Turkey’s crypto and blockchain ecosystem welcomed 2020 with big ambitions and a strong track record from 2019, which was the best year on record for adoption. After the publication of Statista’s “Global Consumer Survey 2019”, die names Turkey as a world leader by a wide margin in terms of crypto usage, one major crypto exchange after another announced plans to establish themselves in the country.

Huobi and Binance established their offices in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and business center. Major players from Europe such as Crypto.com and Bitpanda showed clear interest in the Turkish crypto ecosystem. The Turkish lira, the country’s national currency, became one regular trading pair on global exchanges.

The Turkish government and public sector have taken active steps towards blockchain adoption: following the announcement of plans for a national blockchain infrastructurethe government has also drawn up a roadmap for a digital currency of the national central bank. In Turkey’s annual presidential program for 2020, the deadline for pilot tests of one was set at the end of 2020 national blockchain-based digital lira. At around the same time, Turkey’s financial watchdog Capital Markets Board announced its plans design a regulatory framework for crypto.

Turkey’s crypto ecosystem was gearing up for a high-octane year in early 2020, but the pandemic took place and many aspects of this multi-tiered progression had to hit the brakes.

Not that different from the rest of the world

It’s hard to talk about the future of money, innovations, or new trends if they won’t provide immediate assistance during this time when people gather in front of TV screens to get updates on life and death issues. When the pandemic first hit, no one in Turkey cared about crypto for a few months. Even the 2020 Bitcoin (BTC) halving, the first since the previous record high in 2017, failed to capture the attention of the masses.

People needed – and still need – efficient access to health care and medicines, clarity about the progress of vaccinations and only then a safe haven to store their belongings safely. Bitcoin can only deliver the latter. That’s why talks about crypto were limited during the early period of the pandemic.

Bitcoin all-time high against the Turkish lira

2020 was not a rosy year for the Turkish economy. COVID-19 was by no means the only factor affecting an already struggling country. But the government’s pandemic-driven panic, uncertainty and tough calls to deal with the outbreak resulted in a sharp decline for the Turkish lira against Bitcoin, the US dollar and most other world currencies. Professor Steve Hanke, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who called the lira “toast” on Twitter, claimed that “Turkey is running out of ammunition in its futile defense of the hopeless lira” and that the only solution is a gold-backed currency.

However, Turkish crypto markets tell a slightly different story. People who stayed at home for extended periods of time were intrigued by digital assets that were easy to access and trade, and more people began to give crypto a shot as a new asset. Thanks to Bitcoin halving, the recent boom in decentralized financing projects and the BTC price once again approaching $ 20,000, Turkey-based crypto exchanges and global players targeting Turkish users shared impressive numbers in the second half of the year. BtcTurk, a leading local crypto exchange, announced in August, more than 1 million users traded on the platform.

A major spike in trading volume was also revealed by another major exchange: In an interview with Cointelegraph Turkey, Paribu CEO Yasin Oral emphasized that during the recent bull run in the crypto markets, the platform saw exponential growth in daily trading volume, which occasionally $ 200 million.

This volatile activity of the Turkish lira has caught the attention of world markets in 2020. The lira-linked stablecoin became BiLira (TRYB) listed on many global stock exchanges such as Bittrex and BTSE.

Top cryptocurrencies in Turkey

The Turkish Authority for Information and Communication Technologies published its “Cryptocurrency Research Report” in September. This survey has two main results:

First, the five most invested cryptocurrencies in Turkey are Bitcoin, XRP, DigiByte (DGB), Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and Stellar Lumen (XLM), respectively. That leaves regular customers from the global charts like Ether (ETH) and Litecoin (LTC) out of the top five.

Second, the report claims that the number of crypto owners in Turkey is 2.4 million, or about 3% of the population. These figures contradict Statista’s previous report, which claims that 20% of the 80 million people living in Turkey have “crypto exposure”. In addition, another study entitled “Cryptocurrency Awareness and Perception Survey” claims that the use of cryptocurrency among Turkish people actually less than 1%. Those two reports hang a big red question mark over Turkey’s global leadership in crypto adoption, which was talked about in 2019.

Football is a gateway to crypto for Turkey

No annual gathering involving Turkey would be complete without a nod to football, the country’s most popular sport, which is also deeply rooted in its culture. In 2020, football and crypto got closer than ever thanks to a number of partnerships and fan tokens.

BtcTurk became a major sponsor of both the Turkish women’s and men’s national football teams heading for next year’s UEFA European Championship. This sponsorship may have given crypto in general, BtcTurk and BTC itself high exposure during international football matches.

Chiliz, a sports and entertainment-focused fintech company, has introduced a number of major Turkish football teams to its blockchain-based fan token platform, Socios. Football clubs Galatasaray and Trabzonspor has already launched fan tokens, giving fans a new way to support their favorite teams Istanbul Basaksehir has announced plans to be launched on Socios before the end of 2020. Several reports emphasize that other big clubs such as Besiktas and Fenerbahce will follow suit in 2021.

To reach more local users, Socios is also working with Paribu to list fan tokens. The first project to be listed on the local trading platform, Galatasaray Fan Token, saw a volume of more than $ 2 million in less than 24 hours, proving great interest in fan tokens from Turkish users. Paribu CEO Oral noted that there is a significant user base “that Galatasaray Fan Token gets to know before they become aware of Bitcoin or any other crypto.”

What can you expect from 2021?

Turkey is shutting down 2020 without a blockchain-based national currency or clear regulation of crypto. But that doesn’t mean the government is on a break altogether. Regulatory forces are very active in the anti-money laundering aspect of crypto, and local trading platforms confirm that they are in constant contact with authorities about suspicious activity.

They expect a welcoming regulatory framework to support Turkey’s growth as a regional hub for crypto and blockchain projects in 2021 and beyond. Whatever happens, Cointelegraph will continue cover more stories from Turkey as the only global crypto media platform with a dedicated team in the country.

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