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Cristiano Ronaldo Launches NFT Collection & More

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In this week’s news roundup, you will read about Cristiano Ronaldo’s NFT collection that’s in partnership with Binance, the central bank of Zimbabwe’s move to conduct a consumer survey on CBDC, and more.

Cristiano Ronaldo Launches First NFT Collection with Binance

Cristiano Ronaldo NFT Collection

Renowned football player Cristiano Ronaldo is set to launch his NFT in partnership with Binance. The NFT collection will become available on November 18, 2022. 

Speaking about the partnership, He Yi, Binance’s Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, said, “We believe the metaverse and blockchain are the future of the internet. We are honored to collaborate with Cristiano to help more people understand blockchain and showcase how we are building Web3 infrastructure for the sports and entertainment industry.”

The collection launch, which is part of an exclusive, multi-year partnership with Binance, is supported by a global marketing campaign that features Ronaldo introducing Web3 to his fans through the world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

It was important to me that we created something memorable and unique for my fans as they are such a big part of my success,” said Ronaldo. “With Binance, I was able to make something that not only captures the passion of the game but rewards fans for all the years of support.” 

The NFT collection, which is expected to drop on Friday, will feature seven different animated statues with four rarity levels: Super Super Rare (SSR), Super Rare (SR), Rare (R), and Normal (N). Each of the NFT statues will depict Ronaldo in an iconic moment from his life, from career-defining bicycle kicks to his childhood in Portugal.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Launches CBDC Survey

The Central Bank of Zimbabwe has announced that it will be conducting a central bank digital currency (CBDC) consumer survey to gather views on the design, nature of the digital currency, and overall acceptance by the public. 

The bank went ahead to reassure the participants that any information received via the survey would be treated with the utmost confidentiality. Additionally, the bank said that the results would only be used for research purposes. The move comes just a few months after the Zimbabwean central bank said it would publish a document that would kick off a public consultation process to help foster an extensive and transparent public dialogue with reference to the potential benefits and risks of the CBDC. 

The form includes questions to gauge whether residents understand the difference between CBDC and a normal Zimbabwe dollar, as well as rate their chances of using the digital currency. Zimbabwean residents have until December 7, 2022, to complete the exercise.

Modus Expands to Sub-Saharan Africa, Launches a $75 Million AI and Blockchain-focused Fund

Modus, a holistic New York venture platform, has announced the launch of Modus Africa, a venture capital fund for AI and blockchain startups across Sub-Saharan Africa. The $75 million fund is expected to reach its initial close in the first quarter of 2023.

With recent expansion into the Middle East, Modus says its expansion into Africa will create an “additional conduit of market access for Modus portfolio companies while also enabling African startups to scale into the MENA region.” in addition, Modus on its website states that the fund is backed by various investors ranging from family offices, government-backed entities from the US, EU and MENA, private investors and UHNWI. 

Modus, unlike other venture firms interested in Africa, has a focus on startups in the AI and blockchain space. According to a statement, Modus says Africa has the potential of reaching 200 million+ new blockchain users in the next four years, fueled by necessity and a fast-growing tech-savvy population.

Speaking on the formation of Modus Africa, Kareem Elsirafy, the Managing Partner of Modus, said in a statement, “Modus is proud to be launching an Africa-MENA investment corridor to continue supporting and investing in emerging innovation ecosystems. The Modus platform is uniquely positioned to deliver impact and value to African communities through operational, institutional, and financial capital. We’re excited to have Vianney and Andre leading the way on this journey.”

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US Treasury Sanctions Hit Russian Arms Dealer’s Crypto Wallets

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The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has imposed full blocking sanctions on 22 individuals and entities across several countries, including Russia and Cyprus, as part of its sanctions evasion network that supports Russia’s military-industrial complex.

The sanctions were imposed under Executive Order 14024 and are part of the U.S.’s strategy to target sanctions evasion globally, close key channels, and limit Russia’s access to revenue for its war in Ukraine.

US Treasury Goes After Russian Arms Dealer’s Cryptos

The U.S. Treasury’s sanctions were imposed by the Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO) Task Force, a multilateral effort to identify, freeze, and seize assets of sanctioned Russians worldwide. This task force leverages information from international REPO partners and key data from Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to share information, track Russian assets, and sever Russian proxies from the international financial system.

The REPO Task Force aims to maximize the impact of multilateral sanctions while preventing opportunities for Russia to evade or circumvent U.S. and partner sanctions.

The primary target of the sanctions is a Russian sanctions evasion network led by Russia and Cyprus-based arms dealer Igor Zimenkov and his son Jonatan Zimenkov. The Zimenkov network has been involved in projects related to Russia’s defense capabilities, including supplying a Russian company with high-tech devices after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. They have also supported sanctioned state-owned Russian defense entities, Rosoboroneksport OAO and State Corporation Rostec, which are critical components of Russia’s military-industrial complex.

Igor and Jonatan Zimenkov have worked closely together to enable Russian defense sales to third-party governments and have engaged directly with Rosoboroneksport’s potential clients to facilitate sales of Russian defense material. Igor Zimenkov has also supported the Belarusian military-industrial complex by enabling the sales efforts of State Owned Foreign Trade Unitary Enterprise Belspetsvneshtechnika in Latin America.

Today, Igor Zimenkov was designated for operating in the defense and related materiel sector of the Russian Federation economy, while Jonatan Zimenkov was designated for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for Igor Zimenkov, Rosoboroneksport, and other sanctioned entities.

The Zimenkov network used front companies to funnel money and maintain a lawful appearance. Singapore-based Zimenkov network shell company Asia Trading & Construction PTE Limited and its director, Serena Bee Lin Ng, have sold helicopters to clients in Africa on behalf of the Zimenkov network. Additionally, Cyprus-based Zimenkov network shell company Lobster Management Limited and its director, Mikhail Petrov, have facilitated sanctions evasion by providing support to sanctioned entities.

The Treasury’s OFAC continues to work with its international partners to coordinate information sharing and enforcement and to travel the world in pursuit of sanctions evasion. The sanctions imposed today are a clear signal to Russia and its military-industrial complex that the U.S. and its partners are committed to tightening sanctions enforcement and preventing the evasion of international sanctions.

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BeInCrypto has reached out to company or individual involved in the story to get an official statement about the recent developments, but it has yet to hear back.



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Digital Wallet Growth Will Enable More Closed-Loop Transactions

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Crypto and fintech investment firm Ark Invest has made bold predictions about digital wallets, estimating that more than half the world will soon be using at least one.

In its Jan. 31 ‘Big Ideas 2023’ research report, Ark Invest revealed that digital wallet global population penetration is currently 40%. This equates to around 3.2 billion users, the firm added.

However, the research suggests that the number of online wallet users will increase at an annual rate of 8%. The firm predicted that this will result in a global population penetration of 65% by 2030:

“Having onboarded billions of consumers and millions of merchants, digital wallets could transform the economics associated with traditional payment transactions, saving them nearly $50 billion in costs.”

It also noted that digital wallets were gaining market share in online and offline transactions. Cash is definitely in decline, accelerated by government initiatives to go digital, as recently seen in Nigeria.


Payment method trends - Ark Invest
Payment method trends – Ark Invest

Digital Wallet Growth to Continue

Ark reported that digital wallets were scaling faster than accounts at traditional financial institutions. Furthermore, U.S. digital wallet adoption rebounded in 2022, surpassing previous highs following a COVID-induced dip.

The firm estimates that U.S. digital wallet users will increase by 7% annually during the next eight years. This will be a growth of around 160 million in 2022 to more than 260 million by the end of the decade.

Digital wallet user growth - Ark Invest
Digital wallet user growth – Ark Invest

Furthermore, online wallets are enabling “closed-loop” ecosystems. This is where consumers and merchants can transact directly, cutting out the middleman. 

“Digital wallets are onboarding millions of merchants to platforms that enable direct consumer-merchant transactions that disintermediate traditional financial institutions,” it noted.

In this closed-loop environment, wallet providers capture more value per transaction, enabling savings to be shared with merchants and consumers.

Open and Closed Lopp transactions - Ark Invest
Open and Closed Lopp transactions – Ark Invest

Additionally, Ark noted that closed-loop transactions could boost the margin structure of wallet providers.

It used Block Inc. (formerly Square) as an example, stating that it paid around 60% of customer transaction fees to third parties in 2022. The fees were paid for interchange, assessment, processing, and bank settlement fees. Block’s net take rate could more than double if customers transacted directly with merchants.

Block Inc. fee structure - Ark Invest
Block Inc. fee structure – Ark Invest

Closed Loop Transactions Could Top 50%

Finally, Ark predicted that these closed-loop transactions could account for over 50% of digital payments by 2030.

It used China as an example where wallets and merchants are largely internal or domestic only.

Closed loop cost savings - Ark Invest
Closed loop cost savings – Ark Invest

In conclusion, digital wallet growth is set to continue. Cutting out the intermediary which they facilitate is beneficial to both the consumer and merchant.

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Strike Launches Lightning Remittances in the Philippines

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Bitcoin fintech giant Strike rolled out its Lightning Network money transfer service Send Globally in the Philippines, a $35 billion remittance market.

Send Globally launched in the Southeast Asian country on Jan. 31, 2023, enabling businesses and tourists to receive international money transfers in the Philippine peso. The country receives $35 billion in remittances globally.

How Strike’s Send Globally Service Works

“Remittances are a broken system and Strike delivers an incredibly empowering experience for people to send money around the world in nearly an instant,” Strike CEO Jack Mallers said.

According to a press release, Strike’s remittance service converts a sender’s fiat into Bitcoin and sends the Bitcoin to a Strike partner in the destination country using the Lightning Network, which in the case of the Philippines, is Pouch.ph. Pouch.ph then converts the Bitcoin to the recipient’s fiat currency and credits their bank or mobile money account, with Strike shielding both parties from the tax implications of handling Bitcoin directly.

Bitcoin’s Lightning Network is a layer-two solution on the Bitcoin blockchain that allows micropayments between nodes over a payment channel. Unlike traditional payment networks, Lightning’s low fees enable almost zero-cost remittances.

Recently, Mallers announced a trial to bring Bitcoin Lightning Network payments to retailers through a partnership with Fiserv’s point-of-sale solution Clover Commerce. The trial allows any application with Lightning capability to pay Bitcoin for goods and services at Clover merchants.

Philippine Smartphone and Internet Adoption Auger Well for Strike

Send Globally rolled out to Strike users in Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya on Dec. 6, 2022, where it has reportedly gained rapid traction.

However, mainstream adoption in the Philippines will depend heavily on network effects, driven by smartphone and internet penetration.

According to Statista, the number of smartphone users will increase from 85 million in 2022 to 87 million by 2023. Additionally, forecasts suggest smartphone users will increase to 91.5 million in 2025, representing roughly 83% of the island nation’s population.

Smartphone Adoption in the Philippines
Smartphone Adoption in the Philippines | Source: Statista

Additionally, Statista predicts that about three-quarters of the population will have internet access by the end of 2023. Growing internet access increases the chance of Strike’s success, since it helped drive adoption of crypto game Axie Infinity.

For Be[In]Crypto’s latest Bitcoin (BTC) analysis, click here.

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BeInCrypto has reached out to company or individual involved in the story to get an official statement about the recent developments, but it has yet to hear back.



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