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Kenya’s Capital Markets Authority Proposes New Body to Monitor Cryptocurrencies

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Body to Monitor Cryptocurrencies

Kenya’s Capital Markets Authority (CMA) has proposed the creation of a special unit that will be tasked with dealing with issues related to cryptocurrencies. CMA’s proposal states that the special unit formed would be a division of all pertinent regulators such as itself and the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) to help tackle issues surrounding the adoption of digital currencies.

The Capital Market Soundness Report titled ‘Staying the course in a Turbulent World of Increasing Protectionism’ was released on April 28 by Paula Muthaura, CMA’s Chief Executive. In the report, the CMA stated:

“There is need for regulators to devise a common approach towards handling issues revolving around cryptocurrencies and Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). A joint workgroup by financial sector regulators could be put in place to tackle issues around cryptocurrencies and ICOs.”

The report follows a notice warning that had been issued to investors against participating in ICOs in February 2018 on the grounds that the capital markets regulator had not approved any offerings. CMA said their warning was based on the fact that ongoing ICOs were speculative and unregulated investments with a significant risk exposure to investors.

The CBK, also holding the same position, had issued a warning to the general public and to banks not to deal with cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.

Concern Over Bitcoin Price Fluctuation

Bitcoin had an amazing run in 2017 after a price increase of 1,600 percent that saw it trade at about $20,000 in December before the value sharply fell early in the year to below $10,000.

“This volatility in price fluctuation remains a concern even as regulators seek to strike a balance between managing the risks that accompany innovations and avoiding being an impediment to market-led innovation,” stated CMA.

The growth of cryptocurrencies coupled with market excitement has veered to a debate on regulatory risk with the CMA saying that regulators need to communicate their keenness to accommodating fintech innovation in order for them to dismiss the view that they are adamant to acknowledging new innovation.

Earlier this month, during the Euromoney East Africa Conference, Sheila M’Mbijjewe, CBK’s Deputy Governor, told participants that innovative technologies such as the blockchain should be carefully embraced with the key focus being on addressing likely pitfalls. She went on to add that “there must be a balance between regulating FinTech and encouraging innovation so that the growth does not come with the erosion of public confidence”.

“We (CBK) are not the innovators so we cannot move ahead. If we move behind the market, we will have a problem. Essentially, we have to move alongside innovations,” she added.

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

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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

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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

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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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