Nigerian Crypto Startup Lazerpay to Shut Down Operations

Lazerpay, a Nigerian start-up that was established in October 2021 by Emmanuel Njoku, Abdulfatai Suleiman, and Prosper Ubi, has decided to discontinue operations since it is unable to get sufficient finance. Njoku announced the news on April 13 through a message that he posted on Twitter. In the statement, he expressed his thanks for the relationships that were created and the influence that Lazerpay had on the cryptocurrency ecosystem. He went on to highlight that the new company had worked very hard to keep the lights on, but unfortunately, they had reached a point where they needed to close its doors.

This announcement comes only a few short months after Lazerpay announced layoffs in November 2022. Those layoffs were also ascribed to the startup’s failure to secure money after the withdrawal of a main investor. According to Njoku, despite the obstacle, Lazerpay has already onboarded more than 3,000 firms and handled more than one million dollars in transactions.

Lazerpay has urged that merchants take their cash from the platform before the deadline of April 30, 2023, utilizing the bank or cryptocurrency payment options. This will enable a smooth transition for Lazerpay’s customers. The company has declared that it will refocus its efforts on fixing any unresolved concerns. In addition, the company is in the process of soliciting proposals from other businesses interested in purchasing its intellectual property.

Lazerpay was developed to encourage widespread use of cryptocurrencies and to assist companies in accepting stablecoin payments from clients located all over the globe. The failure of the venture to get sufficient finance ultimately resulted in the company’s demise, which represents a big loss for the African cryptocurrency market.

The closure of Lazerpay is the most recent event in a string of disruptions that have occurred in the African cryptocurrency market. Paxful, a peer-to-peer marketplace for Bitcoin transactions, also announced last week that it would be closing its doors. Notwithstanding this, a few crypto payment firms on the continent, such as NairaEx, which is a functioning Bitcoin exchange in Nigeria, are nevertheless doing rather well.

Despite the fact that Lazerpay has shut down, Njoku and the other co-founders of the company continue to have a positive outlook on the future of cryptocurrencies in Nigeria and Africa. They have expressed their conviction that the African continent has a significant amount of untapped potential for innovation and development in the cryptocurrency industry.


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Bittrex to Shut Down U.S. Platform

Cryptocurrency exchange Bittrex will close its U.S. platform on April 30, according to an announcement from the company on Friday. After nine years of operation, Bittrex co-founder and CEO Ritchie Lai stated that the current U.S. regulatory and economic environment made it “economically unviable” for the exchange to continue operating in the country.

Lai cited unclear regulatory requirements that are enforced without appropriate discussion or input, resulting in an uneven competitive landscape as the reasons behind the closure. He added that operating in the U.S. was no longer feasible for Bittrex.

Despite the shutdown of its U.S. platform, Lai assured customers that all their funds are safe and available for withdrawal. The closure will not affect Bittrex Global, which operates in Europe, Canada, and South America, among other locales, and will remain open for trading.

Bittrex’s decision to shut down its U.S. platform is not the first time a crypto exchange has faced regulatory hurdles. In recent weeks and months, U.S. regulators have increased their oversight of crypto-related companies. Coinbase recently disclosed receiving a Wells Notice from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), while Kraken paid a $30 million fine in a settlement with the same agency after shuttering its crypto staking service.

Binance and its CEO and founder Changpeng Zhao were also recently named in a complaint filed by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The complaint alleges the offering of unregistered crypto derivatives products in the U.S.

The crypto industry has been grappling with regulatory challenges in the U.S., with some companies choosing to exit the market altogether. However, other companies, like Bittrex Global, continue to operate and expand their reach in other parts of the world.

Bittrex Global operates in over 100 countries and recently launched a new platform for institutional investors. The exchange’s closure of its U.S. platform may be a strategic decision to focus on expanding its operations elsewhere.

The crypto industry is still in its early stages, and regulatory challenges are expected to persist. The industry’s stakeholders will need to work with regulators to find a balance between innovation and compliance to ensure the healthy growth of the industry.


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Myanmar Military Blocks Facebook as Global Internet Disruptions Intensify

The new military government in Myanmar has reportedly ordered telecommunications companies to temporarily block access to Facebook citing the platform is a threat to the restoration of stability in the country, as part of a broader effort to restrict internet access following a coup last month. 

The nonprofit internet shutdown tracker NetBlocks confirmed that access to Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp servers was now restricted in the country. Internet disruptions were also recorded on Jan. 31, 2021, when Myanmar’s military seized control in the coup that brought them to power.

When it comes to politically motivated internet shutdowns, 2021 is already off to a miserable start. In January alone, India, Myanmar and Uganda all suffered internet disruptions tied to political events. 

In Uganda, the state completely shut the internet down on the day of its presidential elections in early January. Last week, Indian authorities restricted internet access in multiple areas near its capital, New Delhi, as local farmers protested agricultural laws that were passed in September last year.

According to Hanna Kreitam, a technical expert at the internet policy NGO Internet Society, apart from the violation of basic human freedoms, internet shutdowns are detrimental to growth as they have an immediate financial impact on a country’s economy. Kreitam explained that internet shutdowns dampen economic activity, which consequently reduce profits for local businesses and lower tax revenues.

“Furthermore, many individuals, organizations, and businesses around the world rely on Internet-based services that depend on critical functions like data storage, data processing, and financial transactions based in various countries. Disrupting access to these services inevitably reduces productivity, resulting in significant economic losses,” Kreitam said.

The Cost

A 2020 report by Top10VPN revealed that regional internet disruptions combined with prolonged internet blackouts in Kashmir may have cost India $2.8 billion in 2020, while disruptions in Myanmar may have cost the country’s economy $190 million.  

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 is a critical year, and emerging economies cannot afford the economic and infrastructure costs that Internet shutdowns often cause on top of the pressures of the ongoing pandemic, Kreitam said.

India, for instance, aspires to be a tech hub but has a complicated history of policing the internet to quell dissent and protests. Kreitam said internet shutdowns will have an impact on those aspirations.

“We believe that Internet shutdowns erode the trust people place in Internet infrastructure to be available and to work reliably when needed. Over time, people stop using unreliable networks, leading to reduced investment and further decline in investment in infrastructure and buildout,” Kreitam said. 

Repeat Offenders

Authorities in India, Myanmar and Uganda have previously disrupted the internet at critical times, according to Samuel Woodhams, Digital Rights Researcher at Top10VPN. 

“The recent shutdowns in Uganda, India and Myanmar show that elections, protests and political upheaval continue to be a trigger for internet restrictions around the world… We know countries that disrupt the internet once are likely to do so again,” Woodhams told CoinDesk via an email. 

Woodhams added that to date, pressure from the United Nations, civil society and legal practitioners have not prevented governments from restricting access to the internet and stifling citizens’ freedom of expression at pivotal political moments. In fact, he said it’s unlikely that a supranational body that’s capable of stopping these disruptions at the local level would ever materialize. 

“With more elections scheduled in countries that have previously implemented shutdowns and the damaging economic and political impacts of the pandemic still emerging, unfortunately I think we can expect a lot more internet disruptions in the coming year,” Woodhams said. 



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