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Pyypl brings bitcoin (BTC) to the masses in Mena

By Aaron Woolner

03:31, 7 April 2022

Foreign workers in the UAE
Pyypl offers crypto and payment services to the unbanked across MENA – Photo: Shutterstock

‘Algorithm’ is a word with its roots in Arabic but until now a huge swathe of the population in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has been unable to access the latest financial services which use this concept. Pyypl (pronounced people) CEO Antti Arponen says his firm aims to change that. 

“In the span of one year, Pyypl launched a digital MasterCard. It has added 60 countries to our blockchain-based remittances service and we’ve integrated with multiple crypto exchanges across the world. This is just over the last 12 months, and we will be expanding more,” he says. 

Arponen was speaking to Capital.com over a video call from his Dubai base and he said that this location is key both in terms of the potential market for Pyypl’s services but also the emirate’s regulatory framework which enables the firm to offer them services in a secure manner. 

Bitcoin to US dollar (BTC/USD)

“If we take Pyypl’s core territory, which is the Middle East and Africa, there’s roughly a billion people with smartphones but only 200 million who have financial access in the form of credit cards and bank accounts, which means they don’t have the means to conduct really basic activities, like opening a Netflix account.”

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How do you buy crypto without a bank account?

Problems faced by the unbanked across MENA go beyond accessing the latest Netflix blockbuster and include being forced to use expensive channels to transfer money and being cut off from the crypto market. 

“How do you buy your first bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies? So, it’s easy to trade it once you have it. But how do you pay for it if you don’t have a bank account? So it’s these daily problems that 800 million people have that Pyypl has set its mind on helping with,” says the CEO. 

He points to the potential for the remittance market alone using Pyppl’s blockchain technology. According to the CEO of crypto exchange Bybit, which recently relocated to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the third-largest remittance destination in 2020, and his fellow CEO says that the cost of doing that via cash-based systems is eye-watering.

Arponen estimates that the average globally to remit cash is 7.7% and in Africa, this rises to a whopping 13.2%. Whereas, Pyypl’s users can transfer cash to different currents for a fixed low fee, and even have it delivered to the recipient’s door.  

Cash by delivery 

“So in the Philippines, you can literally receive cash via scooter driving to your door and giving it to you. And Pyypl is fast, if you send money to another digital wallet – it is there within 60 seconds. It’s not only super affordable but also more convenient than existing cash-based systems; there is no need to go to a branch and fill in a lot of papers. It is 100% digital.”

Currently, the fintech firm is active in the UAE, Bahrain, Kenya, and Mozambique and is in active discussion with regulators in a further seven countries. Arponen emphasises the importance of starting discussions early, saying that it began talking with financial supervisors five years ago and the fastest time it has achieved a licence is three and a half years.  

“And that’s the fast one. So If you didn’t start five years ago, you’re kind of late.”

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He also says regulators themselves need to be aware of the timeline involved in developing a functional framework for the crypto and he points to the more forward-looking approach of authorities in the UAE compared with Europe

EU crypto regulation less developed than the UAE 

“It’s not only Dubai or UAE, but governments and the regulators across the region, in general, started thinking about how to regulate and support the crypto ecosystem four or five years ago. They’ve been following how other companies are doing and now they have a clear mind on how to set regulatory frameworks that work. In contrast, Europe has missed this opportunity.  

Pyypl (pronounced people) CEO Antti ArponenPyypl CEO Antti Arponen – Photo: Pyypl

“And now suddenly when crypto is big, they start panicking, saying, ‘we need to do something about it’. Whereas the regulators in this region have been living and breathing the crypto for years already. So that makes it a really good place to start a crypto business because the regulators are already very experienced in this area.”

Currently, it is not possible for retail investors to access Pyypl’s business but the CEO says that with the current rate of growth and the level of demand a listing on either Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul or the NASDAQ Dubai is a very likely scenario. 

He concedes that currently the UAE is limited in terms of the type of instruments available to retail investors in North America and Europe to access growth companies such as Pyypl but he is hopeful that these will become available soon. 

A 'stan plan

In addition to the Middle East and Africa regions, Pyypl has its eyes on Central Asia. The firm has a financial licence in Kazakhstan already but has not launched operations yet. He says that Uzbekistan is likely to be the next country in the region the firm opens its door.

“So all of the ‘stan countries that have now or in the near future a suitable regulatory framework are on our to-do list. Then of course there are the other countries linked to the Central Asia region: Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

“Those places are a bit different. So they have very good regulatory frameworks but these tend to be more supportive of local companies rather than international ones. So it’s probably a few more years until we’re ready for that.”

Follow the author on Twitter: @aroaringboy

Markets in this article

BTC/USD
Bitcoin / USD
67357.75 USD
-404.1 -0.600%
MA
Mastercard Inc (Extended Hours)
447.30 USD
2.18 +0.490%
NFLX
Netflix Inc (Extended Hours)
635.15 USD
1.06 +0.170%
NFLX
Netflix Inc (Extended Hours)
635.15 USD
1.06 +0.170%

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The difference between trading assets and CFDs
The main difference between CFD trading and trading assets, such as commodities and stocks, is that you don’t own the underlying asset when you trade on a CFD.
You can still benefit if the market moves in your favour, or make a loss if it moves against you. However, with traditional trading you enter a contract to exchange the legal ownership of the individual shares or the commodities for money, and you own this until you sell it again.
CFDs are leveraged products, which means that you only need to deposit a percentage of the full value of the CFD trade in order to open a position. But with traditional trading, you buy the assets for the full amount. In the UK, there is no stamp duty on CFD trading, but there is when you buy stocks, for example.
CFDs attract overnight costs to hold the trades (unless you use 1-1 leverage), which makes them more suited to short-term trading opportunities. Stocks and commodities are more normally bought and held for longer. You might also pay a broker commission or fees when buying and selling assets direct and you’d need somewhere to store them safely.
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