Uptick in South African women chasing crypto-currency

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 13 Aug 2019

South African crypto exchanges are witnessing a higher number of women dealing in digital currencies.

This as the price of Bitcoin, the world’s most popular crypto-currency, is, of late, enjoying a purple patch.

At the time of writing, Bitcoin was trading at $11 363 (R174 000), marking its best weekly performance of the year so far.

Recent findings from AltCoinTrader, one of SA’s leading crypto-currency exchanges, reveal an overall increase in women owning crypto-currencies.

According to AltCoinTrader’s internal data, 39% of registered traders are women.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in the women that own crypto-currencies, as opposed to previous years. As the industry matures, more women are actively partaking in this evolution,” says Richard de Sousa, senior partner at AltCoinTrader.

The crypto-exchange says millennial investors are also more eager than ever before to invest in crypto-currency assets.

It explains that millennials are more open to including crypto-currencies in their investment portfolios.

Millennials usually look for more convenient and cheaper ways of banking and saving, and as a result of this, crypto-currencies seem to be a more lucrative offer, it adds.

Lion’s share

Even though men still own most of the pie with a 61% share, it is evident that women are also on the rise, increasing their knowledge and investing in digital assets, says De Sousa, noting that as crypto-currencies like Bitcoin are still a relatively new phenomenon, more South Africans are starting to get into the space.

Exchanges that operate in a regulated environment are expected by government and regulators to know their customers.

“The thing to consider is that our clients often hold rands, and as AltCoinTrader is a regulated exchange, we are obliged to collect know-your-customer information from all our clients,” De Sousa explains.

“As we are working as a financial institution and dealing with rand clients, we need to, by law, have their details.

“Once they buy the crypto-currencies, we still have record of their details and transactions. The true anonymity of crypto comes into effect once clients remove their crypto assets from an exchange and into their own personal wallets. That is where no one will know the gender, age or any information about that client.”

Nonetheless, AltCoinTrader says Africa as a continent is still lagging behind in terms of education on the subject matter. However, according to Google Trends, the biggest search interest for Bitcoin in the world is by potential investors from Nigeria, SA and Kenya – the three biggest crypto-currency markets in Africa.

Google Trends further breaks down the South African “Bitcoin” search by sub-division of provinces, making Free State, Eastern Cape and North West the top three provinces with the highest number of Bitcoin Google searches.

“At AltCoinTrader, we are constantly trying to work on educating the South African public on the matter, and as more women get educated on the topic, we are certain that more women will get involved,” says De Sousa.

Volume traders

Farzam Ehsani, co-founder of another crypto exchange, VALR, concurs, saying: “At VALR, some of our highest volume traders are women.

“Many of these women bring Bitcoin liquidity to VALR by selling on our platform, seemingly taking advantage of the arbitrage opportunity that presents itself in South Africa as our exchange control regulations have resulted in a ‘biltong premium’ where local Bitcoin prices are often 3% or more higher than the international market.”

However, Ehsani notes that while some of the exchange’s highest volume traders are women, it still sees that the majority of users are men.

“But it has been very encouraging to see an increasing number of women join the crypto space, not just as traders, but as thought-leaders, several of whom are South African.

“Crypto and the tech space in general still have more participation from men, likely in large part due to out-dated stereotypes of gender-specific job roles, but this is changing and I’ve seen more and more women take their rightful place in the industry.”

Gender impact

Marius Reitz, general manager for Africa at Luno, an exchange owned by Naspers, says: “We are seeing an increasing number of women interested in working in crypto, with 40% of Luno's team being female.”

He points out that results from an independent South African survey commissioned by Luno in 2018, with an even male to female ratio, revealed that gender has a significant impact.

“Fewer women are very familiar with crypto-currencies or owning them. These results are in-line with the gender split seen in conventional investing, where the participation of women also tends to be lower than men.”

Reitz adds that a study conducted by the Nelson Mandela University stated women are less confident about financial and investment matters.

“It is possible that this same trend from conventional investing is exhibiting itself in crypto-currencies. This means that to increase participation by women in crypto-currency, it should require that women become as familiar with the technology as men.

“We believe that if women are as familiar with the technology, participation by women in crypto-currency is likely to increase. We, therefore, have a particular focus on growing awareness about crypto-currency and using the Luno platform.”