In the early-2000s, the Argentine economy went through a severe crisis, causing Argentina to default on its foreign debt and place strict controls on currency. While Argentina’s economy quickly recovered over the next few years, the Argentine Peso remains famously unstable, passing through periods of rapid inflation and deflation.
Why Are Argentines Bitcoin Early Adopters?
As a result of the instability, Argentines became some of the earliest adopters of cryptocurrency in Latin America – and the world – in an effort to protect their savings against inflation. With an inflation rate of 32% per year (or higher) and a restrictive foreign exchange policy, Argentina was a prime location for cryptocurrency adoption.
Buenos Aires currently beats out most global cities for businesses that accept Bitcoin, with 6.1 businesses that accept Bitcoin per one million people, while New York has just 4.7 Bitcoin-accepting businesses per one million people. However, the Argentine government does not necessarily sanction investment in cryptocurrencies. The Argentine Parliament does recognize cryptocurrency, but they see it as property rather than currency. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are currently legal in Argentina, and the country reportedly installed as many as 200 Bitcoin ATMs last year.
I’ve written extensively about doing business in Chile, and since Argentina, the country next door, has been making a lot of noise, I decided to write up an overview of opportunities in Argentina. Argentina has the third largest economy in Latin America (after Brazil and Mexico), and the 2nd highest GDP per capita in the region in PPP terms (after Chile).
You may have heard the saying, “As rich as an Argentine,” a phrase that was coined to describe Argentina’s wealth and prosperity in the 1800s-1929. Argentina had the 4th highest GDP per capita and was one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Between 1890 and 1930, the capital city of Buenos Aires transformed from a colonial town to the sprawling, mammoth of a city it still is today.
Unfortunately, the Great Depression followed all of that prosperity and then decades of political turmoil. Over the next few decades, Argentina borrowed from foreign banks and ran hefty budget deficits. In the 1970s, Argentina’s credit rating dropped so low that leaders resorted to printing more currency, leading to the Argentinian Peso’s steady decline.
Argentina next went through a period of hyperinflation and political instability which lasted until the 1990s. By the 1990s and Dot Com Bubble era, the government launched new initiatives to reopen the country, and Buenos Aires became the birthplace of some of Latin America’s most successful technology companies. A group of Argentine Internet pioneers founded companies like MercadoLibre (the eBay of Latin America) and OfficeNet (which was eventually acquired by Staples). (more…)