If globalization was the story of the first two decades of the 21st century, DeFi (Decentralized Finance) is the defining trajectory of international business and the global economy in 2022. Beyond reshaping industries with decentralized applications for existing business models, the crypto industry is more globally distributed and genuinely reflects the diverse communities and enterprises which adopt frameworks and develop protocols. The scope and nature of integration varies with local conditions and the unique needs and opportunities of every region and market.
Unlike traditional global business models, which adapt the same basic product or service to local markets and services, crypto companies often carry out different functions in different regions. Serving a wider range of purposes, while taking advantage of the unique factors, such as the regulatory environment, startup ecosystem, local needs in every country ensures that networks thrive with active users.
While many blockchain businesses specialize in a specific application, the industry itself is globalized in a genuinely decentralized sense. According to the Chainalysis Global Crypto Adoption Index, worldwide adoption of cryptocurrency surged by over 880% in 2021. This expansion is largely driven by emerging economies, including Vietnam, Nigeria, Kenya, India and Pakistan. Users in each market have different reasons for embracing cryptocurrencies, such as overseas remittances, secure channels for international trade, excessive domestic capital controls, or simply to invest.
While cryptocurrency users in emerging markets are often driven by practical factors, Hong Kong and Singapore are important hubs for blockchain based startups. The Asian financial centers play a pivotal role in shaping the crypto industry by incubating several of the most impactful blockchain ventures. Several of the industry’s leading exchanges, including Crypto.com, were started in Hong Kong, while Animoca Brands, creator of the leading Metaverse platform The Sandbox, was founded by local entrepreneurs and maintains its headquarters at Cyberport, the city’s FinTech innovation hub. Hong Kong is at the forefront of FinTech with digital asset financial services enterprises thriving in the local sector. The cross-border B2B trading platform Neat, founded in Hong Kong to serve SME’s operating in the Greater China area, was acquired by the global payment network platform Rapyd in January 2022.
The locally based Hashkey Group has invested USD 360 million in 110 blockchain companies in 14 countries, while Animoca Brands has committed USD 50 million to The Sandbox Metaverse Accelerator program, which will fund 30 to 40 arts and culture-focused blockchain startups over the next four years.
The rapid proliferation of NFT’s, which disrupted cultural industries around the world in 2021, can be traced to the $69.3 million sale of Beeple’s “The First 5,000 Days” in Singapore, by a Crypto entrepreneur who has developed a virtual museum to display the work and leveraged similar NFT assets by fractionalizing their ownership in within the Metapurse crypto-fund. While the full extent and impact remains to be seen, the concept of providing universal access and participation in the fine arts is unprecedented.
However, cultural applications and first world financial services are only the tip of the iceberg.
Crypto enterprises, whether they are metaverse platforms, investment funds, crypto exchanges, payment services, peer to peer loan networks or blockchain platforms, are as much about financial inclusion as innovation and investment. While blockchain enterprises often set up their headquarters in cosmopolitan financial centres, the underlying vision is furthering worldwide access and economic development in regions that have been underserved and underrepresented, thereby revolutionising the technology industry and the global economy itself.
“Along with blockchain, Web 3.0 promises to bring financial inclusion and allows people to take ownership of their own information, and HashKey Group is committed to fully support companies and projects who are leading this disruptive movement.”
- Deng “DC” Chao, Head of Investments, HashKey Group
The fundamental challenge facing developing economies is not a lack of wealth, resources, talent or vision. Global inequality in the modern world is also not solely the result of historical injustice or any malicious agenda. Rather, the issue is the failure of centralized systems, with inefficient bureaucracy and inadequate structures prone to dysfunction. Blockchain solutions which address the root of the issue stand to change the world on an unprecedented scale by reforming education, political systems, and perhaps most importantly, allowing disadvantaged communities to fully access their own resources.
IOHK (Input Output Hong Kong) is a blockchain infrastructure research and engineering company committed to developing DeFi solutions for companies, governments and people around the world. With operations across 50 different countries, IOHK seeks to connect disparate communities and systems with initiatives such as the Cardano decentralized Smart Contract platform and Atala Prism decentralized identity solution.
Input Output emphasizes its commitment to the African continent, as well as economies in Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and South America, because the organization views emerging economies with young populations as a future driver of global growth and development, and countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda Rwanda and Kenya have immense potential for new frameworks and solutions to overhaul social and commercial enterprises across the board, from remittances to election vote systems and government identification databases.
IOHK founder Charles Hoskinson, who co-founded Ethereum, advocates for establishing standards of transparency, accountability and immutability for social and economic enterprises in Africa. By empowering ambitious and talented entrepreneurs, professionals and citizens in emerging economies with robust, verifiable and permanent records– whether they are certificates, transactions, identities or assets- blockchain platforms overcome the challenge of relying on governments or multinational companies for accountability.
They also provide individuals in the developing world with identity. Unlike the identification of personal user data on social media platforms, secure and transparent blockchain identities enable access to economic opportunities such as financial services, internet connectivity, public services and education.
Transparent, secure and immutable records and peer to peer systems also overcome the longstanding limitations that businesses in developing nations face with raising investment in the international financial system and fully integrating with the global economy.
This lays the foundation for the global emergence of economic potential that has been dormant for centuries. Far beyond the rise of Asian economies, blockchain enterprises stand to bring the world’s under-represented populations from the margins to the international stage.
“We’re going to announce an Africa focus in our company, and we’ll be able to show everybody all the different programs and pilots and projects and partners, and the vision of what we’re going to invest in over the next three to five years. It is the privilege of a lifetime as an entrepreneur to be able to participate in these markets in this way. I literally get to wake up every single day and talk to the most ambitious, honest, and hardworking people I’ve ever met in my life and find ways to build systems with them that not only make their lives better, but produce wealth for all of us.”
- Charles Hoskinson, Blockchain Africa Conference 2021 Keynote Address
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