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Could Bitcoin Become the First Pan-African Currency?



Pan African Currency

Bitcoin is the world’s first truly global currency that anyone can use to make payments and transfer funds. In Africa, bitcoin has so far been growing primarily in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana and is currently being used mainly as an investment and for private international remittances. But does it have the potential to become the first pan-African currency?

Here are some reasons as to why people believe that Bitcoin, will be the leading global currency.

  • Anyone with Internet access can use bitcoin
  • Bitcoin is not controlled by any government or central bank
  • Payments and money transfers take less than 30 minutes
  • The cost of a bitcoin money transfers is minimal
  • Transactions are transparent as they are publicly recorded on the blockchain
  • There is a fixed supply of bitcoins, so hyperinflation cannot occur

Bitcoin remittances in Africa

While, in theory, bitcoin remittances make sense in Africa the reality is that there is the (partly) costly challenge of exchanging the received bitcoins into local African currency. For this reason, bitcoin remittances are currently not the cheapest way to remit funds into Africa, according to a report by US bank Citigroup. However, as exchanges are expanding and the bitcoin economy is growing in Africa, bid/offer spreads will tighten and bitcoin remittances will become a viable way to transfer money across borders at a low cost.

There will be an increase in money remitted to sub-Saharan Africa from people in the diaspora. Western Union and MoneyGram have been the main beneficiaries of it. This is one of the key reason why so many people in the bitcoin economy believe that bitcoin will succeed in Africa, as the costs of cryptocurrency-based remittances are substantially lower than using the before-mentioned expensive traditional Money TransferOperatorss (MTOs).

So far, consumer bitcoin remittances into Africa have only really taken place on a small scale as can be seen in the video by below. But as the bitcoin infrastructure improves in Africa, the trend for bitcoin remittances will undoubtedly be positive.


Bitcoin as a store of wealth and as a spending currency

Once bitcoin volatility reduces (which arguably will take quite some time) bitcoin will very likely become a viable store of wealth. Furthermore, as merchant adoption increase both globally and in Africa (as seen in South Africa), Africans will be able to use bitcoin as means of payment across the continent. The reality is, however, that it will take a substantially amount of time for this to occur.

In fact, bitcoin adoption correlates to some degree with Internet penetration in Africa. It is not surprising that the countries with the highest Internet penetration are also those spearheading bitcoin adoption on the continent. As affordable access to the Internet spreads in Africa, so will bitcoin as a store of wealth, a means to transfer money and as a spending currency.

To answer the question in the title of this article: YES, bitcoin could become the first pan-African currency. This could occur once internet penetration reaches the majority of the continent and global bitcoin adoptions increases, to the extent where it becomes globally recognized as legal tender. Whether that will happen or not, remains to be seen and, if it does, it will take a long time.



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South Africa’s Central Bank Categorises Cryptocurrency as “Cyber Tokens”



South Africa Cyber Tokens

The South African Reserve Bank has made a decision to categorise virtual currencies such as bitcoin as “cyber-tokens” stating that they do not meet the necessary prerequisite to be referred to as money.

While addressing reporters in Pretoria, the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of South Africa, Francois Groepe, said:

“We don’t use the term ‘cryptocurrency’ because it doesn’t meet the requirements of money in the economic sense of the stable means of exchange, a unit of measure and a stable unit of value. We prefer to use the word ‘cyber-token’.”

In addition, the Reserve Bank has now formed a financial technology (fintech) taskforce that will be tasked with reviewing the central bank’s stance on private virtual currencies and help draft a suitable regulatory regime and policy framework.

The decision by South Africa’s central bank comes just two months after the South Africa Revenue Service (SARS), announced their new laws on digital currencies putting them ahead of most African countries that are still struggling to implement laws that govern cryptocurrency use and trading.

Groepe went on to say: “We want to ensure or establish whether there is still compliance with the relevant financial surveillance or exchange-control regulations.”

Not Everyone Loves Cryptocurrencies

Many African governments have been hindering the adoption of cryptocurrencies. Just this week, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe banned all cryptocurrency operations in the country forcing Golix – one of the largest cryptocurrency exchange platforms in the country – to take them to court and challenge their directive. Although the ban was lifted by the Harare High Court, it is not yet clear what the next cause of action of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe will be.

Zimbabwe is not the only country. The Central Bank of Kenya has also maintained that investing or trading in cryptocurrencies is risky and has continued to warn both local banks and the general public against them. The central bank of Lesotho also told investors earlier in the year that they would not offer any help to anyone in case they lost their money on digital currencies.

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Zimbabwe High Court Suspends Ban on Cryptocurrencies Set by Central Bank



Zimbabwe Court Suspends Ban on Cryptocurrencies

Zimbabwean digital currency exchange Golix will be able to resume operations after the Harare High Court suspended a ban by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) that prohibited cryptocurrency operations in the country.

Zimbabwe’s central bank had barred all financial institutions from providing any services to cryptocurrency exchanges terming their move as a step that is meant to “safeguard the integrity, safety, and soundness of the country’s financial system, and to protect the public in general”.

The ruling was made by the High Court after the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe failed to appear in court following a case that was filed by Golix challenging the country-wide ban of cryptocurrency trading.

In an interview with CCN, Golix’s Communications Manager, Nhlalwenhle Ngwenya, said: “The ban was lifted.” None of the officials at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, including the Governor, John Mangudya showed up for the proceedings at the Harare High Court causing the court to suspend the ban.

“We are hoping that we can immediately go back to doing business and processing the order book,” stated an official from Golix. As the biggest cryptocurrency exchange in the country, Golix was forced to stop its operations and find ways to deal with the directive from RBZ in a notice that was sent to its members.

Relief to Cryptocurrency Exchange Platforms

The ban lift is a relief to both crypto traders as well as investors who will now be able to trade on the Golix or Styx24 exchange platforms. Besides their crypto trading platform, Golix also owns a bitcoin ATM that is located in Harare.

The RBZ had classified operations by cryptocurrency exchanges as illegal in the country. One of the arguments presented to the high court by Golix was that the ban was unconstitutional citing Section 68 while questioning the authority the central bank had in making laws, a function which is meant for the legislative arm of the government, which the RBZ is not part of.

In a letter issued on May 15 to Golix, the central bank ordered them to cease all their cryptocurrency trading and gave banks a maximum of 60 days to stop any relationships they may have with virtual currency exchange platforms in a circular that had been issued on May 11.

The high court ruling also gave the central bank of Zimbabwe a maximum period of 10 days, within which they can oppose the provisional order. In addition, the RBZ was also ordered to pay the cost of the suit.

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Kidnappers in South Africa Demand Bitcoin Ransom for Teenager, Boy Found Unharmed



Kidnappers Demand Bitcoin Ransom

In South Africa, a gang has kidnapped a 13-year old teenager and demanded a ransom to be paid in bitcoin for his release. The abductors have demanded a ransom of 15 BTC, which is an equivalent of $120,000 at today’s prices.

“This is a kidnapping! We have your child. Your child will not be harmed if the following demands are met: We demand a ransom of 15 bitcoins to be paid to the below Bitcoin wallet to secure your child’s safe release,” reads the note left by the kidnappers.

According to The South African, 13-year-old Katlego Mariate was kidnapped while playing with two of his friends at his home in Frangipani Street, Tasbetpark Extension 3, Witbank. Witnesses testified the victim was grabbed into a gold Toyota Corolla occupied by three unknown men before driving off.

The Police spokesman, Brigadier Leonard Hlathi, said the situation is being investigated:

“We are investigating a case of kidnapping that happened on Sunday in Witbank. There was a demand that was made that the parents should deposit cash in bitcoins.”

Another police officer said the parents of the victim, who are in deep shock over the incident, do not even know what bitcoin is. “They don’t even know what this bitcoin is. They’re devastated and you can see they’re worried and asking themselves: ‘Where’s our son?”

Boy Found Unharmed

According to Reuters Africa, police spokesman Hlathi informed the public that the boy was found unharmed on May 24.

This appears to be the first case in the country involving a bitcoin ransom in a kidnapping. However, it is not the first time this has happened in other parts of the world. Last year, a bitcoin analyst was kidnapped in Ukraine and, in early 2018, a lawyer was abducted with respective kidnappers demanding bitcoin as ransom in Mexico.

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