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World’s largest crypto exchange opens in SA

Read time 3min 10sec
Tanya Knowles, Binance.
Tanya Knowles, Binance.

Binance, which claims to be the world’s largest crypto-currency exchange, is now open for business in South Africa. It has hired Tanya Knowles, a well-known local blockchain and crypto industry expert, as its country manager.

Binance will compete with other exchanges in the country, such as VALR, and Luno.

Knowles told ITWeb this week that its local launch was "not about eating a piece of the pie".

“The approach is to make that pie bigger. We had a big boom in the crypto-currency space in 2017. The industry has matured a lot since then, and I think we’re at the tipping point of the next big adoption. Right now, there is so much going on (with crypto-currencies).”

She says all the exchanges need to work together, particularly with regards to regulation.

Knowles announced at the Blockchain Africa Conference in Sandton on Tuesday that it was establishing a local fiat gateway. It was also launching with five trading pairs, including Bitcoin to ZAR, ethereum to ZAR, and BNB to ZAR. BNB is the native token on the exchange, and can be used, for example, to pay trading fees.

In the past, Binance was purely a crypto-to-crypto exchange, and thus did not need any regulatory oversight. Now, with a fiat gateway, regulatory oversight is needed.

“We realised that fiat gateways are important. It’s the way to get the money into the space, and it’s a way for institutional investors to get into the space in the long term. As soon as you move into that space, regulation kicks in.

“We’re not here to try and bypass it; it’s there for good reason and investor protection. There’s been a huge number of scams. I’m e-mailed almost daily by someone who’s been scammed.”

$1 million to grow crypto in SA

“I think it’s difficult in the economy at the moment to justify these nice-to-have blockchain projects and crypto-currencies. It’s difficult being an entrepreneur right now in this country. Internationally, this space is growing every day, with people doing real things. As a country, we’re good adopters of things like Bitcoin and ethereum, but with the rest of these crypto-currencies, we’re going to open up the market for everybody.”

Knowles used to be the managing executive of Fractal Solutions, a division of the Strate clearing house, which focused on blockchain technology. She is also chairperson of the South African Financial Blockchain Consortium which represents over 60 of the country’s largest financial institutions. Most recently, she worked at Adhara, which focuses on liquidity management and international payments.

Binance is the largest exchange by trading volume. It operates in 180 countries, and processes about 1.4 million transactions a second. It processes close to $3 billion worth of transactions every day, and there are about 15 million Binance users worldwide.

Knowles also announced the company will donate $1 million to advance the crypto-currency and blockchain ecosystem in South Africa. This money will be administered by the exchange’s charity arm. She said it had a number of projects under way, and was open to suggestions for other projects.

Binance currently has over 150 coins on its exchange, and Knowles said it was inundated by requests by new coins and crypto projects to list on the exchange. However, it only accepts 3% of applications it receives, and new coins are subject to a ‘robust’ vetting process.

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