• Friday, June 14, 2024
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‘Blockchain technology can facilitate Africa’s sports export’

‘Blockchain technology can facilitate Africa’s sports export’

Emmanuel Babalola is the Director for Africa at Binance, a leading global cryptocurrency exchange platform, driving crypto adoption on the continent. In this interview with BusinessDay’s David Ijaseun, he shares insight on the role blockchain technology is playing in the development of Africa’s sports industry and the opportunity it holds for Nigeria and others. Excerpts:

From the signing of footballers to tournament sponsorship, the football industry has been gradually getting involved in blockchain technology. What is your take on this?

Football is a unifying factor on the entire continent. More and more, football clubs are realising that technology can profoundly change how they do business as well as how they interact with their fans. The football industry is now actively looking into technology – with football clubs creating their own fan tokens and sports professionals minting NFTs to engage their fanbase. At Binance, we also have a Fan Tokens Platform that helps bootstrap growth for these football clubs.

What impact is blockchain’s involvement in football having on the adoption of the virtual currency in Africa?

Lots of people on the continent are either active or passive football fans, making the sport an excellent way to target people across the continent. As such, people who would otherwise be unsure about the legitimacy of crypto can see crypto in a different light. The willingness of the football industry to interact with crypto and the blockchain passes a strong message and solidifies its legitimacy. Through this interaction with football clubs, Binance’s sponsorship of AFCON and lots more, crypto continues to get even more mainstream.

Binance recently partnered with the Confederation of African Football (CAF), as an official sponsor of the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournaments 2021, what informed the decision?

For us at Binance, the AFCON sponsorship was a very exciting one. Football is the most popular sport in Africa, one that unites the entire continent and so, sponsoring the biggest football tournament in Africa was honestly a no-brainer. It corroborates our mission to take crypto mainstream across the continent. In line with this mission, we also collaborated with Big Brother Naija stars (participants of the biggest reality show on the continent) to bring crypto education to a wider mainstream audience and sponsored the Nigerian Idols competition – the Nigerian version of a popular singing contest.

“as much as some governments oppose the industry, some are very welcoming

How did Binance’s involvement in the 2021 AFCON tournament impact its operation on the continent?

Sponsoring the biggest football tournament on the continent (AFCON) takes us a step forward regarding how people see Binance & the crypto industry as a whole. While more and more people perceive crypto to be safer and more legitimate as adoption increases, Binance’s involvement in the AFCON tournament also greatly aided this positive perception. As the tournament took place in Cameroon, we have also seen the Francophone market become even more active.

What role do you see blockchain technology playing in the future of African football development?

Blockchain technology can play an amazing role in helping Africa export sports globally. We see lots of Africans in love with foreign clubs and I believe blockchain can enable a better relationship with local football teams as these teams can now engage fans both within and outside the continent through fan tokens, creating lots of value and bringing teams closer to the fans. Fan tokens are utility tokens associated with a club, team, or brand that gives token holders special fan privileges.

Read also: Binance takes crypto education to Nigerian universities

Some countries in Africa have either banned or do not welcome the adoption of crypto, how do you see this daunting effort of Binance and other industry players pushing for crypto awareness?

No, it will not daunt the efforts of industry players. As a company, we welcome more smart regulation as it helps keep users safe. It will also help give confidence to new users and new people wishing to innovate in this area.

Crypto and even the regulation of crypto are such new concepts – just over a decade of existence. As such, many governments around the world are still trying to understand the new technology. For us, we believe collaboration with key stakeholders in the blockchain ecosystem is essential as innovation cannot exist in isolation.

When you compare the level of crypto awareness we have now to what we had in the past years, we can see the insane difference and this will only continue to grow. What we do is ensure that there is an open line of communication between operators, players, regulators. Binance has also greatly expanded its compliance team to protect users globally.

The work continues as we continue to push for adoption and discuss the value the blockchain provides.

Additionally, as much as some governments oppose the industry, some are very welcoming.

What is Binance doing in enlightening the government of some African countries that have banned/not supported crypto transactions?

Recently, Binance released the 10 Fundamental Rights for Crypto Users to serve as a basis for responsible innovation while still ensuring a healthy path forward for future growth and mass adoption. This was excellent to show that Binance is working with regulators and policymakers to support a framework that protects users without limiting innovations. Generally, we are very happy to work with government agencies to ensure a safe space for all users.

To drive home your mission of increasing crypto adoption and enabling greater financial accessibility, you took crypto education to Nigerian universities students. How is the initiative progressing? Are there any plans to expand to other educational institutions in Africa?

Yes, there are plans to expand to other institutions in Africa as education remains one of our biggest missions. We are very keen on young people in Africa. We see how crypto presents an amazing opportunity to generate income, grow, contribute to the community and even earn while playing games on the blockchain. We believe that crypto generally poses lots of value to young people and that’s why we commit lots of resources to it. To date, we’ve taught over 540,000 people, trained developers building on the blockchain and provided educational resources for children through our Binance charity. We are also helping a lot more universities set up centres for blockchain technology that will aid research.

Crypto adoption in Africa has attained some of the World’s highest records, what is your projection for this year?

I’m certain it’ll continue to grow as blockchain companies continue to play in the mainstream through sports, art, music, payments infrastructure and lots more.