These Three Frontier Markets Countries Have Already Launched Their Own Cryptocurrencies

Economies are increasingly adopting cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin’s humble beginning in 2009 and its subsequent growth to a $76 billion market cap (as of October 9) bears testimony to the conviction of blockchain technology as a means of payment. Blockchain technology and its product, cryptocurrencies, are gaining acceptance amongst a handful of sovereigns that are now considering the idea of developing their own digital currency. Cryptocurrencies together now command over $150 billion in market capitalization.

There are approximately 50 countries globally (ACWI) (VTI), which currently do not have or do not use their own sovereign currency. This is resulting in some governments beginning to consider the creation of a digital currency of their own. The prospect of decreased transaction costs and ease of ownership make the option increasingly appealing, particularly for use in international transactions.

Presently, there are three frontier markets (FM) (FRN) that are already using digital currencies (ARKW), and a fourth is preparing to do so. Emerging markets (EEM) (VWO) such as China (FXI) and Russia (RSX) are also considering various applications in this regard. Meanwhile, the emirate of Dubai recently launched its own blockchain-based cryptocurrency known as emCash.

Here are the 3 frontier markets that are already using digital currencies, and the fourth which is preparing to join the list:

1. Ecuador

In 2014, Ecuador became the first country in the world with its own digital currency. The small Latin American (ILF) nation is the first to have a state-run electronic payment system known as Sistema de Dinero Electronico. The system allows Ecuadorian residents to pay for public services via their mobile wallets. The scheme intends to help begin to reduce government spending of more than $3 million a year to exchange old notes for new dollars. The 5-year goal for the digital currency is to reach over 4 million users registering around $80 million.

2. Tunisia

Since 2015, Tunisia has been using the universal contracting platform, Monetas, to boost its eDinar (aka Digicash and BitDinar) digital currency using the blockchain. The Monetas platform is an advanced crypto-transaction technology that uses a Blockchain secured digital notary to enable all kinds of financial and legal transactions, public or private, globally. With the La Poste Tunisienne android application powered by Monetas, Tunisians use their smartphones to make instant mobile money transfers, pay for goods and services online and in person, send remittance, pay salaries and bills, and manage official government identification documents.

3. Senegal

In December 2016, this West African country launched its own national digital currency, eCFA, valued at par with the CFA franc. The eCFA was developed by the Banque Regionale de Marches (BRM) and eCurrency Mint and is compatible with other digital cash systems in Africa. The blockchain-based currency has been designed to be compatible with other digital currencies in Africa (EZA). The drive for its very own digital currency perpetuated from the fact that Senegal’s CFA franc is shared by 14 countries in West and Central Africa, and its value is guaranteed by the French government.

Estonia

This European country (VGK) (EZU) is among the most tech-friendly countries in the world. The economy already has an e-Residency programme in place where the government stores its data on the blockchain. Now, the Baltic country is on track to creating its own digital currency, Estcoins, which will be available for use by members of its e-Residency programme. The project is being advised by Ethereum founder, Vitalik Buterin.

Ecuador’s Anti-OPEC Decision Raises Fear of Contagion Amongst Other Members Countries

Ecuador straining relations with the OPEC

Ecuador has publicly stated that it will not adhere to OPEC’s (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) production curbs. The steep slide in oil (OIL) (USO) prices since mid-2014 led OPEC members, in November 2016, to sign a pact to curb oil production by 1.2 million barrels a day starting January 1, 2017. In December, non-OPEC members such as Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Russia (RSX) had also agreed to reduce output by 558,000 barrels a day to help address price slide triggered by the supply glut. Accordingly, OPEC oil production had dropped by 32.5 million barrels a day from January 1st, lending some respite to the steep fall in oil prices since mid-2014.

The price of crude oil has now recovered nearly 50% since its lowest point seen in January 2016.

Need to plug the economy’s fiscal deficit

Ecuador’s decision is backed by the country’s need to plug its fiscal deficit. According to Ecuador’s oil minister, Carlos Perez, “we are not meeting the quota imposed on us because of the obvious needs the country has……… there’s a need for funds for the fiscal treasury, hence we’ve taken the decision to gradually increase output.” The Latin American (ILF) (GML) economy’s compliance on its agreed quota of 26,000 barrels a day cut in oil production was seen falling to 69% in June. Accordingly, the country has been falling short by about 10,000 barrels a day.

According to Perez, Ecuador remains committed to the pact and its support towards the Organization. However, as per a non-written agreement with OPEC on flexibility in terms of production needs, the economy could now be curbing production by approximately 16,000 barrels of oil per day.

June 2017 has already seen OPEC production up by 1.2% vis-à-vis May. Output for OPEC averaged 32.61 million barrels a day last month, with Ecuador contributing 1.75% of it. Besides, countries such as Libya and Nigeria, which are exempted from the output-cut agreement on account of social instability, have been pumping in more oil.

Ecuador’s decision raises the fear of a contagion

Markets fear the risk of a contagion to other OPEC economies. Ecuador’s move could encourage other OPEC nations such as Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar (QAT), UAE (UAE), and Venezuela to rethink their commitment to the production curb. Other OPEC members following suit could impact the recovery in oil prices achieved since last year. Kazakhstan’s intended ‘soft exit’ from the deal be taken as a hint.

No More Border Wall: Ecuador to Mend Relations With Peru

Suspension of the Ecuador-Peru border wall

On July 14th, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa announced that the country had decided to halt the construction of the border wall with Peru (EPU). The wall was built as a flood precaution by Ecuador. It has been the center of controversy for some time now, straining diplomatic relations between the two countries. The issue had gained prominence following US President Donald Trump’s pledge to build a wall between the US (SPY) (IWM) and Mexico (EEW).

Peru, which believes that the wall infringed on a 1998 deal which prohibits construction within 10 meters of the border, recently recalled its ambassador from the country to express its rage over the decision. Subsequently, the foreign ministry of Ecuador announced the suspension of the construction of the mile-long, 13-foot high wall between the two Latin American (ILF) (GML) countries.

Ecuador mending relations with Peru

The suspension should bode well for Andean (AND) countries. The wall would have led to about 5,000 job losses on each side of the wall, primarily in the local fish trade. Currently, fishermen cart their fresh catches over the canal which outlines the border across bamboo footbridges. With the wall in place, workers would have had to take a lengthy detour to unload their catches in Peru probably putting an end to the trade.

Moreover, Peru counts among the top 3 export destinations of Ecuador. Close to $1 billion worth of goods are exported from Ecuador to Peru, accounting for 5.1% of its exports (see chart above). The wall would have certainly impacted cross-border trade volumes.

Now, while on one hand, Ecuador has taken a step to mend its diplomatic relations with Peru, on the other hand, it stands a chance to strain its relations with the OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries). The next part of this explains how.