Naspers-backed cryptocurrency platform Luno is in talks about expanding in Kenya and Ghana to extend its African footprint, as bitcoin rallies 99% over the past two months amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s markets we have a keen interest in, and Ghana and Kenya are high on our list,” Luno GM Marius Reitz said by phone. While the outbreak has been beneficial in terms of transactions doubling on the exchange, it’s become harder to travel to talk to key stakeholders, he said.
The exchange, which trades bitcoin, ethereum, XRP and litecoin, recently moved beyond South Africa and Nigeria to start operating in Zambia and Uganda, he said. The South African company now employs 400 people, across seven offices in Africa, Europe and Asia.
Luno was founded seven years ago and now has four million users, adding about a million customers as the spread of Covid-19 shut down economies around the world. Activity on the market is being boosted by people looking for digital ways to transact and limit human contact, Reitz said.
The closely held company is one of dozens of cryptocurrency platforms that have sprung up around the world in response to soaring demand. Investors in South Africa are also using the digital currency as a hedge against price increases following a 23% depreciation in the rand this year against the dollar.
Luno attracted US$3-million in funding in 2015, led by Cape Town-based technology investor Naspers, Africa’s biggest company. Naspers, Balderton Capital UK, Rand Merchant Investment Holdings, Venturra Capital and Digital Currency Group all own minority stakes of less than 20%. — (c) 2020 Bloomberg LP