BY ROYAL IBEH, Lagos
A Pan-African crypto exchange, MARA, yesterday, announced a $23 million in funding from Coinbase Ventures, Alameda Research (FTX), Distributed Global, TQ Ventures, DIGITAL, Nexo, Huobi Ventures, Day One Ventures, Infinite Capital, DAO Jones (investment DAO backed by Mike Shinoda, Steve Aoki and Disclosure), and nearly 100 other crypto investors, and angels including Amit Bhatia and Hamad Alhoimaizi.
In addition, MARA has also announced a partnership with the Central African Republic, which just passed a bill legalising Bitcoin as legal tender. As part of this partnership, MARA will become the official crypto partner of the Central African Republic and an advisor to the president on crypto strategy and planning.
MARA’s launch comes at a critical inflection point in sub-Saharan Africa. Political and economic instability has led to devaluation of currencies across the region, while the current centralised financial system continues to present ongoing obstacles to the development of both local economies and individuals. As a result, food prices have doubled to tripled in some areas and created record-breaking interest rates. These tired systems have prompted a dire need for a decentralised alternative.
The MARA executive team is led by Chi Nnadi, Lucas Llinás Múnera, Dearg OBartuin, and Kate Kallot, and is joined by board advisors Kojo Annan and Tatiana Koffman.
“MARA’s mission is to facilitate a more equitable distribution of capital by providing a decentralised alternative that spans across tribes, class, cultures, and countries,” says Chi Nnadi, co-founder and CEO of MARA. “Our goal is to close the gap in opportunities for sub-Saharan individuals and establish a financial infrastructure that they can build their lives upon.”
Unlike its competitors from North America and Europe, MARA’s onboarding, support, and ecosystem reflects the needs of Africans. KYC/AML is compliant to global standards, and is compatible with international financial regulations. Customer support is easily accessed and will be available in both local and international languages.
“We are pleased to partner with MARA as it embarks on building a digital financial system for Sub-Saharan Africa,” says Schuster Tanger, Co-Founder of TQ Ventures. “With the right resources, this region has potential for mass adoption of cryptocurrency. To that end, the local knowledge and specialized skills of the MARA team is quite promising.”
MARA will initially launch in Kenya, Nigeria, and surrounding regions. The MARA Wallet app will be available in the App Store and Google Play stores. Pre-registered users will join a queue to enable early access on a first-come, first-served basis. Users can jump up the queue by referring others, and earn crypto rewards by doing so, while increasing their odds of winning additional prizes and rewards in the process. Once onboarded, the MARA Wallet will enable users to invest in crypto and send money to their family members in real time, without processing times or delays.
MARA’s mission is to become the portal to the crypto economy for the African population. While cutting-edge technologies such as cryptocurrency have shown incredible promise among sub-Saharan Africa’s predominantly young and technologically-native population, there are considerable hurdles to using them. Many existing global exchanges cannot operate in the region due to regulatory challenges as well as difficulty reaching the African consumer in an authentic way. These barriers to access significantly restrict both the number of people who can participate in the crypto economy and the potential uses for digital currency in the region.
The MARA suite of products addresses a variety of essential crypto-finance needs while complying with local regulations and being built authentically for the African audience. MARA’s products include:
MARA Wallet – a brokerage app offering the crypto-curious user a friendly, distilled experience through which they can buy, send, sell and withdraw both fiat and crypto assets instantly and without any prior crypto knowledge.
Pro-Exchange – a full-feature cryptocurrency platform focused on experienced users that offers a comprehensive suite of trading options and technical analysis tools.
MARA Chain – a layer-1 blockchain, powered by the native MARA token, that gives savvy developers a place to build decentralized applications that will help shape the future of the African crypto economy.