoin in the next 12 months, compared with just 37% of those who do not know someone who already owns it,” says the report.
Among the reasons people don’t buy it, 51% said they didn’t know enough about it, while about a third were worried about cyber-security risks and 30% felt it was too volatile.
Some 41% of those who say they had fair to expert levels of cryptocurrency knowledge said they were very likely to purchase bitcoin in the next 12 months, compared with just 7.9% of those with limited to no knowledge of the topic.
Perhaps most impressive about the survey findings is the level of professed knowledge about BTC and its uses. Though nowhere near blanket acceptance, it shows a steadily growing corps of supporters who either owned it or planned to in the future, and that suggests bitcoin will form a crucial part of the financial landscape going forward.