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Bitcoin and Stablecoins: A Looming Threat to Emerging Market Currencies?

Bitcoin and Stablecoins: A Looming Threat to Emerging Market Currencies?
Bitcoin and Stablecoins: A Looming Threat to Emerging Market Currencies?

The rise of Bitcoin (BTC) and stablecoins has sparked concerns about their impact on the stability of emerging market currencies. A recent report by CoinShares delves into this issue, highlighting several key factors fueling this trend.

This article explores these factors and analyzes the potential consequences for developing economies.

Bitcoin Adoption Soars in Emerging Markets

According to CoinShares’ 2023 Global Bitcoin Ownership Overview, an estimated 270 million people worldwide own Bitcoin. This figure represents a user base comparable to the population of Indonesia, the world’s fifth most populous nation. Notably, the report identifies emerging markets as the primary driver of this growth, suggesting a significant shift towards Bitcoin as a preferred financial asset in these regions.

CoinShares further underscores this point by analyzing the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of Bitcoin ownership from 2016 to 2022. This impressive figure of 146% indicates a rapid rise in Bitcoin adoption, particularly within emerging economies. While such high growth rates might not be sustainable indefinitely, the trend suggests a growing preference for Bitcoin as an alternative to traditional financial instruments.

The Flight from Fiat: A Search for Stability

The CoinShares report explores the correlation between Bitcoin adoption and the health of local fiat currencies in emerging markets. It reveals a consistent pattern: countries with high Bitcoin ownership often have weak or deteriorating fiat currencies. This trend suggests that people in these regions are increasingly turning to Bitcoin as a more stable store of value compared to their local currencies.

Historically, weak fiat currencies have often struggled to compete with “harder” currencies. The emergence of Bitcoin and stablecoins, viewed as such “harder” currencies, accelerates this process. These digital assets offer a decentralized alternative that is not easily controlled or manipulated by local governments, potentially leading to faster depreciation of unstable fiat currencies.

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Stablecoins: Bridging the Gap and Fueling Growth

The report also sheds light on the crucial role of stablecoins in this evolving financial landscape. Often referred to as “cryptodollars,” stablecoins are pegged to the value of traditional fiat currencies like the US dollar, offering stability for everyday transactions. This makes them a more practical alternative to Bitcoin’s volatility for daily use in emerging markets.

Interestingly, the report identifies a shift in the relationship between Bitcoin and stablecoins. While Bitcoin initially introduced users to the concept of stablecoins, the trend has reversed. Stablecoins are now acting as a gateway for new users to enter the broader cryptocurrency ecosystem.

Accessibility: A Game Changer for Emerging Markets

A particularly noteworthy aspect of stablecoins is their ease of access. They can be bought and sold using only a smartphone, making them readily available to billions of people around the world, especially those in regions with limited access to traditional banking infrastructure. This accessibility significantly lowers the barrier to entry for new users, potentially fueling the wider adoption of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in emerging markets.

The Looming Threat: Implications for Emerging Economies

The CoinShares report concludes that the combined impact of Bitcoin and stablecoins presents a significant threat to the stability of emerging market currencies. The widespread availability of these “harder” currencies makes it increasingly difficult for governments to control their monetary policies through strategies like fiat devaluation.

Previously, citizens in emerging markets had to resort to physically importing foreign banknotes to protect their wealth from currency depreciation. However, Bitcoin and stablecoins have streamlined this process, making it harder for governments to regulate and potentially leading to a more rapid decline in the value of unstable fiat currencies.

Looking Ahead: Beyond Emerging Markets

While CoinShares emphasizes the initial impact on emerging economies with their history of inflation and currency instability, the report also warns of potential consequences for developed markets. Over time, even well-managed fiat currencies could face challenges as Bitcoin and stablecoins continue to gain traction globally.


The rise of Bitcoin and stablecoins presents a complex challenge for emerging market economies. Their growing popularity is driven by the search for stability and ease of access, potentially undermining the control of governments over their currencies. As the global cryptocurrency landscape continues to evolve, it will be crucial to monitor its impact on traditional financial systems and develop appropriate regulatory frameworks.


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