Despite grand visions of enabling farmers in Vietnam access to the world of global finance via Decentralized Finance, emerging markets could represent as little 10% of visitors engaging with the top DeFi DApps. 

Proponents have long hoped crypto and DeFi would allow citizens around the world a means to circumvent the barriers created by economic underdevelopment, however the data suggest users from the world’s largest economies dominate the DeFi rankings by online traffic.

A new report from The Defiant examines the top five geographical sources of traffic for the 10 largest DeFi platforms by Total Value Locked in February, with the data provided by web traffic aggregator SimilarWeb.

The analysis finds that U.S. traffic dominates eight of the 10 largest DApps by TVL, representing between roughly 10% and 27% of traffic on MakerDAO, Compound, Aave, SushiSwap, Uniswap, Synthetic, Bancor, and BadgerDAO respectively.

The U.S. also ranks second behind China for traffic visiting Curve, and fourth on Balancer behind Russia, Ukraine, and China. The United Kingdom is the second-largest source of traffic for five DApps.

Despite the World Bank estimating there are 1.7 billion people without a bank account and the SME Finance Forum noting a $5 trillion financing gap for small to medium-sized businesses in emerging economies, the data shows that for now, people are not turning to DeFi to solve these problems.

One reason for the apparent imbalance between DeFi adoption in emerging and developed markets may be the skyrocketing fees associated with using the Ethereum mainnet since the Q3 2020 DeFi bubble.

According to demographics website World Data, there are only 39 countries in which citizens earn more than $33.33 a day. With the gas fees associated with popular DeFi DApps regularly exceeding $50, and complex protocols recently quoting gas fees exceeding $1,000, it is likely the prospect of spending more than an entire day’s pay on just the fees associated with trying a DeFi protocol are a major deterrence to many people living in emerging markets from exploring the sector.

Emerging markets dominate traffic visiting Venus, the top DeFi protocol built on Binance Smart Chain — which offers significantly reduced fees when compared to Ethereum. Venus’ top source of traffic is Argentina with 9%, followed by China, Turkey, Thailand, and Peru.

While DeFi adoption appears slow in emerging markets, data from UsefulTulips shows that aside from the United States, emerging markets dominate peer-to-peer Bitcoin trade volumes — suggesting crypto is being adopted for payments in nations with weak financial institutions.