South African cryptocurrency exchange VALR targets global expansion

By Thomson Reuters Apr 30, 2024 | 9:04 AM

By Nqobile Dludla

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s largest cryptocurrency exchange VALR has secured a licence in Poland and eyeing other jurisdictions across the globe, in hopes to take on some of world’s crypto giants, its CEO told Reuters.

VALR is one of 75 crypto asset service providers that were recently granted licences this year by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) to operate in South Africa, a key step in making crypto a mainstream investment option and creating a regulated environment for users.

Founded in 2018, VALR offers spot trading, margin trading, perpetual futures and staking products to its over 600,000 retail customers and over 1,000 institutional customers across South Africa and globally.

About 75% of its customers are from South Africa, while 25% are from all over the world and VALR wants to increase this share of clients from outside South Africa, Chief Executive Farzam Ehsani told Reuters in an interview.

VALR was recently approved to offer crypto asset services in Poland. It already has initial approval from Dubai’s regulator VARA and in the process of obtaining a licence in Mauritius, Ehsani said.

“The intention here is to be able to provide products and services to a global audience that is continuously growing,” he said. “The intention is to actually become a global player because we’re not satisfied with being the largest in Africa (by trading volume).”

Where there is regulatory clarity in other jurisdictions, VALR will look for licences there as well, including in Africa, where Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Egypt are on its radar.

VALR had been eyeing Nigeria for a long time but Nigerian authorities made a U-turn earlier this year, blocking access to crypto exchanges in a country-wide crackdown on exchanges that have been blamed by authorities for feeding a black market for foreign exchange.

“We’ve said until there’s clarity, we won’t go there (Nigeria),” Ehsani said.

In order to take on some of the big crypto giants globally such as Binance, the exchange will look to offer similar products and services as them, and “in the future we’ll look to things like insurance,” Ehsani said.

The South African licence allows VALR to provide general crypto asset trading and services. For other products such as perpetual futures trading, it works with other financial service providers – which have licences for those products – as a “juristic representative”.

(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; editing by David Evans)