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Why 2021 was crypto’s ‘breakout year’ & which countries are leading ownership

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You may have seen analysts, traders, and builders boldly claiming that 2021 was crypto’s “breakout year.” It’s certainly hard to deny, when considering the explosion of press and memes that came with the rise of dog-themed coins and then ape-themed NFTs. But how to prove this?

According to Gemini’s 2022 Global State of Crypto report, 2021 was indeed the year crypto became a “global, established asset class.” What’s more, the report’s adoption stats have a story to tell.

Roaring twenties are here

After surveying 29,293 adults spread across 20 countries, Gemini’s report entertained no doubts as to which countries topped the list when it came to crypto ownership. These were Indonesia and Brazil, with 41% of those surveyed reportedly owning crypto. The countries with relatively high ownership rates included the UAE, Singapore, Israel, Nigeria, and South Africa. In reality, though, while France and Germany recorded the highest rates of crypto ownership, the sample sizes could have been larger.

That being said, more are joining the list – and quickly, too. The report noted,

“Forty-one percent of crypto owners surveyed globally purchased crypto for the first time in 2021. More than half of crypto owners in Brazil (51%), Hong Kong (51%), and India (54%) got started in 2021.”

So what got these investors into crypto in 2021? Did a slew of Coinbase ads or football fan tokens do the trick? Not likely, as Gemini’s report pointed to one major trigger.

The I-word

For many crypto investors who took the plunge in 2021, watching their money lose value led them to exploring crypto ownership as a way to hedge against inflation. The report stated,

“In Brazil, where the local currency has been devalued by more than 200% against the USD, 41% of respondents own crypto. In the US, two in five (40%) crypto owners see crypto as a hedge against inflation.”

On a more heartening note, however, the report pointed out that crypto’s gender gap was appearing to close – at least when looking at the fact that in Indonesia and Nigeria, more than 50% of crypto owners reportedly were women. In this sense, “developed nations” appeared to be lagging.

Will the sequel be as good?

2021 may have been a historic year for Bitcoin, alts, NFTs, and other digital assets, but it was also a milestone year for financial institutions, governments, and licensed ETFs entering the market as well. After Bitcoin’s ATH in 2021, bearish trends in early 2022 provided chances for new investors to buy the dip.

However, with more mainstream institutions and thus, more regulation, traditional Bitcoin cycles are changing, and crypto’s correlation to traditional assets is growing stronger.


Sahana is a full-time journalist at AMBCrypto. She has a Masters in Journalism and her areas of study include crypto-regulation, digital society, privacy, and intersectionality. Ask her about film photography and philately.
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