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Will the Global South Lead the Future of Web3?

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“Web3 will be a source of huge FDI and economic improvement and stood up as a model for other countries, and my bet is on the Global South”, Hassan Ahmed, head of Southeast Asia at Coinbase, said in a discussion on Tuesday.

Broadly referring to regions outside Europe and North America, the Global South is largely (though not all) low-income and often politically or culturally marginalised. Adoption of crypto in these countries have boomed in the past year, according to a 2021 report by Chainalysis, which placed Vietnam, India and Pakistan firmly in the lead.

Ahmed said that his “dark horse bet” on the Web3 space is that one country is going to take a “deep bet” on Web3 that will pay off in huge spades, just like how e-money and fintech have leapfrogged traditional banking.

“Web3 will be a huge source of FDI, and will be a source of economic improvement for consumers”, he said during a panel discussing the future of digital assets, at EY’s Blockchain APAC virtual meet-up.

Ahmed cited rise of play-to-earn (P2E) gaming, an Asia/Southeast Asia-first phenomena that lies at the intersection of blockchain, gaming and the gig economy, which can “change lives and have a real economic impact that was impossible to foresee not too long ago”.

“It goes to show that when you’re building locally, and you have markets and regulatory regimes that provide clarity for users to be able to access crypto and cash in and cash out with healthy liquidity, it can lead to unexpected behaviours, and in this case, it has decoupled the local labour market for workers to be able to earn in the metaverse” Ahmed said, discussing the rise of Vietnam-based P2E game Axie Infinity, which has a large share of users in Southeast Asia.

Ahmed was previously the CEO of a mobile wallet and virtual currency platform in the Philippines and head of strategy at GoPay Indonesia. In 2021, he joined the US-based crypto exchange, which is actively recruiting for numerous roles to drive its market expansion across key APAC markets and support the execution of its expansion strategy in the region.

Coinbase is among the 170+ applicants for a digital payments token (DPT) license from the Monetary Authority of Singapore.