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South African “Whites-Only” Town Orania Creates Digital Version of its Local Currency

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Orania

A small town in rural South Africa is seeking to experiment with a digital version of their local fiat currency. Orania is a self-sufficient enclave that was founded in 1991 after the end of apartheid legislation and has a tiny population of 1,400. The predominantly white town aims to use digital currency as a way of boosting its local economy.

Digital Upgrade of the Ora

The town introduced its own fiat currency in 2004 to increase spending and boost self-sustainability. The currency, Ora, functions as a voucher or token and users can enjoy discounts at town stores. While the currency is not recognised by the South African Reserve Bank, it can be traded for South African rands at a ratio of 1:1 within the town.

However, as a fiat currency, the Ora has a few drawbacks that are hampering its growth and acceptance. Top of which are printing and currency transfer costs. Orania’s leadership are hoping the digital currency ‘E-Ora’ will eventually replace the paper currency that has been bogged down by transaction costs. By eliminating the fees involved in printing and minting, as well as transaction costs, more people will use the digital currency and thus boost the town economy.

Dawie Roodt a chief economist at the Efficient Group, a financial consultancy helping with the project, said in a BTC.info article,

“What we plan to do is to digitise the existing physical ora and replace it with an electronic one […] If you can reduce the cost of the transaction, you can boost economic activity quite substantially.”

Should the plans for the digital currency succeed, Orania will join a small group of micronations that are also experimenting with digital currencies. For instance, Liberstad a privately run city in Norway has its own decentralised monetary system. Another example would be the free republic of Liberland, which is situated on the western banks of Danube and has bitcoin as its national currency.

A Digital Economy Case Study

While the town makes its foray into digital currencies, people view the town as a racist community as 97 percent of its population are white. The fact that Orania has strict laws about the ethical composition of their population and segregative admission laws in post apartheid South Africa has been a major source of controversy and has added to Orania’s racist image.

However, despite the socially regressive policies, Orania, represents an interesting case study on the potential of digital currencies to transform local economies. For younger members of the town’s population who are already used to online banking, a shift to a digital currency is eagerly anticipated.

Looking to emulate bitcoin, Roodt hopes the ‘E-Ora’ can in the future become a fully fledged cryptocurrency, competing against South Africa’s rand. He said,

“The possibility is that we can soon have a new digital currency, which rivals the rand in South Africa, and the best part is nobody can stop us […] The only way to stop this is switching off the Internet.”

Presently, the plan is to develop an online platform that will enable members to trade the digital Oras on their smartphones. Eventually, the physical Ora notes will be replaced by the digital version of the currency. For digital economists, it will be interesting to see what happens to an economy when fiat currency no longer exists.

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Fake Bitcoin Smartphone Apps Have Been Downloaded Over 10,000 Times

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Fake Bitcoin Smartphone Apps

Cryptocurrency users need to be aware of some of the dangers they face when using the Internet, and even tech-savvy bitcoin enthusiasts are not immune from harmful actions such as social engineering, phishing, and trojans. A common assumption is that apps downloaded from Google and Apple’s app stores, have been vetted by the service providers and are safe. However, nothing can be further from the truth as thousands of cryptocurrency users have come to realise.

The Case of the Fake ‘Poloniex’ App

While both Android and iOS platforms have had their share of unscrupulous developers, users on Google Play store are the most affected by fraudulent apps. An example of a fake Android app which has been downloaded by thousands of users is called Poloniex. Bearing the same name as the popular digital currency exchange it claims to be the official Poloniex app. No doubt users who only take a perfunctory glance before pressing ‘Download’ will be convinced by the familiar logo and screenshots from the real company.

However, a close examination will reveal the low user ratings of one star received from 162 user reviews. In addition, the numerous typos in the app description together with disgruntled comments from users highlighting theft of personal data and bitcoins should raise a red flag.

Surprisingly, the Poloniex exchange lacks an official mobile app and this explains why scammers have taken advantage of the void with their fake version of the app. Poloniex has done little to distance itself from third-party apps choosing to remain silent on the matter since 2016. Currently, there are five different imitations of Poloniex on Google Play alone, according to Bitcoin.com.

Fraudulent Apps a Real Problem for Internet Users

Scammy apps are not only isolated to the cryptocurrency space, it is estimated over a million people downloaded a fake version of Whatsapp from Google Play store.

Scams are evolving with new tricks being used to lure vulnerable targets; with reports of fake customer care telephone calls from digital currency exchanges Coinbase and Kraken. These hoaxes, have the potential to affect Africans using the open web to obtain and trade cryptocurrencies.

With bitcoin adoption in Africa still in its infancy stages, many users may find it hard to identify fake cryptocurrency apps. Already, the continent has had its share of digital currency scams in the form of bitcoin HYIPS and MLM schemes so it is highly advisable to take caution when downloading cryptocurrency apps to ensure they are real.

To avoid issues of fake bitcoin smartphone apps in their entirety, the safest bet would be to do all your bitcoin trading on your computer and use your phone for price updates and cryptocurrency news.

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Kenya Blockchain Event in Nairobi Records a Huge Turn Out

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Kenya Blockchain Event

December 10, 2017, saw a large number of bitcoin experts, enthusiasts, investors, newcomers, and traders converge at the Metta Entrepreneur’s Club Nairobi. The atmosphere indicated an increased desire among Kenyans to understand and discuss cryptocurrencies at length.

The four-hour discussion was detailed, explicit, and informative. Key speakers included Michael Kimani, Daniel Nyairo, Janet Kemunto, Damaris Njoki, and John Karanja among others. These cryptocurrency experts had a lot to share and plenty of advice to give. Thanks to their endless efforts, the crypto scene in Kenya is presently buoyant.

Is Bitcoin Valuable?

According to Michael Kimani, bitcoin is valuable.

“The bitcoin surge is more than just speculation. A substantial number of people are purchasing bitcoin because they believe in its future. These people are betting on the future because there is proof that the underlying technology (blockchain) actually works,” he said.

Is Bitcoin in a Bubble?

2017 has been a great year for cryptocurrencies.

“I have been in the technology sector for ten years and I have never seen anything grow as fast as cryptocurrencies have this year,” John Karanja, the founder of BitHub Africa, said.

The bitcoin price has risen by more than 1,500 percent in 2017. Surprisingly, altcoins like ether have risen by a higher percentage than bitcoin this year. Still, bitcoin is taking the lead with its current price of over $16,000. The recent surge has left many wondering: is bitcoin in a bubble?

In the opinion of Mutai, a software engineer, “Bitcoin is somewhat in a bubble because the underlying technology is being overlooked. Currently, the bitcoin price is keeping up with the pace of speculation.” Nevertheless, the self-taught tech expert believes that bitcoin is worth it in the long-term.

Where Can Kenyans Buy Bitcoins and Altcoins?

Expert recommended exchanges are Belfrics Kenya, Kraken, Bitstamp, and Bittrex. Other platforms such as peer-to-peer (P2P) markets are also great places for purchasing crypto.

Localbitcoins, Paxful, and Remitano Kenya are suitable P2P markets.

Tips On Cryptocurrency Investments

Advising clients on cryptocurrency investments is a full-time job for George Mang’eni, an experienced trader at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE). “Keep calm & HODL,” he advised attendees at the event.

Bitcoin investments are made through mining, trading, and HODLING (Holding On for Dear Life). Mang’eni recommends investors to conduct a fundamental analysis and create a portfolio before investing in cryptocurrencies. “Always invest in an asset that is higher than the inflation rate,” he said.

A fundamental analysis involves looking into the following:

  • Real-world application of the cryptocurrency
  • Researching the reputation and achievements of its developers
  • The big investors involved
  • Liquidity
  • Crypto supply limits
  • Transaction processing system

Security is a Priority

Any person who owns crypto knows that security is everything. The crypto scene has attracted a lot of scammers, hence the need for caution.

Daniel Nyairo, a cryptocurrency freelancer stated, “Scammers use social proof to steal from unsuspecting customers.” The social proof marketing technique is often used to make customers feel like they are missing out. “A person selling bitcoins to you while trying to influence your emotions should be a red flag,” Nyairo warned.

With regards to ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings), attendees were advised to research thoroughly before investing. “Investigate the authenticity of the names and images of those behind the project,” Nyairo stated. Furthermore, he emphasised the need to carefully scrutinise business models, business descriptions, and business processes of the companies launching ICOs.

The Three Kenyan Women Thriving in Cryptocurrency Trading

Kenya Blockchain Event NairobiAccording to Damaris Njoki, Juliana Mwangi, and Janet Kemunto, bitcoin trading is a rewarding employment opportunity. “We do not work for the money; the money works for us,” Kemunto said.

Juliana and Kemunto both left their jobs to take up bitcoin trading as a full-time job. “Cryptocurrencies are the future. I love what I do,” Juliana asserted.

Trading bitcoin requires two things: trust and 0.2BTC. “My job is not about meeting the margins; it is about the client,” Kemunto said. “My goal is taking care of the client and in turn, the client takes care of me.”

The main challenge that these women face is a low supply of bitcoins. Other than that, the demand for bitcoins is huge. “We have markets not only in Kenya but also in China and the UK,” Damaris said.

Meet Kenya’s Popular Miner Eugene Mutai

Mutai has been making headlines as the only crypto miner in Kenya for a while now. The millennial states that it took him two months to put his mining rig together. “For a non-tech savvy person, it might take longer,” he said.

Mutai mines Zcash and other altcoins. “I began with a modest budget and it took me around 8 months to break even,” he explained. Cloud mining is one and a half times more expensive than mining individually,” he added.

Two-thirds of what Mutai mines are his profits. The rest goes into electricity and Internet costs. Nevertheless, he faces two challenges that result in the loss of two months of mining yearly. “I need to back up my Internet in case my main connection fails me. On the other hand, I experience electricity blackouts on average twice every week,” he said.

Kenyan Regulators are Lagging Behind

Cryptocurrency regulation in Kenya is still a major topic mainly because little is taking place. “Kenyan regulators will find themselves playing catch up,” William Mutiso, a crypto trader said. Kenya has lost the business from startups such as Kipochi and BitPesa because of poor regulations.

“There is need to keep these conversations going to show regulators the extent of crypto interest in Kenya,” Eddie Ndichu, a cryptocurrency enthusiast, noted.

Upcoming Startups and Events

Despite regulation setbacks, the Kenyan crypto space is taking in new startups as fast as new ideas are conceivable. Some of the startups under the works are JijiPlan and Pesabase. Other startups like ChamaPesa are also about to launch.

Besides startups, Kenyans should watch out for upcoming crypto events such as a mining class that Mutahi will be teaching. The mining class targets those interested in mining as individuals as well as cloud mining.

** This article has been retrospectively corrected by the editor.

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Zimbabwean Exchange Golix Adds Ether and Bitcoin Gold to its Trading Platform

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Golix Adds Ether and Bitcoin Gold

While Zimbabwe has had its fair share of political woes this year, the adoption of cryptocurrencies in the Southern African country has continued to grow. This is evident by the increasing trading volumes on its local bitcoin exchange Golix.

In a bid to boost cryptocurrency adoption in the Southern Africa nation, Golix – Zimbabwe’s only local cryptocurrency exchange platform – has added bitcoin gold (BTG) and ether (ETH) to its trading platform. This brings the total number of digital currencies on the exchange to six.

In an interview with The Financial Gazette, Golix’s Growth Manager, Panashe Tapera said,

“It is our belief that digital currency will form the basis of the future of finance, our mission at Golix is to bring digital currencies to everyone in Africa.”

While adding Ethereum’s ether is a good move considering that it tops the charts on the top ten altcoins and is popular, the case might be different for bitcoin gold.

Bitcoin Gold’s Existence

The key reason for the creation of bitcoin gold was to decentralise bitcoin mining. Bitcoin gold came to be after an October bitcoin hard fork.

A hard fork is an irreversible blockchain split that occurs when there is a software upgrade that is enforced but is not supported by a segment of the network. Whenever a fork happens, a different form of bitcoin is created. In 2017, bitcoin experienced two hard forks.

Although by market cap it is a top ten cryptocurrency, bitcoin gold is not as popular as bitcoin or Ethereum globally. While the move by Golix is a smart decision and is aligned to their goal ‘to bring digital currencies to everyone in Africa’, the question on whether the demand for bitcoin gold will soar in Zimbabwe or not, is yet to be seen.

With about 70 percent of the population in Zimbabwe unbanked and looking at digital currencies as an alternative form of investment and a way of regaining financial control, the central bank of Zimbabwe still considers bitcoin illegal due to its lack of a legal framework.

As Golix continues to make efforts to push for adoption of cryptocurrencies, it is only a matter of time before the impact will be felt in Zimbabwe and in Africa.

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