Picture: TEMPLE CERULEAN/UPSPLASH
Picture: TEMPLE CERULEAN/UPSPLASH

Naspers-backed cryptocurrency platform Luno is in talks about expanding in Kenya and Ghana to extend its African footprint, as bitcoin has rallied 99% over the past two months during 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. While the outbreak has been beneficial in terms of transactions doubling on the exchange, it has become harder to travel to talk to stakeholders, he said.

The exchange — which trades bitcoin, ethereum, XRP and litecoin — recently moved beyond SA and Nigeria to start operating in Zambia and Uganda, he said. The SA company employs 400 people, across seven offices in Africa, Europe and Asia.

Luno was founded seven years ago and has 4-million users, adding about 1-million customers as the spread of Covid-19 shut down economies worldwide. 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 worldwide in response to soaring demand. Investors in SA are also using the digital currency as a hedge against price increases after a 23% depreciation in the rand against the dollar in 2020.

Luno attracted $3m 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%.

Bloomberg