Within the MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) region, Turkey is the market leader and a country that sets trends when it comes to the digital assets. Today, the digital spotlight is on the country of delicious food, golden sand beaches, natural wonders and ancient history - Turkey.
According to the ING survey labelled “cracking the code on cryptocurrency”, 70% of Turks have heard about crypto, 18% owns some digital assets, 45% expects or plans to own them in the near future, while 51% believes that the value of digital currencies will increase in the next 12 months. Findings showed that interest in digital assets is higher in Turkey than in most of the Western countries. It seems that we might not be too far away from paying for Turkish coffee and Ice cream in the streets of Istanbul with the digital currency.
One of the reasons for such findings was the chosen demographics in the ING survey. Most of the respondents in Turkey were relatively younger than in other countries, and this demographic is known to be the most active supporters of crypto adoption. Another reason why Turkey is one of the leading countries in the cryptocurrency is the recent currency crisis.
After American President Donald Trump announced the tariffs on Twitter on Aug. 10 of last year, the Turkish currency lira lost more than 20 percent of its value in just one day. According to CoinMarketCap, volumes at Turkish crypto-exchanges like Btcturk, Paribu and Koinim increased by more than 100 per cent each that day. Though the lira has since recovered some of its value, it was still down by more than 30 percent in 2018. Inflation also continues to be a significant issue, hitting a 15-year high in September. Economists warn that the Turkish economy could be heading into a recession. At the same time, since October, as BTC suffered record losses, trading volumes on Turkish cryptocurrency exchanges still increased - by 37 percent.
In 2017, Turkish officials stated that Bitcoin was “not compatible” with Islam due to the government being unable to control BTC. According to a local news outlet Enson Haber, lawmakers argued that “speculative” nature of crypto meant that trading them was inappropriate for Muslims. Reasons, among others, being mainly its usage in illegal activities like money laundering.
At the same time, following the Venezuelan experiment with Petro, the Turkish government has considered issuing its own state-backed digital asset. In February 2018, Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party deputy chair Ahmet Tanrikulu revealed a plan to launch ‘Turkcoin,’ as per his 22-page report on regulating the digital asset market. No significant moves were made towards this project since then.
Despite the unclear regulatory environment in regard to digital assets, the country is very interested in blockchain technology. In August of last year, the Istanbul Blockchain and Innovation Center (BlockchainIST Center) was inaugurated at Bahçeşehir University (BAU). The country’s first university-level blockchain centre aims to ensure the wide deployment and usage of the technology. Well, maybe future blockchain majors can bring TurkCoin back to life.
Another interesting case regarding blockchain occurred more recently, in September. Turkey's Borsa Istanbul Stock Exchange developed a blockchain-powered customer database, to manage the addition of new customers, documents and edit information.
Turks are eager to try something new, and digital assets seem to be exactly what they need. Turkey is a very interesting market as there are great prospects for innovation in fintech. Turkish demographics shows that the majority of its population is youth. Well, young people tend to show a lot of interest in new financial solutions and blockchain tech. Besides, Turkish lira seems to be regaining their losses and currency crisis might be over soon but the rates in crypto adoption do not slow down.
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