Over R655bn crypto-currency traded on Luno in 10 years

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 16 Aug 2023
Christo de Wit, Luno country manager for South Africa.
Christo de Wit, Luno country manager for South Africa.

Luno, South Africa’s biggest crypto exchange, has traded over R655 billion in digital currencies during the last decade.

This is according to the SA-founded company, as it reflects on its 10-year anniversary and plans for the next decade.

Luno was founded in 2013 by South Africans, Marcus Swanepoel and Timothy Stranex.

It is a wholly-owned investment of US-based Digital Currency Group (DCG). DCG acquired Luno in 2020 post its Series B funding round and after first investing in the company’s seed round in 2014.

Looking to the next 10 years, Luno plans to get its licence as a financial services provider in SA and other markets, pursue a potential stock exchange listing and add more curated coins.

The firm says since inception, there have been 388 million transactions on Luno. It notes users are spread across the country, with the highest concentration of customers in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban. There are also customers in far-flung areas like Sulenkama, Hammanskraal and Lambert’s Bay.

It states the R655 billion that has been traded on Luno over the last 10 years is equivalent to almost seven million Bitcoin.

The company now has 12 million customers in 40 countries. Luno celebrates 10 years in business this year, with five million app downloads from customers in SA, says the crypto firm.

Describing how South Africans are making use of crypto, the company says the average South African crypto buyer is most likely to be male and spends about R650 on the first purchase.

Christo de Wit, Luno country manager for SA, says the country is one of Luno’s strongest markets, with around a third of its verified customers.

According to the firm, South African customers start with a relatively small deposit of R650, which is higher than the global average of R400.

It notes Bitcoin, Ethereum and XRP are the most popular crypto coins in SA.

Local buyers are almost a mirror image of the global picture, says Luno. It explains the average age of buyers is 35 and in line with the gender split in traditional financial services – more men buy crypto in SA than women.

Interestingly, it adds, there is a greater percentage of women buying crypto in SA than the global average – in SA, the split is 36% female and 64% male, compared to 19% female and 81% male across other markets, the company says.

“In addition, we’ve seen greater adoption among women. SA customers hold on to their crypto for about six months – slightly longer than the global average of 4.5 months,” De Wit says.

He points out that South Africans who use the repeat buy function are purchasing an average of R270 worth of crypto-currency per month using this facility.

“Repeat buy is an instruction to buy into the market at regular intervals and is a great way for customers to buy crypto without having to time the market. Without a repeat buy instruction, you need to keep a very close eye on movements in the market to ensure you buy when the price dips and sell when it rises,” he says.

“One of the first crypto transactions on Luno was a purchase of 0.1 Bitcoin worth R403 at that time. Today, the value would be over R56 000 at Bitcoin’s current trading price on Luno,” adds De Wit.

In the time of Luno’s existence, market fluctuations and regulatory concerns around digital currencies have been recurring themes.

Bitcoin and crypto-currencies crashed in 2022, following a cocktail of negative events, including market turmoil, the liquidation of some big crypto exchanges and a lack of regulation that eroded investors’ confidence in crypto-currencies.

This saw Luno cull its staff complement by 35% earlier this year. In June, Luno shut down its services in Singapore, a decision the company said it made after evaluating its global strategy.

Earlier this year, Luno also made some changes to its leadership team, as it prepares for its next phase of growth.

As part of this process, the firm hired Canaccord Genuity Group to help bring on new institutional and strategic investors alongside DCG, to fund scaling, support expansion, accelerate market share gain and prepare the company for an eventual public listing.