JAN 9, 2024
Philippines leading charge in Asia amid global bitcoin payment surge
Bitcoin's global merchant acceptance witnessed a substantial surge, growing by 174% throughout 2023, with the Philippines proving itself in leading the way within the Asian region.
Region facing regulatory restrictions
That’s according to BTC Map, a provider of bitcoin merchant mapping services. The data, derived from BTC Map's open-source mapping data via OpenStreetMap, revealed that the number of venues accepting bitcoin payments surged from 2,207 at the beginning of the year to 6,126 by the year's end. This diverse array of businesses included restaurants, bars, shops and various services.
The expansion of bitcoin vendors is a global phenomenon, with concentrations notably observed in Europe, the United States and Latin America. The Philippines stands out in Asia with hundreds of vendors, while regulatory restrictions in East Asia, especially China, have limited adoption.
While it's great to see a high level of direct adoption among Filipino merchants, it's easy to understand why this level of adoption hasn’t been matched within Asia’s largest market. China has had a long-standing ban on cryptocurrency trading, mining or its use as a means of payment. Despite the ban, it appears that crypto trading is still alive and well in China, although beneath the surface.
With mining too, while the sector shrank considerably once a ban was imposed, there is believed to be a significant ongoing level of bitcoin mining occurring still within China’s borders. However, when it comes to vendors, this is likely to be an activity that is far too visible to the authorities and with that, China’s 1.4 billion citizens are not getting the opportunity to buy goods and services with the world’s leading cryptocurrency.
Compounding matters, the Chinese authorities have been working diligently on a myriad of projects to bring about day-to-day retail use of the country’s central bank digital currency, the digital yuan. Those efforts are not likely to be aligned with an accommodation of or tolerance of bitcoin payments.
The increase in merchant listings showcased a slight decline from the peak in September, which reached 6,590 merchants. BTC Map's platform allows businesses and users to tag locations accepting bitcoin payments, with the rise in numbers potentially attributed to increased user contributions to the database.
This surge in bitcoin adoption globally occurred against the backdrop of the cryptocurrency's price volatility throughout the year. Despite potential limitations in data collection due to its reliance on volunteer contributions, the overall trend indicates a growing acceptance of bitcoin.
Ongoing challenges to adoption
A panel of bitcoin leaders at the Plan B conference in October discussed the challenges and opportunities of global bitcoin adoption. Notably, they highlighted the difficulty of onboarding new users and merchants, particularly in diverse cultural contexts. In El Salvador, where bitcoin is legal tender, obstacles persist in convincing merchants to accept bitcoin payments.
Geographically, concentrations of bitcoin-accepting vendors were more prevalent in Central and South America, while Africa and Asia demonstrated fewer such establishments. The United States and Europe led in the global count of crypto-friendly merchants.
The panel stressed the importance of education in overcoming these challenges, emphasizing the need for user-friendly applications to facilitate mainstream adoption, moving away from complex technologies. As bitcoin continues its global expansion, the industry recognizes the vital role education and user-friendly solutions play in fostering broader acceptance.