MARA, a pan-African crypto exchange, announced its launch today, alongside a $23 million raise from backers including Coinbase Ventures, Alameda Research, (FTX) and Distributed Global.
The exchange also announced that it has struck a deal to become the official crypto partner of the Central African Republic, which last month became the second country in the world to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender.
As part of the partnership, the platform said, it will act as an advisor to President Faustin Archange Touadéra on crypto strategy.
MARA will target consumers, experienced traders, and developers with a suite of products that it says are built specifically for an African audience. Executives of the platform say the platform will become Africa’s portal to the crypto economy, at a time when economic instability in the region has heightened demand for a decentralized alternative.
“MARA’s mission is to facilitate a more equitable distribution of capital by providing a decentralized alternative that spans across tribes, class, cultures, and countries,” said Chi Nnadi, co-founder and CEO of MARA, in a statement accompanying the news. “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.”
Brokerage app MARA Wallet will initially launch in Kenya and Nigeria, offering users the ability to buy, sell, send, and withdraw crypto.
It is unclear how MARA will operate in Nigeria given the country has prohibited crypto transactions within the banking sector. Decrypt has reached out to the company for clarification.
For more experienced traders, MARA will also launch a pro exchange with a range of trading options and technical analysis tools.
Later in the year, the planned launch of MARA chain will then give developers a place to build decentralized applications (dapps).
Crypto in Africa
Crypto has faced several regulatory hurdles in Africa, despite growing numbers of adopters. In 2021, Nigeria’s central bank barred financial institutions from handling crypto-related transactions. Despite this, Nigerians have continued to use digital currencies, with many moving to peer-to-peer platforms.
MARA said as it launched that regulatory challenges and a difficulty reaching the African consumer in an “authentic way” have prevented existing global exchanges from operating in the region, leaving a gap that it plans to fill.
Alongside co-founder and CEO Chi Nnadi, MARA’s executive team is rounded out by co-founders Lucas Llinás Múnera, Dearg OBartuin, and Kate Kallot. Other backers of the project include TQ Ventures, Nexo, and angels such as Amit Bhatia and DAO Jones— an investment DAO backed by musicians Mike Shinoda, Steve Aoki, and Disclosure.