In a surprising update published on its website on Friday 20 July 2023, Bundle Africa, a popular “social payment for cash and crypto” in Nigeria and over 30 African countries, announced that it is ceasing operations of its cryptocurrency exchange services. According to Bundle, this decision is “part of the Shareholders’ decision to restructure the business to focus on Cashlink.”
Following the announcement, Bundle users are now restricted from depositing assets into their wallets, and swapping assets in their wallets (except for USDT). Bundle users are permitted to withdraw their cash and crypto through the various options provided by Bundle. For transactions involving conversion to USDT, users have till 30 August 2023 to do so. By 30 September 2023, no withdrawals will be permitted. Meanwhile, new signups have been stopped.
With Bundle, users can choose from 80+ crypto coins to trade bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Tether United States Dollars (USDT), Binance Coin (BNB), Cardano (ADA), Solana (SOL), Dogecoin (DOGE) and more, as well as send and receive cash and crypto from contacts.
To enable easy movement of funds into and out of the Bundle platform, Bundle provides three third-party apps for depositing and withdrawing cash from the Bundle wallet: the Bundle-recommended peer-to-peer (P2P) solution Cashlink, a second P2P solution P2PExpress, and gift-card solution Bitrefill.
Bundle users are allowed to withdraw their funds anytime and anywhere, till 30 September 2023.
Bundle has directed all its users, through its Bundle interface with users, to transfer their funds from their Bundle Wallet to any other wallet of their choice.
“You can also withdraw your money through Cashlink if you have a FIAT balance”, stated Bundle to all users via its Bundle app interface. Also, Bundle offered the option for users to either “Transfer to Binance” or “Transfer to Other Wallet”.
While the Transfer to Binance button connects directly to Binance.com platform, Transfer to other wallets leads to 4 options: withdraw your FIAT funds with Cashlink, withdraw your FIAT funds with P2PExpress, buy gift cards with your funds, or withdraw your crypto funds to external wallet (which should be a supported crypto wallet address).
By 10 September 2023, users will no longer be able to withdraw their funds from Bundle. Meanwhile, Bundle’s customer service team is available through in-app support.
Meanwhile, from the announcement date, Bundle users will no longer be able to sign up on Bundle, deposit assets into their Bundle wallets, swap assets in their Bundle wallet (except USDT), or withdraw with Cashlink if you they do not have Naira (NGN) or fiat on Bundle.
Reasons: Why is Bundle leaving the crypto exchange market?
According to Bundle, this is for two reasons:
- Its shareholders have decided to restructure the business to focus on Cashlink; and
- It wants to focus on payment solutions that meet the needs of the Web3 and blockchain ecosystem, and Cashlink is at the heart of this.
Cashlink, with over over 3 million transactions, is the payment solution Bundle is betting on. The P2P solution Bundle recommends to users on its platform for obvious reasons, Cashlink offers users the ability to add cash and withdraw cash from their Bundle wallets easily. Cashlink gives merchants the chance to provide liquidity to fellow traders and get paid for it.
With the Cashlink app integrated into a payment platform such as Bundle in this instance, a Cashlink merchant could make up to $500 commission monthly by helping users and businesses onramp and off ramp. As Cashlink puts it, “Think of yourself as a digital POS merchant.”
A testimonial by Quickie Bisola, a Cashlink merchant, paints a good picture of how Cashlink works on Bundle and what it means for merchants: “Cashlink has been an effective platform that bridged the gap in making fiat deposits and withdrawals on Bundle. The interface is user-friendly, easy to use and safe. As a merchant for over 21 months, it has provided a good source of consistent additional income. The Cashlink team is very supportive, eager to help and always creating new ways to make the platform better.”
If Bundle’s numbers in the last 3 years of its existence are anything to go by, the decision to shut down as a cryptocurrency exchange does not appear to be the result of poor numbers. According to Bundle, Bundle hit 50,000 monthly active users and $50m monthly volume. Bundle has over 1million downloads on Play Store and also recorded 5x growth in monthly active users (MAU).
In its shutdown notice to users, Bundle says it wants to ensure that it continues to give the best crypto experience in Africa and create more use cases in the Web3 ecosystem:
Bundle has given its community the best crypto experience in Africa, and we want to continue to ensure this. As a result, Bundle Africa will cease operations of its exchange services as part of the Shareholders’ decision to restructure the business and focus on cashlink to create more use cases in the Web3 ecosystem.
Indeed, Bundle has grown fast to become a leading cryptocurrency exchange platform in Africa.
In a Twitter thread, Emmanuel Babalola, Bundle CEO, reassured users and appreciated his Bundle team:
“Irrespective of this early exit, Bundle Africa has made its mark on the African continent, growing to become the top local crypto app by market share and retail volume, providing our users with a best-in-class experience for crypto, making it easier and safer to access crypto services. While this is unprecedented, we’d like users to know funds are SAFE and can be withdrawn between now & September 10th.“
What users can expect in the next three months
First, Bundle shutdown, as announced, is not a collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange. So this is not some FTX collapse or AAX disappearance, where users could no longer withdraw their funds. And unlike the ongoing Patricia cryptocurrency exchange challenge with funds withdrawal due reportedly to a major hacking incident, Bundle does not have such challenge. All users’ funds are safe and secure, assures Bundle.
In Bundle’s case, it is simply saying though we have done quite well with our cryptocurrency exchange solution, we are now pivoting to providing payment solutions in the Web3 and blockchain ecosystem. Therefore, funds are SAFU, as Binance’s founder and CEO, Changpeng Zhao (CZ) would say., and as Emmanuel Babalola, Bundle CEO, has reassured users in his tweet. Users however have before 10 September 2023 to move their funds.
Consequently, no panic is expected. No fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) here. Users can withdraw their funds safely.
However, withdrawals are expected to be generally slower than usual. This is reasonably due to traffic on the app. So some patience and understanding would be needed on the part of Bundle users. Also, due to the expected increase in volume of transfers at this time, processing time may take unusually longer time. For any issues, Bundle has encouraged its users to contact its customer service.
So whether you choose to transfer your funds to your already existing or new Binance account, or you choose to withdraw your fiat, or transfer your crypto to external wallets, Bundle has assured its users that it will have no hassles completing these transactions. However way users choose, taking note of the timelines stipulated by Bundle is important.
Against the backdrop of collapses and the associated abuses and issues generally witnessed in the crypto space over the years, it is quite commendable seeing the structured process Bundle has adopted to ensure that users safely move their funds from the platform.
Reactions: What some industry stakeholders are saying
Since the Bundle shutdown announcement, some industry stakeholders have been reacting to the unexpected development.
Responding to the Bundle shutdown announcement, Yele Bademosi, founder and first CEO of Bundle, expressed how difficult it was for him to see Bundle shut down but remains proud of its achievements:
It’s difficult for me to witness the closure of @BundleAfrica, however I’m immensely proud of the Bundle team, especially @Emmanuelbabzz for their incredible achievements over the last 2 years since I stepped down 💜 Bundle truly became a leading player in the African crypto space, successfully onboarding over 1 million people to the world of crypto in 3 years. The mission that underscored Bundle’s founding was one of providing independence, optionality & global access to finances for all Africans. Even though this is where Bundle stops as the vehicle for this mission, it’s definitely not the end of the road for its users and community. The mission stays alive and remain deeply connected to it. I am fully committed to supporting the Bundle Community and users as we move forward together #StayBundled.
Reacting to the Bundle shutdown as well as recent reports of collapses of other crypto businesses in Africa, including Lazerpay, Tega Edema, a lawyer, university lecturer in law with special interest in emerging technologies, and a member of Stakeholders in Blockchain Technology Association of Nigeria (SiBAN), pointed out the need for corporate restructuring as an exit option in the African crypto space. Ms. Edema observed that players in the crypto industry hardly consider corporate restructuring. In her words:
Rather, than shut downs or winding up, why not mergers, acquisitions, partnerships or collaborations? I think the crypto industry needs to borrow some leaf from d traditional banking sector. You hardly hear of banks in Nigeria folding up anymore. There is such a thing as *corporate restructuring. Is corporate restructuring incompatible with the crypto industry and vice-versa?
On his part, Franklin Peters, Founder & CEO of Boundlesspay, believes that Bundle is simply pivoting to focus on Cashlink. One can start as an exchange, he said, but through calibration and attention to market needs, he or she decides to “pivot into something else, retaining their previous customers and traction… it’s a WIN”.
Stanley Golomo, Co-founder & CEO of Farmchain Finance and member of SiBAN shares the same opinion with Mr. Peters that Bundle is only pivoting. As Mr. Golomo puts it, “[i]f you are a builder or an entrepreneur, you should understand this fact about businesses. There is always room for pivoting. Bundle only applied a double-play strategy by introducing Cashlink, to see which one will scale better and overtime realized that Cashlink will do better and decided to pivot and focus on Cashlink.”
Questions: Unbundling Bundle raises questions for crypto exchange businesses in Africa.
Whether Bundle has applied a double-play strategy or other strategies, one thing is clear: The decision of Bundle shutting down as a cryptocurrency exchange is that of its shareholders. This development has brought up some vital questions.
First, since Bundle is powered by Binance—and was in fact incubated in Binance Labs by Yele Bademosi formerly a director of Binance Labs—is Binance’s strategy of bundling new users in Africa through localized platforms changing? If so, why? In September 2019, Bundle raised $450k from Binance. Together with Binance, Bundle was backed by other African investors. However, though Bundle is incubated within the Binance ecosystem, Bundle operates as an independent entity from Binance.
Second, does Bundle shareholders’ decision to drop its crypto exchange business and focus on payment solutions in the Web3 and blockchain ecosystem suggest that running a crypto exchange business in Africa is relatively more challenging and unsustainable?
Perhaps the best and most compelling answers to the questions above will not come from statements. They will come from how existing cryptocurrency exchanges operating in Africa, including Binance, Bitmama, Bitpesa, Blockchain.com, Obiex, Ovex, Luno, Roqqu, Paxful, Quidax, Valr, YellowCard, and others successfully operate in Africa’s dynamic, promising, but challenging crypto market.