Worldcoin suspended in Kenya, one of its biggest markets for sign-ups so far

Quick Take

  • Kenya’s Ministry of the Interior said Worldcoin has been suspended until relevant agencies in the country can assess what risks it poses to the population.
  • The East African nation’s capital city of Nairobi had been a key market for Worldcoin, responsible for more than a quarter of a million sign-ups by December of last year.

Worldcoin, the identity-focused crypto project co-created by Sam Altman, has been suspended in Kenya — a market in which it has already signed up hundreds of thousands of customers.

“The Government is concerned by the ongoing activities of an organization calling itself ‘WORLD COIN’ which is involved in the registration of citizens through the collection of eyeball/iris data,” said Kenya’s Ministry of the Interior in a statement shared on Facebook on Wednesday and signed by Minister Kithure Kindiki.

It added, “Accordingly, the government has SUSPENDED forthwith, activities of ‘WORLD COIN’ and any other entity that may be similarly engaging the people of Kenya until relevant public agencies certify the absence of any risks to the general public whatsoever.”

The news will come as a blow for Worldcoin, which — in an investor presentation obtained previously by The Block — had previously highlighted Nairobi, the country’s capital, as a city in which it had seen significant demand. In December 2022, when the presentation was prepared, Worldcoin boasted of more than a quarter of a million sign-ups in Nairobi, with 45 of its retina-scanning orbs circulating.

Ramping up orb production

THE SCOOP

Keep up with the latest news, trends, charts and views on crypto and DeFi with a new biweekly newsletter from The Block's Frank Chaparro

By signing-up you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy
By signing-up you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

Worldcoin is currently ramping up production of those orbs, as it seeks to rapidly increase the number of people getting scanned around the world. Its technology is billed as a means of online identity verification. Those who sign up can also claim a portion of the project’s WLD token, a cryptocurrency that launched last week.

At launch, Worldcoin — which has chiefly been developed by San Francisco-based startup Tools for Humanity — had more than 2 million users, predominantly based in the Global South.

The startup did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story.


© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

About Author

Ryan Weeks is deals editor at the The Block, focused on fundraising, M&A and institutional trends in the crypto space, among other things. He is particularly interested in investigative work — so please send tips! Ryan previously worked at Financial News, Dow Jones as a fintech correspondent in London. Prior to that, he wrote for several different publications, including Sifted, AltFi and Wired. Beyond journalism, Ryan is a keen reader and writer. He enjoys all things active, especially running, rugby, climbing and tennis.

Editor

To contact the editor of this story:
Tim Copeland at
[email protected]